A Center for Faith and Cultural Engagement
Discipleship is not something that occurs in a vacuum, but rather in particular times and places. In order to faithfully follow Jesus, we must therefore interact with and seek to understand the cultural contexts in which we live.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus commands his disciples to be salt and light—to exercise an active presence sustaining, flavoring, and illuminating the world around them. Too often, though, Christian schools have become isolationist institutions concerned exclusively with sheltering their pupils from the philosophies and people of that world. While a certain degree of protection is appropriate, we believe that an overemphasis on withdrawal is neither conducive to the spiritual growth of students nor faithful to the calling of Christ.
In keeping with Christ’s challenge, the Veritas et Caritas Institute (VCI) promotes engagement with the wider world in three ways:
The VCI assists teachers and students in critically examining the most prominent cultural ideas and issues of our day in light of the truth of the Gospel. This takes place through occasional, large-scale events such as conferences, symposia and a speaker series, as well as through more frequent, smaller-scale items such as faculty workshops, discipline-specific teacher collaboration, curricular integration across disciplines, and the creation of new courses. In some cases, critical analysis will call for taking counter-cultural positions in which Christian truth speaks prophetically against various philosophies within the wider society. In other cases, it will lead to an affirmation of the commensurability of certain values with the Christian faith. And in still other cases, it will mean learning to express Christian charity when believers genuinely and thoughtfully disagree on the interpretation of Scripture and its application to cultural issues.
The second task of the VCI is to facilitate and encourage relationship with people beyond the walls of the school in the areas of missions, service, mercy, culture-making, and justice. Students are encouraged to look beyond themselves to the needs of others, and to live as ambassadors of the Kingdom of God. They will come to see that the results of their efforts will always be partial (since only God brings His work to completion), but that they are nonetheless called to serve as vessels of God’s transformative love for the world. The VCI crosses different sectors of the school to encourage synergy among already existing programs, such as GO! Thursday, the Justice League, and Practicum, as well as to encourage teachers in all disciplines to consider how they might include in their curricula opportunities for their students to live out their faith in the world.
Resourcing Christian Schools
The final aim of the VCI is to serve as a model and resource provider for other Christian K-12 schools. While a social conscience has been rediscovered at many flagship institutions of Evangelical Christian higher education in recent years, it has yet to trickle down to America’s secondary and primary schools. As the institute grows, the VCI will encourage this development by publishing course curricula, program handbooks, teacher-training materials, and other resources that schools can use to help students and their families live as thoughtful ambassadors of God’s Kingdom.