What happened when an evangelical university created a scholarship named after George Floyd

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On August 3, 2020, Bethel University, a Christian school in St. Paul, Minnesota, announced the George Floyd Scholarship.

The scholarship, named after the Black man killed by police during a May 2020 arrest in Minneapolis, is open to “incoming African American and Black students in all Bethel’s schools.” The scholarship was established “to invest in the future of diverse leaders.”

Bethel president Ross Allen, who attended Floyd’s memorial service in Minneapolis, wrote: “The deaths of George Floyd, Philando Castille, and so many others are evidence of the pain and persistence of racism…as followers of Christ, we are called to seek Jesus by seeking justice–and we will do so imperfectly yet consistently, until the inherent worth of all people is respected, cherished, and protected.”

Over at the the Clarion, the Bethel student newspaper, Emma Harville reports that the response to the George Floyd Scholarship has been mixed.  Here is a taste of her article:

Bethel University received support, but mostly criticism, from alumni and community members on social media following its Monday announcement of a George Floyd Memorial Scholarship for incoming African-American and Black students. 

Most comments criticized Floyd’s criminal history, claiming Floyd was a drug addict, felon and “not a man to look up to.” A couple even questioned why white students could not apply for the scholarship, too. 

“Shame on you Bethel…The Lord is removing His hand from you!” Bethel alum Linda Koblish wrote under Bethel’s Facebook post announcing the scholarship. 

Bethel junior S.I. Washington said he and a couple of his Black friends from Bethel met over FaceTime after they found out about the negative comments circulating Twitter and Facebook. To them, Floyd’s death was something that “brought all of us together.” 

“They’re so focused on [Floyd’s] life,” Washington said. “But his death meant everything to us. Yes, his life wasn’t amazing. But his death was everything.” 

Read the rest here.

The announcement at the Bethel University Facebook page currently has 66 comments. I think it’s fair to say that this a pretty good cross-section of how evangelicals are thinking about race in the wake of Floyd’s death.

Here are a few of those comments:

–As an alum, I am also looking forward to the ways that Bethel will announce how it will not just get black students through the door, but will fundamentally care for those student while they are there by making major policy, theological and environmental shifts by committing and ensuring students thrive by being protected, supported, centered, seen, and listened to – moving beyond perforative actions and into true repentance and transformation.

–I’m proud of Bethel’s actions in creating this scholarship in the name of George Floyd. As many have also expressed, I’d be interested and excited to hear more about additional and forthcoming anti-racism measures–especially those that focus on supporting BIPOC students throughout the years they attend. #BLM

–This is an amazing first step. As Christians it is our job to stand up and fight for those who are marginalized, serve them , love them, walk beside them the way Jesus did. This scholarship opens a door and I hope that bethel continues to do so in supporting our students of color during their time there too !

–As a Converge pastor, I find this to be virtue signaling and pandering and I can’t in good conscience recommend a school that is going to do this. I could support a scholarship, but it should not be named after a career criminal who was high, passing counterfeit money, and resisting arrest when he died. What I could support was something that would actually help our black brothers and sisters. Like addressing broken families, doing something to help with money management, sponsoring a charter school in at risk communities to give better education options (maybe connecting that with a scholarship), doing something to improve training of officers, etc.

I’m proud of my university for creating such a scholarship–this, and more scholarships like it, are a good first step toward making Bethel a place that can both reflect and honor the true diversity of the body of Christ. I hope, at the same time, we can keep working on Bethel’s *culture* to make it a place where BIPOC folk can feel entirely at home in the community, down to the level of each everyday interaction. That’s going to take a lot of intentional work from everyone.

Sounds like you’re joining the race to the bottom of the Woke Sea. An AA scholarship program sounds fantastic, but too bad you couldn’t pick from the myriad options of unbelievable historical black contributors to the nations history.

–Bethel could have and should hang their scholarship hat on a more deserving individual. His criminal past does not warrant the honor even if he was murdered. Better to name it after one of the children murdered in Chicago during the protests.

–George Floyd used to be a thug. He once held a gun to a pregnant womans stomach. Bethel University, bad idea. This is your role model? He indeed should never have been killed but still there is a lot to consider.

–I just lost all respect for Bethel. It is not the college we used to love! With many grandchildren coming of age to pick their college…Bethel will not be one of their options. You are supporting terrorism and a drug addict, felon and Covid-19 positive person who didn’t care who he spread the virus to. Everyone should be welcome…and if you are presenting the Christian faith…you should not distinguish between any race…rather you should be promoting that in Christ we are all one race and one body! Shame on you Bethel…The Lord is removing His hand from you!

–Thank you for acknowledging the persistence of racism. Looking forward to seeing Bethel make more steps in the direction of change!

–So proud of being Bethel University Almuni💪💪💪#BLM

–Thank you for creating this scholarship. This is a good first step, I will be anxiously waiting for what comes next.