"As one body, if one member suffers, all suffer (1 Cor. 12:26); if one weeps, the body laments with them (Rom. 12:15); even creation groans in bondage to decay (Rom. 8:19-23)." This proclamation, directly taken from Scripture, is part of an online Statement of Confession and Commitment being circulated via social media and signed by hundreds of Christian professors from American institutions coast to coast. The statement was developed by North Park Theological Seminary and Westmont College shortly after President Trump's inauguration. Through a series of proclamations, it calls Christian educators to join their voices with the vulnerable and to pursue truth and speak out against falsehood and injustices prevalent in today's political climate.
While the statement points out that those who sign are not doing so as representative of their colleges, the signatures are arranged by their institution. Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich.; Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa; and Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Ill.—institutions supported by Christian Reformed churches—are well-represented on the statement with over 90 signers.
"Several of the people who had signed it were scholars I know and respect. I decided to sign and recommend it to others after looking into the background of the statement and giving it a thorough read,” explained Scott Culpepper, associate professor of history at Dordt. Colleague Benjamin Lappinga, associate professor of theology, also signed.
"Like many, I’ve been alarmed by the polarization and the outpouring of nativist and racist rhetoric (and more) by American Christians in the past year. As a professor at a Christian university, this statement struck me as timely, well-written, and theologically sound," Lappinga said.
Neil Carlson, director of Calvin’s Center for Social Research, said he wasn't one to partake in activism. However, said Carlson, "With ascribed privilege, I owe our brothers and sisters who are less fortunate advocacy."
The negative effects of social distrust are something Melissa VandenBout, assistant professor of philosophy at Trinity, knows personally. “My grandmother is Jewish, and it is a part of my family's story that her father was allowed in at Ellis Island but his brother was sent back. That branch of the family tree was decimated by the Holocaust, but my grandmother and her descendants have thrived here in America,” said VandenBout.
She said, "When I see powerful people stoking fears, encouraging us to be afraid of the very people who are most vulnerable, most in need of help, I remember . . . what it has cost us as a country every time we accept the lie that those who are different are the enemy. And I remember that Jesus told us that when we help those who are in need, those who are vulnerable, we are ministering to him."
“Statements like [this] send out a clear proclamation to our constituencies and our culture that faculty will not bow to the spirit of the age or compromise our callings to satisfy political pressure from any side of the political spectrum," said Culpepper.
VandenBout agrees. "Who better to set their names to a public commitment to love our neighbors and welcome the stranger than Christian educators? Teaching is not only about ideas and concepts, it's also about modeling a way to live. Simply being willing to own our commitments in public is a good first step to living them."