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Fear not the hard topics

Biolans must have the courage to talk about aspects of our campus that do not paint us in a good light. | Anna Warner/THE CHIMES

 

I have mixed feelings about the “Because of Biola, I have the courage to…” art installation next to the bell tower.

I am glad students have the courage to love, care and pursue holiness in their relationships and the workplace. Such things are part of the challenging call to Christ.

However, I often fear Biola students lack the courage to speak. At the very least, I fear they lack the courage to speak and risk being answered.

RISKING A CONVERSATION

Because of Biola, we should have the courage to talk about the fact that sexual assault happens, and has happened multiple times on this campus. Hurting men and women are ashamed to share a dark secret they think is their fault, when in reality the perpetrator, in some cases a fellow student, should hold all the guilt. We should discuss how the purity culture we were told would protect us from these things has actually left us more vulnerable than we anticipated.

Because of Biola, we should have the courage to talk about last year’s Black Lives Matter prayer vigil and the “Black Lives Matter” signs stolen from the site of the vigil more than once.

If you didn’t know, someone was not brave enough to tell you, or you were not brave enough to ask and risk a conversation.

We should talk about the minority students who quietly and consistently express their feelings of discomfort, exclusion and experiences of microaggression — ranging from rude comments from classmates to the looming mural of a white Jesus.

NOT DENYING THEIR EXISTENCE

Because of Biola, we should have the courage to talk about the students on campus who identify as LGBT. Ignoring their existence will not make them disappear. They have voices, beating hearts and a love for Jesus that demands answers from those they call their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

Because of Biola, we should have the courage to talk about the students silently struggling with depression, eating disorders and a myriad of mental illnesses. We should have the courage to ask people about their lives, and not retreat when they tell stories of loss of family members and other difficult life situations.

Because of Biola, we should have the courage to talk and to engage with these issues that may not paint our campus in the best light. These things are difficult and embarrassing, but we cannot deny their existence.

BREAKING THE BUBBLE

You will frequently hear about the necessity of breaking out of the Biola bubble to experience the real world. Surprisingly, you do not need to leave Biola to find the world — the world’s problems are already here, creating sores that must be addressed. It is easier to drive to Skid Row, Mexico, Compton or anywhere with well-publicized brokenness than to turn to the person sitting next to you and see their decidedly unclean pain.

Have the courage to speak up and speak against things that happen on this campus that do not seem right, that offend you or the person next to you. Have the courage to disagree, listen and then speak again.

Please, ask yourself — If you do not have the courage to speak up in a crowd of like-minded people at an institution dedicated to pursuing Christ, how can you expect to speak up anywhere else?

 

Your Turn.  Post a Comment

  1. Joseph

    I don't really believe what I just read. I think this article is in poor taste. The author must not have a good grasp of Biola's history, the struggles the university faces regarding these topics, and what the administration has done to improve the school in these areas.

    I really hope no parents, prospective students, or donors read this because I think it's very disrespectful to the students and leadership at Biola. October 9, 2015

  2. Stephanie

    As a recent Biola Alumni, I am saddened to see that this article was published in the Chimes. The author seems to not understand the point of the Conviction and Courage Campaign and she also must not be aware of the many ways staff and administration are addressing the issues mentioned in her article. I hope that no alumni, parent, or donor reads this article and looses faith in Biola University. Please know that Biola is a place that teaches God's word, where truth is spoken and students are encouraged to ask the hard questions so that they may be equipped to go out into the world and serve God. October 9, 2015

  3. Janelle Paule

    Thanks for being brave in writing this, Nicole. You bring up a lot of good points that, like you said, are often brushed under the rug. Keep speaking up and out. October 9, 2015

  4. Justin Yun

    This is a great article! Keep up the good work! October 10, 2015

  5. Jon Prudek

    Thank you for writing this article, Nicole. Although I am encouraged that Biola is directing it's students to #HaveTheCourage, the points you bring up regarding a lack of transparency on campus regarding difficult issues is a testament to the rarity of conversations involving people with differing viewpoints, either because of homogeneity in the student body, or something more systemic. I suspect it's both.

