Un-Lutheran or More-Lutheran?
For my undergraduate degree I went to a school called California Lutheran University. When I tell people that they say things like, “I didn’t know you were Lutheran,” or “How was mandatory chapel?” Funny enough, my school has tried to distance itself as far as possible from its Lutheran background. In fact during my tour of CLU as a senior in high school, the tour guide told me, “We were founded as a Lutheran school yes, but we really like to think of Lutheran as just our middle name.”
Please note: As a disclaimer, I feel the need to tell you that for most of my life and throughout my time in university I carried around a spirit of religion like a weapon and wore it like a cloak and crown. Jesus was distorted to me through a lens of “do's” and “do not's” and “can's” and “can not's” and “should's” and “should not's.” Things were based on rules, not inspired by love.
So when I started University and realized just how “un-Lutheran” it really was, I was frustrated. Over the years I got angry at the fact there were so few Christians in the religion department. I got annoyed with the fact there were no “evangelical” campus ministries. I got upset with the fact that all of our campus ministry leadership partied all weekend and then smiled and acted like they had it all together (and yes, this is VERY ironic because of my wildly hypocritical nature during this time too).
Friends, I sit here in tears. Because the thing that breaks my heart now is the fact that, to love on “outsiders,” a school has had to slowly strip itself of its Christian background. Somehow people have come to dissociate Jesus from love and acceptance and honest conversation. Culture has created a dividing line: all-in, our way vs. I’m out, screw religion.
It pains me that to love on the LGBTQ community as openly as my school does or to have important, open discussions on diversity, racism, and cultural appropriation they have had to tell people “Ahh… well we’re not really Lutheran.” Looking back, I am so thankful for my school and the way it changed the way I see the world. I am thankful for the way everyone loves on each other… just as they are. I am thankful for the way I was taught to ask and begin discussions about questions I didn’t know the answers to regarding people’s culture or identity.
That is the Gospel friends. That’s the heart of Jesus: to love people just as they are. So although many people would argue CLU has become less and less “Christian” over the years, I would argue that in some ways, it has become more and more.
Please note: To any and everyone who was burned by me in college or beyond because of the way I misunderstood the Gospel of LOVE- please, please forgive me.
Please also note: I got this photo from Cal Lutheran whenever it came out in a marketing campaign years ago... Credits to whoever took it!