Argument 1: Andrew Rock- Against Mandatory Chapel
Most MC students are rankled by being forced to attend Chapel if they want to graduate. Many of us don’t like standing around waiting to scan out or listening to bad speakers during precious study time. These issues are real, but the problem with Chapel goes far deeper than annoyances. I hope to make a basic case against the fact that MC forces its students to attend.
The main issue with Chapel is not that it’s boring or annoying, it’s that it is mandatory. If you don’t go to chapel, you don’t graduate. This creates a problem simply because people don’t like being told what to do; it goes against what Robert Heinlein called “that streak of anarchy which was the birthright of every American.” Obviously, this argument could apply to any of MC’s rules, but it is a problem for Chapel in particular. This is because forcing people into things will alienate them. Not everyone at MC is a Christian, and being forced to attend worship can drive people away.
As “A Christian University,” we presumably have a duty to share Christ, not to drive students from Him. This means loving and serving others, not forcing them to listen to us! One must accept Jesus personally—He said that no one gets to the Father except through Him. But how has a relationship like this ever been built by force of power, whether that power comes from a sword or a grade book.
However, the deeper issue is compounded by the fact that the services are often poorly done. Not only is everyone forced to attend, but some of what people hear drives them away from Christianity. Many of our speakers are boring at best and enraging at worst. For example, following the Chapel session about homosexuality, there was a firestorm of controversy and some students felt the speaker had slandered them. All of this was done in the name of Christ. It is difficult to convert someone if they feel they are being attacked and stereotyped. Thus, one can see that requiring people to attend Chapel is a recipe for disaster, given that we force them to listen to divisive messages.
I have heard counterarguments to these points. Some argue that it makes sense for MC to require Chapel, as it can expose people to the Gospel and save at least some souls. While I understand that God can work through Chapel, think about what this argument implies. By saying that we have to force people to hear the Gospel, we assume that no one will share it with them otherwise! We assume that a person will go through four years of a Christian college without their fellow students mentioning Jesus. The answer to this problem is not to force people into Chapel, it’s to do our jobs as believers and share the good news.
If it is necessary to mandate Chapel, then we need to live like Christians. This will mean sharing Christ with our fellow students, even if it seems awkward or like there is never a good time. I struggle with this myself, but if we can get out of our comfort zones, we can be missionaries in our own classrooms. The more we do this; there will be no excuse for requiring chapel.
Mandatory Chapel is a problem in and of itself, simply because people don’t like being forced to do things. This issue is worsened by the fact that Chapel speakers can be anything from boring to enraging. All of this combines to alienate people from Christianity and make them less receptive to the Gospel. While it is well-intentioned, this policy needs to go, and it should be replaced by Christians living as the Bible commands and sharing Christ with those around them.
Argument 2: Hannah Richards- Pro-Mandatory Chapel
For the average undergraduate student at Mississippi College, Tuesday morning holds a special sort of frustration. Throughout four semesters, every enrolled student is required to attend chapel once a week on Tuesday from 10:50 to 11:40 a.m. For some, this is simply a mental break from the stressors of college. Unfortunately, for many others, this time is considered a total waste—time that they could be using to do other, much more productive things. Even as someone who is in favor of the required chapel, I easily see both sides of the equation.
What I also do see is all the good that this required chapel has done for campus. During this fall semester, Dr. Pratt and the rest of the faculty and staff in the Office of Christian Development have striven to bring in speakers to deal with important, radical issues. Many would say they have succeeded. Several months ago there was a rather controversial chapel that occurred dealing with the male perspective on homosexuality. The speaker’s opinion aside, the chapel was a constant topic of conversation for students who were present and even those who were not. This is exactly the purpose of chapel. It stretches us far beyond the hour we sit inside First Baptist of Clinton. The goal is to teach and to educate, as well as to spark discussions on campus that extend far beyond Tuesday morning.
However, if some students still dislike the policies of chapel, they should be grateful that MC has chosen to have chapel only once a week instead of three times a week or every day of the school week as does some other schools. As a student at a Christian school, a school both endorsed and funded by the Southern Baptist Convention, the standard for chapel and Biblical education was set far before you moved into your dorm. As an adult, you were made aware of the expectations set forth by the administration, and chapel attendance was one of those standards. MC wants for the chapel experience to be as educational and interactive as possible, but even if you don’t take advantage of that, the expectation for attendance does not decrease.
People so often forget that Mississippi College has a once-a-week stage to literally say whatever they want, and they have made the conscious decision to bring in speakers who will spark conversations on campus. Every chapel and every speaker brought to campus is an invitation for students. MC is inviting them to interact with the material, both in and out of chapel. Many of the speakers this semester have also held follow up sessions. In addition, many of these speakers come truly wanting to connect with the college students they are speaking to.
Instead of being resentful for the hour per week taken from their schedules, students should be grateful they attend a school where so many resources are so easily available to them and realize that our school is private; therefore the requirement of Chapel is completely understandable and expected.