    However, I strongly agree with you that the solution to a problem that is most assuredly not isolated to Biola - the problem of people struggling to discuss contentious topics in a civil way - is for people to #HaveTheCourage to have conversations with friends (and strangers) about controversial topics (politics, gun control, LGBT rights etc.) face-to-face. It's one thing to gather your thoughts, construct a narrative and spew vitriol to someone you're disagreeing with behind the relative anonymity of a computer screen, it's quite another to have the same conversation face-to-face.

    These conversations are not easy, but like you said, they require courage, and it's a testament of Christ's presence in our lives if we can act in a way that honors him, especially when we are discussing something that stirs up our emotions. October 10, 2015

  6. larry smith

    Bravo, Nicole.

    Joseph and Stephanie (using only first names is still hiding behind anonymity): She is not blasting the cheesy smiley photo campaign. She is using it as a segue into a discussion of broader issues.

    You can't tell from her name, but Nicole is Hispanic...Janelle is Filipino...Justin is either Korean or Chinese...and Jon appears to be from one of the downtrodden countries of Eastern Europe (Czech Republic?).

    Guess what, Gang: students of color and other minority sub-categories do not share the same Biola experience as the majority white-bread, Republican, non-charismatic Protestant ones who often attended Christian schools or (heaven forbid) were home-schooled.

    The "minority" students see Biola through a prism that old white guys like me (and young white kids like the majority of you) are unaware of. When I taught LA Literature, every semester, I included a panel featuring students of color who shared with their classmates about Biola through their dark eyes. While all of them appreciated the college in numerous ways, 100% expressed that they had experienced various forms of racism, marginalization, and the discomfort that comes when the majority population doesn't understand or appear to want to understand that just "being Christian" doesn't erase all cultural, religious, social, and economic differences.

    Maybe I've had the honor of working with gifted students like Nicole for too long because I, too, feel a bit unsettled when passing the photo montages; though I agree with virtually every slogan behind the smiles, I get a creeping sense that if a visitor from Mozanbique strolled past the same display, he would not garner an accurate picture of the Biola mosaic.

    I read and grade dozens of essays and narratives every week (I still teach in the journalism dept.) and I am only too aware of the deep pain and frustration that countless Biola students experience on a regular basis: some based upon past trauma but much based upon current situations that are much easier to dismiss because they don't reflect the image that the college has been so careful to cultivate.

    If Nicole makes you feel uncomfortable, it's not because she's "wrong"; it's because you know she's right and that makes you feel uncomfortable. Please applaud her because her iron is sharpening yours and candid discussion is what collegians should be about - not trying to mask our scars so alumni donors route their funds elsewhere.

    So, keep celebrating yourselves, celebrating Jesus, and celebrating that everyone you walk past and talk to is NOT LIKE YOU!

    Viva la Deferencia!
    October 12, 2015

  7. Joseph

    I think the first comment about the #IHaveTheCourage wall is a poor segue and misses the point. The wall isn't a conversation starter but a celebration of what Biolans have received from this university. It isn't intended to speak for every person, every topic, every fear, or every joy. Nor it is intended to say "Hey look, we're Christians and we're Biolans, we have the hard topics covered!" But they are statements individuals make about how Biola has changed their life for the better.

    It's not as simple as pointing to one example of Black Lives Matter signs being stolen and saying these conversations don't happen, because they do happen. I've had conversations about tough topics and pursued non-classroom learning in areas the school can't always cover. I know we have staff whose job it is to have these tough conversations and help students handle these problems, or at least provide a sounding board. The students are willing and able to have these conversations. The Staff and faculty are willing and able to have these conversations.

    And no one is saying everyone's experience is exactly the same, or that more ethnically diverse students don't struggle with feeling left out, dismissed, or not represented. I was a student here when the Biola underground tried to infiltrate and change Biola's stance on human sexuality. I know what the buzz on campus was like, how the university handled it, and the conversations that took place.

    The Jesus Mural does not flippantly depict a white Jesus, but had research, artistic design, and theological significance built into the artwork. Despite that it has been the source of contention and conversation for decades.

