Wednesday, April 18, 2007

College President insults homeless people, artists, ministers, NYU students, companies with a casual dress code, and equates power execs with God

or, A Revealing Metanarrative Dispatched From the Elite

Over the last few years, I've come to know and love a good number of students from King's college here in Manhattan. After an unrelated event we all attended, I ended up with an audience of the President of King's college, J. Stanley Oakes along with a number of students. In what began as an innocent but earnest plea on my part to get the President to consider changing their strict dress code which has young Manhattan college students wearing suit and tie to school, and really should have ended amicably, grew to something that became so much more as the following public display escalated to my amazement and aroused emotion. Here's what the president of King's college said:

That artists, creative types and NYU students, "dress like bums". And that "they" can dress however they want but he's going to teach his students to play successfully in the game of power and politics.

Concerning my boldness to address the issue - that ministers "usually know a lot about what's inside the church, but not about the real world outside".

After claiming that they were trying to prepare students for the reality of the business world, which was countered by the assertion that a lot of the business world itself has gone to a more relaxed dress code, he replied, "Most of them still wear suits, at least the ones I respect".
(Wow, even the corporate casual world is unsafe, well, at least, unrespected - I guess all those high tech millionaires don't know as much as an educator)

When asked, "Why can't students just wear normal cultural clothes to school, and then dress up when they have a business appointment"? He said that important businessmen and recruiters come to the college to find talent, and when that was countered with, "Yeah, but why can't they just wear a suit when they have an appointment with that businessman"?

Okay...get ready...he replied,

"Sometimes they come unannounced like Jesus".........

....whaaa..(head shake so that cheeks flap like on tv show)..haaaaa?.....

I think someone who has a high position in the administration of King's college and has the word "President" on his office door is a little beholden to the business elite, and the normal regular elite too. Some people he likes to scoff at, others he likes to compare to our high and mighty coming King.

People speak from their heart. He has his entire student body fetching water for the man who might show up unannounced like a thief in the night. Meanwhile they have to walk around like Mormon missionaries in front of all the other cool kids in NYC.

(the social contract has agreed that it is culturally and ethically acceptable to make fun of Mormon missionaries).

But what really got me the most, what really offended me to the point that I was roused to reply strongly (I told him he was arrogant...about three times:), was this little tip toe down the lane called ignorance-of-the-postmodern-mindset-of-an-entire-generation...(and concerning why I should just accept his position and not question it so passionately)...

..."I've found over the years that when someone has been doing something for 35 years it usually means they know what they are doing and you might want to listen to them"...

...Wow, I'm just smiling now remembering the status quo is correct. those in power do know what's right. Don't question and innovate and be progressive. 35 years of the old way of doing things is more important than new cultural trends and realities. The Metanarrative is true, just accept it 'cause it came from someone who's been doing it for 35 years.

35 years ago many countries were still under their colonial masters. 35 years ago America had its own colonial ambitions in Southeast Asia. 35 years ago our country was still digesting the meaning of the recently passed civil rights legislation and was embroiled in race riots and anti-war protests. AND 35 years ago an evangelicalism that was just beginning it's ascent to power was silent on racism, silent on colonialism, absent from the arts and media. The AIDS crisis was only a decade away then, and the church is barely just now showing up to help. Not to mention evangelical silence and complicity then and now with IMF/World Bank, "So you just got freed from the shackles of colonialism, hey no problem, have we got a deal for you...." And let's not even talk about the environment.

The kind of thinking that was writing the theology and ecclesiology of 35 years ago in that world, is not the kind of theology and ecclesiology we need going forward to this new world that is in such a state of epochal transition that no one even understands it yet. A world that can only be titled, "post" to the modernism that came before it. We need fresh thinking.

If this was just some guy I had a casual conversation with in private, I would keep my horror to myself. But this was a public conversation with the public leader of an institution of higher learning - this is the guy training the young students that we will need in the coming years to lead us into the unknown postmodern era looming ahead of us. This is a man deeply out of touch with the reality of the world around him, and forcing an entire student body to live in his private version of unreality - which causes them to be ill equipped and unprepared to reach their peers all around them with the gospel of peace because they look like some kind of weird religious types to their cool Manhattan cohorts. Basic missiology, cultural context needed here.

Students of King's College - rise up and change the system - if you can't force a college in 2007 to change their dress code, how will you end poverty, abolish the modern slave trade and repair the broken ethics of our corporate culture?

We all know what context means. We all know you can dress casual and cool most of the time, but when you have a big job interview, you wear a suit. Maybe after you get the job, they'll let you wear something more comfortable - maybe they won't. In America's public and private institutions of government, law and some of the commerce you still have to wear a suit, but in the media, civil society, education, the rest of commerce, high tech, science, the arts, and the church, you get to dress from business casual, to casual and cool, to really cool. That's the future, and you'd be better off spending four years learning how to dress in the real world of NYC - in all of its changing contexts - than in an outfit anyone back home could have shown you. We need fresh, culturally conversant thinking.

This wasn't a conversation about clothing or institutional dress codes, this was a conversation about what kind of thinking we want and need our leaders to have. Fresh, progressive, culturally conversant, culturally contextual, local, communal, humble and non-elitist, refusing of power centered metanarratives, relational, kind.


Fajita said...

This is a top 5 rant. Nice work.

Matt said...

I'm not convinced King's Students are limiting their witness to NYU students and other Manhattan-ees by going to their classes, on their own school property, from 9am-5pm, in Business-Casual/Profession dress. I haven’t seen one NYU student, Manhattan artist, or homeless New Yorker in any of King’s classrooms. Is the King’s witness really limited through an on-campus dress-code?
A Note of King’s dress: First, students choose to come here—even with a “restricted” dress-code. That means students aren’t victims of the school’s policy, but that they freely choose the school’s standard as their own. Many King’s students had very generous scholarships, or even free-rides, to other universities and still chose to come to King’s with its professional-dress code.
Secondly, after class students are free to dress how-ever they please. It is only "at college, 9am-5pm" that students are asked to dress professionally. On Fridays students are free to wear whatever they choose to school. Few students oppose the dress-code.
One King’s student commented, “It is actually nice to build a professional wardrobe in college as you prepare for the world of real ‘politics and business.’”
It would seem highly inefficient and disingenuous to send out an e-mail only on days when high-profile donors are scheduled to visit the college, and then ask students to dress "differently" just for a couple hours. What if someone doesn’t get the memo? What if a guest pops in announced—which they often do.

