Food for Thought-Reflections on Prayer and Faith at Duke Chapel

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The notion that the predominately white, high church, southern, Protestant Christianity Duke Chapel is assumed to represent and was about to be overthrown by Sharia law imposing foreigners is both absurd and silly. I remember walking to class from what was then called the “R” lot. I passed a group of university employees waiting on the bus to take them toward the central campus. As I walked past the bus stop, I overheard a snippet of their conversation that I’ve never forgotten. A large guy, big white man who could have easily stomped me into the ground said, “You know all those faggots over at the divinity school are ripping the church apart.” I was about a quarter of a mile from the chapel and divinity school buildings. I had no idea who this guy or his friends were. I don’t know if they knew I was a divinity student or they were simply blowing off hate filled steam. There were days when it was hard to be a Christian divinity student at Duke. I had been raised in a United Methodist congregation 90 minutes west of Durham. I am from Trinity, North Carolina; the birthplace of Trinity College. I was in my first semester of divinity school. Yet, to this guy and people like him, I was a “faggot ripping the church apart”.

I can only imagine what it’s like for someone from Pakistan or Turkey who wants to come to Duke and study. I shudder at what they must go through when they realize the freedom to practice one’s faith is only truly guaranteed unless you are white, Protestant, and American. Therein is the irony. Many of these same people who also condemn any expression of Islamic practice on Duke’s campus don’t see true religion in the way Christianity is practiced at Duke Chapel or taught in the divinity school. We’re all wrong in Franklin Graham’s eyes.

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