How Christian Student Organizational Leaders Can Respond to Challenges Concerning Their Governance

The beauty of the university is in its initial form – the unification of diversity. People are encouraged in universities to develop the knowledge, abilities and skills to critically examine a variety of alternative points of view and to solve complex problems. In such a rich environment, students are encouraged to learn about new ideas, to seek greater purpose and meaning in their lives, and to become the world’s next global leaders.

The types of leaders populations have come to admire are those with firm moral foundations, solid visions, people-oriented positions, and a strong depth and breadth of knowledge. Some of the best leaders in the world have come from all walks of life, including Jesus Christ, Nelson Mandela in South Africa, the Dalai Lama in Tibet, Saint Teresa in India and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the United States. These leaders each had a vision and they communicated their vision to motivate shared passions in leadership excellence.

Jesus is our highest exemplar of moral perfection and servant leadership. Click here for his many attributes: https://christian-apologist.com/2018/10/29/jesus-the-perfect-exemplar-of-servant-leadership/

Fortunately, we have examples of humans who have strived to be more like Jesus. In his last speech before being assassinated, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. shared a very inspirational speech (referenced below):

“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the Promised Land. And I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

What can we do?

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. represents the type of passionate, humble, ethical, and courageous leader that we admire and would want to lead us. How can we, within our universities, inspire and motivate our students to become leaders with the same levels of excellence?

We have numerous answers to those questions, from crafting and assessing learning outcomes developed to match the competencies we wish to inspire to ensuring our students have access to a depth and breadth in ideas.

But here is how we FAIL them.

We fail our students when we stifle the opportunity for them to critically examine their values, missions, and purpose and to fully develop their moral character. It’s no wonder we have become a medication nation and one constantly battling suicides and depression. We FAIL our students when we force our opinions on them and remove the opportunity for them to develop their own. We FAIL our students when we remove student organizations and clubs focused on character development from our campuses because we wanted to supplant different values in the leadership of those organizations.

Campuses are booting Christian organizations.

A rather insidious trend on college campuses has been occurring over the past decade. Corresponding with a growing preference to be tolerant of people from all walks of life comes the desire for some to supplant the Biblical values of Christian student organizations with the value of tolerance for those who do not share those values.

One way that some secular universities have done this is to examine the leadership requirements for people in the InterVarsity group and if those requirements do not match with a university’s values of tolerance and its “anti-discrimination” policy, administrators have chosen to remove the groups from their campuses. We have numerous examples (e.g., Ordway, 2013; Shellnut, 2018) in which university administrators removed Christian student organizations (such as InterVarsity) from their campuses for not allowing non-Christians or Christians who do not adhere to God’s Biblical requirements to lead the organizations.

How can leaders of Christian organizations respond?

  1. Leaders should recognize that in the United States, the freedom to practice our religions as we see fit and sound is in our First Amendment.
  2. Leading organizations necessitates adherence to the prevailing values within those organizations. No one would force a Democratic student club to allow a Republican to lead them. No one would force a pro-LGBT group to allow a professed homophobe to lead them. No one would force a group of animal rights activists to allow hunters to lead them. No one would force an organization focused on climate change to let a climate change denier lead them. No one would force an atheist organization to allow the Pope to lead them. This is LEADERSHIP 101.
  3. The Bible makes explicit that Christian leaders should be of the highest ethical standards. They are instructed to live particular lifestyles, to abstain from heavy indulgences, to be kind to their neighbors, to forgive and be thankful and loving, and above all, to love and revere the Lord Jesus Christ. Forcing a Christian organization to allow leaders who do not adhere to these and other Biblical standards is a violation of our First Amendment rights and our covenant with God.

Hopefully university administrators will wake up and apply common sense and legal standards for our future world leaders. As a leadership and management business professor in a private, secular university, I have witnessed varying opinions on my own campus and have even seen some act very tolerant to one campus group while playing watchdog to another. For that reason, I wrote this blog and will be more active in an interfaith committee on my campus than I have been in the past. I encourage others in similar positions to do the same. Get involved! Thank you for your time.

For additional reading on early Christian persecution, Roman tolerance and intolerance over the first few centuries, and other factors in the early years of Christianity, click here: http://www.crf-usa.org/bill-of-rights-in-action/bria-13-4-b-religious-tolerance-and-persecution-in-the-roman-empire

References:

Anonymous. Here is the speech Martin Luther King Jr. gave the night before he died. CNN. Retrieved December 20, 2018 from:  https://www.cnn.com/2018/04/04/us/martin-luther-king-jr-mountaintop-speech-trnd/index.html.

Ordway, D. (2013, March 7). Rollins College boots student religious group off campus: School said the group violated the college’s anti-discrimination policy. Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved December 20, 2018 from: http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2013-03-07/features/os-rollins-college-boots-religious-group-20130307_1_student-leaders-rollins-college-rollins-president-lewis-duncan

Shellnut, K. (2018, March 9). InterVarsity back on campus after suing Wayne State. Christianity Today. Retrieved December 20, 2018 from: https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2018/march/intervarsity-returns-wayne-state-campus-access.html

 

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