I think something should also be said about dressing progressively. Why is it that progressive thinkers desire all people to only think progressively—that seems like a contradiction. Progressivism is about letting people (or colleges) think for themselves, not limiting them to the Progressive-thought alone.
On one hand, diversity is so celebrated. One the other hand, it is not extended to traditional thinkers or traditional dressers? That doesn’t seem very progressive or diverse to me. Non-conformity only works for so long. Eventually the non-conformists begin asking their whole generation to conform to their idea of non-conformity—another contradiction. If everyone dressed in non-conformity then that would be still be considered conforming to the culture.
Maybe true diversity would let individual-schools pick their own dress codes.
-NYU students can dress how they want: casually.
-Fashionable art schools can dress how they want: fashionably.
-A professional Politics, Economics, Philosophy and Business school (such as King’s) can dress how they want: professionally.
Let’s not preach non-conformity to the point at which we betray ourselves.

Steve Joseph said...

Reaffirming Matt's post, I can honestly say that I have heard much more positivity towards the dress code than opposition amongst students.

I respect it, and it actually saves me money living in a city where an ice cream cone costs four dollars. I can have x number of dress shirts, interchange them with x number of full suits/slacks/jackets, and change it up with a new tie. All this, while keeping 'fashionable' pace with this city, work, and being prepared for potential networking opportunities. Extending this--I see students every day that wear comfortable corduroy and half-denim 'khaki' (colored) pants, with simple short sleeve button-up shirts that have collars. I don't have to go to American Eagle and Banana Republic every Fall and Spring season to 'keep up.' I am not saying fashion is bad (with such stores) either; our students hosted a fashion show last week with visitors from Philly, and Indigo TV.

This school seeks professionalism on all levels, check out the stress on excellence in loving on and engaging people in this city, the sun-through-magnifying glass focus on precision in written and spoken rhetoric, and the efficiency at which our professors operate and add to numerous columns, posts, and publish books. What is the big deal with doing it in classes?

As for Stan Oakes, he is an exemplary man, unapologetic in his Christianity and the vision of this College. I suspect that you approached him in a rude fashion, or you would have left with a business card and an open door to utilize his resources as a brother in Christ.

I am only a freshman, from a public school district in Las Vegas, Nevada. I have been inspired by this school (not hindered by its policies) and quite honestly, I am glad that my friends are forced to really wake up when they attend class. I get more out of it when we can all give input. If it is too much to dress up all the way, throw on a polo shirt, and some of those pants I mentioned earlier, no harm done.

-nance. said...


I'm a King's student--a transfer from Liberty University (Jerry Falwell's school...Look it up and you'll probably have a great time finding a million MORE things to criticize).

I'll be brief. I attended a Mary Poppins show on Broadway this weekend, and for the sake of being "culturally contextual," I'll use an analogy from one of the songs in that musical, rather than something stuffy like Scripture or any kind of wisdom from someone I respect. (That would be too status quo). The line went something like, "Aim for the heavens and you'll get the stars thrown in."

You see, I actually think that people respect someone who can buck up to a system. I think that the sweetest way to say to someone floating around in the world without a strong metanarrative is to present yourself as someone so caught up in a greater one that you can't help but speak words of Life to them. Christ's Metanarrative is a full life change. It's not just a message that makes people who dress as cool as the next guy feel better about themselves than the next guy.

So there is something great about excellence. When you care about greater things, lesser things get caught up in the greater vision. When you aim for heaven, you get the stars thrown in.

Is wearing dress pants and a button-up shirt to school truly "aiming for heaven"? No. But is constantly questioning everything you do in order to try to develop an ethos that is "culturally conversant"? No--that's not either. Aiming for heaven is being so enamored with Christ that what speaks loudest in your life is the fact that Christ has made it all fuller. That really has nothing to do with clothing, brother.

Please, stop killing yourself over aiming for the stars. You're missing heaven.

J said...

Oh, how some like to hide behind "post modernity."

Mr. Ranting,

It took me awhile to think of exactly how to address your disjointed, and illogical, post. But I think I finally have it: unfortunately, Mr. Ranting, your argument for why students should dress down, is the best case for why students should not dress "cool."

Unfortunately, Mr. Rant, you have failed to see that you are trying to push your version of comfortable and "cool" upon all you come in contact with, mainly President J. Stanley-Dress-up-Oakes. You stated that:

"[Kings students are] ill equipped and unprepared to reach their peers all around them with the gospel of peace because they look like some kind of weird religious types to their cool Manhattan cohorts."

What you need to see, Mr. Ranting, is that you are prescribing to the wrong belief that the only peers of King's students are tight panted, t-shirted, converse wearing young people. But what about the unreached businessman who walks helplessly around Wall Street, finding no direction from a generation and a church, like yours, who does not think them important enough to "dress like them?" See, your logic says that if we care about reaching someone, we must then dress like them. This is nothing but false. Did Jesus need to dress like a harlot in order to reach the prostitutes? Or, did he have to tear his clothes to reach the homeless, helpless, and crippled? The answer is a resounding NO! Actually, Jesus wore a seamless tunic, the Armani suit of the Jewish day.

If you still continue to stand by your argument, Mr. Ranting, you must accept that if we want to reach the business world, we should probably dress like them. If the "cool," "postmodern" generation can only be reached by those who look like them, then why do you not extend the same generalization to the businessman? You seem to only want to adapt this argument when it comes to defending not wanting to look professional. Unfortunate, because if we all believed as you did, we must abandon the souls of the business people for the students and generations who want to wear jeans and a t-shirt all the time.

Additionally, Mr. Ranting, you seem to have a very narrow view of the power of God's word. See, your assertion that we can only reach those we look like, is the same as saying "God's word will only bare fruit and make a difference if we appear to mirror the appearance of those we intend to reach." If this were true, Billy Graham's crusades should have never bred any sort of success. Mr. Graham was almost never caught without a collared shirt or "slacks" at one of his meetings, even up until his last crusade IN NEW YORK in 2005. Mr. Ranting, the word of the Lord "does not return void," no matter what we look like.

