Question Mark leads discussion of Christian faith and tolerance


 Question Mark proved the worth of its name on Wednesday evening with two separate discussion events, as Christian students at DePauw had the chance to help one another answer faith-related inquiries.
Question Mark is an event put together by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, an organization meant to bring Christian students together to ask questions and converse about their experiences with religion in a safe, non-judgmental environment. The events took place in Olin Auditorium and later that night in Kappa Alpha Theta Sorority.
Mark Abdon '08 is a Christian Fellowship campus minister, and he plays a large role in organizing Question Mark events.
"I think it models for student conversation and shows that they can have it thoughtfully and respectfully," Abdon said. "There's often a negative stigma about discussions of faith, and this rectifies it in some sense. We want to share ideas with people but sometimes don't know how to."
Christian theologist Mark Slaughter spoke at both events.
Slaughter, who comes to DePauw twice a year, attempted to answer students' questions and bring them closer to their faith through understanding. In answering questions he used both personal anecdotes and Bible passages to exemplify strength in following the Christian faith.
"As a follower of Jesus I want to give thoughtful, compassionate responses for the mind and the heart," he said.
One of the key points he addressed was religious tolerance and the use of respectful discourse to better understand others' and one's own faiths.
"We talk about tolerance from every side of the aisle, but we're intolerant of people different from us," Slaughter said. "I find that incredibly ironic."
Slaughter spoke about religious pluralism, or the presence of multiple religions within one society, as well as relativism, an ideology stating that knowledge, ethics and truth are not absolute but rather exist in relation to different cultures and societies; all religions can be considered right depending on the culture. He tied these in to worshipping with conviction while at the same time respecting other faiths.
"Religious pluralism supports tolerance, but tolerance does not support relativism... and [religions] can't all be right," he said. "Tolerance is about showing respect...It doesn't make intellectual sense to function as a relativist in other areas, so why would it make sense for religion?"
Slaughter received his Master's degree in theology and an undergraduate degree in religion and Bible studies. As Regional Evangelist for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, he speaks at universities around the Midwest.
Freshman Ines Giramata liked the concept of Question Mark, but would have liked more time to ask questions.
"DePauw isn't necessarily a Christian campus, and when you're different, you get a lot of questions," she said. "It's good to have a safe place to discuss them."
Slaughter estimated that Question Mark has been done fifty times at DePauw. Abdon thinks it's an effective way to illustrate what it means to have faith.
"Intellectual discussion about faith in the student community often gets relegated to take place outside of the classroom," Abdon said. "There's a need to address big questions, and I think everyone has big questions."