Students should change mindset about SCORR conference

Shaefer Bagwell describes the deep significance of the SCORR Conference.


John Buchanan/THE CHIMES

Shaefer Bagwell, Writer

Every year, hundreds of students from other schools flock to Biola to attend a conference no one here knows about. The Student Congress On Racial Reconciliation is a gathering of student leaders from colleges all over the country. They meet to discuss issues of diversity and learn new strategies for integration and racial reconciliation in the world of their Father. Their mission is to “empower attendees to become catalysts for change through transformational learning and growth as they engage the diversity of the Kingdom of God,” according to the conference’s website.

They worship in a way that Biola is not accustomed to, employing different cultural genres of praise music, in order for attendees to experience new cultures. They have distinguished speakers from all over the world — academics and diversity professionals who provide valuable insight for students fighting for their place in the kingdom. This conference would be valuable for us even if it were completely secular. Diversity is an issue which touches nearly every aspect of our lives.

But this conference isn’t secular. Its a gathering of people who are committed to furthering the cause of diversity in creation as a worshipful reflection of God’s choices in making more than one type of person.

So why doesn’t this conference matter more to Biola students? Last year, I talked to several students attending the conference while they were staying here — they took their attendance as an opportunity, an honor, a means to an end, a gift from God. They planned to take advantage of every opportunity afforded to them at this Congress. But when I overhear Biola students talking about it — indeed, when I have talked about it myself in the past — I hear the disdainful tones normally applied to a joke. We use terms and language that are associated with “otherness,” verbiage that implies that the conference is for people from other schools, and not for us. In other cases, students refer to it as an easy bunch of chapel credit, a chance for some cheap extra credit or an opportunity to sleep on a Saturday morning to unusual worship music.

It would be easy to explain this away as a problem of knowledge, to claim that the student body here doesn’t respect SCORR because they don’t know about it or understand it. I don’t think this holds water, though. The administration is quite diligent about their promotion of this event. There are well-designed posters, banners and chapel slides distributed about the campus. Respected campus leaders speak about it in public.

The problem of this event centers on apathy. We regard diversity as a problem for someone else. I’ve heard it said that this is a private, expensive Christian school — we are never going to be that diverse. This leads me to one conclusion: The problem with Biola’s mindset is that it lacks any sort of desire for action. We need to ignite a passion for a community that reflects the diversity of God’s creation. We need a fire in our belly not only for the nations of the world, but for the nations that are represented within ten square miles of this university. We need these things because God consciously and purposefully made mankind in many forms; he created them with variable shapes, sizes, colors and customs. When we ignore the power and value of diversity, we ignore something to which God has added value. We can all agree, I think, that this needs to change. As this conference strives to be a catalyst for change, maybe we should begin to pay more attention.

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