When a Christian University Forgets Its Mission

Last weekend was as big as it gets for the Twin Cities. We hosted the Super Bowl, and by most accounts the myriad of events went off without a hitch. In the list of parties and programs surrounding the game was a concert held at rented facilities on the campus of Bethel University in St. Paul. What follows is my letter to the adminstration for its failure to protect the name of Christ and its students.

Office of the President
Bethel University
3900 Bethel Drive
St. Paul, MN 55112

February 5, 2018

President Barnes,

Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I write to you with a heavy heart and a measure of emotion. That Bethel University hosted an event headlined by Snoop Dogg raises serious questions about the capacity of the administration to execute the mission of Bethel University.

I have read Bethel’s Community Announcement (Jan 29, 2018) where the administration attempts to distance itself from the performers at the NFL’s Super Bowl Gospel Celebration, “Bethel does not get involved in the specific content of any events staged by rental groups, including this one.” The disclaimer appears in the same paragraph as “this year’s headline performer will be Snoop Dogg.” One can only assume the necessity to issue a statement is directly tied to the presence of Snoop Dogg.

Further, in the same announcement you openly encourage participation, even providing a hyperlink, when you inform the students, faculty, and staff “a limited number of tickets are still available through Ticketmaster if you would like to attend.”

In other words, “We can’t help it that the NFL picked Snoop Dogg to perform in our premier performance venue built by the generous and sacrificial donations of Christians worldwide, and we’re pretty sure he won’t drop any F-bombs, rap about female genitalia, or use the N word or the B word or the S word or any of those other bad words he uses. So, don’t go if you think you might be offended, but if you’re not offended by those words and if you think it’s really cool that a misogynistic, vulgar, pot smoking, ‘gangsta business’ kind of guy is droppin’ it on our campus, then here’s the link to snag some swag.”

It is disingenuous to ask your constituents to shrug their shoulders because Bethel does not offer oversight to the specific content of rental groups. You have a responsibility to promote the mission of Bethel University when renting to outside organizations. You have a responsibility to the alumni who continue to support the university to continue in the Christian tradition of the previous decades. You have a responsibility to the students to bring to the campus Christ-honoring entertainment. You have a responsibility to protect the female members of the community from the abusive ideology of Snoop Dogg’s music. Rightly, you would not allow the content of neo-Nazis or Planned Parenthood. What could you possibly have been thinking to give the NFL carte blanche approval for any performer they desired without any oversight from your administration?

Do I need to list the problems with Snoop Dogg performing at a Christian University? Did you cringe when you heard Snoop Dogg would perform? Did you attempt to stop the performance when you became aware of it? When Bethel University signed the rental agreement with the NFL, did your administration gain assurances that your expectations as a Christian University would be met?

Boldly informed and motivated by the Christian faith, Bethel University educates and energizes men and women for excellence in leadership, scholarship, and service. Because we are deeply committed to our mission as a religiously affiliated center for higher education, all rental guests must utilize the university’s facilities and conduct themselves in a manner consistent with Bethel’s mission and values.

For the last seventeen years I have served our church and the community of Inver Grove Heights. In my efforts to reach the community, I have become friends with many administrators, faculty, and staff at our local schools. Last Friday afternoon one of them said to me, “Yeah, Snoop Dogg is going to be at Bethel tonight and with the strippers tomorrow night!”

I was stunned and asked what he was talking about. This unsaved man informed me of what was happening on the Bethel campus. I stuttered in my response thinking his words could not possibly be true. Certainly, a high school student told him something social media had manufactured. I was wrong.

Friday night of Super Bowl weekend, Snoop Dogg performed something vaguely religious in the Benson Great Hall.

Saturday night of Super Bowl weekend, Snoop Dogg worked as the DJ for Playboy’s Big Game Weekend Party in Minneapolis.

I can only assume on campus venues were not available for Saturdaynight’s event since “Bethel does not get involved in the specific content of any events staged by rental groups.”

How is it that an unsaved man without the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit can see the problem with this, but the administration of Bethel University cannot? This unconverted man laughed when telling his Christian pastor friend that arguably the leading, evangelical Christian higher education institution in the Twin Cities hosted an event featuring Snoop Dogg. I suspect you set back the work of the gospel with this man and so many others farther than any of us know. May God have mercy on you and those who need the gospel.

The failure of Bethel’s administration to exercise righteous stewardship for the resources God has given the university requires a statement from your office and scrutiny from the Bethel University Board of Trustees.

Grace to you.

Rev. Dr. Michael VerWay
First Calvary Baptist Church
Inver Grove Heights, MN

As always I welcome your feedback and any ideas you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.