Encouraging Diversity of Candidates for Wheaton Presidency

The following open letter has been signed by 500+ Wheaton alum since Friday evening, and you can sign it as well here.

Dear Wheaton Presidential Selection Committee,

As an academic institution and as a Christian community, Wheaton recognizes the importance of diversity and has acted successfully on it. The selection committee, chosen to help select the next Wheaton president, also recognizes the importance of diversity and includes this as part of its “Commitment” section in the concise “qualifications desired”:

To champion ethnic, economic, and gender diversityCompared to other academic institutions, the percentage of white and male Christian college presidents in the CCCU is much higher than in their secular counterparts (currently there are no minority CCCU presidents and only 2% female, compared to 12.8% and 21.1% respectively in all national institutions). Wheaton College has had seven presidents over the course of its 150 year history and Litfin began his tenure as Wheaton College’s seventh white male president in 1993. We should acknowledge that our historical prejudices would probably not have allowed it otherwise, but a lot has changed in the 17 years since Wheaton last had the chance to select a president.

We strongly encourage the committee to search diligently for a female or minority candidate to be in the final pool of candidates. It is not enough to hope that qualified women and minorities will present themselves. Wheaton should make diversity of primary importance in considering the leader of this great academic institution for Christ and His Kingdom.

The Selection Committees deadline for applications is next week (Nov. 1st) and so we are trying to gather signatures as quickly as possible. The hope is that this letter will serve as an accountability check on the process, recognizing that diversity isn’t something we just pay lip service to, but that we actively have to work against some of the systemic discrimination that exist in the system.

After posting this letter on my own facebook page and sending a note out to all my fellow Wheaton alum, I received a rather negative comment about this sort of “affirmative action” being “racist” and discriminatory. It was a pretty harsh critique, but seeing as the letter had already garnered several signatures in a couple hours, I felt I wasn’t alone in my beliefs. Before I had time to respond to the comment another friend, Indie, gave this brilliant response that I’ll include below. I think this comment is a great summary as to why a letter like the above is so important to keeping our “christian” institutions accountable.

That depends on your definition of qualified. “Qualified” has traditionally been defined in a way that excludes the experience of women and minorities. For example, if unpaid volunteer experience is considered to be less than paid experience then by and large women are being excluded because they tend to spend a large amount of their time not working in order to serve others. As a Christian institution, Wheaton should be recruiting leaders based on Christian values. Giving up your income to serve others is very Christlike, but it seldom wins you any fans on the types of boards that choose presidents of universities.

Another thing that might be looked at is where a candidate did his or her course work. Will the committee take into consideration that some candidates were excluded from even attending many schools in the past (including many Christian schools) due to their race?

The biblical precedent for this sort of thing is jubilee. Those who had failed and missed out in the past (due to injustice or their parents or whatever) were given another chance, an equal playing ground. We need to really clearly understand that women and minorities have not been given an equal playing ground and take that into consideration.

The letter simply asks that a minority or woman be in the final pool of candidates. That is not too much to ask. If 50 percent of the final pool is not female, the leaders at Wheaton should be asking themselves long hard questions about the fairness of the system to begin with. Unless they truly believe that women are inferior. In that case they should be upfront about it. Likewise, minorities should be represented in proportion at least to their existence within the Christian community. The fact that we have to be so intentional to make this so points to the systemic unfairness of the system in the first place rather than the unfairness of the request for equal representation.

Please consider signing the letter and passing it on to your friends and fellow Wheaton grads and students to sign as well.

Order Slave-Free Chocolate for Halloween

I’m not usually one to play the salesman role, nor am I one to plan much in advance. However, this year we managed to order some fair-trade (read: Slave Free) mini dark chocolate bars for Halloween. The deal is though that you have to buy in bulk, 888 bars of chocolate for $144, which evens out to 16 cents a bar. And you need to order right now so you have it in time for Halloween. Just do it now and then sell the candy to your friends and neighbors who probably haven’t run by the store to stock up on their trick-or-treat handouts either.

Order Here.

Read about child labor in the chocolate Industry here. and here. and here.

Ariah’s Birthday Wishlist

If I’ve had an impact on your life, consider having an impact on someone elses

The one thing I think about each year when my birthday rolls around is whether or not my life (and the past year) has had a positive impact on those around me.
If I’ve had a positive impact on you let me know and consider doing something intentional to have a positive impact on others. I’ve listed 5 things that make up my birthday wishlist for this year. Consider doing one of them and then let me know about it (or not).

1. Become a mentor ( http://www.bbbs.org , Kinship, Bolder Options)
2. Eat Fair Trade chocolate or give up chocolate for a year. http://bit.ly/lqC1R
3. Sponsor a child ( http://www.worldvision.org/ http://www.compassion.com )
4. Take a person in need out to a nice dinner or hold a banquet for a larger group http://bit.ly/2ytjsX
5. Loan money to someone through http://kiva.org

And if your not comfortable doing any of the things I listed pick something else: bike to work, donate blood, volunteer at a domestic abuse shelter, pay for the persons toll behind you, give all your money away, become an organ donor, adopt a child, give away your nicest coat and don’t buy a new one, smile.

