The University: Jerusalem or Babylon?

Christiians love to compare the University to Babylon.

Some use the apocalyptic reference and refer to universities and colleges as enemies of God's church.  These people avoid universities and colleges, or send their children to Christian schools, where everyone's a Christian and no one sins.

Others (and I often find myself in this camp) connect with the University as a place of exile: it's foreign, challenging, and we're called to be a blessing there.  Read Daniel 1 or Jeremiah 29 and you'll see powerful and relevant images of faithful, missional life for university students.

Alec Hill, the President of InterVarsity, gave a wonderful talk on this theme a few nights ago.  As campus ministry staff, we're sent by God to bless the university, in the same way the exiled people of Israel were called to bless their captors in Babylon.

But I'm curious about this analogy.

I don't feel like I'm in exile at the University.  Not anymore. 

I've been in the University setting for 10 years now, as a student and a grad student and a campus ministry staff.  It feels like home, and I'm comfortable there.

So I wonder.  Is the University Babylon or Jerusalem? 

Is the University the place in which we've been carried off into exile or the place of our heart's longing?

3 comments:

  1. The answer to your question depends on the person and how they look at their individual situation. Some may see something they don't want or don't have any clue why they are there and see it as exile. Others may understand that God has a purpose for them being on a campus and may not initially be satisfied but eventually end up seeing wonderful things happen that may not happen without them. Others love the campus and never want to leave.
    This is at least what I've heard. For some reason, no matter what campus I am on, I feel at home, but I'd rather be there without taking classes. I'm on my third campus(actually 4th if you count where I took summer classes), year 6 out of 7(this is counting undergrad 4 yrs and grad 3 total, but I'm in 2 out of 3). I'm not sure what I'm really supposed to do when I get done with all this school.

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  2. I was wondering about the appropriateness of the analogy as well. I can receive Alec's point without hashing it out theologically or philosophically but if I indulge myself I'd probably put the University in the "Athens" category. A place we are called into which has all kinds of ideologies and gods. A place that has some very real insight into the truth but often doesn't see the whole picture (not that I do). The people, ideas, and structures of which we long to renew and be brought into God's kingdom. A place that can be home but not our truest home. A place where we long to make known the one who has previously been unknown.

    Am I cheating by going for the third door?

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  3. Picking apart a metaphor is always dangerous business.

    Berry, I like the third door and can totally see how it applies (I've used the Ephesus analogy as well).

    Allison, I think you're right that multiple metaphors could be applied to the University. Different people have wildly different experiences of life in the University.

    But why is it that the Babylon metaphor is the one that gets rolled out most often in evangelical circles?

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