Pastor of Mobilization
Engaging Conversations on Race
Over the course of the last year, there have been so many important cultural moments, including protests, the pandemic, and politics. As a pastoral staff, we’ve wrestled over how to help shepherd our students through these tumultuous waters while not preaching current events at the expense of the Gospel. As you can imagine, on a college campus, it is not simple. A phrase we’ve used to help us navigate is, “How do we stay in our lane?” I am not a sociologist, nor a political scientist, but a pastor. I’m also keenly aware that all of our actions have consequences and to ignore that reality borders on dualism, and if the Gospel doesn’t impact our actions, it is no Gospel at all.
“Our hope is that Campus House can continue to engage relevant and potentially divisive conversations in love, grounded in Scripture, and full of God’s Spirit.”
The issues of race and racism are pressing not only for our nation but also on our campus and with our students. It’s pressing for us as a community because we desire to look like the Church described in Revelation 7 with “every tribe, tongue, and nation” engaged in worship together, and at Purdue, we have a huge multi-cultural opportunity. Our culture is also grappling with race, America’s history with racism, and how to navigate a better path forward. To begin to speak into these cultural waters, we pulled together a team made up of myself, staff member GiJey Gilliam, and a few students of color. We decided to host a series of “Conversations on Race” with the hope that these conversations help our students become:
Awake: We want our community to understand that racism is a real problem in America today. We used a collection of personal stories from staff and students, both white and of color, who have experienced racism firsthand.
It sounds funny, but I realized a number of years ago that I could not experience racism for being a minority firsthand. I had to rely on personal testimonies from my friends of color. I’ve never been discriminated against for being a Black man because I am not one. This simple but profound reality helped me learn to listen to others and hear their stories with openness.
Aware: We want our community to understand what racism is—bias, rather than hatred—and to learn what the Bible says about race, ethnicity, and God’s purposes for both.
Engaged: Finally, we desire our community to be engaged in God’s work of healing and justice, so we work to provide practical tools to help engage both personally and publicly.
The first two conversations were very encouraging. The atmosphere felt like a community conversation, with couches and laughter, as we tackled deep theology and challenging sociological issues with grace. Feedback from students was incredibly positive. They appreciated a safe place to have the conversation and the personal and theological aspects of the time together.
Our hope is that Campus House can continue to engage relevant and potentially divisive conversations in love, grounded in Scripture, and full of God’s Spirit so that our community can be actively involved in imaging God and displaying His Kingdom wherever we go.