Concordia College’s mission statement reads as follows: “The purpose of Concordia College is to influence the affairs of the world by sending into society thoughtful and informed men and women dedicated to the Christian life.” This is a lie. Well, only part of it is a lie. While Concordia College is no doubt sending into society thoughtful and informed men and women, it is definitely not sending into society men and women dedicated to the Christian life. That is why I believe that the last part of our mission statement reading, “dedicated to the Christian life” should be edited out.
In order to properly analyze Concordia’s mission statement in regard to the criticism above, I must overtly define what “dedicated to the Christian life” means. Analytically speaking, to be dedicated isto be devoted to a task or purpose. The Christian life entails living one’s life by faith in God’s undeserved favor he gives us, knowing the Gospel truth that Jesus is the Son of God, and striving to be as much like Jesus as we can through reading the Bible. Therefore, going strictly from what the text is saying in our mission statement, I would argue that it means that students should be wholeheartedly devoted to the teachings of the Bible and strive to live out their lives as closely to what Jesus and his followers outlined as possible. In the context of my criticism, this is what “dedicated to the Christian life” means. Some would attempt to define the Christian life more loosely, but doing that only takes away from what the phrase means to the Christian people who read and interpret it for themselves (who are eager to send their children to a Christian institution).
Not long before I came to Concordia as a freshman in the fall of 2014, I was informed that Concordia made the decision to eliminate mandatory chapel attendance. While relieved at the notion that I would not be required to attend chapel every day, I did not think twice as to how this affected the college’s mission statement (because nobody cares about the mission statement of the college freshman year anyway). What’s one more religious commitment on top of the already mandatory set of two religion courses required to graduate? Chapel can’t be that bad, can it? I would argue that chapel is much different than those religion courses. Religion courses attempt to educate students on scholarly research and criticism about different religious practices in a classroom setting. Chapel, like church on Sundays, provides the students with an outlet for religious expression through the reading of the Bible, praying, singing hymns, and listening to the homily. This is a vital part of leading a Christian life. Jesus tells his followers to converse with other believers so that you may be better prepared for the trials of this world. Just as iron sharpens iron, so too will other Christians help strengthen other Christians in their walk with Christ. If not required to attend chapel, the majority of students will not take the initiative to actually attend chapel in the mornings, or even necessarily go to a local church on Sundays. If Concordia is so concerned with sending men and women out into the world dedicated to the Christian life, they shouldn’t have eliminated mandatory Chapel service. It provides students with a pivotal understanding of what being a Christian in today’s society means through the homilies, scripture readings, and community.
Secondly, I can tell you right now from my personal observations and interactions with individuals on campus that most individuals who go through religion 200 come out very confused about Christianity and shaken in their beliefs. This is in part directly due to the religion department itself. In short, the goal of the religion courses at Concordia are to educate the student body on the various religious practices around the world, the scholarly opinions about these religious practices, and to promote thoughtful discussions about said religious practices. But, what they end up doing is shaking the faith of the students who just so happen to be Christian before walking into the doors of the religion department and provide them with enough doubt about their religious beliefs to make them into either deists, theists, or even atheists altogether.
The Merriam-Webster definition of faith is “a firm belief in something for which there is no proof.” In the international standard version of the passage in the Bible in Hebrews 11:1, faith is defined as “the assurance that what we hope for will come about and the certainty that what we cannot see exists.” Inherently, faith does not require proof, only belief. While being educated about one’s own religion is very much a responsible thing to accomplish, sometimes the religion professors are a little bit too adamant about poking holes in Christianity to prompt discussion within the classroom setting, which in turn shakes students’ faith in scripture and in God. I have experienced countless times where strawman arguments were used, which poorly stated the opposition to their arguments, to validate the professor’s own criticism of traditionalistic values and practices. If they are to successfully uphold the mission of Concordia College, religion professors need to be way more tactful when it comes to the critical analysis of Christianity. I don’t know about most people, but I value faith in God more than a required religion course or two.
So far, I have discussed the elimination of mandatory chapel attendance and the religion department’s tactless attempts to educate students on the scholarly opinions of Christianity, which both contribute to the ever-declining number of devout Christians on campus. That is why I believe that the part of our mission statement that reads “dedicated to the Christian life” should be removed. It is not a goal to which anyone strives to accomplish anymore, and it is in the very least, unethical and false advertising. Concordia needs to get its priorities straight. If they are going to have a mission statement that the religion department won’t even try to uphold, and the administrators aren’t even on board with, the college needs to revise the mission statement, or get better at holding people accountable for producing results that comply to the original mission statement.