The pages of Spark are full of success stories.
Faculty and student achievements, winning sports teams, college accolades and alumni reaching important milestones are all chronicled on the pages of this magazine.
There’s nothing surprising about that. Readers of college and university publications would expect page after page to be full of positive news. In fact, the general rap against alumni magazines is that they are unrelentingly cheerful, as if nothing ever goes wrong at the institution profiled and that the students, faculty members and graduates of the school are more than Garrison Keillor’s “above average”—they are approaching perfection.
We’ve tried to present a bit more of a balance in this publication. The Calvin community—both on campus and beyond—doesn’t always get it right.
I’ve been thinking about this over the last few months as a few Calvin alumni have been mentioned in some prominent news stories, depicting their alleged—and in some cases, proven—misdeeds.
Again, that shouldn’t surprise us, either. As Calvin alumni who remember even a little of the Reformed perspective that was presented to us in numerous courses, we know that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).
One hopes Spark readers aren’t looking to the magazine to document the failures, public or private, of Calvin graduates. (Although, unless Calvin alumni demonstrate reading patterns markedly different than the public at large, I’m afraid that our deeply ingrained interest in witnessing others fail would make those stories the most read sections of the publication.)
Instead, the better measure of a great college community would be how graciously we treat those who have fallen. Maybe we can remind one another that those who fall from a greater height will have more broken bones.
When someone in our circle—be it home, church, school, business—fails mightily, it certainly is tempting to keep one’s distance, to disassociate with that individual. Yet we all know in our hearts that isn’t God’s call to us.
I’m not sure how exactly we ought to handle a particular alum’s “fall from favor” within the Calvin community. How, for example, do we handle the Spark Online Web story of a Calvin alumna/us who has since been accused of a crime? While each situation presents its own set of questions, it is my sense that our main response ought to be closer to charity than to join with the jeering crowd.
Since we are all recipients of grace—and for some us, “grace heaped upon grace” (John 1:16)—it would be heartening to observe acts of humble kindness, forgiveness and reconciliation as common descriptors of the Calvin community.
We may not report about these quiet deeds in the pages of Spark either, but we’ve been promised that they will be recorded in a much more important place.
Michael J. Van Denend
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