My husband and I are both graduates of Elon University. His class celebrated their 25th reunion this year. We are part of the fabled couples who met on Elon’s campus and married one month after my graduation.
We both fondly remember our four college years as some of the best of our lives. Because of our love of Elon, we have spent the past 23 years of our marriage in Alamance County. Bill’s business degree prepared him for the two successful small businesses he owns. My education degree allowed me the privilege to teach in public, private and homeschool settings all over Burlington.
As you might expect, we receive annual phone calls requesting a donation to Elon. Despite our overwhelmingly positive experiences, we have never contributed. Read our wildly politically incorrect reasons that follow.
Elon University’s motto, Numen Lumen, professes the idea of intellectual and spiritual light. Unless, of course, you are an Evangelical Christian.
Ostensibly, the Numen Lumen Pavilion is a place for robust dialogue about religion on campus. This open dialogue does not extend to the annual fall organization fair where an Evangelical Christian group is no longer welcome to dispense information. In fact, the leader of this campus ministry was very nearly arrested on an Elon city sidewalk for passing out flyers inviting students to a meal and Bible study on campus.
Upon hearing the details of this open discrimination, I was saddened but not surprised. I hear much about visiting Buddhist monks and Muslim/Jewish relationships in the The Magazine of Elon for alumni. Prayer in Jesus’ name … nothing.
There are numerous reasons Elon’s policy toward Evangelicals has prohibited our campus donations. It is disingenuous to declare campus as interdenominational and multicultural when Bible-believing Christians are systematically excluded from participating openly in student activities. Parents and students are no longer offered information about Christian ministries in orientation packets or at organizational fairs. Evangelical Christians are prohibited from posting flyers in any common areas on campus. The opportunity to know about meetings not only limits an open religious dialogue, it moves the choice to participate away from students toward Elon policymakers.
A liberal arts education should include a working knowledge of the Bible. Studying the humanities without understanding biblical context is like reading Huckleberry Finn without knowledge of Mark Twain or antebellum South. Biblical allusions abound in Renaissance art, Shakespeare’s plays, lyric poetry and innumerable works of literature. Our government and history as a nation are rooted in the free practice of religion. Our Constitution and rule of law were modeled after biblical principles by Christian forefathers.
According to Guinness World Records, the bestselling book in history is the Holy Bible. Can a liberal arts education be complete without acknowledging the Bible’s influence on literature, art, government and history? Why, then, is Bible study relegated to coffee shops and sidewalk flyers? Why must it be so tightly regulated by Elon University?
For Elon University to earn our patronage, we are looking for true religious openness that includes evangelical Christianity. The academic and spiritual study of the Bible should be embraced instead of infringed. If the Dalai Lama is invited to speak, why not the Rev. Franklin Graham? If candidate Bill Clinton made a campaign stop in the 1990s, why not Dr. Ben Carson in 2016? If students can learn Hindu spirituality in yoga, why not conservative Christianity in Bible study?
An open, respectful exchange of ideas should not offend. A sure sign of maturity is the ability to agree to disagree. I concur with President Leo Lambert that support for Elon can surpass 22 percent of alumni. When religious freedom for all is embraced in principle and practice, Bill and I will be the first to offer a donation. I feel sure other sincere Christians will do the same.
Cheryl Fowler Sandford ‘93
Harry William Sandford Jr. ‘90