Mr. Ranting, you obviously do not have a complete understanding about how things are done in the business world. While some businesses in New York may have adapted your casual dress, this is not the case all around the globe. You must understand that it is the goal of The King's College to look beyond NYC and have its students inserted into key positions in key companies and key institutions all over the world. Would it not be most beneficial to its students for the college to prepare them for the strictest dress code that may exists? Of course. That is because you can always teach someone to "dress down," but its a lot harder to instill in someone a business style of dress in a matter of is an "art."

Lastly, Mr. Ranting, your name-calling is completely unnecessary. Labeling the adults of The King's College as "water-fetching" and "Mormon missionaries" is not only wrong, but childish. My thought, after reading your post, was: “so, this is what "Fresh, progressive, culturally conversant, culturally contextual, local, communal, humble and non-elitist, refusing of power centered metanarratives, relational" thinking people sound like?

Mr. Ranting, you do exactly what you don't want to do--ostracize those you want to reach. President Oakes is an amazing man of God that has done more things for the Lord in a short lifetime than what many can even dream of attempting . . . and he is raising up students who will do the same. And it is these same students whose opinion you have obviously failed to obtain. Ask any good-standing student at the school about the dress code, and you will not receive the critiques that you have introduced. Students at the school are not dumb, ignorant, and short-sighted, as you have portrayed them to be. In fact, they are all required to take logic, which is why most them will refute your argument.

Richie said...

Mr. Kursonis,

I believe you were intenionally mischarachterizing President Oakes' words, but in case you are as dense as you appear to be, let me help you out.

Stan does not think businessmen are God.

Stan made a joke.

Like your "water fetching mormon missionaries" comment, it wasn't that funny.

Seeing as you are closer in age to Stan than the students you are mocking, that's understandable.

This is not that important. What is
important, however, is that someone who fancies himself as a leader in the emergent church is this passionate about something so trivial.

I'm glad that you are fighting the real enemy, Jeff. Not-very-hip but well meaning men like Stan and his oppressive dress code. This is like something from The Screwtape Letters. Wormwood is doing backflips in hell right now.


By the way, The Screwtape Leters was written by someone usually photographed wearing a tie. Guess he's out the window, too.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to Urban Outfitters. Don't want my testimony to be drowned out by my stuffy three-piece suit.

Lighten up, champ.

D Pope said...

Dear Sir,

Over the course of my short life I have learned great many lessons. However, one of the most important would have to be that you should think before you say something. You are most certainly entitled to your opinion; however, it would not seem that you did not do your research before commenting. Thus far, all your critiques are not from outsiders, but King’s students themselves.

Now, understand the administration of King’s has done things in the past, and things in the present, which I did not agree with. But I guarantee you none of my complaints have had anything to do with something as trivial as dress code; and regardless of whatever my disagreements may be, I still support this school to the fullest, and believe whole-heartedly in my education.

To echo the comments of my peers, I would point out that students choose to come here; nobody forces you to come to King’s. Furthermore, not every student dresses in suit and tie (there are peers of mine I most certainly would not consider “business-casual”). Not only that, but it looks to me that you are saying that unless we are free to make our own choices (not abiding by rules), we cannot be real Christians. Realize that although I was free to make this choice, ultimately, God choose this path for me; I am merely following Him. I would like to influence these un-cool business types you so openly criticize. I would like to make a difference in this world for Christ, and if that means I have to wear a tie from time to time, then so be it.

But aside from all that I feel your real belief is for a watering down of values. To you, man must break away from the chains of corporate stiffness and become free to walk around in a world without criticism from his fellow man. Are you so blind as to not realize you are arguing for relativism? Do you wish for a world in which there is no difference in the man who dresses in a suit and a man who streaks naked in the streets? Even worse, do you wish for a world where you can see no difference between the Christian and the atheist? There is something to be said for upholding values. There’s a reason there is so much sex, crime, and violence prevalent in our world today. I am not saying that is the fault of the cool value-free individuals, but it certainly isn’t the fault of the un-cool suit wearers.

What does “cool” mean anyway? Isn’t it a subjective term? I for one think my “sense of style” is just as cool as the next guy.

Richie said...

Pope, you're style is definitely not cool.

However, your argument is.

Well done, sir.

Danny Phantom said...

Mr. Kursonis,

I have to admit, i don't think i understand where you get off making an "innocent but earnest plea" to our president to change probably THE most trivial thing in our school such as the dress code. Out of all the things that really matter when it comes to reaching non-believers, such as oh-you-know character and a strong relationship with Christ, we are arguing over a dress code? Which by the way is not as strict as you make it sound to be.

I also have to admit: I, as a current student at The King's College, am personally and deeply offended by your generalizations and blanket statements such as President Oakes forcing us to live in his private version of reality which causes us to be "ill equipped and unprepared to reach [my] peers all around [me]." It is safe to say that you don't know the minority of the student body, let alone the majority to make such a bold and extremely erroneous statement. Cultural context be [darned], who determines what "weird religious types" and "cool manhattan cohorts" look like? I understand that this is YOUR blog so it is based on YOUR opinions but if you are trying to qualify evangelical effectiveness by some subjective and defined-by-time words such as "cool" then i would have to wholeheartedly disagree with what you stand for.

I can't even continue to concern myself with the moot point of a dress code which has been exhausted by my peers. What concerns me are your alarming words such as "the kind of thinking that was writing the theology and ecclesiology of 35 years ago in that world, is not the kind of theology and ecclesiology we need going forward to this new world," and "we need fresh thinking."

What? are we going to throw out C.S. Lewis' thinking, or Aquinas, or Augustine because they are not "fresh thinking"?

I must admit again, i almost cannot even take you seriously when i read words like "In America's public and private institutions of government, law and some of the commerce you still have to wear a suit, but in the media, civil society, education, the rest of commerce, high tech, science, the arts, and the church, you get to dress from business casual, to casual and cool, to really cool." You are undermining actual, real and useful education in exchange to know how to dress in the real world of nyc??

If this was not a conversation about clothing or institutional dress codes but rather a conversation about what kind of thinking we want and need our leaders to have then you are obviously a hypocrite because conversations about leadership are fundamentally based on character, personality, heart and academics. None of which you actually think of much less mention in your post.

I'm sorry but you will not find me rising up and changing this system. Not when it fundamentally follows God because poverty, modern slave trades and broken ethics in our corporate culture will NEVER be changed by people who MERELY look "cool".

