As a tutor on campus, one of the main complaints I hear is that religion should be taught independently of academics. Why do we need three classes on religion? Why did the Convocation speaker mention God? Three whole times? What is this, a reference to the Trinity or something? It is as if these complaints come from a place of not realizing that Pepperdine is affiliated with the Church of Christ.
“They just seduced me with the view and the scholarships,” these people say, “but I really hate Christianity, all organized religion and anything that comes in threes.” Rather than employing a healthy skepticism of organized religion, it has become fashionable to complain about Christianity at Pepperdine, bond over how many proclaimed Christians do not practice what they preach and continuously demonize the church as the institution that justified the KKK, halts scientific progress and fuels right-winged extremists.
I have several problems with this. The first is the massive generalization that there are no progressive, genuine Christians. Gandhi once said that he liked Christ, but not Christians. This comes out of recognizing that there are those who practice what they preach and some do not. To massively write off every Christian as a bigot hurts the community, and frankly, is as logical as calling every Muslim a terrorist. We should know better.
The second is the outright dismissal of the religion General Education requirements. Don’t get me wrong. Have I questioned how necessary it is to spend three courses on religion? Absolutely. Have I found some of what I learned unnecessary and impractical? Sure. However, learning about Christianity has informed me about politics, culture, poverty, psychology and even food. The truth is that religion, particularly Christianity, has organized Western society for most of history, and as a result, learning about religion under these interdisciplinary scopes is a privilege. How can you look at voting patterns without a discussion of the religious controversies that it maintains? How is civil society translated across a variety of religions? The list continues. The bottom line is this: It does not matter if you are religious or not. Religion influences the society that you live in, and to simply ignore it as an organizing force in society is like ignoring the effects of race, gender and class. Pepperdine has given us a license to discuss religion liberally in a society that otherwise lists religion as a taboo. That is a privilege. By mentally or vocally saying that religion is an opiate without further discussion of its impact whenever it is brought up is not only insensitive, but ignorant.
“But I hate not being able to drink or have sex on campus,” I hear. The list continues. I hear many among many complaints that point to various Pepperdine rules that are defended in the name of religion. That is fine, but in order to credibly contest the rules one finds questionable, one cannot dismiss Christianity as a whole. The liberal nature of academia and the conservative values that Western Christianity is often associated with will pose conflict — but the way to negate this is to recognize that faith has no fear of inquiry. This should mean a liberal discussion of faith in the context of campus policies, and not a blatant dismissal of it.
Simply put: stop complaining about Christianity as if you weren’t aware that Pepperdine was affiliated with Church of Christ. Open up your Bibles, look at how it has been interpreted in history and use that to be a better member of society.
Follow Justina Huang on Twitter: @huanderwoman