Letters to the Editor

Following Kingdom
Having graduated from Calvin near the same time as the writer of “Following the mission?” (Letters, Winter 2006), I’m mystified as to why he would describe the Knollcrest campus as sometimes repressive. By whose standards? Compared to state schools, Calvin would be viewed as repressive, but we are called to live by Kingdom standards, not the world’s.

I agree that evangelicals have allowed scripture concerning homosexuality to appear to be weightier than those on divorce and remarrying. We ought to take a serious look at the “sanctity of marriage” and give those passages on divorce and remarriage the weight they deserve, even if it means a critical yet truthful look into our own lives.

As for Calvin using “mental and theological gymnastics to prop up some outmoded and obscure biblical passages,” I could not disagree more. Passages concerning treatment of slavery and women’s rights are to be understood in light of Gal. 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Other New Testament passages are attempts to speak the truth of the gospel of Christ into the culture of that time, not to condone slavery or the reduction of women’s rights. To say that I Corinthians 6 is outdated is a matter of personal and moral convenience. It is easy to proof-text scripture to find an isolated verse to help an argument. However, there is no verse anywhere in scripture that even remotely leaves the door open that homosexuality is acceptable in any circumstances.

The writer needs to remember that neither we nor Calvin should live by societal standards but by Kingdom standards, in which case neither homosexuality nor failure to compassionately and with grace love those who are gay are biblically permissible.

Kris Fernhout ’94
Farmington, N.M.

Rethinking Chimes
During my years at Calvin, I felt that Chimes was the “devil’s brew” rather than “gentle satire.”

I lived in a state that was bought by the Dutch for $12 and a few beads. Cigars, wooden shoes and windmills were the only other information I had ever heard about the Dutch. So therefore, I assumed they made cigars and wore wooden shoes to keep termites off their heads. They built windmills to blow away any termites that may have made it.

After my arrival, I noticed a group of students who wore sweaters, walked alike and carried pipes. They knew everything about nuclear disarmament and the war in Vietnam. They were disenchanted with elections and politicians. What amazed me was that they even knew the solutions to these problems. They were the VanderSmarts.

When they discussed Plato and Shakespeare, we discussed Pluto and Mike Hammer. When they discussed solutions to college and world problems, we discussed (between pinochle games) homework to be completed, steeples to be painted and predestination.

After reading Myrna DeVries Anderson’s very interesting article (“Chiming In for 100 Years,” Winter 2006), I now wonder if I should have been more of an ambitious and potential intellectual instead of thinking that Christianity had a place in solving college and world problems.

If I had to do it over, I would have paid more attention in chapel, not painted the steeple red, and brought a pipe and a few beads with me.

Chris Sterious Jr. ’62
Chester Springs, Pa.

Looking back important, too
It was good to see my former professor and mentor Nicholas Wolterstorff in Spark (“You Need Two Eyes,” Fall 2006).

Two eyes. Reading Professor Wolterstorff’s address, I was moved by his words’ power. As always, he challenges us to use our minds and our hearts in the world: to lead, to be brave.

That said, I felt something lacking, and, if I may be so bold, as he teaches, I’d like to offer an extension to his remarks; for although they exhorted Calvin graduates to look at the world they are yet to experience with two eyes, Calvin graduates should also use their two eyes to examine the world they have left behind.

Calvin is a remarkable institution. Having left Calvin for the Ivy League, I was always amazed at the respect accorded to me (undeserved) for having simply graduated from Calvin. Nonetheless, many graduates I know left Calvin with mixed feelings: about the college, its denominational roots, and its dominant culture.

I remain in touch with people at Calvin (occasionally contacted by a student who wants to talk about my experience as a gay man), and although much has changed, much seems the same. So, I believe, it would be good to look at Calvin College with two eyes; and it would be good for those who lead Calvin to listen to those who see, and to learn from them.

Calvin College is a captive of its name. The great Calvinist Reformed tradition should be the bedrock of its academic and social worldview, but all too often not much is built upon it. That which can be learned from others is given only scant attention, leaving people of other faiths wondering whether their great traditions exist only for comparative purposes.

Further, Calvin is too deeply rooted in the Christian Reformed Church. Alas, this may never change; after all it is one of the colleges of the CRC. But this dominance can be so overwhelming that few may feel free to express in worship their own beliefs or, even, feel that it is acceptable to be anything other than Christian Reformed.

What is more, the social mores of Calvin continue to be shaped by the theological teachings of the Church. Since my days, great strides have been made to create an atmosphere more accepting of the equal roles of women and to acknowledge the presence of gay men and lesbians. But female, gay, and lesbian students must still navigate the Calvin College waters knowing that behind the college is a theological tradition that still relegates them to second-class status in church and society.

Finally, despite all, Calvin is still just too Dutch. My experience is that you can’t even pick up a copy of Spark without being overwhelmed by names, faces and references that represent, largely, one heritage. If you are not Dutch, you are still an outsider. Think of this: can anyone really imagine a single, Latina as president of Calvin?

So, two eyes. We should all be grateful and critical of our time at Calvin College. Remember all it taught us, but remember its failings, because the lessons of the latter will serve us well in the world. And remember to cry for those who entered Calvin different: not from the Reformed tradition, not embraced by the theology of its denominational roots, and not Dutch. That, too, will serve us well in the world.

Gregory Simoncini ’84
Highland Park, Ill. 

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