A Christian College Struggles to Do the Right Thing


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Remember last fall when Alex Green ran into some trouble with his college — Bryan College — for reporting that one of the college's beloved professors had not left the school to "pursue other opportunities" but was, instead, under investigation for a handful of charges resulting from his alleged attempts to meet minors for sex?

Well, Bob Smietana has a follow-up story over at The Tennessean about what's happened since then. I have really mixed feelings about the religion coverage at The Tennessean. It often feels to me like The Tennessean thinks that, for the most part, "religion" = "a very specific Evangelical Protestant Christianity." And in general I don't find that particularly interesting.

But I found this story really interesting, and it gave me a lot to mull over. It can't be easy for the college to admit that it might have floundered in its initial reaction to Green's story. Nevertheless, its willingness to be honest about that floundering as they tried to judge what was best for everyone involved (even if I think they got it wrong initially) is really extraordinary.

“As we said at the time, we believed we were doing the right thing to protect the privacy of a man charged, but not convicted, of a crime,” said Tom Davis, Bryan spokesman, in an email.

But more than that Smietana gets some really thoughtful quotes from Jo Ellen Werking-Weedman over at Trevecca that indicate that this type of thing isn't just a one-off problem for Bryan College, but something all Christian schools struggle with:

“The goal of Christian liberal arts education is to teach students to act with integrity and to tell the truth,” she said. “We can’t preach that in certain classes and then say, ‘Don’t put it in print.’ ”

I really appreciate that kind of thoughtful reflection and I did feel like I got insight into the folks involved that went beyond stereotype and posturing. This isn't just a "Well, we need a Jesus story to fill space" story and I'm glad to see that.

And congratulations to Green on his 2013 Ancil Payne Award for Ethics in Journalism from the University of Oregon. It's well deserved.


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