A call to discern: Fun. at Calvin College

Pop culture is a difficult topic here at Calvin. Lots of us believe that part of our duty as citizens of God’s kingdom is to do the difficult work of discernment by engaging all of culture. And yet, many of us are equally convinced that discernment ends nearly where pop culture begins — that is, that “worldly art” is inherently at odds with the Christian faith.  Toss in a few angry parents, idealistic students and thought-provoking professors for good measure, and we’ve got ourselves a real mess to work out.

 It’s no secret that there have been a number of issues regarding pop culture at Calvin over the past few years.

In many ways, this seems contrary to Calvin’s mission of shaping thoughtful Christian minds by inviting students to disengage with parts of culture that seem unfit to a few more influential members of the community. After such events, students are often left wondering if they have responsible freedom here or not. After all, it’s easy to talk about fostering critical thought within the student body, but it’s another thing entirely to actually let us follow through on our conclusions.

That said, Calvin is an institution affiliated with the Christian Reformed Church (CRC), and we all knew that coming in. Despite the fact that I am not reformed, I am deeply grateful for this institution’s continuous attempt to honor its historical and theological commitments. I do not agree with everything that happens at Calvin, but then again, I wouldn’t agree with everything that happens anywhere. Moreover, there are many members of this community that take seriously our commitments to the CRC and desire to protect it from those cultural forces that might cause the denomination to be distorted or, perhaps worse, divided.

As many of you already know, indie-pop sensation Fun. will be playing at Calvin next Wednesday as part of a tour to raise awareness about LGBTQ issues and equality. The band has made several changes to their stop in an attempt to accommodate Calvin’s commitment to the CRC’s position on homosexuality. Many students view these accommodations as unnecessary, or even unjust. Similarly, a significant portion of this community is equally offended that Calvin would even consider hosting a band with such an “un-biblical” agenda. So where do we go from here?

As has been noted, Calvin is an institution that tends to transcend generalizations (which is not something most institutions our size can truthfully say). To be frank, our varied ideological climate leads to mountains of frustration. But what can we do? That’s reality. When we break away from this community, things will not get easier — at least inasmuch as we are committed to the betterment of society. Sure, some of us will move to homogenous suburbs where everyone believes the same, and that’ll be our “witness.” But what good will that witness actually be? As one of the most LGBTQ unfriendly schools in the U.S., we have a great opportunity awaiting us — an opportunity to think critically about what we believe, to ask questions, and to listen intently to those who do not share the convictions of the CRC.

Regardless of your opinions regarding LGBTQ issues, we have an obligation as a Reformed institution to listen, to engage and to discern what Fun. might have to say in a hospitable and thoughtful way. It won’t be easy, but someone has got to do it. Truthfully, I don’t think there is a better place for it to happen then here, at Calvin College.