Sir, if anyone is fetching any water for a man who might show up unnanounced like a thief in the night it is YOU because you are looking to please the culture around you, unable to break from the shackles of a secularized society which has led you to belive that superficiality is more important than Love and Truth, both of which are synonymous to Christ.

I do have to thank you for your words however, for i feel that internal animosity had stirred within the student body, and you sir, allowed us to rise up and stand behind a school which we not only love, but fully believe in.

People do speak from their heart. Hear the Heart of The King's College.

Katelyn said...

It looks like it's a girl's turn to comment about the fashion at King's. Here are some of my thoughts:

First, I think religious jokes are more offensive than business attire.

Second, everything I wear at school I buy in the stores in NYC. (Talk to the stores if you don't think they are "cool".) To me they are fun colors, and I have a lot of variety with making outfits. Hmm...Culturally engaging? You decide.

Third, I don't see the logical connection between influencing society and changing the dress code. Usually a revolution is called on when the parties (actually involved) in the situation are unhappy. But Sir, we're all content in this matter. I love it. I haven't heard anyone complain about it. I've only ever received compliments. I'm not arrogant about how I dress. It's a tool to encourage me to have the right mindset in class.

Just because I can't wear sweatpants to class does not mean President Oakes is legalistic or too controlling. We go to school in the Empire State Building with professionals. Seriously, I don't see any of the lawyers in the building dressed down....ever. We have casual Friday and it's lifted after hours (5pm). We like our fashionable "Business Casual" attire. (By the way, hardly any of the guys wear a three piece suit to class and pretty sure the girls have fashion freedom that is a lot less restrained than other Christian colleges). I'd also like to point out that I was in a business club in high school and we had to wear business casual to all the events. They weren't Christian but knew that how you dress does effect the mindset in which you approach your work.

I talked with three homeless men today, I passed many nicely dressed people on the street, I am an art lover and artist, and go to church with people from NYU. I'd say I know how to interact with society. I'm not against the dress code and personally I have more important things to worry about with my college education.

Felipe said...

"College President insults homeless people, artists, ministers, NYU students, companies with a casual dress code, and equates power execs with God"

I don't need to read further. This title is simply ridiculous.

St.Seni said...

Thank you Jeff Kursonis

For finding life by tearing down your brother in Christ publicly , showing how smart and how spiritual you are. I wish you would protect Oakes but you show how little you are.

Don't you have the gut to visit Oakes and settle your differences?

I am a first year student from the Kingdom of Tonga. What is cool in Tonga is different from what is cool in NY!!Should I try to conform to your NY "coolers"??you focus on the form but not on the conforming to the form will lead us no wear newyorkers!! maan what the "newyok" is that!!

Tell you this: The evangelicals suffered as they brought the gospel to tonga & the pacific, then the charismatic came later and tore down the evangelicals with their "full gospel", then the liberals came and tore down the previous two with a "fuller gospel" , then "you" now--the emergent church emerges and tore down the previous three with your "fullest gospel"!!'isn't that funny??

i have not seen the fruits of your people and you have not reach tonga but now I have seen the fruit of one of their leaders(you) and I am scared than ever!

you claim that you don't exclude others except you exclude the "exclusivists"

please show me a better way

Anonymous said...

As a student of King's for four years, I must say that I love the dress code. Jeff, it seems that there is not a single student here at King's who would actually agree with your argument. Therefore, if anyone is forcing an ideology of the students here, that person would be you.

Stan, I hope you read this; students here are supportive of what you have accomplished for this school. Do not compromise; do not lower the standards of academics or the dress code. Thank you for building a school that teaches us to reason, speak and write with the heart of Christ.

I am grateful and proud to be graduating from an institution that seeks truth and settles for nothing less. Keep the standards high; let endurance have its perfect result, that we may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Stan, thank you.


Anonymous said...

Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. For man's anger does not bring forth the righteous life which God desires.

Being angered by your conversation you take to the internet to broadcast your feelings. Scripturally unsound...

You quickly provided a history lesson on the church and the post-modern world. Allow me to likewise educate. Condorcet is dead and living like a philosophe in 2007 can't bring him back. Does it make a man better to combat thirty five year old thinking with 18th century thinking. Visit the King's College web page, you'll find these students are well equipped to handle enlightenment philosophy.

I have no grounds to speak on your characterization of the college President. I simply wasn't there.

But you characterize God as some sort of weeping poet, steeped in cultural sensitivity. Why? Is it culturally sensitive to compare a Samaritan woman asking for a blessing with dogs under a table? Why view the world in black and gray? Business elites and cool people.

You've succeeded as a post-modern. But I fear you sound like those Greek states under the foot of Xerxes, asking the Spartans to yield as well. You've never tasted freedom. You view the world differently and that's understandable. But I think a man sells a lot when "Boogie Nights" appears on his favorite movie list. You can't keep changing sides because you believe in a bigger picture.

Broad is the path which leads to destruction... and while you may think it virtue to 'think broadly' it is death to wander far afield.

It's repeated over and over again in Ephesians 6 and it's Greek thinking. 'Stand,' 'above all stand,' 'stand firm.' As you are a historically minded man, let me put it thus:
'Come home with your shield... or on it.'

Anonymous said...

First off I am a King's student and this post smacks of pure ignorance. Have you ever even attended a day at The King's College during classes? Because if you have you'd see that only about 10-15 students if that wear suits on a daily basis...the rest of us wear basically whatever we like. The dress code at our school is very lax...the only restrictions are no jeans or cargo khakis and no Ts other than that its free game and on Fridays we can wear whatever we like.

Secondly I am very offended by your post. I for one am very fashion conscious and so are most students at King's we have several professional models who are students here at King's and dozens of others who are extremely fashionable. Just two weeks ago our school put on a fashion show to raise money for a missions trip to Albania this summer. We had a professional designer come and introduce his clothing line combined with our own students creative flair and if I may say so it was an amazing fashion show and we had guests come from out of state to see it as well as a local TV station come and interview our students afterwards. I for one am a very artsy funky weird type and I am able to express my style fine within the dress code. Seriously please get your facts right before you generalize and call us all a bunch of religious freaks with no fashion taste.

