Calvin College Chimes

Dear Calvin Parents

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Dear Calvin Parents,

In light of the “condom caper” on Valentine’s Day, in which an unknown party left condoms and notes promoting safe sex in the library bathrooms, it became clear to me and plenty of other students that a lot of Calvin parents weren’t aware of the truth. I think it’s fair you know this: your student may be having sex. If they’re not having sex, they are probably friends with somebody who is. At the very least, there is a decent chance they want to have sex with someone.

Somewhere on campus as that event was unfolding, a friend quipped with sarcastic firmness: “But wait, nobody’s having sex!” We burst out laughing, because we knew the obvious. Students are having sex, and most everybody knows it. Sure, we may not always know who, in particular, but we all know there are people on campus who have passionately disobeyed their signed student conduct codes, snuck through the residence halls in the dead of night past open house hours, and violated the sacred purity seal of the all-so-holy Calvin-Lock.

My point in saying all this is not to stir up trouble, or emotions, or hateful emails to staff and administration. I am saying this because I, and many other students on campus, know it to be true, and to pretend like it isn’t is to contribute further to the myths of Calvin College that seem to pervade parent discussion groups and admissions meetings. Calvin prides itself on its unique Christian approach to real issues in a real world, but what you sometimes see are in fact misrepresentations of what people tend to experience.

The question isn’t always whether to have sex or not have sex, but about whether abstinence-only sex education is going to keep students, who, again, are already having sex, from doing so safely. We call ourselves pro-life; the question is not always whether one is pro-life or pro-choice, but how we might keep someone from having to make the decision of whether or not to get an abortion in the first place.

This is truly a matter of transparency. I would not fain to argue that Calvin should not endorse a view the administration considers biblical. What I am arguing is that in spite of what the college might want, or hope, or communicate, there are in fact certain realities to the experiences of students on campus and citizens at large.

In our oft-referenced but rarely fully-acknowledged bubbles of American evangelical Christian experience, the unspoken assumption tends to be that issues like these belong to some amorphous “other” besides us. “Someone is having sex and getting pregnant and deciding whether they should get an abortion, but it’s not us.” At best, often, “We need to help them.” Calvin ought to take the reality of their student population for what it is if they ever hope to achieve what it could be.

There are gay kids on campus, out or not, that need affirmation. There are intelligent, responsible students who are having sex with their significant other. There are loving, thoughtful individuals who do not subscribe to any religious creed. I tell you now, these are not just the people you read about in student newspapers or see on reality TV. They are your sons and daughters. They, too, are the students of Calvin.

Respectfully,

A Calvin Student

4 Comments

4 Responses to “Dear Calvin Parents”

  1. Laura Van Zomeren on March 2nd, 2019 11:08 am

    Perfectly stated. Thank you for this letter. The same was happening 30 years ago when I attended Calvin. To pretend otherwise is naive and puts way to much pressure on everyone. I believe our God is a god of love and not shame and having to hide who we are and what we have done.

  2. Stan VerHeul on March 2nd, 2019 11:42 am

    Well said! For the most part these observations could have been made during my era at Calvin (I graduated in 1966). It needs to be said now, especially when white American evangelicalism has gone off the rails in a frenzy of hypocracy, denying facts, history, context, and the implications of what’s left of sound theology. Thanks for saying it.

  3. Calvin Parent - Richard Gernant on March 2nd, 2019 2:20 pm

    Thanks for your candid editorial. I appreciate your willingness to be transparent and provide a student’s perspective. That said, I do not believe there is a godly parent out there that is not aware of the reality of our human tendencies toward sin. It is our human nature. The God that designed and created us to bear His image did so knowing that allowing unrestricted freedoms would lead to our straying from the intended design – as played out immediately with Adam and Eve in the garden. Further, He designed us and knows that when we don’t follow the path of our design there are inherent consequences, just as the consequence of placing paper in a fire immediately causes the paper to burn. Knowing this, driven by His nature of love, He gave us His Word, authored and lived by His own Son to reveal His holiness and our proclivity to fall short. In it He reveals in great detail the natural consequences of deviations from His designed path and how those consequences can expose our shortcomings to hopefully draw us back to Him, that is the Good News! He seeks us out even in the pain experienced as a result of consequences and reveals how we can be fully restored to Him through Jesus (Romans 5:8 paraphrased).

