Category Archives: Cultural Commentary

Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Christian Perspective on Race and Racism

 ***Note: As a member of the Consortium of Christian Study Centers, the Oread Center believes an important part of our work includes offering a Christian response to pressing matters that affect us all. The purpose of this particular response is not to address all of the complexities of racism present in American society or institutions of higher education, especially those complexities associated with the structural or systemic realities of racism. While we believe that structural and systemic racism is present in American society, and that racism must be addressed on those levels, the purpose of this statement is to offer what we believe is a Biblically faithful way to think about race and racism on the level of interpersonal relationships and immediate agency. We offer this statement to the particular Christian community in Lawrence and at the University of Kansas in the hope that it provides some immediate handles for how we can respond to the situation at hand in our own community. We ask for patience from our readers as we work in the coming days to articulate a thicker response to the structural and systemic dimensions of race in American society and appropriate Christian responses.***

***As many have observed from our title, we are leaning on Cornelius Plantinga’s work on sin for our framework.***

 Introduction

Many of us in Lawrence are aware that our region was politically established on the moral impetus of preventing the spread of slavery in American society. That John Brown, the 19th-century freedom-fighter, remains an iconic figure in our local memory is no historical accident. The University of Kansas is proud of the fact that the school practiced racially open admissions from the first day its doors were opened. Frequently forgotten, or never learned at all, is the more complicated history of both Lawrence and the University of Kansas- a history that in many ways is a microcosm of America’s larger racial history. While Lawrence was the seat of the Free State movement, and the University of Kansas always welcomed students of African descent to enroll, segregation within the city and the university was historically prevalent. Both Lawrence and the University of Kansas did not completely desegregate until the late 1950s and only as a result of years of dedicated work from local Civil Rights activists, which included many university students.

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Read With Us: “The Decline of the Natural Family” and the Fickle Nature of Social Justice

Note – This piece is meant to be read alongside Allan Carlson’s article on the decline of the natural family. We are using Carlson’s writing to make some quick conclusions about the unstable nature of social activism throughout American history.

Public opinion is a squirrely guide. With respect to the sentiments of Isaac Newton, “standing on the shoulders of giants” may help us to innovate and achieve, but it also helps us see the fickle and transitory nature of public consensus on ethical and moral issues. Great reversals within a few generations are not uncommon, and the memories of activism in the opposite direction are often either forgotten or glossed over with a brush of condescending words like “old-fashioned” or “stagnant.” Through the language of liberation, safety, and health, America has changed its mind on slavery, same-sex orientation, same-sex marriage, women in the workforce, women voting, and immigration, to name a few.

The question at hand is this: can public opinion be trusted for the long haul? For one case study, let’s look together at a piece by Allan Carlson, a historian and Catholic apologist who teaches at Cornell University. In it, he tracks the changes in the American concept of the family unit and its relation to economic and social shifts.

Finished? Let’s move forward together.

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Facebook’s 56 Genders: Group Identity and Positioning in a Millennial America

by Ryan Mayo

Abstract: The millennial generation tends to see social realities primarily through the lens of group identity and inter-group relations, which often shapes the dialogue in unhelpful and distorted ways.  Facebook’s expansion of gender options in 2014 highlights the moral fuzziness at play in some Millennial perspectives regarding the current issues of inequality, identity, and marginalization.  

In 50 years, it may be difficult to sort out the legacy of the Millennial generation1 on the American cultural landscape2.  Millennials will certainly be commended for their collective bravery in social movements, as nearly every “marginalized” group is rapidly becoming “unmarginalized”.  Our great-grandchildren will read that homosexuality, for example, has gone from a psychiatric disorder to an acceptable – even championed – lifestyle in just two generations3.  Either by inheriting the social inertia of their parents or by developing their own activist muscles, Millennials are currently shaking the world.

Perhaps, though, in our haste to normalize each and every minority status with respect to race, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, religion, weight, ability, and intelligence, the courageous Millennials are displaying laziness in asking fundamental questions.  Is progress always progress if we’re unsure of the goal?  Is it a moral good that a human being can publicly identify in a category that didn’t exist 20 years ago?  Who are the gatekeepers for legitimizing an orientation or an experience?

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