Honestly you sound much more like a rebellious teenager than a mature adult let alone a pastor(?). Seriously I think there are more important things to worry about such as world hunger and child prostitution than complaining about the dress code at school. Also as Christians I agree, we are to engage the world around us and be progressive and yes change is good but at the same time God calls us to respect our authority and to honor them and so that is what I will do. If Stan Oakes is forcing us to go around Bible thumping on the street corners then yes I would speak up but petition for a dress code change? Seriously there are better uses of my time. Oh and for your information the main reason why our dress code exists is because our school is in the Empire State Building and we have signed a deal to maintain the dignity and prestige of the building. And honestly as a funky artsy weird person I will admit that I do dress like a bum on many occasions...I have my lip pierced and I wear tattered jeans and shirts and tunics that I got on my trip to India last summer. And the other half of the time I wear my Armani and Fendi attire and mix it in with my tattered gear and even though I dress like this I acknowledge that this is inappropriate attire for a school who's focus is business and politics.

Please get your facts straight before your start judging an entire group of people. Oh and if you'd like the footage from our fashion show I'd be more than happy to send it to you.

-Wyatt B.

Anonymous said...

To be honest, as a student at King's, I don't always want to abide by the dress code. Sometimes I just want to throw on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. Lucky for me the dress code is lifted on Fridays. And I am not required to be on campus outside of class time. While I don't always want to follow the dress code, I understand the reasons and merits for it. We go to a school that is preparing us for a world in business, politics, and other institutions that, whether you want to accept it or not, require professional attire. It is laughable and illogical to think that the way one is required to dress in the classroom will have any bearing on their ministry outside. I work within a high profile creative firm where people dress how they like, (although the executive are often seen in professional attire) and I seem to fit right in. I haven't been brainwashed to wear the same kind of attire in every area of my life. I have even seen President Oakes in casual settings wearing jeans and cowboy boots. Its true.

I have one final comment and that is this: Religious sects aside, I struggle to see how tearing down any religious leader helps to usher in the Kingdom. Especially over so trivial a matter as a dress code. I was at the anonymous event you spoke of in your post. The speakers discussed human sex trafficking and slavery of today. Would that not have been something far more pertinent to rant about?

P.S. I would recommend to you a book written by our own provost: A Bee in the Mouth: Anger in America Now

Sharon said...

I am a student at The King’s College and fellow Christian who currently attends an emerging church in Manhattan.
Not only are the students at King’s not offended by the dress code, but I seriously doubt you would be offended if I wore a skirt and polo shirt down 34th street. I would also like to make the point that at the emerging church I attend: the pastor wears a sports coat; some of the people attending the church wear suits to work; not everyone chooses to dress casual (a.k.a.--jeans and a t-shirt) at church. It doesn’t mean that everyone has to--it just means that some people want to.

Anonymous said...

The dress code at King's, hmmm...

Katelyn, I'm going to follow after you and take the "girl perspective" on King's Dress Code.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't college a place to be intellectually stimulated? Second question, has one reached their full capacity to learn by rolling out of bed 5 minutes before class, rubbing the sleep out of their eyes, and wearing sweat pants to school? I can answer this with an emphatic NO! The dress code (which is business casual IN SCHOOL from 9am-5pm)requires students to get up early enough to shower, iron clothes, etc. All of these things which I would consider to be vital and conducive to learning.

Also, when you attend class in The Empire State Building, you are surrounded by business men and women whom are all adhering to some form of a business casual dress code. So, unless everyone who works in a business professional atomsphere looks like Mormon Missionary, that argument is completely fallacious as well. Also, each day our professors come to class dressed in business attire. What does it say about our respect for their teaching if we don't follow suit (no pun intended).

Needless to say, the majority of The King's College students value that dress code implemented here, and fully understand and respect its purpose.

Nice Try.

ZC said...

Dear Pastor Jeff,

I would like thank you for your concern for the students of The King's College. It is evident from your post that you have a concern for our well being and success. I appreciate that you would like us to be culturally relevant and not victims of poor policy.

But it seems to me, you do not know TKC students as well as you originally thought. Judging from the responses above, you have selected an issue concerning which most of us support the school. I do not need to inform you that your method of expressing your beliefs was improper. My fellow students have already explained that with excellence and wit.

I would like to clear up two points of contention, and make a suggestion.

First, the school that you are focusing on is not King's college. It is The King's College. That may seem like a subtle and unnecessary distinction, but the "The" does set us apart from other colleges, including a Catholic school in PA and a King's College in London. It is not from royalty nor an earthly king that our name derives, but The Heavenly King.

Second, this may also be obvious due to the explanations of my peers, but you took President Oakes words and twisted them. It would seem that you are passionate about this issue, for which I again thank you, but allow me to provide an example of how you could have been more thoughtful in your response. When you quoted President Oakes, saying, "I've found over the years that when someone has been doing something for 35 years it usually means they know what they are doing and you might want to listen to them," it is clear that you missed the meaning behind President Oakes statement. He was not making a literal claim regarding the benefits of 35 years of experience in world history. If indeed you were calling him arrogant to his face, I suspect that President Oakes meant his statement as a subtle reminder of your place. President Oakes was placed in his position for a reason. He has YEARS of experience on college campuses, and it would be right to respect him and listen to his wisdom before rudely dismissing his reasoning and calling down publicly a fellow brother in Christ. I think it is safe to assume that I know President Oakes better than you do, for various reasons, which include I go to his school and interact with him regularly (I am currently in a weekly Bible study that he teaches--from which I have gained vast insight into the Bible, truth, leadership, and a personal relationship with God). I can assure you, he is a thoughtful leader and disciple of Jesus, and you would do well to respect him, even if you strongly disagree with his methods of running his school.

This brings me to my suggestion, which is two-fold. I am distressed by the timing within which you posted your blog. I was at the same event that you were at: SITC. I know when it ended, and I know when your blog was posted. You must have written your post within three hours of talking with our President (probably less), during which you were still incensed by the contents of your conversation with him. Next time, it would be wise to wait for your anger to settle and give thoughtful consideration to what transpired before venting on your public blog.

The other part of my suggestion is really an invitation. It seems that you do not understand our school that much after all. I invite you to come visit our school. However, my invitation is only good if you apologize for your rude and unkind conduct to our President and earnestly seek to restore fellowship with the King's community. Otherwise, you have pricked and attacked (unwittingly) a community of fellow believers and ostracized yourself from an exceedingly valuable ally.

I do hope that you will have the humility to admit your error against your brothers and sisters in Christ. May The King's College stand ready to forgive.



