I am graduating, so this edition seemed like an opportune moment to reflect on the Gordon Review. It is remarkable to me how far this enterprise has come since its founding two years ago. I am certainly not the same person I was before it started.
During the second semester of my freshman year, I was looking for ways to get involved on campus. Entering college, I never thought of doing journalism. However, after being introduced to the Tartan, the political science major in me jumped all over the idea of traveling to cover an off-campus election event. I wrote my first piece by mimicking journalistic prose from online articles. It was a lot of fun, though I did not think much of journalism outside of my involvement with the school paper.
The year 2020, as we all know, was intensely political. During my time as an editor for the Tartan, I observed a growing illiberalism on college campuses and became increasingly wary of such climates emerging at Gordon. I would be lying if I denied that the Gordon Review was partly a reaction to some of the things I and many others were beginning to notice. But it was also a positive undertaking: we wanted to add more conservative voices to the campus conversation.
The announcement of a new on-campus publication was received with a fair amount of skepticism. Some people thought we were simply creating a right-wing ‘echo chamber,’ and many mocked its explicitly conservative vision. One faculty member said he was “disturbed” by the way it started. Others were wary that this endeavor would create division.
I was sensitive to many of these criticisms. I did not want our publication to be a rage machine, nor did I want its “conservatism” to be another vehicle to inflame political polarization. Looking back, we did make a few mistakes, but all of us were passionate about building something new.
Over 20 students came on board the publication from the start. Over time, we built and developed relationships with students, faculty, and staff; we wrote and solicited dozens of stories and opinions; we published four print editions, and pulled a few sleepless nights in the process. We aimed to promote biblically rooted ideas, stimulate conversation, and form a rich community of Christ-minded people.
The process of growing the Gordon Review happened at the same time as a lot of personal growth in my own approach to faith and politics. As the events of 2020 unfolded, my increasing disapproval and alarm over the rise of progressive identity politics corresponded with a growing uneasiness over some pockets of evangelical conservatism. I became disillusioned by the willingness among many in my own camp to disregard virtue and accountability for political expediency. Fear and anger were often the motivating force behind political action. And because the stakes were so high, I felt pressured to adopt a similar disposition to gain approval.
I have seen many of my peers respond to the state of evangelicalism by “deconstructing” their faith. I would not say this has been my experience (my convictions have only been strengthened while in college). However, I did undergo a reorientation. I can remember praying for God to give me “genuine” faith. I did not want my values to become so interwoven with the approval of a political tribe, nor did I want my faith to simply be politics with a Christian face. I desired to be truly animated by a deep love for Christ and for the Gospel to inform my approach to public life.
I expressed these thoughts to one of my professors. He responded with something that has stuck with me ever since. The most important concern for a Christian in politics, he explained, is faithfulness to God. All other concerns should stem from this priority. At its face, this was an incredibly simple observation. Of course, Christians should be faithful, I thought. But it hit me: do I truly know what this means?
I started to reflect on this question as I considered my efforts with the Gordon Review. While I was eager to promote conservative ideas because I believed they were consistent with my faith, I realized that this disposition was, to an extent, performative. God was convicting me to reflect on the reason why I was doing what I do. He was asking me to reflect on the heart of our publication.
Our vision for the Gordon Review expanded. As we continued to write and engage campus, it became increasingly evident that our mission was not solely about conservatism. While we were conservative in character, the things we cared about were intimately tied with the mission, history, and witness of the school.
Since this self-revelation, we have sought to be more intentional in running the publication. For example, editorially, we not only ask “is this good writing?”, but also “how will this serve Gordon?” We consider this line of questioning part of the “edification principle,” which has been key for our team. This comes from 1 Thessalonians, when Paul urges members of the early Church to “encourage one another and build up one another.” Our writing should not tear others down or needlessly seek controversy. It should encourage our peers toward what is good, beautiful, and true.
