Sam Jones | Echo
Division. Hurt. Healing. Community. Protest. Controversy.
If any Taylor student, faculty or staff was questioned about the current status of our campus, one or more of these words was likely used in their answer.
Since the original announcement of Vice President (VP) Mike Pence as commencement speaker, opinions and feelings have surfaced throughout Taylor's campus. The initial reaction of Taylor's community: division.
This division of opinion is far from unwarranted, and, as such, was even foreseen by Taylor administration and leadership. In a recent Echo article, "Pence makes Taylor history," discussing the decision of VP Pence's commencement invitation, the following was disclosed.
"(President) Haines was aware controversy would stem from this decision, but believes Taylor can talk and vent a little as a family of believers," said the article.
Certain students have expressed that in Haines knowing of this unavoidable controversy, the decision to continue in the process of inviting VP Pence was unjustified, and even harmful to Taylor's community.
Anger seems to have arisen on both sides of this controversy.
These feelings can be seen plainly, and extremely explicitly, on Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms of communication. This issue of The Echo is likely chock-full of various opinions.
Oftentimes, these feelings can also be observed in person through conversation and civil discourse.
But this obvious division has not "destroyed" Taylor's relational intentionality amongst students, staff and faculty. Nor does VP Mike Pence coming to campus put a black mark on the strong community that we as a campus hold so high. Regardless of personal opinions on the vice president, Pence's coming to Taylor is not impactful enough to dismantle our community.
Tom Jones, dean of the school of arts, biblical studies and humanities, recently published an opinions article regarding hearing opposing viewpoints and growth that can occur from consideration.
"One of the essentials in maintaining a representative democracy such as ours is the ability and willingness of informed and thoughtful citizens to participate in civil discourse about issues and ideas that go to the core of our identity," Jones said in Discussions open doors at Taylor.
The division on campus has created a scenario where Taylor, as a body of believers, has two options.
In the first option, we can remain closed off in opinion, with a lack of necessary dialogue and expression of opinion, and inevitably usher in the actual deterioration of Taylor's community.
In the second option, we can listen to each other with open minds and try to understand the reasoning of a person with opposing viewpoints, as Jones outlined. This entails seeing the other person as more than just a political view or social belief.
Taylor's administration and student leaders have done a good job of promoting listening sessions to better understand broad-stroke opinions, but dialogue amongst individuals must still be approached with both openness and discernment.
Is this dialogue painless? Likely not, but Frederick Douglass once echoed a similar sentiment.
"If there is no struggle, there is no progress," Douglass said. "Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning."
Oftentimes, the greatest things in life are preceded by the greatest pains. There is no growth without discomfort. Taylor is strong enough to recognize this division as an opportunity for learning and understanding, and I believe our community here at Taylor will ultimately be rebuilt stronger and healthier than it was even before this controversy arose.