Anonymous said...

Mr. Kursonis:

As a Christian and a student of The King's College who has only too recently freed himself from the bondage of "culturally relevant thinking," I am pleased to see this dialogue taking place. I would wager that Stan Oakes, rather than biting his nails and fretting over offending your fragile "emergent" sensibilities, is pleased as well.

If you wish to attack The King's College, there are probably a number of philosophical disagreements between the school's vision of ministry and your own which would provide ample fuel for argument. But you have instead chosen to focus on a comparatively unimportant external matter, namely, the "restrictive" dress code. In so doing you exemplify a common error of "emergent" thinking. It is truly ironic that the supposedly cutting-edge "emergent church" is now playing the New Testament role of the Pharisees (if you will indulge a reference to that horribly outdated and culturally irrelevant book).

As previous comments have aptly pointed out, you, sir, not Stan Oakes, are the one promoting conformity.

The students of The King's College have decided there is something more important than being "cool" and "relevant"; that putting away our denim for the albatross of a collared shirt is an acceptable sacrifice to be a part of something great; that Jesus' message is for the professor and the businessman, not just the "artsy" and "fashionable." Woe to you, Mr. Kursonis, if you lead them astray from this calling.

Lucas Croslow

Anonymous said...

Keep your opinion to yourself. If king's students have a problem with the required professional, real world business dress, they'd send their tuition elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Kursonis,

Referring to Dr. Stanley Oakes, you stated, "This is a man deeply out of touch with the reality of the world around him, and forcing an entire student body to live in his private version of unreality - which causes them to be ill equipped and unprepared to reach their peers all around them with the gospel of peace because they look like some kind of weird religious types to their cool Manhattan cohorts. Basic missiology, cultural context needed here."

Might this grateful TKC parent suggest that an analysis of the blogs of Dr. Oakes' "oppressed" students sheds more light on their preparedness to reach their generation (and that which preceded it) than an analysis of their attire?


David Caspian said...

Mr. Kursonis,
I'm trying to look deeper here. Most people who have commented note that the dress code is only 9-5, or that it isn't as strict as you make it out to be. But I think your argument is deeper than the dress code, or at least I hope it is.

What I see in your post is not necessarily a spirit of conformity (I'm sure you wouldn't make the case that Christians need to conform) but I sense you have caught the New York City "bug" that many Pastors in New York get. Let me explain.

There are many emerging Churches in Manhattan. Each one has its schtick and each one is different. All of them, however, are trying to be current, even progressive. This doesn't sound negative, but it becomes so when the church puts being "current" and "progressive" over the actual gospel message.

It happens often in New York City, and I've been on post-modern church overload for years. In fact I now attend a very conservative Presbyterian church, just because I'm tired of trying to keep up with the "hipness" of city churches.

I'm not saying your church is one of these said churches, as I've never been to it, but you still seem to have that "bug" I was talking about. The gospel is so powerful that it reaches people no matter what you're wearing, how many urban artists' paintings you have hanging in your sanctuary, or how many dijembes you have playing in a worship service.

Peter Berger has suggested that the onslaught of post-modern churches will turn many in this generation back to orthodoxy. I didn't think he was right, but I guess I'm one of them.


Anonymous said...

J brought up a very good point...sense when are business people not people...they may be easy to hate and ridicule because of their apparent wealth and greed but we are still to reach out to and witness to them...after all Jesus witnessed to the tax collectors too...who were rich people largely hated by the common man...but we are still to love these people and witness to them and what better way to do such than to dress in their context? Honestly you really owe an apology to TKC...this was very unbrotherly of you...

EM said...


You said, "[T]his new in such a state of epochal transition that no one even understands it yet." I object to this. The Old Testament talks about "the sons of Issachar, who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do" (1 Chr. 12:32). They too were in a "state of epochal transition"--living on the brink of God's fulfillment of His promise to Abraham--and they understood their day. This was before the coming of the Holy Spirit, of whom Jesus said, "He will teach you all things" (John 14:26). Jesus brought light and truth with His coming, and we are not bound to live in ignorance. For my part, I think the West is in decline, and it is foolish to go with it. Living relevantly in the world and "all of its changing contexts" has nothing to do with making sure I'm wearing the latest trends in the window without regard for what indecency I endorse by so doing. It has instead to do with walking, sincerely and by grace, in the changeless truth of God, which transcends fashions and philosophies of "doing church" and the universe itself.

Looking forward to being a King's student in the fall,
~E. Miller

Anonymous said...


I value you your friendship, and I always enjoy our conversations. I also have a deep respect for President Oakes' passion for the Kingdom (I don't know him well, but have always sensed that his faith runs much deeper than his corporate varnish).
My friend, I fear that you reacted rashly to President Oakes, and that your rashness carried over into your blog.
However, I receive the spirit of your critique with gladness. Here is the question we King's students must answer: do we wear suits in order to contextualize ourselves to professional Manhattan, that we might transform Wall Street for the Kingdom, or rather to impress potential employers, and immerse ourselves in a superficial culture in preparation for a life of suburban complacency? Yes, Jesus preached to tax collectors--and when Zacchaeus embraced the gospel, he generously repaid those he had cheated, and dealt a staggering blow to the economic oppression of the empire.
Jeff confronted President Oakes at Socrates in the City--I knew nothing of the argument, but also left the event feeling unsettled. Yes, I feel uneasy about Christians putting on expensive clothes, going to rub elbows with other well-dressed, beautiful Manhattanites, listening to a heart-rending talk about social justice, and then going to schmooze a little more at an expensive dinner. Maybe we had reason for all that, but what was the reason? Were we "contextualizing ourselves" to reach socialites, or pretending to be them?
I sense that Jeff's anger (sinfully expressed, but righteously felt) is not at our merely enforcing a dress code, but at the underlying sentiment of self-righteous complicity with the world and the flesh that such a policy might indicate.
I did not read every comment in response to this blog, but of those I read, none made any real effort to wrestle with Jeff's criticisms. Some presented a courteous facade, but only to conceal a sarcastic barb.
Jeff--please apologize to President Oakes, and to the King's student body. I receive your criticisms, but you spoke in anger and bitterness, with unkind, and even foolish words. You have broken the unity of the Spirit, and severed the bond of peace.
King's students--if you are among the guilty, please apologize to Jeff for your equally hurtful, disharmonious words. If you spoke without love, are you not but a clanging cymbal?
King's students--please weigh Jeff's words, and consider your own heart. Who cares whether you are cool or uncool--is your dress an attempt to build your own image, or to conform your life to the image of Christ? Do you dream more about a corner office than a world rid of poverty? Do you live a life of radical generosity? (Read Acts 4, and then ask yourself that question.) Do you honestly seek to "be all things, to all men," or do you give lip service to reaching investment bankers with the gospel, and then fantasize about your future vacation home? At King's, we learn to defend free markets--do you honestly wrestle with the possibility that major corporations might be agents of economic oppression, regardless of how many jobs they create? Do you dream about the economics of the Kingdom, or did Adam Smith write your gospel?
Any policy that prolongs our captivity to "philosophy and empty deceit" (Col. 2:8) is evil--is the King's dress code such a policy? I surely hope that President Oakes wrestles with such questions; I hope that the gospel is not merely a commodity in a market King's hopes to corner (vis a vis the rightfully discontinued "God, money, power" campaign from the school website).
My greatest hope for all of us is that we can learn to submit to one another in love, and to teach one another in the Spirit. I include myself in that above all others--if any of you would like to correct me in love, I will submit to your teaching. If any of you wish to lash out at me as well, I am prepared to turn the other cheek.
Whatever your missiological stance on cultural contextualization, please don't miss the fact that Jesus wants to redeem all of creation, beginning with your heart. Once we're all on that page, we can begin a lively discussion about professional attire versus casual attire as effective tools for evangelism in the city.

