The faculty mission of ACU articulates our desire to equip students to live “integrated, Christ-centered lives of service and leadership.” The mission outlines goals of seeing that students combine Christian faith, professional commitment, and knowledge into a worldview recognizing the connection of God’s universe. The goals are based on Christian values including God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the church, and the Bible. They also recognize each person as made in God’s very image. The university’s requirements for each syllabus, thus each course itself, includes specifying the course’s unique Christian perspective. Professors must explain how learning and Christian faith are integrated in the course.
For some courses, this integration is seamless and natural. For other courses, the content makes this integration more challenging. The integration of faith and learning looks different in each course and a one size fits all plan is not realistic.
Some courses include content that might be important in the students’ exposure to their field of study, but require specific guidance from professors in order to connect the Christian faith to the content. On its own, some content might even seem questionable or antagonistic to faith, but with the professionalism and Spirit-led guidance of professors, students are able to engage with challenging and difficult content in safe and hospitable environments.
The ACU Theatre department works hard integrating faith and learning in a field that does often have very difficult content. The directing class this past Spring directed scenes from musicals whose content included diversity, exclusion, acceptance of differences, difficult family dynamics, LGBT teen relationships, and suicide.
The faith integration into the theatre curriculum is intentional and ongoing, but before the scenes were performed, Adam Hester offered the following words to the audience of students, faculty, and other adults:
“I have asked the directors to truly exercise critical thinking as they try to make sense of our world – politically, emotionally, and spiritually. In the same way directors are to bring their casts along with their vision and the importance of the work they are doing, I am hoping that the directors will help us in the audience to make sense of their choices and to further the conversations inherent in these musicals. While there may be choices that could make some uncomfortable, we have all agreed that what we call “sledge hammer” theatre doesn’t promote conversation. Therefore, the directors have been sensitive in how they bring us along on their journey. As artists who are believers we have a responsibility to use our imaginations in our quest to understand who we are as human beings – until we find God at the center.
One of my heroes is John C. Stevens, the 8th president of ACU. He talks about academic freedom like this:
‘I hope that we can always be a liberal arts institution in the finest traditions of higher education. We shall expect to continue to explore, as fully as our talents, time and resources will permit, issues facing modern man. There are no subjects on this earth, or in outer space, or in the metaphysical realm, which we cannot study on the campus of a Christian institution of higher learning.’
So, I’m hoping today, that we will ALL be responsible as we explore these topics – some that will feel more uncomfortable than others. All of these plays are worthy to be done, in fact should be done, at a “Christian university.”
Thank you to Adam Hester and the Theatre Department for the intentional ways you carefully, meaningfully, and lovingly prepare students to combine Christian faith and professional commitments into a worldview that recognizes God in all things.
Amy Boone has an undergraduate Communications degree from ACU and a M.Ed. in Gifted Education from HSU. She currently works as the Teaching and Learning Specialist at ACU in the Adams Center for Teaching and Learning. She has taught students of all ages from preschoolers to graduate students. She is particularly interested in the intersection of faith and intelligence. She enjoys serving as a youth ministry volunteer for her church. She loves theater, the Texas Rangers, and reading. She and her husband, Grant, have three children.