Walking around the University of Missouri – St. Louis South campus the signs of faith that once filled the buildings is hidden in plain sight. Whether one looks straight ahead, walks with downcast eyes, or looks up to the heavens there are ever-present symbols of faith in God. And yet, God is largely absent from public universities with the exception of clubs and religious studies classes.
The evidence of the absence is not hidden. It is visible in mass shootings on campuses across the nation, sexual assaults, and deaths from hazing, drugs, and alcohol. It is seen in the decreased funding to universities, the increased tuitions, and the absence of many faculty members from campuses. When we were sleeping, or maybe when we were too occupied with endless war to notice, the elected officials stopped supporting students, faculties, and infrastructures and quietly pushed the higher education system away from developing well-rounded adults ready to make society better. The higher calling is now graduate’s earnings.
It was once said that when we teach we reflect the condition of our souls. Does the lack of governmental support for higher education and the push to measure success by earnings reflect the condition of our National soul? We should be asking how it will impact generations to come? When teaching, ministry, the Peace Corps, Doctors without Boarders, and all manner of social service by graduates drive down the ratings of a university we are loudly proclaiming wealth as our measure of success and ignoring the dangers of focusing solely on financial gain.
And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. KJV Matthew 19:24
Is God hidden on our campuses or is God hiding from us? Maybe we should ask ourselves if our hearts and our faith are as empty as the grotto.
I hope the day will come when we do not hide God behind locked doors nor deny access to sacred spaces and by so doing proclaim that the spiritual lives of students are secondary. Sadly, it isn’t just public schools that lock the doors, private schools do the same. These are two of the most beautiful chapels I have ever seen and yet both are locked. One is public and the other a private Catholic university. No student can go in during the day to pray, or meditate, or sit in silence. Our souls are reflected not only in what we teach, but what we hide.