The Rev. Casey dunsworth

serves as Associate Campus Pastor to the Belfry, the Lutheran-Episcopal Campus Ministry to UC Davis

and as Program Director for LEVN, the Lutheran Episcopal Volunteer Network.

Keeping the Faith

I write about my dear alma mater, California Lutheran University, with regularity. It's a wonderful place of higher learning, and I give it as many stars as your scale includes. I did work in Admission, so I'm inherently biased to talk about how great it is. Of course, there are moments in the life of any institution that call for change. CLU is in a period of change and conflict right now. The basic facts of the matter are that a member of the ASCLUG student senate (my friend, Evan Sandlin '12) proposed a bill that would alter the wording of the ASCLUG constitution's preamble. The preamble is, currently, as follows, with the phrase in question in bold:
"We, the Associated Students of California Lutheran University, in order to provide for student organization, to encourage academic and social development, to provide a forum for student expression, and to further Christian growth, do establish this constitution."
Evan's proposed change would have the preamble read thus:
"We, the Associated Students of California Lutheran University, in order to provide for student organization, to encourage academic and social development, to provide a forum for student expression, and to inspire the maturity of faith and reason in an environment of Lutheran tradition, do establish this constitution." 
As a Lutheran Christian, I am very much in favor of this change. It should be noted that this is the ASCLUG constitution, not the University's mission or vision statement, though the new language is similar to the language present in those official statements. The ASCLUG constitution pertains to the work of student government. It does not affect the everyday life of the student body in any drastic way.

So why are a few students up in arms about the change? I'm not sure. Their argument is that removing "Christian" from the preamble and replacing it with "Lutheran" excludes non-Lutheran Christian students from the conversation. But what the word "Christian" does, currently, is exclude non-Christian students from the conversation. And while something like 50% of the student body identifies as a Christian denomination other than Lutheran, another 30% of the student body identifies as non-Christian. As students at California Lutheran University, it would seem that we have functioned, for the most part, as comfortable with the "Lutheran" middle name of our school. We are not California Christian University.

There's a difference.

This change does not remove Christian growth from the students of CLU. If the way you are inspired to be mature in your faith and your reason is to continue your Christianity (of any denomination), no one is stopping you. Interestingly enough, the Christian growth you are trying to "protect" is not lost in this changing of words. Does putting "faith and reason" in the constitution scare you? Does the fact that a non-Christian student proposed it scare you? Are you so insecure in your Christianity that the thought of someone pursuing something other than your brand of your faith at the University you both call your home scares you? Does it scare you so much that you are fighting your student government's choice of language, to scare non-Christian students into the corner in which you've already put them? That is not furthering your Christian growth. And it's certainly not mature.

As a Lutheran seminarian, I can assure you that the conversations we are having here look as much if not more like "maturity of faith and reason" than they do like "furthering Christian growth." Every day, we are breaking down old paradigms and building new ways of being Lutheran. We are one-ninth or one-twentieth, depending on how and who you count, of the Graduate Theological Union, a group of religious institutions working together -- maybe even in maturity of faith and reason -- through our commonalities and our differences. That members of 20+ different religious traditions and systems of belief are able to coexist here in harmony is a testament to our commitment to growth, Christian and otherwise. Half of the GTU's Member Schools and Centers of Distinction are Christian, which, in case you're not getting it, means that half are not. PLTS' participation in the GTU is exactly how "maturity of faith and reason in an environment of Lutheran tradition" can manifest.

I'm getting away from the part where this is about CLU. As a Lutheran university, it is imperative that CLU uphold its Lutheran identity in all of the ways that that manifests. Keeping our Lutheran campus ministry alive and well is a good way to go about that. Having a faculty and staff of Lutherans, Presbyterians, Jews, Catholics, Sikhs, Daoists, Atheists, Muslims, Mormons (all I can think of off the top of my head) is a good way to go about that. Having a student body that understands that Luther was about education, conversation, thoughtfulness, doubt, reason, scripture, tradition, and experience is a good way to go about that. Having a governing body committed to conversation with all students, ideology notwithstanding, is a good way to go about that.

It is my hope that when this change goes to a vote among the entire student body (as is the plan) that CLU students will understand what the motivation is behind this change, and that they will understand that it is in the best interest of ALL Kingsmen and Regals to make this change.

I support this change not because my friends proposed it. Not because my friends support it. In fact, I'm positive that some of my friends are in protest of the change. I support this change because it is time that the student government (and maybe someday the student body) acted on its Lutheran Christian identity, rather than bickered about how best to stifle it.

How did it come to this?

Maryland sucks.