    I'm saying you can't pick on temporary marketing materials as a means of saying these conversations don't happen without really exploring whether these conversations happen or not. Of course Biola isn't going to become a perfect place overnight, but because of the conversations that have happened, the introduction of the Mosaic Cultural Center, the work of Residence Life and Student Services I know these conversations are happening and Biola is doing more and more each day to make this place a safe environment for students struggling with things not everyone can understand.

    The pain over unique struggles won't ever go away but that doesn't mean students lack the courage to bring their pain to the surface. This column seems to be blaming Biola and its students for not making this happen. Instead your words would be better served encouraging them or lifting them up to build on the momentum of conversations that have already taken place. October 12, 2015

  8. Basil

    I keep seeing this iconoclastic claim about the "white Jesus mural." First, images aren't bad things. God became a man and thus became depictable. That's historic Christian theology. Second, the man that was the subject of the painting was Jewish; yeah, Jewish like the Messiah. October 15, 2015

  9. larry smith

    Basil:

    The model for the mural, if I'm not mistaken, was a Russian Jew (perhaps his name was Igor...or Ivan...or...Basil). In other words, he was one of the Askenazic diaspora. That European branch would tend to have more Caucasian features.

    The Sephardic Jews, on the other hand, were darker and, well, more Arab-looking. Jesus most likely have fallen into the latter category - looking more like Tony Shalhoub than Mikhail Baryshnikov.

    Everything about the mural screams white...even though Kent Twitchell gave him a sunburn during his recent makeover. To simply dismiss the issue that various students of color have had regarding the mural is to personally diminish them. In other words, you - and I all too often - say things as members of the dominant culture which marginalizes our "darker" brothers and sisters.

    Besides that, I'm not sure "images" of God/Jesus are acceptable. I want my picture of the Lord to come to my heart directly from the Holy Spirit, not the brush or chisel of an artist. Do you really, for instance, want Mel Gibson to determine how the Master looked (Jim Caviezel!?)?

    The image in the mural is too imposing, too Western, too tall, too grouchy, and too still. It has served its purpose and just may not symbolize the type of college we should be imaging. The whole issue ould be resolved if the science-major alumni would get their fundraising act together and pony up to totally replace Bardwell - this time with so many windows that there would be no room for controversy.

    October 16, 2015

  10. Steve Smith

    How about just coming right out and saying, that it is high time BIOLA moves from its roots and becomes more like the world, and accepting of the world's views, not God's. As a BIOLA grad (2002 BOLD), I have to say that the Chimes is "Jacked up". October 16, 2015

  11. Lydia Rankin

    Nicole,

    Keep up the good work! Thank you for always being willing to speak about the hard things, despite the pushback. I know that you are not trying to bash Biola, but that your love for Biola and your desire for students to flourish here are what drives your willingness to point out the difficult things that students here deal with on a regular basis.

    And for those of you who feel frustrated or angered by Nicole's words, I suggest that you try and connect with her on a personal level (email her, ask to sit down to coffee, etc.) to try and understand why she is saying what she is saying. She means no malice.

    God has blessed me with the opportunity to hear the stories of struggle from hundreds of students here who feel as though they cant seek help for their struggles because of this idea that only happy perfect Christian students go to Biola. The reality is, there is no perfect Christian. We all fall short. And we all need to bear one another's burdens, pray for each other, keep one another accountable, etc.

    Our fellow brothers and sisters are crying on this campus and to listen to their cry and try to find ways to ease their suffering is not a move away from Christianity and to the secular world, but it is embracing the call that Christ has given us full on.

    So, please, rather than seeing this article as a bash on Biola's mission and history, see it as a desire to see Biola completely live up to it's mission and traditions.

    And please, if you have any questions on anything I've said, instead of responding to me on this comment section, please feel free to look me up on the Biola directory and email me. I am completely willing to discuss these things in a God-honoring way. I don't desire to fight or argue or to push an agenda, but to listen to the concerns of all sides and to figure out how to best go about living as one body. November 10, 2015

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