Every year, I get multiple emails from ACU’s leadership letting us all know the school’s placement and rankings in various categories. They are normally innocuous enough, but I believe this latest one reveals something seriously wrong with ACU’s mindset.
The opening line claimed “We’re the best. Again.” The email championed the fact that ACU is the only school to be listed in “the top ten of any category” three times. It then goes on to compare our rankings with other schools, such as UT, Baylor and others. The question is: Since when should Christ-followers care about being the best, especially to the detriment of other schools?
What is our mission, exactly? ACU says it is to “educate students for Christian service and leadership throughout the world.” Is this found anywhere in the email? Upon examination, the only mention of “Christ” is in an offhand comment about Church of Christ schools (which, ironically, is mentioned in the context of rankings). Our motto used to be “exceptional, innovative, real.”
Christians are indeed to be exceptional; however, this exception is qualitative, not quantitative. This does not mean “statistically better than others.” We are rather to be the exception. Exception from what? Answer: standards of excellence as defined by the world.
ACU is to be exceptional in that everything we do and say has its source in Jesus Christ and him crucified. We have since changed our motto; the problem is that while we have changed the words, the sentiment is the same. If we are measuring success as being counted better academically than other schools, then this low bar is quite simply antithetical to the gospel of Christ.
I am all for being proud of one’s accomplishments. And it is always good to recognize good teaching and learning. But when this devolves into self-gratifying exceptionalism, our priorities are certainly skewed.
This grandiose self-presentation is anything but “the foolishness of the cross.” One should hope that a self-proclaimed Christian school would be wary of touting themselves in the street corners. If we are not careful, then we will ultimately receive the empty reward we are looking for.
To end, I will let St. Paul have the last word here: “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness… For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Luke Roberts is a graduate student in the master’s of divinity program.