A Response to Barnett’s Claim of Protestant Marginalization by VSG


Allison Mendoza

To the Editor:

Re “I’d like to join VSG, but I go to church on Wednesday nights” (Sept. 19):

Conflicts are a part of life. That’s why we prioritize. We decide what means the most to us and proceed to organize those things against each other. For some, it may mean prioritizing church over Vanderbilt Student Government and for others, it may be the opposite.

VSG holds Wednesday night meetings, which supposedly excludes Protestant Christians and prevents the representation of a Christian perspective. This had led to the accusation that VSG discourages a diverse community.

VSG meetings on Wednesday nights are not a “punishment”—as Barnett said—to Christians. It’s an unfortunate coincidence.  If bad timing were the basis for marginalization, we could all be claiming oppression. The part of our student body that practices Islam prays five times a day—we could argue that our class scheduling is not inclusive to all faiths. Our Jewish community had Rosh Hashanah this past week, and many students and faculty chose to skip classes Thursday morning. We all give up things we want for things we want more.

Frankly, it’s impossible for VSG to be deprived of a Christian point of view since it is so ingrained in American culture.

In regards to supporting a diverse community, we’ve had black, female presidents of VSG who, for the past two years, have served/are serving every student equally. I’d consider that to be promoting a diverse and progressive community. Does anyone really think VSG would turn someone away who wanted to make a difference at Vanderbilt because of his/her religion? Is religion even a question to be selected or filled out on a VSG application? Is Wednesday even a recognized sabbath? The answer to all of these questions is no. VSG accepts all who qualify. They don’t ask about religion, and there are no sources confirming that Wednesdays are a recognized Sabbath by the Protestant religion.

Frankly, it’s impossible for VSG to be deprived of a Christian point of view since it is so ingrained in American culture. Worldwide, Christianity is the majority religion. In the Middle East, Christians are targeted for their beliefs, but this is not the case in the United States, which was founded by Christians. People literally came to the Americas and established towns along the Atlantic shore so that they could practice whatever form of Christianity they wanted. In the Pledge of Allegiance, one of the lines is, “One nation, under god.” We have had 45 presidents, all of whom have practiced some denomination of Christianity. Additionally, some of the most polarizing issues in American politics have arguments largely based on what the Bible says. American culture, music, politics and citizens are influenced by Christianity every day.

Obviously there is always room for improvement, but as it stands, VSG is a diverse and inclusive program that does not marginalize specific religions.

Barnett also said that Wednesday night meetings are a form of oppression towards the Protestant community. She says, “They [Wednesday night meetings] are a barrier to involvement, a barrier to equal opportunity, and a barrier to having a voice…” The vast majority of Protestants in America are white. This racial demographic itself is a barrier to oppression. White people in general have better housing, better healthcare, better socioeconomic status, better diets, better protection by law—the list goes on. White people are so privileged that there’s an umbrella term for it, and they face comparatively far less inequality and marginalization in this country.

The truly oppressed are the black Americans who live in fear every day that they, or someone they love, will be impacted violently and wrongfully by institutional racism. The oppressed are the migrant workers who don’t qualify for health insurance but whose working and living environment creates a multitude of health issues. The oppressed are the those rendered vulnerable by war, money, and corruption—and become targets for labor, sex, and organ trafficking. The oppressed are those who cannot leave their country, either because they have been convinced there is no life worth living elsewhere or because they will die if they try.

Personally, I’ll go to church on Sunday and thank God that I am a (half) white, American, educated woman, and pray for those who were not as lucky.

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