Bulldog Madness – Athletics Season Kickoff

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Post by Katie Woodruff, associate director of athletics and senior woman administrator

If you weren’t at Bulldog Madness last night, you missed out BIG TIME! It was the biggest pep rally and spirit-building opportunity we’ve had in my 12 years at UU. This is going to sound weird, but it was somewhat of an emotional moment for me. To see so many different groups on campus come together as one to support our student-athletes was great!

In addition, to see the culmination of our hard work being enjoyed by all and supported by so many students, in that moment, was so gratifying.

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“It was great to see so many students come together in support of our athletic teams,” senior psychology major Kevin Morgan said. “Last night there weren’t Greeks and indies or athletes and students, we were all Bulldogs.”

Alec Beard, a junior international business major who filled in as dancing Buster, said he enjoyed seeing the energy and enthusiasm of the crowd.

The evening involved black lights, glow sticks, hyped up music, selfies and more energy than I’ve ever felt before in The Fred. We were intentionally building school spirt through a remix of the flash mob from a performance earlier in the day, introduction of a student-led cheer support team called the Fred Fanatics, a performance from the cheerleaders, some minute-to-win-it games, 10-minute scrimmages by both the men’s and women’s basketball teams and a scrimmage between faculty/staff and students.

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Dr. Oliver then led a “Never Forget” cheer on the court, surrounded by all the students.

“It was really neat to see the student body come together for a fun event supporting our basketball teams,” said Jesse Dahms, a junior business management and psychology major. “The blackout was really awesome and a great way to build hype. I think we are excited and ready for this upcoming basketball season.”

What a night! Our hope and desire in athletics is to continue to build school spirit. Bulldog Madness brought different campus groups together — the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, cheerleaders, the student group Fred Fanatics, volunteers from campus organizations and classes as well as student-athletes. It takes synergy to build energy and enthusiasm. I think we are heading in the right direction, and I’m excited.

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Scott Lancaster, multimedia producer, put together this short video of the events from last night:

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Preview Day Gives Visitors an Overview of Union Life

Post by Will Brantley, senior enrollment counselor

A few weeks ago, we posted about our Preview Days and why they are so important. This past Friday, we had the pleasure of hosting around 100 prospective students and their families for one of three Preview Days this semester.

So what makes Preview Day such a fantastic day? Is it the hustle and bustle about campus? The excited students and their families? The really good food? The answer is “all of the above.” Students from all over the country come to see what makes Union so special. The day is packed full of activities such as a campus tour, a chapel service, student and parent panels, visits with professors and lunch with an address from our president, Dub Oliver. I personally love these days because we get to introduce students and their families to this wonderful institution and see them fall in love with this place.

Telling the Union story is one of my favorite things about being an enrollment counselor. Our faculty is one of the best teaching faculties in the entire country, using facilities that are state of the art. Our students are some of the best anywhere. They are winning awards, going on to top-notch graduate programs and participating in ministry here in Jackson and around the world. But perhaps more importantly, we are a tight-knit, close community that loves one another and seeks to honor Christ in everything we do.

Preview Days give prospective students a glimpse into what being a part of Union is really like and gives us a chance to show those students what an amazing community exists here at Union. If you’ve never been to a Union Preview Day and you or a student you know are searching for a home for college, I would urge you to check out Union’s next Preview Day on Nov. 14. You can sign up for a Preview Day on our website at www.uu.edu/campusvisits. Check out the photos below to see what you’ll experience during your visit!

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First Year at UU – Deep-Fried Oreos and Freshman Experiences

Emily Johnson Portrait

Post by Emily Johnson, freshman biology major

Some days are good because your favorite song comes on the radio; some days are good because a quiz you forgot about is canceled; and some days are good because your residence building dominates in an epic battle of tug of war.

Tuesday, October 14 was one of those days.

