Wheaton College in Illinois is scrapping its athletic-team mascot, a crusading knight on a charging steed, in favor of a less violent symbol. The decision is prompting other Christian colleges to rethink whether their mascots—many of which are similar to Wheaton's—are sending the wrong message about Christianity. Wheaton College president Duane Litfin credits the change to
"a simple matter of faithfulness to Christ." He says the school's motto, "for Christ and His Kingdom,"is poorly served by "how offensive the image of the Crusades is to large portions of the world."
Litfin was prompted to think about the appropriateness of the school's mascot two years ago when Wheaton's student newspaper raised the issue. He launched a personal study of the Crusades, which were military conquests by European Christians designed to reclaim the Holy Land from Muslims in the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries.
"We are hard-pressed to find anything in these disastrous waves of fighting that our Lord might have approved, despite the fact that the conflict was ostensibly carried out in his name,"Litfin said.
Other Christian colleges with the Crusader mascot see the issue differently.
"Our faculty, students, and alumni voted overwhelmingly to keep the Crusader," says David Sayer of Evangel University in Missouri. Calvin Holsinger, professor emeritus at Evangel, says that school sees the historic connotations of Crusader as positive.
"The word originally meant one who bears the cross, and when we selected the name Evangel and the mascot of a crusader, we were intentionally trying to communicate our desire to bring the good news and cross into every situation we encountered."
Holsinger also says Christians must be careful not to let the world "steal and ...1