The Specht Pages: Back to Our Roots

Do you long for Lawrence to return to its founding ideals? Do you crave for the principles that were upheld by the first several generations of Lawrentians? Hello and welcome to Specht Pages, the true and supreme voice of Lawrence University. In this celebratory 45th issue, we will discuss how Lawrence has evolved and how we can bring it back to its Methodist roots. So sit back, relax and get ready for a nasty bout of culture shock.

At the beginning of Charles Breunig’s book on the history of Lawrence University, he stated: “Without a sense of the past, a college will have difficulty defining its present identity and shaping its future” and as we all know from our scholarly study of our future Alma Mater’s history, Lawrence’s founders had certain principles in mind while laying the groundwork of our humble, world-class institution. Among these was the importance of education being co-educational, liberal and Christian. One of the men central to the development and creation of the university said this of Christian education; “Here is the battleground… The hosts of Satan are marching upon us in three distinct divisions- the Papal, the Rational, and the Sensual. Who will furnish the munitions of war for the conflict? The majestic West must be educated. If Christianity does not [educate] with her literary institutions, Infidelity will.” And oh boy, did we prove him right!

While Lawrence was still holding fast to these principles, life here was much different! Imagine dormitories that were single-sexed, where there weren’t guys walking around half-clothed and drunk on all-girls floors. Imagine curriculum where you could take classes in “Evidences of Christianity.”Imagine a Lawrence where “Hebrew is taught every other year… in order that those preparing for the ministry may have a knowledge of that language before entering the theological seminary.” That was how Lawrence was intended to be!

However, over the course of the 1900s, Lawrence became less and less beholden to these principles, culminating in Lawrence being dropped by the United Methodist Church’s list of affiliated colleges in 1982, much to the horror of the student body. And today, in much defiance to our honorable founding fathers such as Amos Lawrence and Reverend William Harkness Sampson, rather than teaching Lawrentians about theology, we instead have “religious studies” which seems bound and determined to turn us relentlessly and passionately pluralist. Additionally, we haven’t had a president who is a Doctor of Divinity in decades, we have finals, recitals and other obligations on Sunday during conventional church hours and we haven’t even had a university-sponsored religious service in our chapel in years (besides the bland baccalaureate services).

If we were to return to the beautiful roots of Lawrence, we may want to consider these words from the 1893 edition of The Ariel (which is the yearbook that ceased being distributed in 2010 and being printed in 2011 with the last edition in storage somewhere still awaiting distribution, but that’s another story): “A Christian education, or an education permeated and guided by Christian truth and Christian spirit, was unquestionably the design of the projectors of the institution… that an all-round education involved the moral character as well as the intellect, and that the development of such a character was best secured under the fostering influences of Christian teachings and lives.” By now, you’re probably asking how we could put these principals into action today. Well, I’m glad you asked! We can have weekly, mandatory convocations featuring exposition on Christian ethics, doctrine and the life and teaching of Jesus Christ. We can offer (read: require) classes such as Christian Life and Ethics, Survey of Bible Doctrine and Apologetics. We could begin our classes, meals, exams and major events with public prayer and cancel class on May 1 for the National Day of Prayer. And we could encourage students to develop into agents of morality instead of affirming the illogical and self-destructive notion that morality is relative.

There you have it: a shocking truth of what Lawrence was, is and could be.

“You heard it first from Specht Pages!”