Last week, senior Laura Nile wrote a guest column arguing that SPU hides from its Christian identity. In her column, Nile criticizes SPU’s “From This Place” marketing campaign because it doesn’t mention the word “Christ.” She also asserts that the average SPU professor doesn’t talk enough about Jesus.
While I believe SPU should continue to affirm and maintain its Christian identity, I disagree with Nile’s interpretation of what a Christian university should look like, and how it should act.
Nile writes, “We are hiding our faith, and we are certainly no longer a school with the deep desire to send missionaries out to the world to share the good news of Jesus Christ.” In this statement, Nile seems to equate “sharing the good news” as something achieved only through “sending out” missionaries.
As a Christian who is pursuing a career in the realm of politics, I’ve always found it comforting that I don’t need to go into a designated Christian field of ministry in order to share the love of Christ. Living the Christian life in a not-explicitly-Christian environment is a topic of discussion in a good amount of my classes at SPU. I don’t have to wear a cross around my neck, pick a certain type of career, tattoo a verse on my arm or drop Jesus into every conversation to convey my Christian identity.
In the same way, SPU doesn’t need to fulfill a “Let’s talk about Jesus” quota in order to uphold its Christian identity. SPU speaks about Jesus through actions. When SPU invited Tent City 3 onto its campus, it spoke about the love of Christ. When SPU decided to start groups like UNITE in order to help end human trafficking, it spoke about the love of Christ. When every year SPU requires freshman to participate in the community service day CityQuest, it speaks about the love of Christ.
Referencing SPU’s mission statement of “Engage the culture, change the world,” Nile declares that the university has engaged the secular culture “so well that we fit right in.” Within Seattle, SPU is identified by most people as a “small Christian university.” SPU has made this name for itself through not just its words but also its actions.
Let us also not forget Jesus engaged with tax collectors and prostitutes, and let us not forget how he “changed the world.” Throughout Scripture, Christ showed his humanity through the physical act of service first, before he revealed his divinity through his teachings.
SPU shows its commitment to spreading the Truth of Christ through its service to the surrounding community. If the service comes first, the discussion of Jesus naturally follows. An organic conversation about faith spurred by action is much better than a forced one.
While Nile says she likes that SPU does not require a statement of faith, she conveys her distress that 40 percent of SPU students graduate without experiencing a campus worship event like Gather or Group. Nile writes, “But we don’t require them to engage in any sort of Christian community or education outside of the UFND series.”
Requiring students to devote an entire quarter’s worth of credits to the study of Christian theology and Scripture, plus providing worship and ministry opportunities, does enough to affirm the university’s roots.
An additional requirement would do little to promote Christianity and would do little to foster a conversation with students hailing from different belief systems. Adding another class or making people go to certain events, may steer away even the most devout Christian. There are other schools that require chapel attendance or more biblical study than SPU does, but those schools aren’t necessarily any more “Christian” than SPU.
The fact that SPU has events like Gather and programs like Latreia and openly advertises them to its student body shows the university is not apologetic for its Christian faith. Pushing Jesus onto everyone doesn’t make for a hospitable environment for education, nor would it make SPU look like the inclusive, grace-filled community it claims to be.
Nile says that we have forgotten how to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. But I urge people to consider if following the footsteps of Jesus is better served through words and requirements, or actions and engagements.
Features Editor Allison Northrop is a junior political science and journalism major.