    The problem is when we begin to look at the plans or actions set up for our protection and see them as “joy killers” and then extend that further to look negatively at the consequences as those invented by a naïve or cruel task master to whip us back onto the intended path. We then begin to look to the Designer (or those He has placed in authority over us) as the one who is preventing us from “enjoying the benefits of living”, such that we then need to invent “protections” or “remedies” to deliver us from the consequences and resulting pain. This leads to a human run culture (prevalent in the world today) of “tolerance” and “acceptance” of things that are not according to God’s design because we assume it is correct since everyone is doing it or accepting it.

    You can search the Scripture beginning to end, and you will never find that the Father or His Son ever accepted disobedience. Jesus confronted many and exposed their disobedience that was resulting in consequences causing them much pain. He then drew them to confess their disobedience, chose to turn from those things, and encouraged them into a closer relationship with Himself by saying “go and sin no more”.

    This does not mean they no longer suffer the consequences, nor does it mean they will stop falling short. It just means that they have an approach to move forward with confidence and see the help made available to all, ultimately by the God of the universe, who allows us to walk in a fully restored relationship with Him. Once King David was made aware of his failings, he confessed, endured the consequences, and ultimately was restored back to a relationship with his Holy God. Jesus loves the sinner but hates the sin. Why? Because sin/disobedience/ deviation from His plan is (by natural result of design) the thing that pushes us away from Him. This is not what the culture of this world we live in implies when promoting “tolerance” and “acceptance”.

    I believe that the goal of the “unique Christian approach” is to help direct one to live fully within the plans set forth by the Omnipotent Designer as laid out in His Word. However, due to our fallen nature and allowed unrestricted freedoms, failure is imminent. What we then need is Grace, coming from the only One who fully and completely cares for each one of us, which is extended through those surrounding and mentoring us to help direct us back onto our designed path as He intended in His perfect Design. Inclusivity (in the sense of how I see the culture promoting acceptance and tolerance) does not provide healing, and it is detrimental to the soul of individuals. We are of the most help to an individual when we encourage acknowledgement of sin, confession agreeing with God that what we do is not appropriate, and repentance (changing direction back to our design). Jesus’ brother James says (5:16) we are to “confess our sins to one another and pray for one another that we may be healed”. This leads individuals to restoration and true happiness.

  4. Stephanie Hoekstra on March 3rd, 2019 9:37 pm

    I am saddened to read this on many levels.
    The author seems to be lacking any remorse over the situation. Abstinence may be difficult but it is what God has called His people to do. Jesus is trustworthy as my life can testify to. I have faith in the Lord Jesus and His design for my life, He is trustworthy. “Trust and Obey” was a song I learned as a small child and at a very young age I decided to do just that. He just asks for obedience. Recently I have been reading Chronicles, in chapter 13 you can read the story of Abijah’s victory over Jeroboam. Abijah’s army was out numbered by 2-1, 400,000 men. As you read along it is clear God blessed Abijah for his obedience in going into war when the odds were against him. The people of Judah were victorious because they relied on the the Lord the God of their ancestors vrs 18.
    The author, 4th paragraph, assumes the lives of the students demonstrate they are not willing to obey God’s design so the question is about “whether abstinence-only sex eduction is going to keep students, who are already having sex, from doing so safely.” The question is, do we have a problem of students committing to the Lordship of Christ.?Are we going to submit to Christ’s leadership or are we going to remain on the throne. God has given us clear direction regarding sexuality in His word. We seem to have a hard time with owning up to the fact that every inclination in our heart is evil, Genesis 8:21.
    The response to the students behavior on campus should be repentance. Thats what should be called for, true sorrow and a change of behavior. I do not say this as a “perfect person” who has everything in order. I say this as a forgiven sinner who is slowly becoming more like Christ.
    As for all the people in the last paragraph I would pray that they realize Psalm 103:8-18.
    I am trying to live a life that Gods has outlined for His followers in His word. I repeatedly fail and God forgives me. This guilt, not to be confused with shame, I feel when I do something wrong is a good thing, without guilt my behavior would go unchanged. God has been so patient with me and for that I am grateful, Stephanie Hoekstra

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