18 May 2005

Widespread evangelical dissent from the Bush agenda

President Bush will speak at the commencement of Calvin College this weekend.  Apparently, about one third of the faculty are unhappy (requires a subscription unfortunately, but this “temporary URL” will get you there until Monday):

More than 100 professors at Calvin College, in Michigan, have signed a
letter criticizing the policies of President Bush, who is scheduled to
speak at the evangelical Christian institution’s spring commencement on
Saturday.

The letter, which will be published as an advertisement in The Grand Rapids Press
on Saturday, says that the professors “see conflicts between our
understanding of what Christians are called to do and many of the
policies of your administration.” It calls the war in Iraq “unjust and
unjustified” and argues that President Bush’s policies “favor the
wealthy of our society and burden the poor.”

Among those who conceived and circulated the letter was David Crump, a
professor of religion at Calvin. “We wanted to object to some specific
policies but also to object to the way that the language of orthodox
evangelical Christianity has been hijacked by the religious right and
its close association with this administration,” he said.

An Open Letter to the President of the United States of America, George W. Bush

On May 21, 2005, you will give the commencement address at Calvin
College. We, the undersigned, respect your office, and we join the
college in welcoming you to our campus. Like you, we recognize the
importance of religious commitment in American political life. We seek
open and honest dialogue about the Christian faith and how it is best
expressed in the political sphere. While recognizing God as sovereign
over individuals and institutions alike, we understand that no single
political position should be identified with God’s will, and we are
conscious that this applies to our own views as well as those of
others. At the same time we see conflicts between our understanding of
what Christians are called to do and many of the policies of your
administration.

As Christians we are called to be peacemakers and to initiate
war only as a last resort. We believe your administration has launched
an unjust and unjustified war in Iraq.

As Christians we are called to lift up the hungry and
impoverished. We believe your administration has taken actions that
favor the wealthy of our society and burden the poor.

As Christians we are called to actions characterized by love,
gentleness, and concern for the most vulnerable among us. We believe
your administration has fostered intolerance and divisiveness and has
often failed to listen to those with whom it disagrees.

As Christians we are called to be caretakers of God’s good
creation. We believe your environmental policies have harmed creation
and have not promoted long-term stewardship of our natural environment.

Our passion for these matters arises out of the Christian faith
that we share with you. We ask you, Mr. President, to re-examine your
policies in light of our God-given duty to pursue justice with mercy,
and we pray for wisdom for you and all world leaders.

Concerned faculty, staff, and emeriti of Calvin College

Calvin is no hot-bed of liberalism.  (I’d guess that 90 percent
of these people voted for the president.)  I went to secondary
school
with a number of kids who went on to Calvin in some form or another,
and about half of my teachers were graduates; it’s a college associated
with the conservative Christian Reformed Church in America
and from what I know, you must sign a profession of faith to teach
there.  The CRC members are Dutch Calvinists and their
descendants, and in my experience, it can be a fairly strict
denomination that prefers its change slow or not at all.  So the
fact that a bunch of CRC intellectuals (Calvin doesn’t slide too much
on that factor either) dissent so openly is perhaps a canary in the
mine.

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2 Responses to “Widespread evangelical dissent from the Bush agenda”

  1. James Stewart Says:

    My wife works at Calvin, as do a number of our friends. This situation has been quite the hot topic around here of late.

    You do need to sign a profession of faith to be a member of Calvin faculty, and it does tend to be a pretty conservative place, though moreso among the students and a few old-guard faculty/administration than among the faculty. Compared to the few other “Christian colleges” I’ve observed it does a pretty good job of encouraging its students to contextualise their learning within the wider world. Interestingly, in a survey last October in the student newspaper, the students tended to prioritise environmental and poverty-related issues, but bizarrely (to me) didn’t connect those priorities with their voting intentions.

    This letter isn’t the only protest taking place connected with Saturday. For most of them the gist is that commencement should be about the students, and that since Bush has no previous link with the college his appearance is a platform for him more than an honour for the students. There has been some coverage of the discussion in the Washington Post as well as local press, and a long thread at the Daily Kos. I collected a few links at: http://james.anthropiccollective.org/archives/2005/04/bush_at_calvin.html

  2. Nate Says:

    Thanks, James!