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September 12, 2014

Though Most People Stick to One Type of Prayer, But Real Fruit Can Be Found in Worship

As we finish up the fourth week of our prayer and fasting initiative, we have an opportunity to consider what we can do to be more effective in our prayer lives. When prayer is divided into its constituent components, five particular elements stand out as necessary for a well-balanced prayer system:

September 2, 2014
"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful." —Colossians 4:2 Frequent and fervent prayer is an essential part of our relationship with God. It is the natural product of genuine faith in God and His promise that He will hear and answer us. Though the practice of prayer is simple enough for a child to perform, prayer is also a complex discipline in which every Christian continues to grow and develop throughout life.

September 2, 2014
"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful." —Colossians 4:2 Frequent and fervent prayer is an essential part of our relationship with God. It is the natural product of genuine faith in God and His promise that He will hear and answer us. Though the practice of prayer is simple enough for a child to perform, prayer is also a complex discipline in which every Christian continues to grow and develop throughout life.

September 1, 2014

Christian Union Commissions Leadership Team 

By Tom Campisi, Managing EditorEarly this summer, Christian Union introduced the faculty for its new leadership development ministry at Brown University.Christian Union's strategic focus on high-achieving students at universities like Brown requires a curriculum and faculty suitable for men and women of exceptional intellectual caliber. And Matt Woodard (pictured, left) and Justin Doyle—with seminary degrees and real-world work experience—exemplify this high standard for ministry faculty.

September 1, 2014

Nicole Mensa, Cornell '17, Founder of Non Profit in Ghana

by Eileen Scott, Senior WriterFrom Africa to Ithaca, Nicole Mensa, Cornell '17, is serving people and sharing the message of God's love and compassion.A native of Ghana, Nicole came to Cornell for a top-flight education and to experience another culture; because of her participation with Christian Union's leadership development ministry at Cornell, she is also growing in her knowledge of the Bible and passion for the Lord.

September 1, 2014

Christian Union Commissions Leadership Team 

By Tom Campisi, Managing EditorEarly this summer, Christian Union introduced the faculty for its new leadership development ministry at Brown University.Christian Union's strategic focus on high-achieving students at universities like Brown requires a curriculum and faculty suitable for men and women of exceptional intellectual caliber. And Matt Woodard (pictured, left) and Justin Doyle—with seminary degrees and real-world work experience—exemplify this high standard for ministry faculty.

August 31, 2014

Day Twenty-one - Evening Devotional

As we continue our season of fasting together, I want to remind us of God’s purpose for us through fasting. Listen to Jesus’ words in Mark 7:15: “Nothing that goes into a person from outside can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him. If anyone has an ear to hear, he should listen!” In verses 20-23, Jesus continues to explain this mystery to His disciples by saying: “…What comes out of a person - that defiles him. For from within, out of people’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immoralities, thefts, murders, adulteries, greed, evil actions, deceit, lewdness, stinginess, blasphemy, pride and foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a person.” In our text today, the core problem of defilement is defined as what resides in the heart (things that come out), not things going into a person. Throughout Scripture, the heart refers to the center of one’s being, including the mind, emotions and will.

August 26, 2014

Jim Collins on Aligning Action and Values

Do you find yourself in a leadership role or position? Here are some classic ideas on vision, values, and organizational excellence from renowned business consultant and author Jim Collins: Executives spend too much time drafting, wordsmithing, and redrafting vision statements, mission statements, values statements, purpose statements, aspiration statements, and so on. They spend nowhere near enough time trying to align their organizations with the values and visions already in place.

August 24, 2014

Day Fourteen - Morning Devotional

At Christian Union, prayer is the leading edge of our work. It is the linchpin of “a seeking God lifestyle,” a rhythm of life that includes fasting, reading the Scriptures, and gathering with others to do the same. Today, I draw our attention to another of these principles: perseverance. God’s desire is to reward those who seek Him day after day, week after week, and in all seasons of life (Luke 11:1-13, 18:1-8; Hebrews 11:6). Please enjoy this devotional video, or stream/download an audio version below, or scroll down to continue reading.https://soundcloud.com/christianunion/a-persevere-in-exile-protimHowever, if we are honest, our prayers are episodic and perseverance can feel far from us. After all, our culture conditions us to detest it. It reminds us that “on demand” and “same-day shipping” aren’t merely consumer preferences, but taglines for our entire way of life. After all, anything worth having is worth having immediately…without perseverance.   So, the problem is obvious. A lifestyle of frequent and fervent prayer is not an easy endeavor, yet everything around us tells us that it ought to be.

