RENJE: God and man at Clemson

Bill Renje

Bill Renje

“I believe that the duel between Christianity and atheism is the most important in the world,” God and Man at Yale: The Superstitions of “Academic Freedom” (1951) By: William F. Buckley Jr.

In 1951, William F. Buckley released a revolutionary book and launched a career as the father of modern conservatism. In it, he not only spotlights the move away of Ivy League schools, like his alma mater Yale, from their Christian roots to liberalism, he illustrates the open and growing hostility toward Christianity under the cover of academic freedom.

My purpose is not to debate the merits of conservative vs. liberalism (aka progressives), who is right, who is wrong. There are times when liberals have been right and conservatives have been wrong. The point here is that Buckley spotlighted the issue of 60 years ago, there’s been a forward, march by progressives where, despite holding the mantle of tolerance and freedom of expression, conservative viewpoints have been all but extinguished from our educational system.

Christians, in particular, have been more and more marginalized, suppressed and limited over the course of time from the “tolerance” crowd.

Enter the recent headlines last week where the Freedom From Religion Foundation (from Wisconsin) filed a formal complaint against the Clemson football program suggesting head coach Dabo Swinney leads the football program against the constitutional stipulations of the separation of church and state, The Greenville News reports.

Nevermind that no player, current or former, and no parent, current or former, has raised any issues with Swinney’s program. Nevermind that as Clemson chief public affairs officer Cathy Sams told The Greenville News when asked about the complaint. “No one is required to participate in any religious activities related to the football program. It’s purely voluntary. Religion and faith is a big part of Coach Swinney’s personal beliefs, but it is in no way required. There is no mandatory participation.”

As someone in sports ministry, I understand and respect what we can do, what we cannot do and when we can and cannot do it. I respect the constitution and the separation between church and state. I also believe in freedom and in giving students a choice whether or not to participate in studies and devotions that are, in essence, character-building opportunities for our young men and women.

In this day and age, with all the problems and temptations on high school and college campuses, we need more opportunities, not less, for our students to come voluntarily to develop core values like character, integrity, team work and service to others. Values to teach our young people to be successful not only on the playing field, but in the game of life.

What I’ve seen personally in South Metro Atlanta is lines between geography, race, ethnicity and income levels erased by sports ministry. I’ve seen young men and women develop character and have a safe place in campus ministry to come and weep in sharing their struggles.

I’ve seen the culture of teams and campuses changed for the better. I’ve seen coaches and teachers become father figures and mentors for students and athletes with that void in their life. I’ve seen solid relationships built between rival coaches who otherwise wouldn’t have a connection.

Ultimately I’ve seen young people better prepared for life because the commitment of coaches like Dabo Swinney who see the big picture and care about their players beyond their athletic ability and long after their playing careers end.

Tolerance and respect extend beyond only being tolerant of those whose belief system is similar to your own. We can, and should, learn from one another. Although we may never firmly agree with what others believe, we should never suppress those belief systems that are different, in particular when they are being expressed in a voluntary format.

Bill is on staff with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and a Deacon at Eagles Landing FBC in McDonough. He lives in Locust Grove with his wife Amy and their three children. You can follow Bill on Facebook, Twitter @billrenje and learn more about him at his website www.achosenbullet.com.