Baylor moves toward interfaith inclusive culture

Rewon Shimray | Cartoonist

While Baylor is affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas, the university has provided programs and events to include other faith communities. However, there is always more that Baylor can do to promote religious inclusivity within the Christian college culture at Baylor.

Baylor’s commitment to diversity and inclusion states that the institution seeks “to embody Christ’s teachings of love and inclusivity across boundaries of racial, ethnic, gender, socio-economic, religious and other expressions of human difference.” This commitment expresses a desire for not merely toleration, but reconciliation.

The Campus Diversity Committee works alongside the Office of the President to promote policies and programs that embrace diversity on campus. The cooperation of the Office of the President and existence of such a group show intentionality of the leadership in Baylor.

Better Together, an on-campus interfaith group, helps facilitate inclusive spiritual conversations. The organization hosts Neighbor Nights, which act as arenas for cultural exchange. These conversations have no ulterior evangelistic agenda, but rather seek to increase mutual understanding.

Baylor Spiritual Life also supports people from other faiths through events like “Sacred Prayers, Holy Remembrance” in which students were encouraged to memorialize and pray for the Jewish Tree of Life Synagogue community in Pittsburgh following the shooting in November. Having these events shows a commitment to care for others regardless of their religious association.

For all students, the Bobo Spiritual Life Center provides a homey place with free coffee. It is an open space for people to ask questions and pray in the chapel. Other non-religious affiliated universities have similar areas. Best Counseling Schools identified 50 of the best campus religious or meditation areas. Similar to the Bobo, none of these areas is restricted to specific beliefs. Having a welcoming, religious space for everyone is especially exemplary to have on a Baptist-affiliated university.

Chartered religious organizations include Anglican Student Ministries, Catholic Student Association and Lutherans Doing Life Together. While the inclusion of these denominations is a step in the right direction, there are still more religious groups yet to recognized. According to Baylor Institutional Research and Testing, 26.2 percent of undergraduate students of fall 2018 are Baptist-affiliated. A reported 129 Hindus, 109 Muslims and 559 nonreligious students are without a Baylor-approved religious student organization to meet with and feel welcomed by.

Better Together and Spiritual Life events could further welcome people of different faiths by providing meals that accommodate their dietary restrictions. Aramark provides vegan and gluten-free options. Having kosher and halal meal options would be a helpful addition.

Baylor has clearly made intentional efforts to include people of other faiths. Underlying Baylor’s Pro Futuris vision to become a tier-one research university is a need to welcome all students to broaden scholarship and bring in the best thinkers. Growing in religious inclusivity helps us grow as not only a loving Christian community, but also a research institution.