Legal Theory Intersecting Ministry

The legal work I have been doing with Cru is both interesting and challenging to me. It has stretched me a bit this semester in terms of my time and emotional energy, particularly when combined with moving to a new city, joining a new staff team, and starting foster care again. Yet it has been rewarding and exciting at the same time. As Cru, we have been facing challenges from policies (often at very large public and private universities) that make it difficult to preserve our identity and mission because student organizations on such campuses may not require that their leaders believe the group’s mission and messages and may not require that those leaders teach the group’s beliefs as true.

I am so thankful that I get to work in the area of First Amendment law and religious liberty.  I love thinking about complex and intricate theories that often don’t have clear definitions or boundaries. I enjoy this, perhaps, because I am—on the one hand—an academic-type. Legal theory and philosophy and culture observation and analysis are endlessly fascinating to me, and I often wish I had more time to read additional books and articles analyzing historical trends and current cultural climates and how they affect the evolution of the law (and particularly constitutional law).

Yet those very aspects that make constitutional legal theory so intriguing also make it at times maddening. This is because I am also particularly pragmatic, and that makes it challenging when I simply can’t predict what direction the law will go in a my area of law—meaning I am left with thinking over and over again in my head about the various possibilities and how I will help Cru navigate through the various challenges that will flow from the different scenarios. This discomfiting lack of clarity in some of the law means that advising our staff on different campuses around the country when they face legal access issues can be either simple to resolve through direct communication with administrators, or effectively more like a PR campaign that I am suddenly an advisor for, giving talking points and preparing our staff for delicate conversations. In the case of the latter, resolution may or may not come, and I agonize right alongside our staff as we wait to see how everything will play out.

What I love about being engaged in a very practical discipline, however (where my help and advice directly impact our staff on the field and their ability to continue reaching out to students with the good news of the Gospel), is that nothing remains purely theoretical. That is exactly why I went to law school instead of a PhD program, so it is exciting that the Lord has allowed me a niche to serve practically within the law, even while I am still a mother of young children. When I talk about theory, my mind is spinning out all the various real-life implications for ministry; and often very nuanced implications, since I have the privilege to also be participating in on-the-field ministry at the same time. I don’t claim to be an expert, but I do understand what ministry to college students entails.

Through working in this area of the law, I have also been able to get to know wonderful and talented people who are working on these issues in many organizations. This past week I even had the chance to meet up with some of them in person on the East Coast—a very helpful time (thanks to Jeremiah and family and friends helping out watching the kids).

One of these days, I will write more about some particular theories in these areas that intrigue me, perhaps highlighting some scholarship from friends and colleagues in this area, while still grounding it in the real-life implications we face as Cru Chapters across the country. In the mean time, please continue to pray that our Chapters will graciously represent and communicate the Good News of the Gospel to students, even as many of our groups face restrictions.