Study Centers in the NY Times

What is it like to talk about things that matter at UNC? Is it always a fight? Do people listen, even when doing so is uncomfortable?

I'm happy to say that Christian study centers have been lauded as one of the few places where big questions are openly raised and answers are hazarded and even taught.

A UNC professor, Dr. Molly Worthen, penned an op-ed for the NY Times in early 2016 titled “Hallelujah College.”

[Some] evangelicals have poured their energies into a different sort of Christian organization, one that has been proliferating quietly for decades at universities around the country: Christian study centers. These are not ministries, exactly, and what they do is not old-fashioned evangelism. Typically they occupy private buildings off campus and exist independently from the university, beyond the reach of nondiscrimination policies. The first study centers appeared in the 1960s and ’70s, but their numbers have mushroomed since 2000. The Consortium of Christian Study Centers counts 20 members — a small but significant number considering that many are embedded in the most prestigious universities around the country.

The centers position themselves as forums where students can hash out the tensions between their faith and the assumptions of secular academia — the same assumptions that have assailed more traditional ministries. They are, in a sense, spiritual “safe spaces” that offer cozy libraries, reading groups and public lectures...

Today many evangelical leaders are fond of proclaiming American Christians’ new status as a moral minority, but these students and campus ministers are the ones who are actually living that reality. It has prodded them to seek serious conversation about humans’ profound disagreements over morality and the nature of truth — questions that campus liberals, despite their professed concern for dialogue and critical thinking, often avoid in the name of tolerance and inclusion.

“We think it’s more constructive to talk about differences,” said [a junior at Columbia University]. Minority status sometimes has a funny way of turning people into more thoughtful critics of the culture around them.
— Molly Worthen, "Hallelujah College," NY Times (Jan. 16, 2016)