On a gray February day earlier this year, I was walking toward Union Station, in a rush to catch a train so that I could make my appointment on time, my mind focused on all the things I had to finish when I returned to the office. I’m a fast and focused walker by nature; being in a hurry on a cold day with a lot on my mind only makes me more so. That, combined with the fact that I almost always listen to music or a podcast when I walk alone during the day, usually makes it difficult for anything but car horns or police sirens to catch my attention.
But that day, I heard a sound I hadn’t heard for a while because of the winter weather: a bird chirping. I paused, pulled my headphones out of my ears, and looked up. There, nestled among bare branches, was a beautiful, bright red cardinal. As I took a moment to observe him, he sang a few more bars, looked at me, and then flew off – a vivid red against a gray sky.
The memory of that moment has stuck with me over these last few months, partly because cardinals were my grandmother’s favorite birds, and partly because of how notable it was that I heard that birdsong over all of the other distractions and noises around me that day. Amidst the noise of the traffic along the busy street, the sound of my own music in my headphones, and the chaos of my own thoughts about my long to-do list at work, that cardinal’s song was a soothing sound in a busy moment.
In a lot of ways, that’s how I’ve thought about this issue as we’ve put it together. That might seem odd if you've looked at the table of contents. True, we have articles that highlight unique and important research CCCU students and faculty are doing, including justice-related research projects conducted by recent CCCU alumni. These projects provide a concrete example of how Christians, especially millennials, can stay involved in the political process despite their disillusionment from the 2016 election ("Staying Engaged in Politics"). We also have an article that highlights a scientific research project that not only involves multiple departments (including business, computer science, and English), but also multiple CCCU campuses from across the country in studying wildlife on the Pacific Crest Trail ("How a Hike in the Wilderness is Making Waves").
But a large portion of our features cover topics that are multi-layered, difficult, even painful, such as a fascinating and important discussion on shame and its effect on community life ("Shining Light on Shame"); an examination of why the leaders of the CCCU believe that a legislative effort called Fairness For All may be a way forward in the ongoing debate over religious freedom and LGBTQ rights ("Fairness for All" and "Religious Freedom, Civil Rights, and Sexuality"); the second in a series of articles examining how white faculty and leaders at CCCU institutions can promote racial diversity and inclusion on their campuses, including the often painful examination of the effects of race and privilege on their own lives ("Moving Forward Together"); and a message given by Wesley Hill on the importance of intertwining the theology of compassion with the theology of marriage as we minister to LGBTQ students ("A Necessary Pairing").
Yet each of these articles is written by authors who are passionate about their love and service to Jesus Christ and are committed to the growth and development of Christian higher education because they recognize its value – not just to students and their families, but to the cities and states where they are located, and indeed to the nation and the world. The topics they discuss are hard, and we know not everyone will agree with everything presented in this issue. But the writers’ commitment to the Gospel and their thoughtfulness as they tackle these topics provide a way for us to continue these conversations in a manner that reflects the grace, compassion, strength, and truth of our Savior’s Gospel message. And in a world that seems to be filled with nothing but harsh discord and angry division, that is as sweet as birdsong.
Morgan C. Feddes is the CCCU's communications specialist and managing editor of Advance and eAdvance. She is an alumna of Whitworth University (Spokane, Wash.) and of BestSemester’s Los Angeles Film Studies Program.