Stretching cultural awareness beyond the “Biola Bubble”

Students are aware of events in the Biola community, but political science professor Scott Waller challenges students to look outside the “Biola Bubble.”

Ah, that glorious, mystical, magical barrier against the outside world that so many of us refer to as the Biola Bubble. Aside from the obvious insulating benefits it offers, this bubble also can shield us from many things going on within the broader world that can and should be of serious concern to us.

First of series on current events

My desire in this space this week and in the next several weeks is to surface a few of the issues that may have escaped your notice in the hustle and bustle of everyday university life. Indeed, many of these issues have the curious habit of poking their noses into our world even if we were interested in keeping them out. The bubble is not, it would seem, the impenetrable barrier its reputation sometimes portrays.

Integrating class and culture

And yet, this is okay, isn’t it? Part of the glory of the university experience is to learn, to discover, to wrestle with things that you may not otherwise have had the opportunity to encounter. In fact, for those of us who count it a privilege to be involved in your lives in this way, the things that occur outside our immediate midst are often great avenues for teaching you the things we so assiduously try to populate your hearts and minds with. Within the history, government, and social science department we take full advantage of the fact that the ideas within our disciplines are being played out in contemporary culture every day.

When you darken the doorsteps of our classrooms you are likely to encounter a rigorous mixture of how history, for example, has played out in the past and how it seems to be making a return trip in our day. Students in our political science classes are challenged to consider what they are learning about within the American political order in light of contemporary events and issues. It is to some of what I believe are the more fascinating issues that I turn your attention to, both now and in the weeks to follow. Given my interests in political science, I will concentrate on issues of particular political significance.

Senator Thune not a presidential candidate

First of all, were you aware that one of our own – well, at least he used to be here a “few” years ago – was thought to be a serious prospect for the presidency of the United States? Senator John Thune, a 1983 Biola grad, from South Dakota was, until relatively recently, on a short list of people believed to be giving serious consideration for a run at the Republican nomination in 2012 and the opportunity to challenge President Obama in the next general election. In a published statement on his website to his supporters late last month, Thune announced that he would not be pursuing this avenue in the short term.

Why should this be of concern to you? Aside from the fact that many universities never have the chance to boast about one of their graduates pursuing such a notable office, a Thune candidacy undoubtedly would have brought Biola into a national spotlight. For good or ill, our community here would have been fodder for examination from many a media outlet. I, for one, think we would have held up well under the increased scrutiny and brought honor to Christ as a result.

Defense of Marriage Act

Second and not related to the first, just within the past several weeks, the Obama administration has announced that it will no longer be legally defending the constitutional status of the Defense of Marriage Act. DOMA was a piece of legislation passed by super majorities in both houses of Congress in 1996 and signed into law by then President Bill Clinton. The primary purpose of the law was two-fold: One, to define marriage for the purposes of federal law as being a union between a man and a woman, and two, to not require states, under what is known as the “full faith and credit” clause of the Constitution, to recognize the legal status of same sex marriages performed in other states.

Notwithstanding the question of whether it is permissible for the chief executive officer of our government to instruct his Department of Justice to not defend a duly-passed piece of legislation, what ought to be our concern here? Should we be interested in fostering and protecting a legal environment that reinforces a clear biblical teaching on such a crucial life-forming and culture-forming issue as marriage? If I may be so bold, I dare say we should.

Current events awareness important

Irrespective of our views on this issue, however, I bring it to your attention to demonstrate that there are things that are occurring outside the 90639 area code that have the nasty tendency to break into our world here. In the weeks to follow, we will bring several more issues to your attention in the hope that we can all sharpen our mental radars to the fascinating world going on around us.

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