Dialoguing must continue despite disagreement

An open letter to the Biola student body arguing that although exploring uncomfortable topics that may mean disagreement, students will be challenged to grow by it.

Shaefer Bagwell and Shaefer Bagwell

Dear Biola,

Last year, this section was run by a man named Chase Andre. He is a man of wisdom and intentionality, and made this section a place where students could contribute their opinions, stir up public discussion and be challenged in their own beliefs. He injected humor into serious topics through amusing satires. He continuously brought up issues more comfortably kept quiet — things like diversity, the woman’s role in the contemporary church and Christian treatment of the poor.

It is my desire to continue in his path, to make the opinions section of the Chimes a place for students and community stakeholders to sharpen their ideals and learn from others. To do that, the Biola community must be challenged.

Most of us would agree that Biola is not a typical college. Our focus, faculty, history and student body set us apart not only from the run-of-the-mill public school, but from other Christian schools as well.

Our admissions process, with its declaration of faith and required letter of recommendation from a pastor, has the effect of making this an almost exclusively Christian environment. This aids the school in the accomplishment of its mission, as well as in stimulating the Christ-centeredness of the campus as a whole. I admire Biola for its courage and steadfastness in the pursuit of its goals amid a culture that is growing more secular.

However, there is an interesting side effect to this weeding-out process. Requiring all students to be Christian results in relative homogeneity. Biola students are, for the most part, ideologically like-minded. We are, for the most part, conservative in our theology and our politics.

When you are surrounded by people who agree with you, someone who disagrees can be shocking. It is my belief that, since a majority of the world disagrees with us as conservative Christians, we must hone our skills at dealing with those who think we are wrong. Too often, I have encountered people who explode with anger or just completely shut down.

I view this section as a place where we can counteract those reactions. We can use it as a public forum, where people can disagree without anger, where opposing viewpoints strengthen public debate instead of dissolving it, and debate educates the reader instead of confusing him.

It is my hope that we will touch on uncomfortable subjects. In this section, we will push out of our intellectual and spiritual comfort zones to explore topics that would ordinarily be left unspoken.

So I urge you this: Remember that people can be at odds with you without being bad people. Talking through conflicting points strengthens the body of Christ, if it’s done without anger. Remember that the person with whom you differ is your brother or sister, and their viewpoint has value. Instead of reacting with anger, accusations or personal attacks, contribute to the conversation. Take part in the exchange of ideas. You might learn something, and you will definitely teach something to those around you.

Shaefer Bagwell

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