Monday, May 14, 2012
Pietas and a Christian University
Missouri sorta owns (well, owned) Valparaiso University. There is the big story of the businessmen who rescued the school and reshaped it into one of the finest Lutheran institutions of higher learning in the world. That is what it was. It is still probably considered a great school but I can hardly call it Lutheran anymore. It nods to the heritage called Lutheran but the seats in the huge chapel sit empty most days and the center of the university is not faith -- at least not a faith recognizable to the giants who once roamed there. I think of the glory days of O. P Kretzmann and of the vibrant and vivid picture of a university in which the chapel cast the largest shadow over the campus, its students and its curriculum.
Missouri is a favorite whipping boy of many currently on campus (even some who call Missouri home). There are those who love to pick and prod at the LCMS as if it were a joke. In reality, Valpo has become a Lutheran joke which is not funny at all and so very sad, indeed. The current President is ELCA, they have an ELCA chaplainette (as well as a Missouri guy) and nobody mines the Missouri connection except to get money from aging donors who have in mind the glory days of this institution and its proud churchly character and connection.
So it was with great comfort I read Gilbert Meilaender's reminiscence of growing up Missouri on the pages of the Cresset. Meilaender looms large in the field of those seriously Lutheran, concerned with serious ethics, and, yet, curiously alone among the faculty as a Missourian who does not trash his parentage. Gilbert Meilaender is the Phyllis and Richard Duesenberg Professor of Christian Ethics at Valparaiso University and a prolific and winsome author and speaker who has the ability to make ethics actually interesting and exciting. I wish we had more like Meilaender at Valpo. I wish the seats in the chapel were full regularly. I wish Lutheranism were front and center, without apology, in this once great institution. Well, I wish for a lot of things... You read his article and tell me it is not moving...