Gustavus Adolphus College Abandons Lutheran Heritage
Gustavus Adolphus College Abandons Lutheran Heritage
Written By Laurie Higgins   |   10.26.10

Reading Time: 5 minutes

For all parents who want their children to attend a Christian college, take note of this follow-up to my article two weeks ago about a small Lutheran college in Minnesota. Pay attention because what is taking place at Gustavus Adolphus College is taking place at many colleges that claim to have a Christian heritage.

Several weeks ago I wrote about the obscene and sophomoric freshmen orientation presentation put on by upperclassmen at a small Lutheran college in Minnesota. The Oct. 15 issue of the student newspaper, The Gustavian Weekly, further illuminates how far from its “Lutheran heritage” Gustavus has wandered.

The first story concerns a recent dust-up about the “rock,” a large boulder on campus that students or student groups paint for all sorts of events. Recently, “Queers & Allies,” the college LGBT club, painted it with rainbow colors, following which some students painted it over with the Bible reference “Romans 1: 27,” which says, “and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.”

Gustavus Adolphus president, Jack Ohle, described the painting-over incident as “‘openly disrespect[ing] others by painting over the rock that had been painted this week to express support for those celebrating ‘Coming Out Week.'”

Ohle evidently believes that painting over the rock with a verse from Scripture–the Scripture that Martin Luther deeply revered–constitutes a far graver moral offense than does celebrating homosexuality. One wonders if Ohle finds the celebration of homosexuality problematic in any way at all.

The Gustavus Student Senate went even further in their efforts to promote “tolerance” through rhetorical trickery, saying that they “denounce the act of hate that was performed against GLBT people and Q&A. We maintain that hate, in any form, has no place in our community.'” The fact that they view painting over a rock with a Bible verse as an “act of hate” exposes the truth about which Christians are being deceived.

“Queers” and their allies conceal that they believe the expression of orthodox Christian beliefs about homosexual acts is hateful. Homosexual activists believe that traditional and widely held theological understandings about homosexuality constitute hatred and cause both bullying and teen suicide. The only solution, therefore, becomes either the eradication of traditional theological beliefs or the silencing of their expression through both name-calling and censorship.

Homosexual activists seek to eradicate tradition Christian beliefs by getting homosexuality affirming resources into public schools via curricula, especially anti-bullying resources. They seek to silence Christians by calling them haters, homophobes, and bigots. And they also seek to silence them through legal means like “enumerated” anti-bullying policies; anti-discrimination laws that include the terms “sexual orientation,” “gender identity,” and “gender expression”; and through “hate crimes” legislation.

Gustavus alumnus (and in the service of full disclosure, my daughter), Easten Niphakis, sent this letter to editor of The Gustavian Weekly:

As a relatively recent Gustavus graduate I am not unaware of the sexually permissive, left-leaning, increasingly secularized campus culture that students encounter despite the college’s purported mission to be a “community where a mature understanding of the Christian faith and lives of service are nurtured…” While at Gustavus I learned of professors who undermined or even disparaged orthodox Christian beliefs, and I attended chapel services stripped of any reference to Christ or traditional biblical teaching. And yet, when I read about the sexually explicit freshmen orientation program and watched a video excerpt of it, I was shocked.

While many assume that most college students will be sexually active and therefore seek to minimize the consequences of such behavior by educating about STI prevention and birth control, Gustavus encourages not only sexual promiscuity but sexual deviance in the form of sadomasochism, pornography, and masturbation.

Institutions of higher learning were created to educate and mold the leaders of the future by teaching students academic content and holding them to high standards of character and integrity. Gustavus has not set the bar high for incoming freshmen but has lowered it to such a degree that it seems no topic is too base or vulgar to be used as fodder for comical skits. It seems that Gustavus considers its students to be incapable of self-control or anything other than blind obedience to animalistic desires and instincts.

If Gustavus has chosen to abandon its Christian heritage and mimic the debauched practices of secular colleges and universities in order to be “progressive,” so be it. But to maintain a façade of Christian commitment (especially to older, more conservative donors and naïve, unsuspecting parents) while promoting hedonism and unchecked sexual promiscuity is unconscionable.

Perhaps Gustavus should show this video of their freshmen orientation program at their next alumni, donor, or prospective student meeting to demonstrate how they are educating incoming students about the complicated sex life of a college coed.

My hope and prayer is that many other alumni will write to the paper, the administration, and the board of trustees to express opposition to Gustavus’ departure from its Lutheran heritage. Unless that happens, Gustavus will remain a place hostile to Scripture. It’s unlikely that students who hold theologically orthodox views will find them affirmed in any context at Gustavus.

For example, The Gustavian Weekly also has an article about the theater department’s upcoming radical production of Romeo and Juliet in which the star-crossed lovers are two homosexual men.

It’s not just on the topic of homosexuality, however, that Gustavus has gone awry. There’s another article in The Gustavian that reveals the sacrilegious ways in which the Gustavus Chapel has been appropriated to affirm ideas and practices from Eastern mystical traditions, which Luther would view as false religions. Here’s a description of what is deceptively called “Sacred Space”:

“It’s just a place where we offer [activities for] people to explore their spirituality, whether it be Buddhism, Christianity or even if you’re just searching,” Chaplain Rachel Larson said. Sacred Space is a monthly service offered in Alumni Hall, usually on a Sunday…. labyrinth, a big piece of canvas that one can walk upon in meditation…. There is a whole array of things offered at Sacred Space, including mats where you can do yoga….

Something that Larson recommends everyone take advantage of is Reiki, which is a Japanese word meaning “universal life force.” It is a holistic, light touch, energy-based healing art that balances the normal flow of energy throughout the body. It can enhance and accelerate the body’s innate healing abilities and heals on all levels-physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. “Everyone who comes almost always takes advantage of the Reiki practitioners,” Larson said.

Despite their claims to the contrary, Gustavus is not firmly rooted in its “Lutheran heritage.” Gustavus Adolphus has abandoned any substantive connection to their Christian heritage and as a result a climate has developed in which false religions, premarital sex, and homosexuality flourish.

Parents, if you want your child to have a Christian education, carefully research the colleges and universities that your children are considering. And remember that’s it’s not just what ideas and experiences your children are exposed to that matter, but what ideas and experiences your children are not exposed to in college that matter as well.

For more information about college and university life as well as particular colleges, check out this month’s issue of First Things.

Laurie Higgins
Laurie Higgins was the Illinois Family Institute’s Cultural Affairs Writer in the fall of 2008 through early 2023. Prior to working for the IFI, Laurie worked full-time for eight years...
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