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Why is popular culture engaged at Messiah College?
We believe engaging popular culture falls under the larger College-Wide Educational Objectives, which state
By raising the right questions, encouraging critical thinking, exposing students to multiple perspectives and helping them to process these perspectives from a Christian world view, Messiah seeks to enable students to respond with maturity to the world’s complexities. In addition to nurturing these intellectual skills, the College encourages its students to apply their knowledge to the needs of the world – as servants, as leaders, as agents of reconciliation.
Spiderman 2In line with these objectives, the popular culture programming will ask tough questions, represent different viewpoints, and contribute to the development of critical thinking skills. In short, Messiah College is actively engaged in popular culture as part of our educational mission, and to ensure that our students will be successful in their roles as servants, leaders, and reconcilers.

What does the College mean by an active engagement of popular culture?
It is the College’s objective that through this educational approach, students will learn to use wisdom in their choices concerning music, films, and other forms of popular culture. To this end, Messiah provides opportunities for students to develop and apply tools of discernment to popular media. Through alternate chapels, conversations with artists, music discussions, speakers, and other intentional programming, the College’s ultimate desire is to equip students to engage popular culture both intellectually, artistically, and spiritually, and to articulate the importance of participation and responsible engagement of popular culture as we impact our world for Christ.

Super Size MeRecent examples include …
  • Members of the band Nickel Creek met with students for a question and answer session about their music before their on-campus performance on March 27, 2004. Among other topics, they discussed how as bluegrass musicians they are influenced by various styles of music from classical to alternative rock. The band members also demonstrated these styles by playing portions of songs for the students.
  • Before the Bob Dylan concert on Nov. 7, 2004, author Scott Marshall participated in an alternate chapel. Marshall, who wrote “Restless Pilgrim: The Spiritual Journey of Bob Dylan,” spoke to students about Bob Dylan’s spiritual life, including details about his conversion to Christianity in 1979.
  • Before each weekend film, the Student Activities Board prepares a PowerPoint slideshow that includes questions about the artistic quality and the subject matter of the film to generate thinking and discussion among the students.
  • On March 1 and 2, 2005, author David Dark visited campus to speak to several campus groups about a mature Christian engagement with popular culture. Dark wrote “Everyday Apocalypse: The Sacred Revealed in Radiohead, The Simpsons, and Other Pop Culture Icons.”
What does the College mean by a responsible engagement of popular culture?
For any artist or group performing on campus, the College considers the artistic merit of the performers as well as their cultural significance. Also taken into consideration is the truth an artist communicates through his or her work, and this could be spiritual truth or truth related to ideas of love, peace and justice. Finally, the College also considers the appropriateness of the group or artist invited to campus – particularly with respect to the audience and venue in which they will be performing.

The College also offers students the chance to participate in the Pop Culture Institute. The College’s Director of Larsen Student Union and Campus Activities facilitates a six to eight week small group study for students interested in learning more about this topic. For more information, contact Jeff Rioux.

How does Student Activities Board select the performers it invites to campus?
As its name suggests, the Student Activities Board (SAB) plans on-campus activities for students, including concerts, films and dances.

Before the SAB considers a performer, the student suggesting a particular performer is asked to fill out a “Band Recommendation Form.” This form asks specific questions related to artistic merit, cultural significance, truth communicated and utility/appropriateness of the performer. The form asks:

Artistic merit
Do critics appreciate this band? What do critics say about them? Are they played on the radio? Have they received awards or other forms of recognition?
List (or attach) articles reviewing either their live performance or their releases.

Cultural Significance
Why should Messiah College host this band?

Truth Communicated
How does this band’s music communicate truth?

How does this band help SAB fulfill its mission? Are there any potential issues (lyrics, lifestyle, between song banter) that may overshadow the good reasons to invite them? Have you heard this band live? (If available, include a CD or tape of a live performance)

After SAB receives this completed form, the student members, along with the Director of the Larsen Student Union and Campus Activities, decide which performers to invite to campus.

Other College departments and programs that invite performers to campus use similar educational criteria.