August 18, 2014

Day Eight - Evening Devotional

1 Chronicles 21:1-2 says: “Satan stood up against Israel and incited David to count [the people of] Israel. So David said to Joab and the commanders of the troops, ‘Go and count Israel from Beer-sheba to Dan and bring [a report] to me so I can know their number.” After God has caused David to become successful in the eyes of both his enemies as well as the nation of Israel, Satan then comes and tempts David to take ownership of something that is not rightfully his. In other words, just as Satan tempted Adam and Eve in Genesis 3, he also successfully tempts David to distrust God by putting down the mantle of stewardship and putting on the mantle of ownership.Nevertheless, notice God’s mercy through Joab in 1 Chronicles 21:3: “Joab replied, ‘May the Lord multiply the number of His people a hundred times over! My lord the king, aren’t they all my lord’s servants? Why does my lord want to do this? Why should he bring guilt on Israel?” and verse 4 continues with the heavy and sobering words: “Yet the king’s order prevailed over Joab…” This is a solemn reminder that although God’s desire is to extend grace and mercy into our lives, we often forsake His mercy in order to satisfy our own desires; this is why repentance is needed. Repentance is not just to restore a right relationship with God, but it is the means by which we humbly admit our sins before God, much like David in Psalm 51:4: “Against You - You alone - I have sinned and done this evil in Your sight. So You are right when You passed sentence; You are blameless when You judge…”

August 14, 2014

A Look at the True Potential of Profit

Christians are called to help their fellow man, no matter the circumstance. This seems an easy enough rubric to follow: just help those people you see in need, right? True enough, but the real challenge is discovering the most effective way to reach others. Each person has their own calling, and therefore a different method with which to serve those around us most effectively.  Dr. Anne Bradley profiles Bill Gates’ wealth acquisition and philanthropy to illustrate the point that reaching a certain success first can greatly assist efforts to help others. After discovering his love for computers in high school, Gates has become one of the wealthiest men in the world, donating in excess of $28 billion to various charities. Profit can make philanthropy possible and, as Bradley notes, if we are genuinely interested in helping people, we may consider Bill Gates’ approach. 

August 8, 2014

Exhibit Exposes the Pain of the Hook-up Culture

By Eileen Scott, Senior WriterAn art show at Princeton University helped to lift the veil of the hookup culture and expose the inner hurt it renders.On April 25, The Alternative, a student organization supported and resourced by Christian Union, hosted an art exhibit entitled Redress at the Campus Club in Princeton. The exhibit was intended to give a voice to the unspoken emotional and psychological damage of casual sex and encourage a lifestyle of sexual integrity.

August 8, 2014

Brown's Religious Heritage Part of University's 250th Anniversary

By Catherine Elvy, Staff WriterIn March, Brown University kicked off a 15-month celebration of its 250th anniversary with a dazzling fireworks display and 600-pound birthday cake replicating its iconic University Hall.Brown is staging exhibits, speeches, performances, and a series of events through commencement 2015 to pay tribute to the university's founding in 1764 in the colonial outpost of Rhode Island."We want to use this opportunity to reflect on our history, to think about Brown today and in the future," said President Christina Paxson, Columbia Ph.D. '87 and a former Princeton University administrator.As part of the commemorative efforts, Brown is showcasing an interactive timeline that includes a look back at the university's religious roots, which were intertwined with the birth of a new nation.