Every year, the freshmen of Heritage Residence Complex compete in the highly momentous Deep-Fried Olympics with their fellow building residents.  As you might infer, the theme of the competition is decidedly Southern.  The evening provides an opportunity for everyone to unleash their inner “country girl/boy,” and flannel, overalls, and a plethora of camouflage are the preferred dress.  The first event, an obstacle relay race, involves a tire run and a trash-sack hurdle.  Next on the agenda is a Cricket Spit (yes, the crickets are alive and hopping), followed closely by a potato sack race.  The grand finale is a merciless tug of war. As teams prepared for battle, the intensity was palpable.  Everything hinged on this one event. The quiet before the “GO!” was broken only by hoarse commands to “Pull with your legs!” The competition was intense and laughter was loud as residents were hauled across the sopping wet grass.

As the points were being tallied, students merrily consumed corn-dogs and Oreos (properly deep-fried, of course).  A few began dancing to an impromptu Cotton-Eyed Joe.  When Resident Director Tim Call, emcee of the event, cleared his throat to begin the awards ceremony, a drumroll swelled. Apartments such as the Lads of Lee, the Dehoney Bees, the Men of Grey and the Beauties of Craig were suddenly united in their anticipation.  Surrounded by my fellow first-years, I was struck by the sense of camaraderie.

Union places most freshmen in the Heritage Residence Complex for the purpose of fostering community among first-year students. We are all sharing similar experiences of prolonged group projects, never-ending laundry and Olympics that are Deep-Fried. We are living life together. The Heritage complex at Union enables freshmen to share with one another the struggles, joys, and changes that inevitably make up freshman year. The Deep-Fried Olympics is just one of many events that freshmen get to experience together.

The first awards went to the best costumes, evoking much laughter and applause from the crowd of hillbillies. Tim Call next revealed the third and second place apartments, and they mounted the shaky victors’ platform of tires. Silence fell as Tim paused for dramatic effect. Finally he declared, “And our first place prize, the coveted Golden Toilet Seat, goes to: GREY AND CRAIG!” As the grimy champions shouted for joy and embraced one another, my RA proudly brandished the gilded testament to our victory. Covered in mud and shuddering in the October chill, I had never been prouder to be a Union freshman.

Photos of Deep Fried Olympics by MiKalla Cotton

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First Year at UU – Fall Break and Reflection

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Post by Chandler Bell, freshman accounting major

Fall break at Union University is a wonderful thing.  For me, it was wonderful because I got to go home and see my family, eat some awesome home-cooked meals, and sleep. And when I say sleep, I mean sleep a lot.  I didn’t realize just how busy college is until I had the chance to step away from all the studying and socializing I’ve done in the past two months.  It was a great time to reflect on how I’ve spent my time at Union, and the first two words that come to mind when I think about the past two months are fun and challenging.

College has been the most fun I’ve ever had.  Living with and around your best friends is one of the coolest things to experience.  There are so many ways to get involved around campus.  I’m involved in Greek life and student government, and they are both great ways to get connected here at Union.  The opportunities don’t stop there, though!  From Student Activities Council to the Debate Team, there are so many different ways you can find a fun way to get involved at Union.  The fun you can have in college is pretty much limitless, but it’s not all fun and games.

When it comes to classes, Union’s curriculum is challenging, and at first that intimidated me.  Then I realized that the whole point of college is to grow.  Since I’ve been at Union, I have grown so much in and outside of the classroom, all because I have been challenged to give my best.  Academically, I have been pushed to not only recall things from textbooks, but also actually learn and understand the material I am studying.  Socially, I have been given so many opportunities to make new friends and step out of my comfort zone.  Spiritually, I have been poured into more than ever before.  My peers and the faculty at Union intentionally invest in my spiritual life, and that is priceless.

These things combined make Union such a unique and special place to me because it is so hard to find an environment that allows you to grow while also having the time of your life.  That may be why, when I was enjoying my time of rest and relaxation at home, I was missing Union. After only two months here, it is so clear that Union is a second home.  The relationships I have built and the community here has made it feel like a place where I am welcomed, appreciated, respected and deeply cared for.

Miller Tower in the fall at Sunset

First Year at UU – Greek Life and Events

This is the first post in a series called “First Year at UU” which will be written by first-year students. Our hope with this series is that readers, especially prospective students, will get a look at what it’s like at Union University during that initial year and even get some advice on how to make it as great as possible!

Josiah Murphy headshot Post by Josiah Murphy, freshman Christian studies major.

