[Christianity Today] "The Wrong Kind of Christian"

A powerful article at Christianity Today by Tish Harrison Warren. The subtitle: “I thought a winsome faith would win Christians a place at Vanderbilt’s table. I was wrong.” It’s an excellent read from one who was at the center of Vanderbilt University’s decision to rescind recognition of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and other Christian groups.

Kendall posted several entries on the Vanderbilt situation in 2011-2012. Links here, here, and here.

Tish Harrison Warren/ August 22, 2014
The Wrong Kind of Christian

I thought I was an acceptable kind of evangelical.

I’m not a fundamentalist. My friends and I enjoy art, alcohol, and cultural engagement.
We avoid spiritual clichés and buzzwords. We value authenticity, study, racial reconciliation, and social and environmental justice.

Being a Christian made me somewhat weird in my urban, progressive context, but despite some clear differences, I held a lot in common with unbelieving friends. We could disagree about truth, spirituality, and morality, and remain on the best of terms. The failures of the church often made me more uncomfortable than those in the broader culture.

Then, two years ago, the student organization I worked for at Vanderbilt University got kicked off campus for being the wrong kind of Christians.


At first I thought this was all a misunderstanding that could be sorted out between reasonable parties. If I could explain to the administration that doctrinal statements are an important part of religious expression””an ancient, enduring practice that would be a given for respected thinkers like Thomas Aquinas””then surely they’d see that creedal communities are intellectually valid and permissible. If we could show that we weren’t homophobic culture warriors but friendly, thoughtful evangelicals committed to a diverse, flourishing campus, then the administration and religious groups could find common ground.

But as I met with other administrators, the tone began to change. The word discrimination began to be used””a lot””specifically in regard to creedal requirements. It was lobbed like a grenade to end all argument. Administrators compared Christian students to 1960s segregationists. I once mustered courage to ask them if they truly thought it was fair to equate racial prejudice with asking Bible study leaders to affirm the Resurrection. The vice chancellor replied, “Creedal discrimination is still discrimination.”

Feeling battered, I talked with my InterVarsity supervisor. He responded with a wry smile, “But we’re moderates!” We thought we were nuanced and reasonable. The university seemed to think of us as a threat.

For me, it was revolutionary, a reorientation of my place in the university and in culture.

I began to realize that inside the church, the territory between Augustine of Hippo and Jerry Falwell seems vast, and miles lie between Ron Sider and Pat Robertson. But in the eyes of the university (and much of the press), subscribers to broad Christian orthodoxy occupy the same square foot of cultural space.

The line between good and evil was drawn by two issues: creedal belief and sexual expression. If religious groups required set truths or limited sexual autonomy, they were bad””not just wrong but evil, narrow-minded, and too dangerous to be tolerated on campus.

The whole article is highly recommended


Posted in * Culture-Watch, Church/State Matters, Education, Law & Legal Issues, Multiculturalism, pluralism, Religion & Culture

6 comments on “[Christianity Today] "The Wrong Kind of Christian"

  1. BrianInDioSpfd says:

    It would be nice to read the whole article, but a paid subscription is required.

  2. The_Elves says:

    [[i]Brian, Hmmm. I was able to read the whole article and I’m not a subscriber. See if either of these links work any better for you? The [url=http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2014/september/wrong-kind-of-christian-vanderbilt-university.html?share=G9vVrYz32QVLXDLGc/9dT66jTiIU4OUG]original link I followed from Trevin Wax’s blog[/url] or this [url=http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2014/september/wrong-kind-of-christian-vanderbilt-university.html?share=G9vVrYz32QVLXDLGc/9dT66jTiIU4OUG]single page version[/url] — elf[/i]]

  3. WestJ says:

    It sounds like Vanderbilt will tolerate any group, so long as they don’t stand for anything. This is very disheartening as I graduated from Vanderbilt medical school and my wife is also a graduate.
    I will know what to say the next time they ask for money.

  4. WestJ says:

    I wonder if they also kicked the Muslims off campus?

  5. Scatcatpdx says:

    Waht concern me more is there universities are practicing their own form of discrimination and intolerance. They are supposed to produce our future leaders.

    ISIS will be the least of our worries.

  6. Jim the Puritan says:

    This has been a coordinated effort across the U.S., pushed by homosexual advocacy pressure groups. The Christian students group at my college was forced to rescind their standards for leadership. Christian presence was weak to start with, but now it is pretty much non-existent.