So it’s come to this now, TU? That which you promised to care for, abandoned and sold off, now being torn down. Not that I expected much else from you…
Running tonight, I saw that “they”, whomever “they” may be are beginning the demolition work at the old TUFW campus. A shovel has torn into the west end of the building, chewing through about 1/8 of it.
Disgusting because it is unnecessary. Disgusting because they (TU administration) somehow managed to come off smelling like a dozen roses in this whole thing and I’m not quite sure how they did that. Disgusting because it is too easy a metaphor for so much of what goes on in American Evangelical ministries. Disgusting because it is unnecessary. (I know, I already said that but that’s the point I want to make.)
I went there. I graduated from there. I worked there and lived there and cared for students there. I didn’t want to. I wanted to stay at TU-Upland, with its spacious green fields and running track and fancy dining hall, nestled in the Indiana countryside. But I didn’t get to stay there. I ended up with screaming traffic down Rudisill and buildings scattered throughout a neighborhood and crime right around the corner.
And you know what, that’s OK. There, TUFW, was so much more real than anything I found amidst the pretty little postcard campus. (We all know how I feel about real.)
Back in the day, when that campus was purchased by TU, Drs. Yost and Kesler had such high hopes and visions for it — an urban center for students to learn how to minister in urban settings, a place where social workers can learn about the populations they’ll work with and el ed students can work with free lunch kids that don’t speak English. But no sir, the board seemed to have other ideas. We can’t have our kids studying up there with the minorities and the poor kids in the rundown buildings in the city. No good. Put the at-risk students up there, the ones who can’t pay their own freight and then, when we have no more to give them, we’ll just shut it down.
I’m sure that’s what they said. I sat through too many meetings as a staff member to not believe otherwise. After the administration I knew left (or quit in disgust, I’ve never been quite sure), that board moved swiftly to shut it down and shutter it up –with little obvious thought to the really smart and dedicated professors who chose to teach there for less money than their Upland counterparts, for the staff members who had been there through thick, thin and thinner. It’s easy not to care from 60 miles away.
I know they think Jesus told them to close it. I don’t believe He did. I believe their donors did. The big fancy-ass science building announced and constructed right after the decision to close TUFW became public makes me think I’m right. They wanted to close TUFW, so they said Jesus made them do it.
TU, you did it. You wanted to do it and you did it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the crux of a good chunk of what good Christian people (especially Protestants) do. They often say God said to (break up with the girlfriend, marry the boyfriend, leave the spouse, quit the job, start the business, buy the expensive house or car) but really it’s just their desires.
Don’t blame God for your decisions. If you want to make it, make it. That’s fine, but don’t put it on the Holy Trinity. Say this: We’re bored with TUFW. We don’t like the poor kids because they need too much. We don’t like the at-risk students because they don’t follow our rules without talking back and we want the fancy science building. So we’re going to close it. OK?
When you’re actually honest about your motivations, it lets people have their honest reactions. Crap, no, don’t close it. We loved it. We’ll miss it. Why don’t you give a rat’s behind? No, God’s not telling you to break up with me. You love me and you told me that this morning.
I honestly do not mean this to be some kind of screed, but it all kind of came to a head tonight when I saw that poor damaged building sitting there. I thought about all the students that passed through there, all the good Godly men and women who worked there and made a difference for the world in there.
They deserved better than that. The community deserved better than that and TU itself deserved better than that. That school’s reputation has taken a serious hit in a community that once revered it. That’ll happen when you put money before people and then blame it on God.
Most people outside the Church don’t fall for that line. They know it for what it is: Crap.