DCM continues to offer unique learning opportunities

If you have overheard students discussing the threads of creation, fall, redemption and vocation found in Minecraft, Islam, millennials in the church or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, don’t be amazed, they’re probably just referring to their DCM class.

Over the course of their college career, often as first-years, all students take Developing a Christian Mind, learn the tenets of Calvinism through the refrain “creation, fall, redemption, vocation” and read “Engaging God’s World,” a comprehensive introduction to reformed theology by written former Calvin Theological Seminary president Cornelius Plantinga.

While some students find the book’s material familiar, many others, like first-year Janay Faulkner, appreciate the way the book and accompanying class discussion encourage deeper thought about their faith and about God.  

This year’s classes included options in religion, psychology, film, math and classics like “God Rested: Why Can’t You?” Two even focused on recreational drug use.

The class “Minecraft to Marauder’s Map: Mapping Your World,” taught by geology professor Van Horn, focused on how mapping in modern culture (the marauder’s map representing this), especially city geography, relates to community issues like poverty, homelessness and human trafficking.

Each day, according to Faulkner, students spent time building on Minecraft, a virtual city and landscaping game. On the day the class learned about homelessness, students either worked as landlords, flattening houses to build skyscrapers and cause homelessness, or built homeless shelters.

By creating landscapes and learning about how geography affects people, students explored the doctrine of creation. “We focused on how God cares and called us to take care of his earth,” said Faulkner.

In Understanding Islam, taught by professor Howard, students visited a mosque and heard testimonies from Muslim women who spoke with the class, some of whom had converted from Christianity.

Sage Riley found it fascinating to learn about the diversity within the Muslim religion and how Muslims and Christians view vocation differently, yet share many of the same historical stories in their holy books. “It’s strange to see how similar they are in the classroom, to look at that, but then to see in the world how many people hate each other, how many Christians would say that Muslims are terrorists and have that stereotype,” she said.

Andrew Pham and Emma Pheifer took professor Elliott’s class, “Young Adults and the Church,” exploring the differences between generation X and millennials through the lense of the DCM themes, looking at how the rising church should react to this division.

Pham explained how, compared to millennials’ no-judgment attitude, the gen X church was far more judgmental of society. While this millennial attitude has brought good things to the church such as reduced racism and homophobia, Pham explained, it often means millennials are reluctant to stick around in church leadership positions for long.

To help ease this division, Pheifer said, the rising church can instead “be forces for making committees or getting people to have more of an equal voice verses that hierarchy in the church that we sometimes see.”

Maxine Asante, Bolu Olayemi and Emily Myers took “Violence, Sex, and Gender: ‘Buffy’ and Beyond,” a class taught by philosophy professor Van Dyke which explored the swapping of stereotypical gender roles in “Buffy,” along with the cinematic structure of the series.

While many female characters, particularly those in action films, are flat, Myers said, “[Director] Joss Whedon didn’t just create a female action hero, he created a character, an actual living, breathing human being who is going through these situations.”

“In modern-day society people are yelling for women to be able to be who they want, dress how they want, say what they want, so why isn’t that true in the fictional world?” she asked.

This class, according to Asante, made the DCM themes practical. She explained, “It showed how even in a fictional series you can see the characteristics of God in the characters in Buffy. … Buffy’s constantly fighting for the people of Sunnydale, the town they lived in … risking her life to make sure people are safe.”

In particular, the show reflects redemptive themes. “If you are bad and you have bad intentions, she kills you,” said Olayemi. “But if you are bad and you don’t plan on killing anyone, she leaves you alone.”

“She sees a chance for redemption in everybody,” said Asante. “You just have to be willing and confess your sins.”