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Melding teaching, religion BU's duty

Feb. 7, 2001

'Pro Ecclesia, Pro Texana': For Church and For Texas. What does this mean? Baylor University was founded on a Christian principle -- one that has become controversial. Today, the issue of 'For Church' shifts to one of contention among students, faculty and administration.

Where should Baylor fit in terms of religion and education? What should Baylor's role be in regard to Christianity and its students? The answer to those, and similar, questions is simple. 'For Church' is attached to Baylor's mission for a reason.

'I change not.' 'Jesus, the same yesterday, today and forever.' These two excerpts from the Bible paint a picture of the nature of Christianity. Jesus stays the same. Baylor is founded on his ministry and should follow his example. This is not to say that times don't change and that adjustments don't have to be made accordingly. It is to say that there is no gray area regarding Baylor's job as a Christian university.

Baylor is a place of higher education openly and completely tied to Christianity. There is nothing wrong with that connection and it has been beneficial to both sides.

There is no doubt that in Baylor's 156-year history, a few thousand students obtained a strong relationship with Christ after spending time here.

For Baylor, there are numerous foundations and donors who give the thousands -- and sometimes millions -- of dollars for the university to at least make an attempt to uphold a Christian ideal. Those donations help to keep its doors open.

This union of Christianity and the university, however, also forces the question of how far should Baylor go to present Christ to its students. There is no easy answer to the question, but one thing is for sure: Baylor has every right to go further than some other schools.

Baylor is comparable to Abilene Christian University, which openly presents Christianity and its Church of Christ beliefs. That school, like Brigham Young University and Baylor, has more leeway and should use it in trying to present a Christian environment to students.

Christians are charged to be beacons and Baylor is guided by that same charge. The only difference is that if someone doesn't want to listen to a sermon about Jesus, they can walk away or put this paper down. At Baylor, that same person can't get away form the same message with the same ease, but it can be done.

Baylor should not have to hide or soften its mission to cater to those who might not want to hear it. By choosing to come to Baylor, ACU or BYU, a student chooses an environment. Good research would show that a strong religious commitment could be problematic in some instances. In those cases, it might be better for those students to go elsewhere.

To expect Baylor, a college that is 'For Church' to be even neutral concerning Christianity is an error in judgement. Baylor is passionate about God and the Baptist denomination, and the odds of it bowing to the whims of popular culture and political correctness with either issue are -- and should be -- long shots.