Union University hosted its annual Greek Olympics this past Saturday. The Olympics are an opportunity for the three fraternities and three sororities to compete with each other in five different events: swimming, football throw, relay race, rope pull and chariot race. The fraternities on campus are Alpha Tau Omega, Lambda Chi Alpha and Sigma Alpha Epsilon, and the sororities are Chi Omega, Kappa Delta and Zeta Tau Alpha. Representatives from each chapter competed in the events while their brothers and sisters cheered them on. Sigma Alpha Epsilon was the overall men’s champion, while Chi Omega took the trophy home for the ladies.

This event made me reflect on how great Greek life is here at Union. I personally have joined a fraternity and have enjoyed every minute of it. The men in my chapter were some of the first friends I made when I came on campus. They have welcomed me and made me feel right at home. My fraternity brothers have also been so encouraging to me in this first year at Union, and I don’t know what I would do without them.

It is important to note that Greek life here is very different from what one might experience at a state school. The chapters on campus are internationally recognized and members of the Interfraternity Council (men) and the Panhellenic Council (women). Jason Castles, director of student leadership and engagement, has some great insight into what makes Union University Greek life different:

“A number of colleges and universities maintain a passionate dedication to Christian education. Many more feature active Greek organizations that are important to campus life and culture. Union University is a member of the smallest group of schools that has found a way to maintain a Greek system within an educational context that is unashamedly Christ-centered. The benefits of being a member of the Greek community at Union include the following: academic focus, leadership development opportunities, community service involvement, and Christian accountability. The brotherhood and sisterhood that you will find at Union is unique from any other campus and provides you with the opportunity to have fun together through retreats, intramurals, and social events.”

If you choose to attend Union University, especially starting in the fall, I encourage you to go through recruitment, even if you don’t think you want to join. It is a great way for you to meet new people and enjoy some fantastic (free!) food. And who knows? Maybe you will discover a chapter that you really like and want to join. Each chapter has its own personality and culture, and if you know you want to be a part of Greek life, I’m sure you will find a good fit!

Finally, I want all of you future college students – yes, you – to know that you’re in my prayers. Picking a college can be very stressful, but you should take comfort in knowing that God has the perfect place picked out for you already. And hopefully, that place is Union!

Kappa Delta women cheering for their sisters during Greek Olympics Members of the fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon race against Lambda Chi Alpha and Alpha Tau Omega during the chariot race at Greek Olympics. Women of Chi Omega cheer during Greek Olympics Women of Zeta Tau Alpha cheer for their sisters during Greek Olympics. Men of ATO compete during Greek Olympics Men of SAE yell and cheer for their fraternity brothers during Greek Olympics. Greek Olympics relay race Women of Kappa Delta throw up their KD sign during Greek Olympics

All Greek Olympics photos by Emily Stookey, student photographer.

Thanks so much to Josiah for that great look into how Greek life can play a part in the first year at Union! Learn more about Union Greek life on our website. We look forward to sharing many more insights like this in the weeks to come. We’d love to hear your thoughts on what you’d like our first-year students to share. Tweet us @Unionuniversity to let us know!

Family Weekend 2014 – Union Night

Dr. Dub participates in a chemistry demonstration

Post by Josh Clarke, director of alumni services

Family Weekend 2014 culminated Saturday evening in one of the newest traditions on campus, Union Night. Over 1,000 members of the Union family came together to celebrate the gift of community that God has blessed us with. It was a fantastic night showcasing the best of Union University with student organizations, schools and departments hosting a variety of family friendly activities. These activities spanned from making your own s’mores to face painting. The more adventurous members of the Union community were able to check “hot air balloon ride” off their bucket list by taking a tethered ride over campus.

The hot air balloon was a big hit, with students and families lined up waiting for their turn at Union Night.

One of the most exciting opportunities at Union Night is for students to highlight their ongoing efforts, whether it is in the classroom, in the community, or on the court. The Engineering Department used its class projects to set up a life-size version of “Angry Birds,” where Union Night visitors could try their hand at knocking down towers with student made catapults.  Guests were able to see some philanthropic initiatives of our students as Zeta Tau Alpha kicked off its annual “Think Pink Week,” raising awareness for breast cancer research, and Alpha Tau Omega raised money and awareness for the American Heart Association. The School of Nursing and Office of University Ministries were on hand to raise funds to support upcoming mission trips around the world. Through the night the celebration of the transition into NCAA DII continued as our Bulldog and Lady Bulldog teams were introduced to the crowd. The evening came to a close with a brilliant display of fireworks.

