WHILE "CHRISTIANITY" and "higher learning" rarely go together, there's a strong case to be made for the largely unsung Concordia University. Tucked neatly away in a quiet neighborhood of Northeast Portland (take a hard left after the Kennedy School and you'll crash right into it), Concordia is a liberal arts institution run by Lutherans. What's up with Lutherans? Here's what's up with Lutherans.
In 1517, German monk/Catholic priest Martin Luther said, "Unnghh! The Roman Catholic Church is like, the worst." So he created a 95-point document challenging the corruptness of the church and allegedly nailed it on the door of the Wittenberg University church, who were like, "What are you doing? That was a perfectly good door!"
After reading it, the pope said, "Dude, you're nuts. We like things the way they are (particularly my funny hat), so screw you—you're excommunicated. BOOM!" Followers quickly hopped on the Lutheran bandwagon, which differentiated itself with a more populist bent: They translated the Bible from snoozy Latin, demanded that the church stop robbing the poor, and focused on doing good works for their neighbors. (But don't swoon too soon, Martin Luther also hated the Jews... so there's that.)
There's a lot more to it, but the bottom line is that Lutherans are 37 percent less terrible than Roman Catholics—though all Lutherans are not created equal. For example, Concordia was founded by the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod who seem less sensible than their more liberal sister organization, the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Missouri Synod believes in biblical inerrancy—or that the bible is without error. Usually that's bad news for our LGBT friends and neighbors... however, I've been informed by several students on campus as well as the administration that Concordia has a healthy LGBT community, and the school works hard to create an environment of support for all of their students—regardless of sexual orientation, religion, or what have you. (Sometimes it's best to regard the founders of your school like a crazy, homophobic grandparent. Just sigh heavily and roll your eyes.)
All that being said, Concordia University is an absolutely darling campus, currently hosting roughly 4,000 students (60 percent female), and is lauded as one of the most diverse private liberal arts schools in Oregon. They're also highly regarded in certain fields of study, including education, business, nursing, sports science, and social work. The faculty-to-student ratio is very low—roughly one instructor for every 17 students, with an average 20-person class size. That's probably why their tuition is bit on the pricey side ($26,900); however, they also say 97 percent of all students receive some sort of financial aid—including grants and scholarships (for being smart, musically or athletically inclined, and for doing churchy stuff).
Another plus? Concordia's residence halls have amenities I never dreamed of when I was in school, such as free internet (!!) and debit card-operated laundry rooms (!!). Their impressive athletics department boasts an absolute kick-ass women's and men's soccer team—AND something I've never seen on any campus anywhere: a "throwing center." A place just to throw things. Sure, they're talking about javelins, discus, shotput, but I bet they wouldn't mind an occasional piece of dishware. Especially if you were frustrated.
But when you add it all up, the most impressive aspect of Concordia is their commitment to community service. Every student participates in what they call "service learning" within their curriculum, where they go out into the community to volunteer. Whether it's sending 200 reading coach/tutors into Portland grade schools, or working with the Portland Public Schools to rebuild Faubion Elementary School from the ground up, Concordia both talks the talk and walks the walk.
And remember, if you do decide to enroll there? Just because it's a Lutheran college, that doesn't mean you can just walk up and nail your complaints to the door. I'm with the pope on this one... that's just rude.