August 8, 2014

Serving the Common Good

By Tim KellerEditor's note: The following article is reprinted with permission from The Center for Faith & Work, the cultural renewal arm of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.I am often asked: "Should Christians be involved in shaping culture?" My answer is that we can't not be involved in shaping culture. To illustrate this, I offer a very sad example. In the years leading up to the Civil War, many southerners resented the interference of the abolitionists, who were calling on Christians to stamp out the sin of slavery. In response, some churches began to assert that it was not the church's (nor Christians') job to try to "change culture," but only to preach the Gospel and see souls saved. The tragic irony was that these churches were shaping culture. Their very insistence that Christians should not be changing culture meant that those churches were supporting the social status quo. They were defacto endorsing the cultural arrangements of the Old South. (For more on this chapter in American history, see Mark Noll, The Civil War as a Theological Crisis.)This is an extreme example, but it makes the point that when Christians work in the world, they will either assimilate into their culture and support the status quo or they will be agents of change. This is especially true in the area of work. Every culture works on the basis of a 'map' of what is considered most important. If God and His grace are not at the center of a culture, then other things will be substituted as ultimate values. So every vocational field is distorted by idolatry.Christian medical professionals will soon see that some practices make money for them but don't add value to patients' lives. Christians in marketing and business will discern accepted patterns of communication that distort reality or which play to and stir up the worst aspects of the human heart. Christians in business will often see among their colleagues' behavior that which seeks short-term financial profit at the expense of the company's long-term health, or practices that put financial profit ahead of the good of employees, customers, or others in the community. Christians in the arts live and work in a culture in which self-expression is an end in itself. And in most vocational fields, believers face work-worlds in which ruthless, competitive behavior is the norm.There are two opposite mistakes that Christians can make in addressing the idols of their vocational fields. On the one hand they can seal off their faith from their work, laboring according to the same values and practices that everyone else uses. Or they may loudly and clumsily declare their Christian faith to their co-workers, often without showing any grace and wisdom in the way they relate to people on the job.At Redeemer, especially through the Center for Faith and Work, we seek to help believers think out the implications of the Gospel for art, business, government, media, entertainment, and scholarship. We teach that excellence in work is a crucial means to gain credibility for our faith. If our work is shoddy, our verbal witness only leads listeners to despise our beliefs. If Christians live in major cultural centers and simply do their work in an excellent but distinctive manner, it will ultimately produce a different kind of culture than the one in which we live now.But I like the term "cultural renewal" better than "culture shaping" or "culture changing/transforming." The most powerful way to show people the truth of Christianity is to serve the common good. The monks in the Middle Ages moved out through pagan Europe, inventing and establishing academies, universities, and hospitals. They transformed local economies and cared for the weak through these new institutions. They didn't set out to "get control" of a pagan culture. They let the Gospel change how they did their work and that meant they worked for others rather than for themselves. Christians today should be aiming for the same thing.As Roman society was collapsing, St. Augustine wrote The City of God to remind believers that in the world there are always two "cities," two alternate "kingdoms." One is a human society based on selfishness and gaining power. God's kingdom is the human society based on giving up power in order to serve. Christians live in both kingdoms, and although that is the reason for much conflict and tension, it also is our hope and assurance. The kingdom of God is the permanent reality, while the kingdom of this world will eventually fade away. Tim Keller, a best-selling author and apologist, is the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.
August 8, 2014