Kersey family marvels at the fireworks

For 191 years, the Lord has used Union University as an instrument of His grace to prepare students to go serve in church and community. Across campus He is still doing just that. Union Night serves as an opportunity for the greater Union community to come and see all that He is doing currently on our campus. To sit and talk with old friends, to bring the next generation of Unionites to campus for the first time, to visit with organizations that had a major impact on your life or to see how your current student is growing — Union Night provides each member of the Union family the chance the come and witness God’s continued grace to our beloved campus. Our hope is that Union Night will celebrate all that Union University is while reminding current students, alumni, families and friends that they are a part of something that is larger than their four years here.

View a full gallery of photos from Family Weekend on our Photo Project. 

Fireworks, Miller Tower and Union Night guests

Give Us One Day

Ask a Union student what the deciding factor was in choosing a school, and it’s common for the answer to be, “I came for a campus visit and knew this was it!” Of course, there are many reasons for choosing a particular school, but experiencing it for yourself is one of the best ways to figure out if it’s the right one. This is why we host several Preview Days throughout each semester and give personal tours to prospective students.

Union’s campus exudes a wonderful sense of community, and it’s difficult to put into words how special this place is. When you’re here, no matter who you are, you’re made to feel like you’re home. Come visit, and you’ll see.

September 2014 Preview day tour group passes Miller Tower September 2014 Preview Day tour group outside of Jennings and White Halls. September 2014 Preview Day tour group looking at student artwork in the PAC

Check out our Preview Day website to get a feel for what happens during a campus visit. If you’re unable to come to a Preview Day, you can arrange a personal visit. The next Preview Day will be October 17, 2014, and we hope to see you there!

Past Preview Days:

Preview Day tour across campus Preview Day tour across campus Preview day tour of White Hall Preview Day student question & answer panel Preview day chapel with David Platt previewday-unionuniversity-5

Lest We Forget: A New Tradition

Post by Jared Dauenhauer, assistant director of student leadership & engagement 

One of my favorite places on campus is the Carl Grant Events Center. It houses one of the best places I’ve found to meditate and reflect, Heritage Center. Most of us at Union may take a glance or two at this place, and I believe many of us, myself included, have failed to recognize its significance.

Heritage Center contains a visual timeline that spans three walls and almost 200 years of Union University history. I look at the faces and think of the stories of a time past at Union. When I look at the faces of past leaders and past students, I’m instantly reminded of a scene from one of my favorites movies: Dead Poet’s Society. In this scene, Mr. Keating has his students look to the students of the past and try to understand their legacy.

It is incredibly important to remember the past and the legacy that has been passed down to us. It makes us think about what legacy we will pass down. It’s the same question I ask myself when I visit the halls and annals of Union’s storied past. When I look at that timeline, I wonder what keeps us going? What is so important that we must continue to keep our doors open to generation after generation of students? Why have we rebuilt from fires, wars and tornadoes? What legacy or what story is really being told here?

Recently I sat down with students and staff members to answer these questions. Together we poured through old newspapers, yearbooks and documents trying to ultimately determine what legacy is being whispered to us. As in that scene you just watched, I believe there came about a moment in each of our journeys that we leaned into our past and heard: “Lest We Forget.” In research of this phrase we found homages to old poems and many wartime references to soldiers that had fallen in wars. While the phrase does not find it roots in our direct past, Union has certainly adopted it.

Unfortunately, we do the very thing that this phrase tells us not to do. We forget that the legacy Union plays a role in didn’t start in 1823 with the creation of the Jackson Male Academy. We fail to see the timeline that stretches beyond our almost 200-year history. Union’s story has always been the story of God’s faithfulness through Christ. Yes, there have been many faithful men and women in the legacy of Union, but they want us to look at the faithfulness of God as seen through our institution. They want us to see God’s work here, God’s faithfulness that was in place before Union University existed.