We have also discovered the importance of investing in the relational side of editing. It takes commitment to edit a piece that needs refining, to ask for different perspectives on important topics, and to work closely on magazine design. One dimension to this includes valuing people not for what they can bring, but for who they are as individuals. We are here to work in collaboration and friendship with each other. It is student voices, after all, that are being published. We believe it is fundamentally important to make each and every member feel included in a community—one with a shared heart for Gordon.
Last summer we reframed our mission statement. Instead of explicitly defining ourselves with political language, we chose to align more closely with the historic mission and values of the school. Our belief is that Gordon College rests on a firm foundation: one rooted in what is true about the human person, the nature of sin, and the redemption found only through Christ. Its witness to the North Shore area is vital, especially amidst a culture unmoored from objective moral values. We see a pressing need to ground our pursuit of education firmly upon this truth.
The mission of the Gordon Review, first and foremost, is to promote a genuine faith and love for Christ. I do hope that this will empower students to courageously keep the school accountable if the circumstances so demand. But even more than that, I hope our publication will constructively contribute to the spiritual and intellectual life of the Gordon community.
I was inordinately blessed to have the opportunity and the resources to start the Gordon Review. Looking back, being Editor-in-Chief has taught me countless lessons about leadership, writing, and friendship. It has also played an instrumental role in my development as a Christian understanding what it truly means, as St. Augustine said, to sojourn “as a stranger in this world.” My past two years with the Gordon Review have tested the genuineness and strength of my faith in truly unforeseen ways. It is an experience for which I am eternally grateful.
I hope and pray that the Gordon Review may be a blessing to both its readers and its community for years to come.
Categories: Student Life
As someone who is familiar with the details of the Gordon Review’s genesis, it is really disappointing to once again see a clever fabrication about the origins of the project. Liam, the reality of it is not what you told Gordon two years ago and it’s not what you claim in this article either.
You were the Opinions Editor of the Tartan in the Fall of 2020, but you failed to feature the conservative voices you claim were silenced at the time. Why didn’t you feature them in the section you oversaw if they were being silenced? Why didn’t you communicate your concerns and work to use the Tartan to accomplish your objectives?
You didn’t do the hard work of strengthening a 60-year-old college publication alongside those you disagreed with. No, you suddenly left after less than a semester and welcomed funding from a large right wing funded “free media” project known as the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI), creating your own anti-Tartan project.
The ISI says their newspapers “provide an outlet for students to keep university faculty and administrations honest.” To pretend that the Tartan was incapable of that is simply disingenuous. This article outlines the shift that the Review has undergone to more closely align with Gordon’s faith-based institutional values and objectives.
But that means that the Review does not strike at the heart of journalism’s spirit: questioning the status quo and investigating the behaviors of those in power. Rather, it is propped up by and caters to the opinions that the college holds.
I don’t doubt that you and everyone on the Review have worked hard in the past couple of years, but I’m afraid your work has become a voice that parrots the beliefs of those in authority. I have followed what you write, time and again hoping that it can be the voice of all students, not just a narrow sliver that hold beliefs in line with the ISI.
I make this comment chiefly so that others can understand the reality of this publication’s beginnings.
I trust that readers today develop their own opinions about this publication and I hope that they are informed and intrigued by the content the Review produces. Regardless, they should know that the Review is not an independent media organization funded by student fees, as the Tartan was, but rather a publication funded by an explicitly political and right-wing Washington-based group. Don’t believe me? Visit https://isi.org/students/campus-journalism/ to learn about the ideas behind it. Perks apparently include 1) receiving grant funding, 2) attending an annual editor’s conference, 3) having major stories picked up by national outlets, and 4) landing summer internships or yearlong fellowships at national media outlets. The ISI primarily receives its funding from politically conservative philanthropic groups like the DeVos Foundation, the Scaife Foundations, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation and the F.M. Kirby Foundation.
I’m sure much of the story about journalism on Gordon’s campus has been lost as classes graduate and new students come to campus, so I hope this can serve as a reminder.
I wish you the best in your future endeavors Liam. I may be disheartened by your decisions in starting the Review, but it does not undermine my respect for your integrity and ambition.