Ollabelle, an American roots band, performed at the College in February 2005.
Why would Messiah College want to invite secular performers to campus?
Messiah College welcomes exposure to a variety of intellectual perspectives and artistic expressions while maintaining the belief that those expressions be evaluated from a Christian world view. As a result, student organizations may invite artists and performers to campus who promote intellectual, emotional, or spiritual growth—as long as the opportunity for constructive dialogue exists.

Both Christian and secular performers are selected for their ability to stimulate constructive thought, communicate, deepen understanding, and sharpen critical judgment in ways that will help achieve our mission of maturing young people in their intellect, character and Christian faith. When they leave Messiah, students need to know how to interact with their culture, what to do when they're faced with issues they disagree with, and how to be salt and light in a complex world that won't necessarily reflect their own Christian world view.

Out of Eden
R&B group Out of Eden performed at Messiah College in February 2001.
Shouldn’t the College instead be supporting Christian artists?
Messiah has a strong tradition of bringing many excellent Christian artists to perform on campus including in recent years – John Reuben, Out of Eden, Bebo Norman, Audio Adrenaline and Caedmon’s Call, as well as Sara Groves. SAB’s and Messiah College’s approach is that the artists invited to campus do not need to be “either or,” and that students can learn from both Christian and secular artists.

How does Messiah College select the films that are shown on campus?
A College student organization that wants to show a film on campus must have the film approved by the Director of the Larsen Student Union and Campus Activities. Approval is generally given to films that foster intellectual, emotional, or spiritual growth or provide entertainment. In addition, films should be in harmony with the College’s rules and standards.

I, RobotThe values, perspective, and lifestyle portrayed in a film as well as the film’s rating will also be taken into consideration when giving approval to a film. Films with an NC-17 or X rating will not be shown on campus. In general, films with excessive gratuitous violence and films with questionable content including profanity, obscene language, nudity, and sexually exploitative material will also not be shown on campus.

Rare exceptions to these guidelines may occur if a film has redeeming social value and if intentional programming provides a well defined educational context and encourages discussion of the issues. Occasionally, an organization may choose to show an edited version of a film.

Additional information on the film policy for student organizations is available through the Student Programs Office.

What is Messiah College’s dance policy?
For a number of years, the College has sponsored student dances on- and off-campus, but these events are carefully planned and must be approved by the Director of the Larsen Student Union and Campus Activities. The College limits the number of dances per semester to five, requires that they occur on a Friday or Saturday, and allows only Messiah students and their guests attend.

The College permits outdoor dances if students comply with all relevant local noise ordinances. Off-campus dances are also allowed, but the College’s rules and standards still apply, and the location must be approved by the Director of the Larsen Student Union and Campus Activities. Music – whether provided by a deejay or by a live band – is approved based on the performer’s past performances, professionalism and ability to provide music that supports the College’s rules and standards.

Dances are sponsored by College organizations and/or departments. The students organizing the dance are responsible for enforcing the rules and standards of the College and have permission to ask people to leave the dance, if necessary. At least one Messiah College staff member serves as the dance advisor and is there to respond to emergencies and to support the student leaders at the dance.

“Today” news anchor Ann Curry spoke at Messiah College in April 2001.
“Today” news anchor Ann Curry spoke at Messiah College in April 2001.
How does Messiah College select speakers who give lectures or presentations on campus?
As a Christian college, Messiah College is committed to the concept of liberal learning. As previously expressed, we welcome exposure to a variety of intellectual perspectives and artistic expressions while retaining the belief that these perspectives and expressions must be evaluated from a Christian worldview. Therefore, College organizations or departments may invite speakers to campus who can foster intellectual, emotional, or spiritual growth. All reasonable points of view may be presented as long as the opportunity for dialogue exists. While the cultural and educational values of programs are important in determining their appropriateness for campus presentation, the College recognizes the legitimate need for entertainment and leisure time in campus life. When taken together, we try to ensure that the speakers invited to campus will offer a balanced and well-constructed series of events and programs.

Student organizations that want to sponsor speakers on campus must first get approval from the organization’s advisor and the Student Programs Office. Students are told to select speakers for their ability to provide information, stimulate constructive thought, communicate, deepen understanding, sharpen critical judgment, and encourage creative productivity in ways that are consistent with the goals of the College and of the sponsoring organization. Programs should be selected in a way to both challenge and nurture a dynamic Christian learning community.

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