The thing about stories and legacies is that they are forgotten when they are not frequently read or expressed. Inspired by this reflection on Union’s past, an event was born that is to be held at the beginning of every academic year. What did we call it? You guessed it… Lest We Forget.

During this new tradition, we practice, we remember and we set ourselves up to continue to remember what the Lord has done for us. The details of this tradition are for those who have the honor of ever being a Unionite, but the message is for everyone reading this post. When we look to Union, when we look to our past and look to our future, we see the hands of God pointing us to Christ. As members of this institution we join in Union’s legacy and in the greater story propelled by our Creator, and we tell it to the world. When we forget, as we are apt to do, we see the loving words of our Lord echoing, whispering through the men and women who came before us, saying “Lest We Forget.”

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Barefoots Joe: Refreshed

Barefoots Joe with some updates.

Over the summer, the team at Barefoots Joe gave everyone’s favorite coffee shop a little face-lift. Here’s what Joy Moore, director of Barefoots Joe, had to say about the updates:

“The Barefoots Leadership Team, along with the barista supervisors and director, painted Barefoots to offer a fresher, more modern feel. To accommodate more people (we often run out of seating and are asked to provide more tables), we added four new two-person tables, as well a new bar-height counter. Above the stage, we hung a wooden sign, and Katie Williams hand-illustrated our name in the corner. We replaced couch cushions, added a new light fixture, and removed the blinds. Student Levi Hartsfield built the tables, bar, and sign in collaboration with Joy Moore. The students involved are proud of their work, and their investment creates a deeper sense of ownership in the work of Barefoots to help shape community and culture on campus.”

The atmosphere, which was already wonderful and inviting, has improved with the changes. The couch areas are still great places to gather with friends, and the new tables are perfect for having one-on-one chats. If you haven’t already been by to check it out, maybe an iced coffee run is in order!

 

Students mingle in Barefoots Joe A student works on her computer in Barefoots Joe. The new wooden sign above the stage in Barefoots Joe Students mingle and hang out in Barefoots Joe. Matthew Marshall meets with a student in Barefoots Joe. A students studies in one of the study areas in Barefoots Joe Scones at Barefoots Joe, available on Thursdays. Students study and purchase coffee at Barefoots Joe

Convocation Service

It is a tradition that we open the academic year with Convocation, a more formal chapel service to mark the beginning of the semester. Faculty process in wearing their regalia, and the service is more ceremonial than an average chapel. We enjoy coming together as a university to commemorate the start of the year, and we were especially excited to hear from Dr. Dub Oliver at his first Convocation as president.

Please enjoy the photos from this event as well as the Convocation address delivered by Dr. Oliver.

Dr. Richard Addo waiting for the faculty processional. Dr. Van Neste waits for the faculty processional at Convocation Dr. Poe, faculty member of the year, prays during Convocation. Dr. Mathews leads the congregation in singing "How Great Thou Art" Dr. Jeanette Russ reads scripture. Faculty members sing Dr. Ben Mitchell introduces new staff and faculty Dr. Addo leads in the reading of the Apostle's Creed. Faculty and Staff members on the stage at convocation. Steven Aldridge reads scripture. Student body president, Jenaye White, addresses students at Convocation Chris Mathews leads the University Singers Musicians play at Convocation Dr. Dub Oliver delivers the convocation address

Convocation – August 22, 2014

“Liberty and Integrity”

Our convocation is a formal gathering. It is a time for reflection, for resolution. We are at the beginning of the academic year. This is a good moment to think about where we are, what we intend to do, and why we intend to do it.

Allow me to say a little about where we find ourselves as a Christian university (and as a community) in this 21st century that races along.

What is the purpose of a university education? At one time institutions would speak of their graduates as a Harvard man or a Vassar woman. To say that would mean that the experience of education at those places must impart some qualities to the students. In our context, what does it mean to be a Union man or woman? A Unionite? Some things we have said to you up front in bold letters. Excellence-Driven, Christ-Centered, People-Focused, Future-Directed. At Union, we have an overriding desire for you to be a Christian, to have an active, vibrant, ever growing and ever deepening relationship with Jesus.

