tuesday chooseday: involvement in student protests?

A weird but simple question:

What should campus ministries’ responses be to student “protest actions”?

I recognize such things aren’t as common as they were back in the 70s, but at some schools (like Berkeley) and on some occasions, they still occur. While we were in Brazil, in fact, a protest seemed to be taking place daily at the University of São Paulo’s Law School. Apparently the head of the school had moved the law library to a building the students didn’t feel was suitable. (That’s pictured below and to the right.)

I’ve personally seen protests over worker wages a couple of times, I think (like at UC Santa Cruz, above). And I did indeed get to see a tree-sitter in Berkeley. Not sure what he was protesting, but I appreciated the opportunity to have the full Golden Bears-tribe experience.

I imagine nearly all Evangelical ministries stay out of such protests, and I think that’s where most of us would lean as far as the counsel we’d give. But with a generation that does lean more strongly toward activism than their Gen X-cestors… and with some causes that certainly might be worth supporting… and with a heart for students… but also a heart for integration with the campus as a whole… it’s just something worth wondering.

Any thoughts? Would involvement in student activism ever be right, good, wise, best?


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  1. You raise a good question here Benson.

    I would not have a problem supporting students who felt so strongly about something that they moved from ‘slacktivist’ to activist. I would, of course, encourage them to be respectful and appropriate in how they went about their activities, but students today need to learn lessons about standing up for what they believe in or what’s right, making sacrifices, raising awareness and fighting on behalf of others.

    I don’t believe it’s the campus ministers’ place to participate in active, or upfront, ways. I believe campus ministers must always walk a fine line between supporting, and being an advocate for, students; while also maintaining good and healthy relations with the administration of the institution they work at and/or for.

    A good question here. I’m curious to know if there are any real protests going on out there on campuses across the US…

  2. daniellui

    Involvement with protests are risky, but powerful if done right. With the recent racial tension at UCSD, Intervarsity stepped into the protests in support with white bands on their arms saying “pray”.

    Their risk turned into them getting attention from a black student ministry there because IV is a mostly comprised of asian and whites. It set the stage for IV and the black student ministry to start doing events together, and more importantly, for the students to start really wrestling with what it means to reach across different cultures than their own.

    In all of this, I was impressed with IV’s poise in taking a higher route- not just ignorance, and not just anger, but taking a posture of prayer and hope. I believe that is where Christian communities belong in protests- in the narrow but higher path between anger and ignorance.

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