Student responds to McElwee's namesake Op-Ed
President of the House of Sojourner Truth, Allison Lawrence ('15), submitted a piece in response to an Op-Ed written by King's alum, Sean McElwee. Read McElwee's original post HERE. As a member of the House of Truth, I recognize the bias I have coming into this debate since my house is not on the chopping block. I would also like to try and call the founding members of these houses out of the woodwork to defend themselves.
That being said I agree with Sean. Students ought to look to their namesakes as role models and if the decisions made by these leaders are not primarily informed by Christ, what can we say when students act similarly? I’m not one to advocate tradition for tradition’s sake, so I do not find it difficult to support the proposal that we replace any or all house namesakes. But what are we saying to these students when we declare their role model to be unworthy?
Students take pride in modeling themselves after their house’s namesake, none more so than the Reaganites (members of the house of which McElwee is, perhaps ironically, an alum). If this were 2003, and the house system in its infancy, this would not be much of an issue. As it stands, we have ten years of Reagan blazers, Churchill cigars and Thatcher sweaters to contend with, so we must be very careful if we are to continue on this path.
Sean makes a good point when he said, “When we as a school decide who to honor with a House, it should be a woman (or man) of integrity, one whose decisions were motivated by their faith and whose faith radically shaped the institutions of society.”
Political leaders of every age are forced to make decisions on topics that would cripple an ordinary man; I would have likely fled the country if Sojourner Truth were elected to any station of office. The question we must ask is: Were their actions informed by scripture and steeped in prayer?
If the answer is anything but yes, we ought to seriously temper the influence they have on our lives. This is not to say these people are entirely devoid of insight or honor. They simply shouldn’t be elevated as key role models of a college that claims to be a Christian institution, not merely a politically influential one.
So what is my proposed course of action? The short answer is: nothing. The deed has been done and any attempt to reverse it would be an utter disaster. If we were to replace the namesakes, student leaders would need to abruptly change the nature of their house and start from scratch. These new houses would be ten years behind in terms of creating house culture and traditions. If this does not seem like it would be too difficult, ask any of the founding members of Ten Boom what it was like.
In the end, no one currently at King’s is responsible for the path we are walking on. It is unfair for any of us to look down or scorn members of a house who look up to someone we deem unworthy of praise. None of the namesakes were paragons of virtue, but neither are any of us.
So perhaps the reason for using historical figures instead of Greek letters to identify ourselves is that each of these people have, through the story of their lives, something to teach us. If we wanted to have houses whose namesake embodied a life of perfection, we would have one house, the House of Jesus Christ. If we really are as enlightened as we say we are, we should be able study the mistakes and successes of key players through the lens of history and take away something useful.
The EST encourages you to (tastefully) continue the conversation in the comments section below...