We hope that you have professional goals, family goals, and other kinds of things you want to do, but more than that we hope you will see yourself as someone who is actively engaged in the work of the Kingdom of God. What else might we say? Two themes occur to me as I think about what it means to be educated here. They are liberty and integrity.

I think of liberty because learning has to do with freedom. We are citizens, not subjects of a throne. We participate in our own government because we are free. A free man or a free woman should also strive to be knowledgeable and articulate. I think about integrity because liberty does not simply stand alone. Liberty can mean just being free from restraints. And that is important. But liberty can also mean being free to pursue certain goals.

Liberty can walk hand in hand with integrity. We don’t choose the times in which we live. It happens that this is an especially important time for Christians when it comes to matters such as liberty and integrity. The social arena has shifted in ways that put conviction on a collision course with political passion. For example, the nature of marriage was long taken for granted, but now is hotly disputed. Our society thinks differently than it did even when President Obama himself declared in 2008 that marriage is between a man and a woman. It may now be the case that a majority disagrees with that point of view, including that same president. Those of us who uphold the authority of Scripture find ourselves increasingly in the minority.

Marriage is not the only ground of controversy. By issuing the HHS mandate regarding employer-provided contraceptives, the U.S. government extended its reach in ways that seemed to many to be more intrusive and commanding than had previously been the norm. One of the consequences of these developments is that Christians have had to become much more aware of the issue of religious liberty. Generally speaking, we haven’t worried too much about our constitutional freedom because we could take it for granted. The big court cases tended to involve religious minorities such as the Amish, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, and practitioners of Native American religions. But with the HHS mandate and other issues percolating through the courts, we have seen government action impinging directly upon matters of Christian concern.

Specifically, we see citizens compelled to participate in activities they do not wish to endorse and organizations required to pay for products and services they view as contrary to their faith and conscience. Religious liberty has suddenly become the kind of thing to which serious Christians must address themselves. I had the opportunity to participate in a small way in one of the controversies I have mentioned. In my role as the president of East Texas Baptist University, I fought against the HHS mandate because it threatened our exercise of conscience and religious liberty. Dr. Ben Mitchell, now serving as Union’s provost, went to Washington, D.C. to testify against the mandate for similar reasons.

I am glad to tell you that Baptists have not just recently developed an interest in religious liberty. Putting an emphasis upon liberty of faith and conscience is part of what Baptists have always done. Baptists have championed religious freedom for centuries. Baptists have fought for the right of individuals to participate or not participate in the church because of our belief that the body should be regenerate in nature.

What does it mean to be regenerate? To be regenerate is to be spiritually reborn. Baptists wanted people to freely decide to join the church and to become part of the community of faith. It is a choice that must not be coerced. And just as Baptists have emphasized the liberty of the individual with regard to religion, we have also argued for the independence of the church from the state and vice versa. The pastors of the church shouldn’t be civil servants. Nor should they be paid with taxes. And the state should not tell the church what to believe or try to marginalize the church’s voice or keep it from participating in the life of the community. There was a time when this view of things was pretty radical.

Our history gives a lot of credit to people like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison for emphasizing religious freedom. As we sit here in the chapel of a Baptist university, I am happy to make the case that we should be thanking generations of Baptists before Jefferson and Madison whose same opinion sometimes brought persecution. I know that professors Ben Mitchell and Jim Patterson could tell us more about that. And there are others, too, I am sure.

The interesting thing about religious freedom is that it works in a counterintuitive fashion. Many thought the church needed to be supported by tax money and granted a monopoly over the allegiances of citizens. The Europeans persisted in the state church model well after we largely gave it up. But all you have to do is to look at the state of the Christian churches in Europe relative to those in America to see which model helps the Gospel flourish. While we certainly face our challenges here, the church is far more vital where it has been a free church.

While Baptists pursued religious liberty for the believer and the unbeliever alike, they weren’t motivated by a desire just to be left alone. The freedom they wanted (and that we want) is a freedom “for” rather than a freedom “from.” This freedom “for” is a freedom for faithfulness. It is a freedom to believe and a freedom to live out those beliefs as long as they don’t threaten the basic peace and safety of the community.