Lecture Exhorts Graduate Students to be Ambassadors

By Catherine Elvy, Staff WriterScience is hyped as the definitive authority for modern society, leaving many secular researchers with the potential for greater platforms – and more credibility – than their pastoral counterparts.As such, Christians who labor in scientific fields need to pause to consider the spiritual and cultural responsibilities tied to their roles as ambassadors for Christ.That was one of the themes from Matt Farrar when the post-doctoral associate in Cornell University's neurobiology and behavior department spoke on campus at a lecture hosted by the Graduate at Christian Fellowship Roundtable and the Chesterton House.Farrar, Cornell Ph.D. '12, appeared at The Big Red Barn Graduate and Professional Student Center on April 12 to deliver a presentation entitled "Regnant Priests of a Neo-Orthodoxy: Science, Faith and Authority in the 21st Century." Farrar, a physicist who focuses on the development of nonlinear optical tools in studies of spinal cord injuries, based his presentation upon the writings of a series of Christian scholars, including Mark Noll, a historian who specializes in Christianity.Farrar noted that many leading voices in Western Society question whether religion is a valid source of knowledge. And this perception is at the core of the issue for believers who work in secular fields."If knowledge of God no longer counts, what does count for knowledge?" Farrar asked rhetorically. Taking his concerns a step further, Farrar also rhetorically questioned whether Christianity should be cast aside to the realm of astrology, witchcraft, and mythology.As for the scientific arena, the field is highly revered and features formidable barriers to entry – making practitioners, in effect, the modern clerics of the secular world. As well, much of what the public knows about science originates from "received tradition," and even fellow scientists have limited abilities to test claims, access complete texts of scholarly articles, and fully understand highly specialized research."We accept a lot because we receive it," said Farrar.Glancing through history, Christianity has fallen from a place ofesteem – and source of legitimate knowledge, according to Farrar – because of wars and political conflicts carried out under the banners of religious motivation. Other sources of reputational damage stem from clashes between religion and science dating back to the so-called Galileo affair and from the marked separation of church and state within the constitutional framework of the United States.The upshot is the undermining of the value of Christianity in governance and as a worldview.On a positive trend, younger scientists appear less likely to be identified as atheists than their older counterparts, an observation echoed by some Christians in academia."That has been my sense for many years," said Karl Johnson, Cornell '89, Ph.D. '11, founding director of the Chesterton House."The militant secularism in the academy peaked more than a decade ago," Johnson said. Younger scientists are "a little more open to the possibility of religious beliefs" offering some benefits.Also impacting the intersection of faith and scholarship, some Western churches have shifted from pursuing seminary-trained pastors to instead embracing preachers trumpeted for their energy, magnetism, and communication skills."You see a shift from moral knowledge to charismatic authority," said Farrar. "Historically, pastors were educated experts on matters vital to the world."As for believers who labor in the sciences, Farrar strongly encouraged them to relish their worldly platforms and professional esteem."Develop a thoroughly informed faith that is congruous with your level of education," Farrar said. "You're going to be someone's professor, coworker..."Farrar, who will join the faculty of Messiah College in fall 2015, urged Cornell graduate students to peruse materials related to faith in their chosen fields and to investigate voraciously key apologetics."Hold knowledge not just as a weekend hobby," he said.Likewise, "support and encourage pastors.... Encourage them to share their knowledge," Farrar said.Ultimately, scientists who are believers should embrace their roles as spiritual ambassadors, even within the rigorous world of scientific inquiry.Farrar said he sides with St. Thomas Aquinas, the philosopher priest who embraced the existence of God as a self-evident truth. With that comes a call for like-minded believers to decide how to shape the culture of their professional spheres."Christians in the sciences have a vital part to play in presenting Christianity as a true body of knowledge," said Farrar.
August 8, 2014

