The Other – Part 1

Posted: July 17, 2007 in books, missional

I am proud to have gone to college at a university that sought diversity. They weren’t always good at it, they didn’t always reach their goals, but it was important to me that people of influence there were leaning toward greater participation from all kinds of people, even if we still struggle to understand all the reasons why diversity is preferred over homogeneity.

At any rate, it’s come to my attention that not all Christian universities are like the one I attended. Not all want diversity. And indeed as the church in America finds itself with fewer adherents leaving Christian universities with fewer potential “Christian” students, some schools have apparently decided to circle the wagons and insulate rather than seek diversity.

For two summers now, a representative from one of the colleges associated with my non-denomination has come to Houston and used this recruiting pitch to Jr. high and High school students: “When you come to our school (which shall go nameless, but it’s not the one in Oregon, California, Nebraska, Texas or Tennessee) you will be at a place where people believe what you believe, look like you look, act the way you act, and are just like you. 95% of the people will be just like you.” In fact, last summer this recruiter said that at their school you don’t have to worry about hearing people speak “Brazilian.”

This is a true statement!

At his school you won’t hear anyone speaking Brazilian.

And at Abilene Christian, where I attended, you won’t hear anyone speaking Brazilian either. As a matter of fact, at none of our schools will you hear anyone speaking Brazilian because Brazilian is NOT a language!

To be fair, maybe he’s not good at speaking “American.”

But I’m worried less about the woeful education this recruiter received at his school and more about the product being offered to our kids. It is clear that as more of us our beginning to think, plan and pray about a fuller engagement with our community and world there are some whose strategy is to disengage and flee.

Can you say “White Flight” class?

Plus, has this recruiter ever thought about how his comments, which were spoken to a majority white audience, may have been interpreted by a growing number of kids in the room who are not white? Is there a place for them at your school?

On a grander scale, the big question for Christians is, “What is the place for the Other in our communities?” I think the biblical story explains that the place for the Other is IN our community.

One of my favorite professors at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary is David Jensen who wrote a wonderful book entitled, “In the Company of Others,” writes: “Difference is real, and one task of all persons on this planet, whether religious or not, is to live in ways that promote peace and well-being of each irreducible Other. To refuse this encounter is a cowardly retreat that ignores the complexity of creation and the invitation of my neighbor.” He continues: “Other stands at the center of our most distinctive affirmation–proclaiming Jesus as the Christ–and that faithfulness to this confession turns our attention outward, allowing us to be captivated by the beauty and detail of all persons of difference.”

Words, I think, at least one recruiter somewhere might want to think about.

  1. Russ says:

    That guy from Arkansas . . . or um maybe he was from one of the other 45 states not listed . . . really said that???? I had a brief encounter with recruiters from a school that shall remain nameless (but also happened to be located in Arkansas) and I learned in about 3 minutes that they weren’t too interested in this half-Asian girl who wasn’t yet sure what she wanted to study but definitely had an interest in traveling the globe. What they were interested in was the 17-year old white boy from Arkansas who was with me who knew he wanted to be a minister. (nothing against the 17-year old white boy of course).

  2. Sean says:

    Now Rebecca, I went through a lot of trouble not to identify a particular school. I’m not saying that the school is or isn’t in Arkansas, but I can understand your experience based on some things I’ve heard from recruiters lately. Blessings…

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