Approach opposition with humility and grace

A protest occurred at John Brown University’s annual Toilet Paper Game on Nov.  4. Organized by both student and staff, the protest resembled the kneeling movement which athletes have been holding during sporting events across the nation. The purpose of the protest was to raise awareness of the relevance of systemic racism in our culture as well as to take a figurative stand against the evils of it. Students, staff and faculty included a prayer dynamic, true to JBU form, seeking to glorify God in the execution of the protest. The full statement issued by the protest’s leadership can be found on Tumblr and Facebook.

This movement has been met with both student support and pushback. Much of the opposition emphasizes the importance of honoring the flag and the values it stands for. There was certainly enough pushback to generate some vocal opposition, possibly from veterans or citizens who desire true freedom.

On Nov. 3, Dr. Pollard organized a quick forum to begin the conversation on how JBU would respond to the protest and to convey some of his personal reflections on the matter. A major theme in Dr. Pollard’s talk was the necessity of JBU students, as well as Christians, to be willing to empathize with those possessing opposing viewpoints. Christians should, as Dr. Pollard eloquently illustrated, be willing to stand up for their informed beliefs. However, there must also be humility in our discussion and willingness to hear what the opposition has to say.

On a side note, I would like to commend the professionalism of both the College Republicans and College Democrats. Leadership on both sides has been thoughtful and respectful. I have friends in leadership in both parties, and they have had nothing but good things to say about the leadership of the other party. As polarized as our campus has been politically, it has been a breath of fresh air to hear words of encouragement.

Dr. Pollard proposed that JBU avoid making assumptions about the other side of the political spectrum. When a student began to publicly share his thoughts with Dr. Pollard about the motivations of the side opposing his views, the president politely reminded him to avoid making generalizations about people who may disagree with him. Before closing in a much-needed prayer, President Pollard made a statement that has been ringing in my ears since his forum: if Jesus was able to come down from His heavenly throne to be with us on Earth 2,000 years ago, then surely, we as believers should have the capacity to come down in a similar way to those we disagree with. These words resonated with me and has been something of a political and spiritual mantra I’ve held to since then.

In my opinion, Dr. Pollard handled the meeting with remarkable grace and brilliance. He spoke humbly, offered plenty of time for discussion, and made it clear that the students were his priority. I am very thankful to have him as our president.

As a music student, I was placed in a difficult position during the Toilet Paper game. I was honored to be a part of a small choir that performed the national anthem. I believe that kneeling respectfully in prayer is a crucial element in starting a campus-wide dialogue regarding race. Had I not been singing, I most likely would have participated in the protest. Regardless, as we sang our arrangement of the Star-Spangled Banner, I was reminded of Dr. Pollard’s words during the song. I remembered the importance of reaching out to my brothers and sisters in Christ. As I sang, I received a newfound appreciation for the flag and the country it stood for. I felt more patriotic than I had in a long time. Again, I found myself thankful for Dr. Pollard’s wise words, and the challenge he gave us to think outside of our conventional political mindset. I look forward to continuing dialogue on campus regarding race, politics, the flag, and Christianity.