As the debate over religious liberty has developed in the past few years, there have been those who would whittle down freedom of faith and conscience to a more modest freedom of worship. With this smaller freedom the church would be able to count on the government not monitoring church services or trying to mandate the rituals, the music, and the content of the sermon. That is not a small thing, but it is simply not enough. The freedom to live out one’s beliefs has to do with integrity.

To have integrity means to be honest and to be true to one’s principles. Another definition of the word really drives the point home. To have integrity is to be undivided. It is to be a whole rather than a collection of parts. “Freedom of worship” doesn’t take adequate account of the requirements of integrity.

If you want to know why various Christian organizations and businesses have drawn unwelcome attention to themselves by resisting government regulations, the answer goes back to integrity. Nobody really wants a big hassle with the federal government, especially with an enormous and powerful agency like the Department of Health and Human Services. We aren’t looking for a fight. If we have integrity, we don’t choose our conflicts in an opportunistic or calculating way. We resist when we think we have to do so. We resist out of the courage of our convictions, not on the convenience of our complaints. These moments are Acts 5:29 moments when we declare, like Peter and the other apostles, that we must obey God rather than men.

People who are involved with Christian higher education as faculty, as staff, as students, as parents of students…Almost all of these people over the years have heard a lot of discussion about integration. You could hardly have spent any time at a serious Christian college during the past two decades without hearing people talk about “the integration of faith and learning.” As you hear the word “integration” you might notice the similarity of it to the word we have been talking about. To have integrity is to be an undivided whole. To have integrity is to be integrated. This conversation about integration is very familiar to me.

During my years at Baylor, there was a lot of soul searching about the integration of faith and learning. There were some professors who resisted the idea, but there were many others who welcomed it. Some very fine academics, world class in their fields, came to Baylor because they were Christians and they liked the idea of fulfilling their vocations as teachers and scholars in a way that is undivided. They wanted to be whole instead of two halves. Our professors here at Union feel the same way.

But integration is not just for college professors. Nor is it just for faith and learning. I believe that every Christian is called to have an undivided life. While you are here at Union, I hope that you will have an experience that is undivided in nature. I want you to experience integration of faith and learning as you move across campus, as you sit with your professors, as you participate in student life activities, as you eat together in Cobo, as you study together in Barefoots or in the library. At no point should you feel that the things you do are disconnected from your faith and your core convictions. Your mind, your will, your body and the different uses to which you put them…they should all be submitted to the lordship of Jesus Christ in an undivided way.

This process of living in an undivided way is something that works best within a community. The Christian church is a community. Union University is a community. In strong and committed Christian communities, iron sharpens iron. People hold one another accountable. The stakes are high for us. We can no longer just rest easy in a nation that largely defers to Christian sensibilities. We cannot just live on autopilot. We have to choose our words and actions carefully. That has always been true, but it is much more obvious now.

We are looking at life and after life. We live among people with eternal destinies. We submit to the discipline of the Christian faith in the way we study and in the way we treat each other. We urge one another forward to press on to the prize. We support each other in trials. We pursue holiness together, both so we can be sanctified and so that we can spread the blessing of faith in Jesus Christ.

My hope for you as you embark upon the journey of this year is that your life becomes ever more integrated as a faithful follower of Christ. As you develop in this way, as we all develop in this way, you will find that it becomes difficult to be a cultural chameleon. There is a real cost to that. You may have to resist social tides and sometimes draw unwelcome attention even as you try to follow Christ in humility and love. But perhaps we can learn together to be the kind of witness who helps people to think about instead of just rejecting and dismissing what we have to say. Perhaps we can learn together how to avoid the easy “cheap grace” that Dietrich Bonhoeffer so earnestly rejected.

It is a good freedom that we seek for ourselves and for others. Let us defend it and make use of it while there is still day and we have the benefit of the light.

But in all cases, whether we have the blessings of freedom in partnership with our earthly citizenship or not, let us always be found faithful. Let us always be found undivided.

May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us.

- Dub Oliver

Dr. Dub Oliver delivers the Convocation address. Convocation audience sings Convocation audience sings Convocation audience sings Dr. Dub Oliver leaving Convocation

Video from Fall 2014 Convocation

University news release