Organization Denies Membership to Choose Life at Yale

By Matthew Gerken, Yale '11Editor's note: The following article originally appeared in First Things. Reprinted with permission. (Photo: Members of Choose Life at Yale with Amherst College Professor Hadley Arkes at the 2013 Vita et Veritas Conference.)In April, Yale's campus pro-life group—after a year in which they participated in meetings and even helped raise money for the organization—became the first group in living memory to be denied membership in the Social Justice Network of Dwight Hall. Billing itself as an "independent" and "nonsectarian" center for public service and social justice, Dwight Hall at Yale is a group that seeks "to foster civic-minded student leaders and to promote service and activism in New Haven and around the world." Though legally independent, it is the university umbrella organization for service and advocacy, encompassing dozens of member organizations that address almost every conceivable issue, from the environment, to gay rights, to Palestinian statehood.Membership would have given Choose Life at Yale (CLAY) access to a variety of resources, including coveted meeting locations, use of Dwight Hall's vehicles for service projects, and a seat at the table during Dwight Hall's freshman recruiting events. But most of all, it would have affirmed the conviction of CLAY members that the cause they served, whether by marching in D.C. or volunteering at a crisis pregnancy center, was a legitimate component of social justice.Social justice is a term that has perhaps been used too indiscriminately for its own good, and members of Dwight Hall's Social Justice Network might be surprised to learn that the term arose from the writings of a reactionary Italian Jesuit. But regardless of the history, it seems to me that if social justice means anything, it has to recognize the social nature of the type of justice it describes. Social justice is about our relationships with one another and with institutions, not our individuality and autonomy. That's why, contrary to many of my friends on the right, it makes a good deal of sense to me to describe inescapably communal issues such as environmental degradation as the proper subjects of social justice.There's a deeper truth that can be expressed in the term, though, in an age in which justice simply expressed is so often seen solely as a matter of individual autonomy. Social justice helps to remind us that humans are social by nature, and that nearly all of our decisions carry social consequences, often far greater than we can see. It can express the truth that the presence of the homeless on the streets of one of the wealthiest universities in the world is not merely a matter of the right to a hot meal and a roof, but is also the breakdown of a relationship between members of a community. Social injustice is a communal failure to love.It's this sense that made Choose Life at Yale a natural fit for the social justice hub of Yale. Pro-lifers at Yale have long gotten over the idea that they'd get anywhere arguing with their peers about whose right to autonomy trumped whose, and so they charted a new direction. They took up their cause as a matter of social justice. They realized that abortion has never been solely a matter of a baby's life and liberty. It's about the desperation and hopelessness of the mother that walked into the clinic. It's about the grandfather who will never put that little girl in his lap. It's about the classmates who will never sit next to her, and the boy who will never work up the courage to write her that awkward poem. It's even about that friend whom she would drift away from over the years, the successful sister who would make her insecure, and the God she'd curse when she lost her job and then her mortgage. The biggest lie in all this is that the choice to end (or to save) a life is a solitary one.We don't know why Dwight Hall denied membership to the pro-life group. The ballot was secret and the count unannounced, and the established procedure (perhaps ironically for a social justice organization) allotted only sixty seconds for CLAY to make their case, while strictly banning any further discussion. We know it couldn't have been perceived religious differences, since Dwight Hall already contains Christian, Jewish, and secular groups. We know it couldn't be CLAY's political advocacy, because Dwight Hall endorses advocacy—even legislative advocacy—as part of its mission and a core component of many of its groups' activities.Perhaps it is because CLAY's work cuts too close to the core. Perhaps it makes many of Dwight Hall's leaders uncomfortable to be challenged by the witness of pro-lifers taking time from their week to serve women in need, whether in order to ease their choice for life or to help them heal after they have chosen otherwise. Perhaps it challenges their comfortably individualistic assumptions about abortion because it is too close to what they themselves do when they feed the hungry, clothe the poor, or care for the sick. Perhaps it makes some of them—if only for a brief moment—rethink the meaning of the call to love and serve. That would explain why they have to push it away so quickly and quietly, because they know that this is how social justice movements begin.Matthew Gerken is a former president of Choose Life at Yale.
August 8, 2014

Exhibit Exposes the Pain of the Hook-up Culture

By Eileen Scott, Senior WriterAn art show at Princeton University helped to lift the veil of the hookup culture and expose the inner hurt it renders.On April 25, The Alternative, a student organization supported and resourced by Christian Union, hosted an art exhibit entitled Redress at the Campus Club in Princeton. The exhibit was intended to give a voice to the unspoken emotional and psychological damage of casual sex and encourage a lifestyle of sexual integrity.

August 8, 2014

Brown's Religious Heritage Part of University's 250th Anniversary

By Catherine Elvy, Staff WriterIn March, Brown University kicked off a 15-month celebration of its 250th anniversary with a dazzling fireworks display and 600-pound birthday cake replicating its iconic University Hall.Brown is staging exhibits, speeches, performances, and a series of events through commencement 2015 to pay tribute to the university's founding in 1764 in the colonial outpost of Rhode Island."We want to use this opportunity to reflect on our history, to think about Brown today and in the future," said President Christina Paxson, Columbia Ph.D. '87 and a former Princeton University administrator.As part of the commemorative efforts, Brown is showcasing an interactive timeline that includes a look back at the university's religious roots, which were intertwined with the birth of a new nation.