(Via my Birthday Wishlist on Facebook Causes)

And for other random birthday fun, become a fan of these Facebook Pages below:

(And become a Friend on Google Connect)

A Glimpse at Christian Hedonism

After discovering John Piper’s sermons (via a youth leader in my high school youth group), round about my sophomore year, I became a Christian Hedonist. At the time, I did not know what Hedonism was, but learned, via context, that “Christian Hedonism” was a bit of a radical/controversial doctrine. Piper sums it up most concisely like this:

“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”

The idea of our “satisfaction” being central to life’s purpose, to ‘worship’ and to God was apparently counter to what most religious people believed. Me, personally, being early in my faith and walk, soaked it up. It seemed to make perfect sense to me, we were created to have pleasure (think: taste buds).  And that quickly, I became a Christian hedonist.

Now, you can read Piper’s summaries of Christian Hedonism, but for the purpose of this discussion I’ll try and summarize it in my own words.

Basically, the idea is that following and seeking our intended purpose will lead to the most fulfilling life. Piper believes that our purpose is to glorify God and we do that through following the scripture and mandates laid out in the Bible. So, we are ultimately seeking our own happiness and satisfaction through Biblical calls to “deny yourself” and “love one another” and give to those in need and so on and so forth.

I think one of the things I connected with so strongly with this view is it is, again, something that most people, regardless of religious background can relate to. We all want to be happy. We all want purpose in life and to fulfill that purpose.  I had discovered this and then sought after it within the context of the Christian faith. And so far, despite faith struggles, I haven’t found the need or desire to seek it elsewhere.

One of the reason I think I’ve carried this doctrine or view with me for so long is that I think it had a huge impact on my turning many of my convictions in my early college years. As I read the Bible and began to see with my own eyes so much of this radical love you enemies and care for the poor sorts of commands, I did not hesitate as much as I might have without this Christian Hedonism view. For me, I’d come to believe following those mandates would lead to the most fulfilling life and so if there was clear and obvious commands like “love your enemies” then it was best to follow those.

And that’s where it leaves me. I know others might find this semi-heretical and still others might find it makes a great argument for ditching Christianity and seeking many other hedonistic routes. I’d like to hear opinions from all sides. What I wrote above is some reflection on where I have been, I’m comfortable holding loosely to those views and open to hearing others.

Who’s That Yellow Bird? Published in Geez

Sesame Place by stev.ieEach week I walk my two toddlers down the hall at the Children’s hospital, past a large statue of an over-stuffed yellow bird and up an elevator to our appointment. Sometimes they point out the “big birdie,” other times they don’t, it’s no more attractive to them than the nearby painting of a moose or the cars they see through the windows of the skyway.
What they don’t know yet is that the big bird is, in fact, Big Bird. And though I’m sure someone will soon point it out to them (they’ve already learned who Elmo is), I’m in no rush to have Big Bird or any other media industry creations become my childrens’ branded pals.
What’s wrong with Sesame Street’s Big Bird? The show is certainly not as overtly problematic as Power Rangers or Barbie and the characters themselves don’t bother me particularly much. It’s all the other places they manage to show up that troubles me.
Grover is selling my kids diapers, Oscar is peddling fruit snacks, Big Bird is pimping shoes and Snuffleupagus . . . don’t get me started on Snuffleupagus. Licensing characters is a multi-billion dollar industry and although Sesame Street is not the worst offender, they milked Elmo for all they could when he became a smash hit in 1996 as a “tickle me” plush toy. Sesame Street is still a non-profit with support from the government and “viewers like you,” but 68 percent of it’s revenue comes from licensing.
An estimated $15 billion dollars is spent each year marketing to children under the age of 18 in the United States. That’s roughly $200 per child.
Using Elmo to sell my kid juice boxes isn’t the same as marketing to adults. Young children don’t understand the dynamics of persuasion. They don’t understand that the smiling kids on the commercial are paid actors following an elaborate script with the sole purpose of making little viewers want a product. They don’t understand that when their favourite character is munching on junk food that it’s a deceptive scheme, not an honest opinion. Kids think they’re watching Saturday morning cartoons, but to marketing execs the shows are “Program Length Commercials.”
Like most kids, I too grew up on these Saturday morning infomercials – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, He-Man and Strawberry Shortcake. Though I turned out okay, as they say, I think I would have been better off with out them. I would have been less demanding of my parents and wouldn’t have spent the better part of my childhood being sold to. I don’t want my children to be victims of the deception

So when we pass the big yellow bird at the Children’s hospital next week, we might say hello but he’s not going to get any special treatment.

(This article was published in the summer issue of Geez Magazine, a rough draft had previously been posted on this site, but I realized I had not posted the final version for your viewing pleasure. Hope you enjoyed.)