Stanford Review - Archive - Volume XXXI - Issue 4 - Editorial
ORL Equal Representation
by Editorial Board
What is the purpose of having the Office for Religious Life (ORL) at Stanford University? The most straightforward answer is to service the spiritual needs of the Stanford community. However, determining the manner in which these needs are best serviced is another matter all together.
By challenging the traditional ways of approaching their respective fields of study, Stanford professors have changed the lives of millions for the better. However, one must wonder whether similar challenges to religious traditions yield such positive results.. Although the Stanfords chose not to affiliate the university with any specific denomination of Christianity, they designed the university with Memorial Church at the very heart and soul of campus indicating the importance they placed upon Christianity within the University. As the ORL website indicates, Governor and Mrs. Stanford wrote of the need to prohibit sectarian instruction, but to have taught in the University the immortality of the soul, the existence of an all-wise and benevolent Creator, and that obedience to His laws is the highest duty of man.
Obviously, Stanford University has strayed far from this edict. The vast majority of Stanford professors assume the equivalence of the Bible with mythological texts. Many scoff at the very ideas of a Creator and truth, let alone the notion of obedience to God's laws.
That's why we have the ORL, right? To provide a means by which Stanford students can connect with God in an academic environment in which holding to traditional religious beliefs is often hard. Yet, the ORL doesn't even mention God or any other sort of Divine Being in its list of objectives, preferring such phraseology as Freedom to explore beliefs and commitments, Communal worship and fellowship, Wrestlings with issues of ethics and values, and Challenges to injustice and bias.
Indeed, rather than support the beliefs of the religious community, the ORL often sets itself at odds with the prevailing views of the majority of religious traditions. Associate Dean for Religious Life Joanne Sanders says, We unequivocally celebrate and affirm same sex unions as the Office for Religious Life and have conducted ceremonies as such in Memorial Church. How can the ORL, which is supposed to represent Stanford's religious community, have such a one-sided policy, especially when it clashes with the traditional beliefs and practices of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam?
The answer is that the ORL places politics above religion. Rather than basing their policies and actions upon what best represents the religious community at Stanford, the ORL often bases its policies on the ideologies of the liberal left. Not content to merely present spiritual messages during their multi-faith sermons, the Deans and Associate Deans of Religious Life often launch into political diatribes against conservative ideologies, attacking everything from the recall to the tax cut to the war in Iraq to the aftermath in Afghanistan. Such overtly political statements have no place in a religious service and serve no purpose other than to alienate and cause rifts among students. In fact, this spewing of leftist politics has caused many Stanford students to stop attending religious services because they cannot stomach the continued attacks on conservative ideology. Is this how the Stanfords intended the university to meet the spiritual needs of the Stanford community?
If the ORL truly wants to represent the religious beliefs of Stanford students, then they need to represent the traditional beliefs upon which the university was founded. The ORL should hire an associate dean who actually represents traditional Christian values. Contrary to popular belief within the Stanford bubble, over 75% of the American population identifies itself as Christian, with 30% of the population identifying itself as Evangelical Christian. Indeed, 22 of the 31 religious groups registered as Stanford Associated Religions are Christian, and 19 of these groups are Protestant (none of which are Unitarian Universalist). Moreover, hundreds of students attend Evangelist Christian services every week, often at off-campus locations. If the ORL actually wants to service the spiritual needs of its students, hiring an associate dean whose beliefs are generally in line with the beliefs of this segment of the population would be a significant step toward reaching out to those with more traditional religious values who are currently without representation in the ORL. Moreover, it would be a sign that the ORL is about more than catering to leftist politics and actually cares about the religious needs of students.
The Editorial is the opinion of the Review's Editorial Board. All attributed columns are the opinion of the author and not necessarily that of The Stanford Review
Page last modified on Thursday, 02-Mar-2006 00:25:51 MST.