August 8, 2014

Lecture Exhorts Graduate Students to be Ambassadors

By Catherine Elvy, Staff WriterScience is hyped as the definitive authority for modern society, leaving many secular researchers with the potential for greater platforms – and more credibility – than their pastoral counterparts.As such, Christians who labor in scientific fields need to pause to consider the spiritual and cultural responsibilities tied to their roles as ambassadors for Christ.That was one of the themes from Matt Farrar when the post-doctoral associate in Cornell University's neurobiology and behavior department spoke on campus at a lecture hosted by the Graduate at Christian Fellowship Roundtable and the Chesterton House.Farrar, Cornell Ph.D. '12, appeared at The Big Red Barn Graduate and Professional Student Center on April 12 to deliver a presentation entitled "Regnant Priests of a Neo-Orthodoxy: Science, Faith and Authority in the 21st Century." Farrar, a physicist who focuses on the development of nonlinear optical tools in studies of spinal cord injuries, based his presentation upon the writings of a series of Christian scholars, including Mark Noll, a historian who specializes in Christianity.Farrar noted that many leading voices in Western Society question whether religion is a valid source of knowledge. And this perception is at the core of the issue for believers who work in secular fields."If knowledge of God no longer counts, what does count for knowledge?" Farrar asked rhetorically. Taking his concerns a step further, Farrar also rhetorically questioned whether Christianity should be cast aside to the realm of astrology, witchcraft, and mythology.As for the scientific arena, the field is highly revered and features formidable barriers to entry – making practitioners, in effect, the modern clerics of the secular world. As well, much of what the public knows about science originates from "received tradition," and even fellow scientists have limited abilities to test claims, access complete texts of scholarly articles, and fully understand highly specialized research."We accept a lot because we receive it," said Farrar.Glancing through history, Christianity has fallen from a place ofesteem – and source of legitimate knowledge, according to Farrar – because of wars and political conflicts carried out under the banners of religious motivation. Other sources of reputational damage stem from clashes between religion and science dating back to the so-called Galileo affair and from the marked separation of church and state within the constitutional framework of the United States.The upshot is the undermining of the value of Christianity in governance and as a worldview.On a positive trend, younger scientists appear less likely to be identified as atheists than their older counterparts, an observation echoed by some Christians in academia."That has been my sense for many years," said Karl Johnson, Cornell '89, Ph.D. '11, founding director of the Chesterton House."The militant secularism in the academy peaked more than a decade ago," Johnson said. Younger scientists are "a little more open to the possibility of religious beliefs" offering some benefits.Also impacting the intersection of faith and scholarship, some Western churches have shifted from pursuing seminary-trained pastors to instead embracing preachers trumpeted for their energy, magnetism, and communication skills."You see a shift from moral knowledge to charismatic authority," said Farrar. "Historically, pastors were educated experts on matters vital to the world."As for believers who labor in the sciences, Farrar strongly encouraged them to relish their worldly platforms and professional esteem."Develop a thoroughly informed faith that is congruous with your level of education," Farrar said. "You're going to be someone's professor, coworker..."Farrar, who will join the faculty of Messiah College in fall 2015, urged Cornell graduate students to peruse materials related to faith in their chosen fields and to investigate voraciously key apologetics."Hold knowledge not just as a weekend hobby," he said.Likewise, "support and encourage pastors.... Encourage them to share their knowledge," Farrar said.Ultimately, scientists who are believers should embrace their roles as spiritual ambassadors, even within the rigorous world of scientific inquiry.Farrar said he sides with St. Thomas Aquinas, the philosopher priest who embraced the existence of God as a self-evident truth. With that comes a call for like-minded believers to decide how to shape the culture of their professional spheres."Christians in the sciences have a vital part to play in presenting Christianity as a true body of knowledge," said Farrar.
August 8, 2014