Brendan Case

Anonymous said...

Pastor Jeff,
After reading the responses of my friends and peers of The King’s College, do you now think that we are ready to “end poverty, abolish the modern slave trade and repair the broken ethics of our corporate culture?” I believe the eloquent responses of The King’s College students (especially first year students) shows our support for the policies and our President. Furthermore, the responses show the great job that TKC is doing in preparing and equipping us to reach our peers with the gospel of peace, not because we look religious (or in my view professional) but because we are able to speak coherently and logically.

As for you my fellow peers, great responses. You will be ready (if you are not already) as you leave King’s, and I will be proud to say that we went to The King’s College together.

-Alex A.

Megan said...

Pastor Jeff,
I read that you are highly offended that a school that meets in the Empire State Building has a dress code. I find this issue somewhat amusing. I attended private Christian school my whole life and was expected to abide by a dress code varying from wearing a dress everyday to a more relaxed take on business casual. I had no problem with "dressing up" for school. As a matter of fact, I noticed on dress down days when we were permitted to wear jeans and t-shirts, the student body acted according to their sloppy outfits. I have no problem abiding by King's dress code, especially considering that the goal of this school is to raise up leaders to work in strategic instutions- institutions that I am sure will require some sort of business professional wear. I appreciate that you attempted to voice an opinion on our behalf but it seems that the majority rules in this case.

Richie said...


You said "King's students--please weigh Jeff's words, and consider your own heart. Who cares whetheryou are cool or uncool--is your dress an attempt to build your own image, or to conform your life to the image of Christ?"


Jeff's words have been considered.

"Meanwhile they have to walk around like Mormon missionaries in front of all the other cool kids in NYC."

"This is a man deeply out of touch with the reality of the world around him, and forcing an entire student body to live in his private version of unreality - which causes them to be ill equipped and unprepared to reach their peers all around them with the gospel of peace because they look like some kind of weird religious types to their cool Manhattan cohorts. Basic missiology, cultural context needed here."

King's students already made your argument, Brendan. Looking "cool", whether it is Jeff's defintion or Thurston B. Rockefellers, is not that important. Hopefully, jeff will realize this as well.

By the way, every post (including mine, by the way) addressed Jeff's asinine arguments. Whether or not they were satisfactory is up to the reader to determine.

I don't doubt that Jeff is a well intentioned, decent man with a heart for this city, and the world. However, re-inventing his argument (which was NOT done righteously) and asking students to take to heart his factually incorrect, anger fueled. and intentionally demeaning diatribe is very bad advice. Additionally, I hope President Oakes doesn't spend another minute considering the dress code. He (and we) have far more important things to worry about.

Ostentatiously, Jeff picked a fight with a good, honorable man on behalf of a student body that didn't want or need his help. I hope he just misunderstood the dress code, but I have an increasingly sinking feeling this was not the case.

This entire thing sickens me. I used to admire the Emergent Church for their commitment to unity within the body, and I would laugh and shake my head when I would hear about some megachurch split over a disagreement on the color of the new carpet.

It's not as funny to me now.

I had a conversation with an "Emergent" (the term, like the worldview of those who call themselves it is relative) friend of mine, and I told him how I agreed with him and his contention that Micah 6:8 is what being a Christian is all about.

"He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God."

Hopefully, Jeff will apologize to President Oakes and this pointless, trivial waste of time and words will be forgotten. If not, though, I hope we all learn a lesson (especially me) about what really matters as Christians.

Seids said...


Thank you for your words. My respect for you is deep and I am lucky to call you a friend.
However, Brendan, there are some issues which you raised that do not sit right with me.

These questions that you ask are coming as a result of how King's students and their President have chosen to engage the world. While there is always room to question how one engages the world, I do not believe it right to only question one way of engaing the world. I believe that instead of questioning just the motives of King's students, we should also question the motives of those in the emergent movement. Let me explain.

You seem very eager to ask your questions to those who want to put on suits and affect change in influencial circles, but I do not see you posing the same questions to those in the emergent church. Why? I personally believe this is because of an underlying belief and practice where it has become popular to pick on Christians who have not adopted an emergent viewpoint; almost like those of us who are not completely taken by this message are automatically treated as unenlightened Christians who need special revelation, and are thus continully baraded with introspective questions that are not questions at all, but statements telling us where we are wrong. While some of the questions are appropriate, others seem to be more rhetoric of a movement (and laced with political undertones). Questions are good, we should always be questioning our motives. But emergents need to be doing it as much as the "other" Christians.

