Kevin Diller | Contributor
Dear Vice President Pence,
As we prepare to welcome you to our campus, there have been worries in the Taylor community about your participation in Commencement. The reasons are complex, but have in part to do with the tenuous relationship that has always existed between cultural and political power and the way of Jesus. As you know, Taylor is a place that gives priority to the way of Jesus.
Taylor is also somewhat unique among institutions of higher education. We have developed over the years a humble and confident focus on the lordship of Christ over other allegiances, affiliations and honors. We have not sought to distinguish ourselves in relationship to the power of a denomination, or the attraction of a location, or even the ability to ensure the worldly success of our graduates. When we have won external validations and high rankings, we have resisted the temptation to overplay and pander to them.
We have been anchored by a dependence on the centrality of Christ for whole-person education. Our mission is simply a participation in God's mission. What tends to distinguish us is the way we seek to live that mission in the unity of an intentional and diverse community.
These distinctives place us in an awkward position with the currents of contemporary politics. We prepare students for many callings, including to places of political influence, but the symbol we value more than their diploma is that of Christ's servant's towel. Even as we invite a person of political power to address our graduates, this towel reminds us that a position makes one neither great nor significant. Instead, it is in giving the powers entrusted to us in service to God and others that the greatness and significance of God's work is evidenced through us.
Acknowledging the lordship of Christ over all other principalities implies that the greatest honor of one's life is not in serving an earthly leader. It implies a citizenship in the Kingdom of God, priorities that outweigh the supposed priorities of one's own temporal nation. And, even when those priorities align, it requires a posture, disposition and a way of leadership that is consistent with the way of Jesus.
As vice president of the current administration, you represent some of the political tensions with which the American church is wrestling. The way of Jesus involves love of enemy and concern for the vulnerable. It is the ministry of reconciliation, breaking down divisions. It involves a principled commitment to morality and truth. The attitudes and rhetoric of the current administration are often at odds with the way of Jesus in these regards.
Consequently, we often feel out-of-sync with the administration you represent - and perhaps you feel this as well. You have not, however, been known for speaking against the leadership of the current administration when it conflicts with the ministry of Jesus; this gives some of us hesitation about your taking the role you will take at our commencement.
Nevertheless, as you confess to be a follower of Jesus, we will welcome you. Perhaps you will speak of a commitment to Christ that is greater in priority and honor than your affiliation with a political administration. Perhaps, as you consider what we have sought to develop in our graduates, you will clarify your own priorities and commitments so that we would know that they also align with Christ's servant's towel. Perhaps you will focus on God's work in our lives, giving us a unifying vision of God's Kingdom, inspiring our graduates to commence a life of self-giving love in a needy and divided world.