Tag Archives: Goshen college

Can we support those with whom we don’t agree?

Beheading of Anabaptist Martyrs (Rembrandt)

Goshen College has been in the news a lot this year. This small school in Indiana was founded by believers steeped in the Anabaptist tradition, specifically Amish and Mennonites.

In keeping with their beliefs in peacemaking, Goshen College did not play the national anthem at school activities. In 2010, school officials decided that as a gesture of hospitality toward visiting athletic teams, they would begin to play the anthem at sporting events.

Their was a strong outcry among their alumni, leading the administration to return to the policy their school had practiced for over 100 years. That’s when the national media jumped in, especially Fox News. Reports came out that the school had “banned” the national anthem, and patriots everywhere denounced this act. [Anabaptists have been persecuted for centuries because of their views. As someone said on Facebook, “during the Reformation, the one thing that Catholics, Lutherans, and Calvinists could all agree on is that Anabaptists ought to die.”]

I’m not surprised that groups like Fox News would jump on Goshen. What’s been sad to me is to see the Christians that have done the same. Even if we don’t agree with them, shouldn’t we support a school that makes an unpopular decision based on Christian principles? Someone who stands up for their convictions despite the ridicule of non-Christians?

[A sports writer in Oklahoma had an interesting take yesterday, not as a Christian, but as a citizen of the U.S. He wrote:

The decision brought home the true dichotomy in the debate of freedom of religious expression and paying homage to the nation that enables such freedoms.

Clearly, the school has the right to play or not play any song it wants and it would run counter to everything our many valiant, brave citizens and soldiers have given in the fight for freedom.

It would be ironic if a school were forced to play a song that celebrates the birth of a nation born out of the desire for freedom.

You can read his whole article here.]

Maybe I’m only saying that because I’m sympathetic to their position. (There’s a well-written explanation of one alumnus’ views in this article title “Why I Don’t Sing The Star-Spangled Banner“) So I’ll look for input from you. Should we support those who stand up for their convictions even when we don’t agree with them?

Let me point out, as the discussion begins, that Goshen only changed what the school does as an official organism. They did not ban the anthem, as has been wrongly reported in the press. They do not forbid other schools playing the anthem when Goshen is the visiting team. They don’t burn flags nor beat up soldiers. I feel that their stand is different from that of some who try to impose their views on others or flaunt their views in the face of others. Goshen’s decision affected what they did on their own campus.

Is this a time for Christians to stand united or are their bigger principles in play here?