Recently, a student at Biola University forwarded an email newsletter to me for a rather unusual campus “affinity group.” Here is the description:
The mission of Commune is to provide an authentic space for white students to learn and process how their whiteness informs their understanding of pursuing kingdom justice in society today.
This is an officially recognized student organization. It’s listed on their “Affinity Groups” page. It's simply described on the Biola web site as a “Coed Group for White Students.”
There are several other ethnicity based affinity groups listed on this same web page. Students of various cultural backgrounds connect and fellowship with one another. That's cool.
Meanwhile, the affinity group for white students –– "Commune" –– is described in its newsletter as providing an “authentic space for white students to learn and process how their whiteness informs their understanding of pursuing kingdom justice in society.” Can I be honest? This sounds like a Christian-y version of Robin DiAngelo’s, White Fragility and Kend's How to Be an Anti-Racist. It sounds like this group is trying to help White students develop awareness about their “White privilege” and explore how to “divest themselves from Whiteness."
What Does the Commune Do?
Here are a few screencaps from their recent newsletter to give you a flavor of their activities.
This is an announcement for an upcoming event –– a Zoom call entitled, “Examining Critical Race Theory (CRT) with Humility.”
The club also offers some suggestions for resources. They link students through to the PBS web page on Hispanic Heritage Month. Here is a link to the “New American Girls” webisodes that were also recommended. I watched a few of them.
The third part of the newsletter encouraged students to watch a documentary.
Here is the full documentary. Make up your own mind about the pros and cons of this.
Again, this is an official, Biola sanctioned group. Here is a link to the group’s faculty advisor: Alisa Andre. She is the Director of Intercultural Education & Assessment. Her leadership over the “Commune” affinity group is listed on her official Biola web page:
Alisa “works primarily with Biola employees in the development of their intercultural knowledge, attitudes, and skills by creating professional development opportunities such as Symphony. She also oversees the LEAD Scholars Program and leads Commune, an affinity group for white students. Her research interests include the intersection of spiritual formation, emerging adulthood and white identity.”
Ms. Andre holds a Master of Arts in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary. Her "research interests" make me wonder whether the ideas of Critical Race Theory may shape the programs she runs.
My Quick Take on This Issue
Now, let me be clear: I am a stand for positive, respectful discussions about race based firmly on Scripture. I have been actively speaking and writing on this topic for over three years. I think we ought to find creative ways to encourage inter-ethnic camaraderie and friendship in the Body of Christ.
Based on the wording in this newsletter, however, it seems that this group is conducting its race discussions through the lens of Critical Race Theory. Whiteness (e.g., Western culture) and/or white skin are viewed as an inherent problem. Critical Theory contains at least two major assumptions that must be proven: 1) Whiteness is a problem, and 2) the "work" of antiracism is the solution. Now, granted, they don't come right out and say all this in a student newsletter, but there are definitely some red flags here.
From a biblical point of view, once we have been reconciled to God, we are to no longer think of each other in worldly ways (2 Cor. 5). Whatever labels, stereotypes or identifying markers that our culture have put on us that divide us disintegrate once we are in Christ. Ancient Christians from a variety of backgrounds sat next to each other in the weekly worship gathering. The tax collector sat next to the people he formerly ripped off. The poor fisherman sat next to the governor’s rich wife. The Sythian, who was stereotyped for being an unstable “nomadic warrior,” sat next to the Roman soldier. What united them? Their new identity in Christ. They were bound by Jesus’ work on the cross and their common confession that, “Jesus is Lord.”
Once we are in Jesus, we ARE reconciled to God and united with each other. It’s a declared reality: we are a spiritual family. Imposing additional steps to “get to racial reconciliation” or for White students to "divest themselves of Whiteness" is to impose steps to holiness that the Bible never commands. This is the very definition of Pharisaic legalism: man-made laws designed to accomplish something that’s already real.
I discuss more about these issues in a previous podcast.
As a Biola parent and three-time alumni, I have a lot of questions about why the University sponsors a club like this. Perhaps you do, too. I want to encourage concerned parents and alumni to call Biola and ask them about the “Commune.”
Why Am I Posting This?
1) Because I love Biola. Biola has historically been a strong stand for the historic Christian faith. But I have a growing concern about faculty and policies that have been implemented based on the secular framework of Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality. And if it can happen at Biola, it can happen almost anywhere.
2) Because I am seeing how these kinds of activities are damaging students. The letters I am receiving are truly heart-breaking.
3) Because I think that many parents send their children to Biola because they have a reasonable assumption that their child will be learning about controversial and difficult ideas from a historic Christian framework. I think parents have the right to know that the school is engaging students with antiracist rhetoric in the name of Jesus through chapel messages and affinity groups.