There seems to be many questions and confusion concerning my last column, “The Godless University,” including a particular guest column in response to the piece, “Stay Godless.” Before clearing up any concerns about my original piece, it would be wise to first address the title of this new column. It is a play on the scripture in Psalm 14:1, which reads, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” The title is not meant to call atheists fools, but rather that the university who refuses to acknowledge the idea of God in their academics is foolish.
You probably do not remember the opening scene of the movie God’s Not Dead — made by Pinnacle Peak Pictures, a Christian production company. In the scene, a philosophy professor stands before his new class of students and quotes the German thinker Friedrich Nietzche’s famous thesis, “God is dead.” The professor then tries to get each student to agree with the statement so the class does not have to waste time thinking about God. A Christian student then refuses to comply with the professor, and the rest of the movie ensues. I recommend watching the movie — I enjoyed it — but alas this is not a film review.
I want to start by emphasizing that this is no way an attack on Christianity or the author of the op-ed. This is a response to reflect on religious privilege on campus and to continue the conversation of religious acceptance and accommodation at Cornell. If you can write an op-ed about your religious beliefs and not fear for your safety on campus after it’s published, you are experiencing religious privilege. If you can write an op-ed about your religion and not be stereotyped as the voice for your entire religion by the public, you are experiencing religious privilege. If you can attend Cornell University and never have your religion be the target of a hate crime, you are experiencing religious privilege.
Here’s the lowdown: I’m a Christian, and I think Cornell should be more open to religion — specifically Christianity. Although I’d grown up going to church (sort of — because my dad was never interested), it wasn’t until my senior year in high school that I began to develop my personal faith. In the midst of college applications and a long list of rejections, I felt a deep-seated inadequacy that I couldn’t solve by myself. Through a series of conversations with Christian friends that I’d had since elementary school and a long period of soul-searching and Bible-reading, I realized that my faith was something that was incredibly important to me. More importantly, I realized I wanted to remain a Christian in college.
Here are five tracks to listen to from different artists if Kanye’s music struck a particular chord sonically, or if you desire hip hop that approaches the subjects of Christianity and faith with nuance and panache.
Lecrae has always been an artist who does not like boxes, and those who attempt to categorize him into one would be hard-pressed to try. Bringing the gospel to hip-hop long before Chance came to the scene, Lecrae’s ability to maneuver between disparate, non-interacting circles served as both his greatest strength and weakness. Being a two-time Grammy Award winner and having performed on Jimmy Fallon and Sway in the Morning, he has achieved a level of success unseen by Christian artists. His diverse catalogue defies categorization and yet for all these pioneering advancements, it seemed that what he gained came at the cost of personal piety. Beginning in 2012 with Church Clothes, its subsequent sequels and his chart-topping 2014 LP Anomaly, he introduced listeners to a more socially-minded Lecrae; the bona-fide rapper was still spitting fierce rhymes, but in his razor-sharp criticism of social injustice he seemed to have lost the vibrancy and passion of articulating his faith, which was a staple of his earlier works.
As a child, I was fascinated by Christianity. The ritual aspect of it was, I think, what appealed to me most: the concept of slowly and constantly improving oneself through meticulous observation of holidays, prayers, communion, etc. Ironically, I went to fairly laid-back Presbyterian and Lutheran churches with my parents, so I was denied the liturgical, repetitious grandiosity of Catholicism, for which my young, faithful and perhaps even slightly bureaucratic soul was clearly hungering. In retrospect, I was more fascinated by the rituals themselves than what underpinned them: belief in a responsive and singular God.
By MICHAEL GLANZEL
I did not grow up in a “religious” home; I was not baptized as a baby, and before I was 16 I had only been to about two or three church services. For me, God was an afterthought — something I rarely considered. When confronted with the idea of a deity, I embraced a quasi-agnostic attitude towards the subject of God. If there was a God, I thought that He was impossible to discover or understand. For me, the concept of a God was hard to accept and even harder to comprehend. In September of my junior year of high school, my aunt invited my family to come to her small, local church. The church only had about 30 people; everyone wore jeans and the pastor wore a bright Hawaiian shirt while giving the Sunday message. But what struck me was not the casual atmosphere, but rather the simplicity and the clarity of the pastor’s message. There weren’t any strange rituals, meaningless repetitions or Latin sayings. Instead, the pastor simply read through a chapter of Matthew and explained the meaning of each verse, one at a time. After that, my family — the same people who wouldn’t be caught dead saying grace before a meal — started going to church every Sunday. As the months progressed, my agnostic shell began to crack as I began to understand the simplicity, beauty and veracity of the Bible. In January 2013, I decided to give my life to Jesus Christ — a decision that I have never once regretted. Now, it seems as if my world — the world of Christianity — has gained particular attention as of late via the presidential race and the holiday season. Let’s start with the race for the White House. Numbering in the tens of millions, the born-again Christian community is one of the most influential sectors of American society — and the politicians have taken great note of this. From Jerry Falwell’s “Moral Majority” to George W. Bush’s evangelism, thousands of politicians, on both sides of the aisle, have invoked the name of the gospel in the political arena. At the Values Voters Summit in September, Donald Trump proudly waved his Bible around, stating: “I’m a good Christian.” Throughout her political career, and especially during her presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton has invoked the Bible and Christianity as vehicle for “social justice,” stating: “We have to summon up what we believe is morally and ethically and spiritually correct and do the best we can with God’s guidance.” The list of politicians who have invoked the name of the gospel during this campaign is extensive — and yet, I question the motivations behind this invocation.
In the gospel of Matthew, Christ warns not to boastfully pray in public, stating: “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites.
Over the past couple of days, my mind has not been on gay marriage; it has been on an operating systems project. But even with my reclusive studying habits this week, I still have caught wind off the recent controversy over the latest Newsweek cover story by Lisa Miller, which alleges that the Bible actually supports gay marriage.
Now I acknowledge that Newsweek has the right to print whatever it wants, but that right has never been conditioned on the quality of what they write, a fact which has become manifestly evident when I read the cover story.