Make chapel a more religiously-inclusive space

By McKenzie Oviatt | Reporter

Chapel is a unique course that few college students have the chance to experience. For some Christian universities, such as Harding University and Biola, chapel is mandated every day during each semester of college. For Baylor, we are only required to attend two semesters of chapel throughout undergraduate. Since there are not as many opportunities to hear from different speakers, I think it is best to take full advantage of our time.

My freshman year, I felt overloaded from hearing messages about the Bible and Christian practices. I was enrolled in chapel and the prerequisite Christian scriptures course. In some of my classes, the professors started the class off with prayer and correlated much of their teachings back to the Bible. Now, this is beneficial to some degree. I appreciated that Baylor was sticking to their Christian roots; however, I think I needed to be challenged more. I wanted my beliefs to be questioned, not validated.

I remember feeling frustrated that I didn’t get to study the perspective of different Christian denominations or different religions. I believe school is meant to challenge beliefs rather than reinforce them. If students coming into Baylor are Christians, then that is great, and I am happy that they have made up their mind about their faith. However, I think more often young adults are still figuring out where they are in their faith journey, or they are questioning if faith is important in their daily lives.

Given where the mindset of most young adults are at, I think it would be better to leave it to Christian scriptures and Christian heritage classes for indoctrinating us on Christian texts. Leaving this doctrine in the classroom can help make chapel become more inclusive.

I think chapel should focus more on how everyone can unite their different religions, position in their faith and their personal growth. I would love for chapel to be more about how Christianity is similar to other religions and that questioning is OK.

A classroom setting can bring a concrete understanding of the history of the Bible. In the classroom, students can more readily distinguish between facts and emotions of religion. In chapel, the lines between logos and pathos becomes blurred with emotional worship sessions and moving speakers. Chapel calls for more sensitive and inclusive teachings.

Chapel coordinators do not want to waste the students’ time. Likewise, we do not want our time wasted such as assuming that every student has the same biblical knowledge. It would be a more efficient use of time to talk simply and explain thoroughly. Students come from all different backgrounds, home life and religions. It is such a difficult job to curate to everyone who attends chapel.

I think that the chapel coordinators genuinely try to give students a deeper meaning of their faith and have a life-giving relationship with God. They are open to change and try to accommodate what we look for in speakers. They ask notable speakers and musicians such as Ken Medema who comes to chapel every semester to perform a fun concert experience.

I especially think that the chapel coordinators are accommodating because they allow students to submit ideas and suggestions on who they would like to hear speak at chapel. If a student disagrees with the way things are run, they can offer their input. I think at the heart of chapel, it is a great place for students to worship and hear from others, however, I think it can be more inclusive to other faiths.

I really feel for students who come into chapel with differing beliefs and who might feel lost in the religiosity of the Baptist teachings. I want people to come to chapel feeling accepted and like their religion is understood. One way to change this is to recommend different speeches to the chapel directors. I think students would find it comforting to hear from speakers of different denominations and different religions to explain why they chose their particular faith.

It is important for Baylor students to understand other religions and for people to feel understood and welcomed here. Chapel is one aspect of Baylor that can unite others rather than ostracize people of different faiths.

McKenzie is a senior journalism news-editorial major from Orange County, Calif.