How do these Commitments influence your work?
As far as influencing my work, you do not have to be a Christian, obviously, to value other people and to show grace, mercy, benevolence, charity, and compassion to other people. Those are not attributes that are unique to Christianity. But I think, as a Christian, that the necessity and importance of those things is magnified, because in Christianity, the center of our faith is Jesus the Christ, and he regularly preached and taught on displaying these characteristics. In the classroom, as I interact with students, as I am interacting with colleagues across campus, or whomever, it is always in the back of my mind that I need to be, that I’m supposed to be, displaying these attributes to other people. I should be treating other people with charity, compassion, generosity, grace, understanding, justice, mercy, etc. The center of my faith demanded that His followers display these attributes to those in whom they come in contact. My worldview forces me to be more intentional about making sure that I listen to others and to be sensitive to their needs, concerns, problems, etc.
Often, we can easily block out others and not hear what they have to say, especially when their viewpoint differs from our own. Within the framework of my worldview, I try to make a conscious effort to really listen to what the other person is saying. I do my very best to listen, and then I respond in a manner that, hopefully, is not condescending, insensitive, demeaning, or less than graceful. It causes me to be more intentional about my interactions with others, especially when I am in situations where there is disagreement with a colleague or student. Although we may disagree, listening to each other and being able to discuss our differences is fundamental to maintaining the special community we have at Berea. For me, “understanding the Christian faith and its expression and motive of service to others,” really jumps out at me, in that I often need to say to myself, “Hey, Chris, you need to stop, and you need to respond as Christ would command me to respond.” And again, that is with grace and dignity to everyone, and it goes back to treating others the way you want to be treated. And so, as far as influencing my work, that is how the Commitment informs my values in communicating with others.
What challenges do these Commitments pose?
Here at the college we have Christians and then every variety of non-Christian: other religions, non-religious, you name it; we have a wide diversity of belief systems, which is representative of what one finds in society as a whole. I think Berea functions as a little microcosm of society at large, where there is a melting pot of every kind of religion, non-religion, ideologies, belief systems, and worldviews. So, I guess the challenge there is that, for somebody that does not really adhere to a Christian worldview or maybe has an underdeveloped Christian worldview, how does the Commitment play out in their educational experience? Regardless of worldview, there is no reason we all cannot sit down and have a cordial, fruitful discussion about faith issues, and that is the way it should be. We all have faith in something, whether it is within a religious or humanist framework.