I would like to propose my own set of questions: Emergent churchers, are you simply caught up in a movement because it has become "cool" to do so? Do you even know what "emergent" means? Do you latch on to thinkers and preachers, giving them "Amens!" but really only hope of being able to write your own book someday that cannot be criticized because it hides behind the title of "new movement?" Are you adopting this theology because you have a problem with submittion to church authority? Is conformity always bad? Do you really understand the implications of calling for the head of free markets and capitalism? Does your dress keep you enslaved to a world where you must please men in order to be heard by them? Are you really offering something better, or just offering something more convenient? Have you made your movement your savior, serving it at all costs? Have you become so loving and tolerant that you are no longer willing to acknowledge sin when you see it and counsel those taking part in it? Emergents, these are just some of the questions you must ask yourselves.

Brendan, it is also important to point out that an underlying premise of what you and Jeff have been advocating is that the only way to be effective in reaching people for Christ is by adopting your way of reaching people for Christ. Bill Graham and Mother Theresa had completely different ways of reaching the lost, and they both worked. Mother Theresa had nothing and simply loved, while Graham had tents, trucks, and cohorts, running from town to town evangelizing. They both worked. The emergent way is a just that, a "way." We cannot be so naive as to think that both ways of reaching the world are the only ways. I personally think that a combination of two would shake the earth's core and people could not help but see Jesus.

Finally, think about the people in emergent churches who work on Wall Street and own their own businesses? Are they unenlightened because they have adopted capitalism and have not sold all they have? If we have nothing in the first place, how can we give anything away. If companies don't produce (which is what will happen if we have no markets), then the poor are not only left with nothing to eat, but hope soon dies with them. In fact, Communes and Socialism are not far off. Are we really prepared to advocate this?

Brendan, you are a strong brother in the Lord. I agree with you on many points and I believe you have a great heart in this matter. However, I cannot fully agree with you on all that you say. It is time for unity, and in that spirit I stand by you. I know I can trust you because I know we are both seeking the truth. I humbly offer these words to you, asking you to read them carefully and hear my heart. Those who slap you in the face also slap me. But let us be iron sharpenning iron.

Anonymous said...


You're so committed to the pluralism and tolerance of the emergent church, that you refuse to take a stand. You can't please everyone. You want to put away everything traditional and you refuse to accept that ways of the past are still effective in their relevant settings. You take contextualization to the point of conformity. Be careful. I say this with love. Progressivism and emergence does not only look forward and refuse the past.

Anonymous said...

First, to Jeff--I did not intend to commandeer your blog space for personal conversations with other King's students, but that seems to be the order of the day, so...

Thanks to everyone who responded to me directly--I read each of your comments, and weighed them accordingly.
Perhaps I wrote too strongly in my first comment--I seem to have mislead some of you regarding my beliefs, and my own views of the emergent church movement.
I was raised in a fundamentalist church. I have a deep love (hunger, even) for tradition within the church (I'm particularly jealous of Catholics and Greek Orthodox on this point). My all-time favorite author is Ayn Rand (perhaps the only defender of free markets more eloquent than Milton Friedman). I am not calling for a reactionary, socialist movement to rise up and wipe clean the slate of history.
When I plead for us to question our motives as pro-capitalist, middle-class, evangelicals, I do so as a brother, not as a stranger. I firmly believe that we should always be harsher in critiquing ourselves than in critiquing outsiders, because our natural tendency is to downplay our weaknesses.
In his latest blog, Jeff mentions "blind spots"--I believe we have many, and in the name of renewal and health, I want us to examine our lives for such areas.
Are we blind to the abuses of wealth? Are we power hungry and defensive, when we ought to be humble and radically generous? Are we complicit in the crimes of a consumerist culture?
Please don't dismiss such questions as relativist, or a betrayal of tradition.
I'm not indicting capitalism, and I'm not trying to alienate conservative Christians...for the most part, I am one. I, with Jeff, I think, only want us to allow ourselves an honest appraisal of the state of the church and the world.
Since moving here, I have joined a community called Origins, which belongs to that "emergent church movement." Jeff is also a member of that community, along with many of you at King's. I recognize the incredible temptation to succumb to the sexiness of humanitarianism, the glamour of social justice. I love these things, I believe the church needs to reclaim its place in the vanguard of social movements, but it cannot do so at the expense of diluting the true force of the gospel--reborn hearts, and a renewed creation, through the power of Christ's death and resurrection.
Again, I receive your criticisms with gladness. I only implore you not to stop questioning your own motives, not to quench the work of the Spirit in your life!
Please allow the possibility that God might not care as much about free markets, "defending American values," or protecting American sovereignty as we have been lead to believe. Or, he might care much more...
In the end, emergents and fundamentalists alike will weep to consider how dimly they saw at first;
let that not keep us from pursuing a clear vision of truth and justice with all diligence.

Brendan Case

Josh said...


I merely offer a brief addendum to Brendan’s post for the purpose of clarification. As a leader in the Origins community, I would point out that we do not identify ourselves as belonging to what Brendan has called the “emergent church movement.” In fact, my experience (though limited) with Emergent has revealed that it is more of a conversation than a “movement.” As a learner and a committed follower of Jesus, it is a conversation that interests me, but my identity is bound up in my covenant relationship with the Father in the context of the Origins community. Regardless, the leaders of our community would object to being identified with some ambiguous movement.

Origins is a church community concerned with living in the Way of Jesus, in the context of the city, with a heart for the world. We value intimacy with Jesus, the pursuit of true spiritual transformation through discipleship, authentic community, servanthood, and mission. Our weekend gatherings are open to everyone who wants to take part in the journey.

Jeff Kursonis has been a friend of mine (and of our community) for several months now and even attends our weekend gatherings on occasion. However, I am sure that Jeff would want to identify himself with the community he is helping to start, Communion of the Arts. To be sure, Jeff has not made an effort to enter into the covenant relationship with our community that we associate with the traditional concept of “church membership.”

As a friend and brother, I took great issue with how Jeff has handled this apparent disagreement with President Oakes, and I have told him so in a private format. Our conversation about this matter continues.

In my estimation, this is a personal conflict between Jeff and President Oakes and should be resolved as such. It is not primarily a discussion about the merits of Emergent or of The King’s College dress code. I am disappointed that so much of our time has been taken away from our studies and our continued pursuit of the Kingdom by this matter that should have remained private. With that said, I don’t expect I will post any further comments on this blog for the simple reason that I have more than enough academic work to keep me occupied for the next couple of weeks.

Grace and peace to all,
Josh Staton

(Humbly, on behalf of the Origins Church community)