Just over two years ago, I wrote a letter as a student about how I believed Eastern’s administration was suffering from a “crisis of authenticity” in which the asserted mission of Eastern did not match the unclear and seemingly unjustified business practices in dealing with staff and faculty. Unfortunately, I find myself writing again today on the same issue.
I was drawn to Eastern by its commitment to justice, and a large part of my heart will always be connected to Eastern. Professors such as Sherrie Steiner, Michael Mtika, Michael Roberts, Chris Bittenbender and Chris Hummer changed my life and opened my eyes in ways they may never truly know.
There are amazing things being done here at Eastern that show how the Lord can work through an academic institution with a mission as true to God’s heart as ours is… but is it enough? How can we achieve our mission to our fullest ability when we do not honor just and Biblical practices in regards to operating our day-to-day operations?
As a GPS employee in Valley Forge, I sat in a large meeting amongst 100 or so employees listening to President Black discuss Eastern’s mission and where we may be failing. He called for a re-evaluation of many things, bringing up the heat he received for inviting Equality Ride to Eastern and the institutional racism and prejudice of Eastern.
I found myself very moved by his words. Eastern is a place unlike any other, so many things we are working on are unheard of in both academic and Christian worlds. We truly are progressive and liberating in many of our ideas and ideals… but we continue to fall short.
I graduated from Eastern in 2003, amidst controversy about the letting go of a professor whoprofoundly impacted my life and exemplified justice. Within two years, I found myself back at Eastern, this time as an employee.
After a year of service, and with no prior indications, I was told that I was being asked to “move on” because “God has bigger plans” for my life. No other reasons have been given to me about my being asked to leave.
During this conversation I was told that I exceeded expectations for my position and was overqualified. These do not sound like reasons to let someone go. And I find myself knowing there is more to the story, but I will never know the truth.
I believe in this university’s mission with my whole heart, which is why it truly hurts me to say that I doubt I will ever again have a relationship with it. I leave here bruised and hurt by not only individuals, but by the institution itself.
I pray that something can change internally, that the mission is not only an outward focus but also an inward one. However, as I leave there is great hope for Eastern’s future as new leadership steps in, including new deans at GPS, a new provost and strong leadership for the HR department.
Whether or not Eastern sees things the way I see them is not my point. I don’t want to incite indignation or resentment, I just want to issue a call for greater attention to inward justice.
How can we change the world if we don’t begin within ourselves? And I believe Eastern has the power to change the world, if it can first change itself. I will always pray that faith, reason and justice are truly emphasized here and that Eastern University can become the beacon of light that it is striving to be.
There is nothing distinctly Christian about taking care of the poor, protesting a war or taking care of the environment. What is distinctly Christian is the Word of God taking on human flesh, dying on the cross and rising on the third day by the power of the Spirit, in order to reconcile the world to the Father.
What Christians think and do should stem from this Christo-centric teaching. Paul, when talking about the poor in 2 Corinthians, tells us that Christ became poor so that we may become rich in him. Therefore, you too must give up your possessions to those who have needs so that they can share in the riches of Christ when they give to others.
What is Paul’s basis for arguing that Christians should help those in need? The incarnation of the second person of the Trinity–a distinctly Christian doctrine.
What is so fascinating about Paul’s writings is that his exhortations for holy living are always tied to his Christology. That is why they are enduring and world-transforming.
One of my professors this semester said that the whole Bible is really about Christ. If this is true, why do I hear so little about him in places of Christian worship around here?
When I hear leaders speak at chapel on social issues I ask myself, “Why couldn’t I hear the same message at a mosque or temple?”
Until the Christo-centric message becomes the foundation of our actions, our efforts to bring the kingdom ethic to every level of life will just amount to another “good-will” social justice movement.
I am proud to be part of a globally concerned Christian community that wants the world to be well fed, war free and environmentally safe. But even if we create this utopia, we still have not done God’s will on earth as it is in heaven, because Christ needs to be proclaimed, believed on and worshipped–as it is in heaven.
A few weeks ago, in the front lobby of McInnis hung a banner left over from the SPEAK fair trade sale. It read: “Fair Trade Is Not Charity, It’s Justice.”
Presumably, the banner was meant to say not only that we ought to buy Fair Trade coffee, but that doing so is not about throwing some spare change toward the unfortunate in a spontaneous act of compassion. It is also not about being charitable as is our Christian duty, as if we didn’t really owe them anything.
It seemed to say that the current economic system is simply unjust, that the economic and political leaders of this country have overlooked the call to treat all equally for their own gain. Yet without criticizing either SPEAK or other advocates of fair trade and economic justice, I would like to question whether the phrase on that poster speaks deeply enough to the Christian’s understanding of her mission in the world.
The problem is not in figuring out whether Christians should work for justice-that much is clear, and is proclaimed by well-known verses such as Micah 4:8, which calls Christians to do justice, love mercy and to walk humbly with their God.
The problem is in the implicit assumption that the call to justice is what is unquestioningly binding, whereas the Christian might be free to take or leave pleas for charity.
We have it backwards. For the Christian, charity is the end of all dispute, that last command with which we have been left. I might dispute whether someone is actually owed my aid, particularly aid which comes at my own expense. We can judge, rightly or wrongly, that what someone is demanding of us is actually not deserved.
But if I am a Christian, a call for help can never be turned away, and the question of just desserts does not enter the picture.
Are we afraid that if we call for charity, people will simply harden their hearts and nothing will change? If so, we should remember that the change that we seek is towards charity.
It would mean little if all of the problems causing social justice action were ameliorated by global adherence to more and more international laws, without anyone learning how to love his neighbor as himself. Even if some are skeptical, many will respond to the call and soften their hearts, not having been accused but instead issued a humble invitation to love another.
Having entered into the Easter season, many of us are immensely grateful that Jesus did not demand our just desserts, but instead loved us as Himself, doing all that was necessary to bring about our good, which was reconciliation to God.
Let us do the same in leaving behind the accusations and threat of the law, and embracing charity in our social discourse, allowing it to spur us to deeper obedience and to greater works than we have done before. And may all see, hear and know that we are Christians by our love.