This post is a response to a letter published in the school newspaper called “An Open Letter to Grace College.” I would encourage everyone to read this article prior to reading my response.
Grace College- we need to talk.
This is my first year on campus as a student here, and you have made it such an awesome experience for me. I have made some of my closest friends here, grown in my relationship with Christ, and had some of the best experiences of my life. You’ve done a lot of good for me- I’ve learned to be myself and love myself in the same way that Christ loves me.
However, this college isn’t perfect. And while I can’t ever reasonably expect perfection from anywhere, I see a lot of room for improvement here. Maybe I am at fault for this, but I have higher standards for an institution that is supposed to be a representation of the kingdom of Christ on this earth.
In a letter addressed to Grace College students, faculty, and staff, a fellow student- Abigail Moellering- addressed one of the key issues facing Grace College today. It all boils down to one concept- embracing and including diversity. The letter says:
“I’m going to tell you something that may come as a shock. Bear with me.
Everyone at this school is not conservative, or evangelical, or heterosexual, or republican, or even Christian.
That is okay. The diversity of this campus is paramount to its continuation. So with this knowledge in mind, please stop addressing everyone as if they fall into the same social, economical, religious, sexual and political brackets.”
The assumptions that Grace students make about each other, simply based on the fact that they chose to attend Grace College, staggers me. Along with Abigail, this is a personal issue for me as well. I am one of the people on campus that does not fall into all of these pre-determined categories. I am not some foreign outsider- I eat dinner with you, I go to class with you, I sit next to you in chapel, I live on your hall.
The stereotype of the “Gracie” is almost nonexistent in my own personal experience. Everyone who, on the surface resembles this stereotype, breaks it once you get to know them. In my conversations with alumni and and with even current students, I’ve defended the diversity of this institution and pointed out the uselessness of judging people based on stereotypes.
However, some people seem to hold dearly on to this stereotype, and demonize those who fall outside of the same brackets that they are a part of. I echo Abigail’s sentiment when she says “The number of times I have felt genuinely hated by this community because of who I am is astounding.” Grace does not seem to support the type of diversity that is already permeating its campus.
Now that’s not to say that Grace has not tried to address these differences. Just this past month, there were chapel sessions and other lectures about sexual minorities on campus, and what it is like for them to be on a Christian campus. Grace has offered open forums for the discussion of different political opinions. But that does not mean the students here offer positive reception to such differences.
In my attempts to have diverse friend groups here, I have encountered several people who think differently from me, but are willing to acknowledge the validity of having different opinions. I have encountered those who have different religious convictions than myself and who equally respect mine. However, I have encountered other students with these same differences who are absolutely opposed to accepting different viewpoints. I have had people tell me that my political affiliation is sending me to hell, and that I cannot be a true Christian because I have different interpretations of the Bible.
When I came to Grace, I was told that the community around campus was the most unique feature of the college. I heard from countless upperclassmen about the “great community” over and over again. I am here, simply asking for permission to unapologetically be myself and be a part of your community at the same time. I know that if there is room for both of us at the foot of the cross, there is room enough for us on this campus.
“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”
Galatians 3:28 (NRSV)