The Official Student Newspaper of Calvin College Since 1907
September 21, 2007
Volume 102, Issue 4
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Op/Ed
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West Michigan ‘news’

“Just like salvation, this newspaper is free.”

With a tagline like that, who wouldn’t want to peruse the West Michigan Christian News? The newspaper is published monthly and distributed throughout the Grand Rapids area in restaurants, churches and Christian bookstores.

According to its website, newspaperforchristians.com, the West Michigan Christian offers a “Christ-centered, non-denominational” perspective. The print edition further explains that it is dedicated to “bringing focus to the 95 percent upon which all Christians agree, and defocusing the five percent over which we differ.”

Looking at an average issue though, it seems that these percentages are almost reversed.

While issues feature many fairly unremarkable articles, others have headlines ranging from simple (“Profanity”) to confusing (“Medved warns TV viewing regardless of content”), heartwarming (“Do you know how special you are?”) to downright offensive (“What are we to do about Islam?”).

Further examples include a tribute to Jerry Falwell; a feature supporting a new six-day creation museum and an article claiming sexual contact of any kind between teens is harmful, all of which are contentious to say the least. But even when the July issue features a Christian cross painted with an American flag, there’s something more shocking about this paper: it is sponsored, in part, by Calvin College.

At surface level, that doesn’t sound so bad. Why shouldn’t our school support a local Christian publication looking to offer belief-influenced opinions on the world today? It seems harmless enough.

However, this publication is bad news for Calvin in multiple ways. First, the countless typographical, grammatical and layout errors call the publication’s credibility into question at first glance, and by proxy, the choice to spend advertising dollars in it.

More importantly, its ideals work in such contrast with those of the Calvin community that their college sponsorship is baffling. Seemingly every department at Calvin could find articles which stand in opposition to what is taught.

Many students in science would shake their head at the claims of strict six-day creation or the equation of emergency contraceptive with abortion. Communications faculty would decry the claim that Christians should avoid all the current American pop culture as wrong (with the bizarre justification that it is bad for encouraging a “do something” disease).

Calvin sociologists could take issue with abstinence-only education as the best option, theology scholars that a Russia-Iran alliance is biblical prophecy, and literature students might just cringe at the writing.

With all these glaring worldview differences, it seems as though whoever determined that our school should be allocating funds for the West Michigan Christian has never actually read it. The Calvin community works hard to distinguish itself as a academically rigorous institution that is engaged in culture which cannot be represented in newspaper without those values.

This is not to say that the paper is entirely without merit — it just happens to go against much of what we are as an institution. Surely there are better places and Christian publications that Calvin could be devoting more support to, financially and otherwise. Sojourners and Books & Culture immediately come to mind, and there are doubtless more out there that sound like us, not the radical right we so often disagree with.

So, where do we go from here? It might be best to pull funding from the newspaper, to send the message that Calvin College and the West Michigan Christian really don’t mesh. But, as it’s extremely doubtful that this will happen, maybe next time we decide to support a publication financially we should read that publication first.

 
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