Organization Denies Membership to Choose Life at Yale

By Matthew Gerken, Yale '11Editor's note: The following article originally appeared in First Things. Reprinted with permission. (Photo: Members of Choose Life at Yale with Amherst College Professor Hadley Arkes at the 2013 Vita et Veritas Conference.)In April, Yale's campus pro-life group—after a year in which they participated in meetings and even helped raise money for the organization—became the first group in living memory to be denied membership in the Social Justice Network of Dwight Hall. Billing itself as an "independent" and "nonsectarian" center for public service and social justice, Dwight Hall at Yale is a group that seeks "to foster civic-minded student leaders and to promote service and activism in New Haven and around the world." Though legally independent, it is the university umbrella organization for service and advocacy, encompassing dozens of member organizations that address almost every conceivable issue, from the environment, to gay rights, to Palestinian statehood.Membership would have given Choose Life at Yale (CLAY) access to a variety of resources, including coveted meeting locations, use of Dwight Hall's vehicles for service projects, and a seat at the table during Dwight Hall's freshman recruiting events. But most of all, it would have affirmed the conviction of CLAY members that the cause they served, whether by marching in D.C. or volunteering at a crisis pregnancy center, was a legitimate component of social justice.Social justice is a term that has perhaps been used too indiscriminately for its own good, and members of Dwight Hall's Social Justice Network might be surprised to learn that the term arose from the writings of a reactionary Italian Jesuit. But regardless of the history, it seems to me that if social justice means anything, it has to recognize the social nature of the type of justice it describes. Social justice is about our relationships with one another and with institutions, not our individuality and autonomy. That's why, contrary to many of my friends on the right, it makes a good deal of sense to me to describe inescapably communal issues such as environmental degradation as the proper subjects of social justice.There's a deeper truth that can be expressed in the term, though, in an age in which justice simply expressed is so often seen solely as a matter of individual autonomy. Social justice helps to remind us that humans are social by nature, and that nearly all of our decisions carry social consequences, often far greater than we can see. It can express the truth that the presence of the homeless on the streets of one of the wealthiest universities in the world is not merely a matter of the right to a hot meal and a roof, but is also the breakdown of a relationship between members of a community. Social injustice is a communal failure to love.It's this sense that made Choose Life at Yale a natural fit for the social justice hub of Yale. Pro-lifers at Yale have long gotten over the idea that they'd get anywhere arguing with their peers about whose right to autonomy trumped whose, and so they charted a new direction. They took up their cause as a matter of social justice. They realized that abortion has never been solely a matter of a baby's life and liberty. It's about the desperation and hopelessness of the mother that walked into the clinic. It's about the grandfather who will never put that little girl in his lap. It's about the classmates who will never sit next to her, and the boy who will never work up the courage to write her that awkward poem. It's even about that friend whom she would drift away from over the years, the successful sister who would make her insecure, and the God she'd curse when she lost her job and then her mortgage. The biggest lie in all this is that the choice to end (or to save) a life is a solitary one.We don't know why Dwight Hall denied membership to the pro-life group. The ballot was secret and the count unannounced, and the established procedure (perhaps ironically for a social justice organization) allotted only sixty seconds for CLAY to make their case, while strictly banning any further discussion. We know it couldn't have been perceived religious differences, since Dwight Hall already contains Christian, Jewish, and secular groups. We know it couldn't be CLAY's political advocacy, because Dwight Hall endorses advocacy—even legislative advocacy—as part of its mission and a core component of many of its groups' activities.Perhaps it is because CLAY's work cuts too close to the core. Perhaps it makes many of Dwight Hall's leaders uncomfortable to be challenged by the witness of pro-lifers taking time from their week to serve women in need, whether in order to ease their choice for life or to help them heal after they have chosen otherwise. Perhaps it challenges their comfortably individualistic assumptions about abortion because it is too close to what they themselves do when they feed the hungry, clothe the poor, or care for the sick. Perhaps it makes some of them—if only for a brief moment—rethink the meaning of the call to love and serve. That would explain why they have to push it away so quickly and quietly, because they know that this is how social justice movements begin.Matthew Gerken is a former president of Choose Life at Yale.
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