November 18, 2019

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Re: ‘Make Cornell More Inclusive for Christians’

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To the Editor:

“Christians are different. We often stick to ourselves, believe in a supernatural and omniscient God and typically go against the grain of college student life.” In a recent op-ed, Darren Chang ’21 brands Cornell Christians as inherently different from other students because they stand on a higher moral pedestal by avoiding temptations that “contradict mainstream Christian lifestyles.”

The standard of religious delineation employed by Chang actually characterizes the bind that links most major religions: a belief in a higher omnipresent being. While making it pointedly obvious that he did in fact attend his “fair share of parties” during his time at Cornell, Chang describes Christians as being specifically prosecuted for choosing “praying instead of partying” on weekends. Specifying these characteristics and situations (i.e. choosing not to party) as being unique to only Christians, when they very obviously are not, implies that being Christian equates to being at a higher moral standing.

Hot-take: Nobody really cares why you aren’t partying. People may call you lame for choosing to stay in, but that isn’t really a form of some Christian specific religious discrimination.

If you are going to openly discuss your personal beliefs with others, you should also be open for the discussion that may follow, regardless of the topic. While Chang calls for more open questioning and discussion of religion on campus, he is initially angered by the questioning of Christians. Does this mean we should we only question people that are not Christian?

Everyone has a personal set of moral standards they hold themselves to, and at some point, everyone’s standards are challenged or questioned by someone who has differing beliefs, regardless of religion. Just because the standards you set for yourself are different from the standards someone else sets for themselves, this doesn’t make you better — it just makes you different.

Cornell’s administration may not encourage religion, but it shouldn’t. As an educational institution, Cornell’s responsibility is to provide a free forum for open discourse and beliefs. Though I believe Cornell does need better systems for seeking religious accommodations (as well as other personal accommodations), the standards and practices in place weren’t created to specifically target Christians.

Of all religions on campus, Christianity is actually probably the most well-accommodated. Cornell’s academic scheduling is actually most beneficial to Christian students as breaks tend to be in line with Christian holidays. The two major religion-associated spaces on campus, Anabel Taylor Hall and Sage Chapel, were built primarily for Christian worship. On the contrary, Hindu students were finally upgraded to prayer room just last month after having been previously limited to a prayer storage closet.

When you’re used to privilege, equality can feel like oppression.

Arathi Bezwada ’20