Mission Context: The Arch

Ben Sheppard is a member of Christ Community and a senior at UGA. He wants to serve the church by encouraging Christians not to just consume, condemn, critique or copy culture — but to continually create a culture that testifies to the reality of the gospel. More specifically, Ben is taking a look at the places, practices, institutions, events, and cultural patterns that contribute to our cultural context in the American South, the city of Athens, the UGA campus, and the surrounding communities. 

Check out this post for an explanation of what he’s doing, why he’s doing it, and where he got the idea.

Today’s mission context: The Arch

Photo credit Josh Hallett

As one of the traditional symbols of the University of Georgia, the Arch is already interesting enough as a cultural object in itself. For instance, did you know that the three pillars are intended to represent wisdom, justice, and moderation? (We might need to replace that last one if we want to get this dubious title back). Today, however, I’m interested less in the Arch itself and more interested in what kind of culture exists because of it – what kind of culture do people create in response to the Arch?

Culture, of course, doesn’t have to be big and flashy.  It’s just what we make of the world and the things in it. Tourists come and take pictures by the Arch; so do recent graduates and wedding parties. In each case, they’re creating meaning and associating it with this physical object. When the Redcoat Band lines up in the “Arch” before a Georgia football game, they’re creating something completely new (a marching band show) in response to something fairly ordinary (a cast-iron arch).


Because of the space and its prominent position on Broad Street between the UGA campus and downtown, the Arch is a favorite spot for protests and demonstrations. For instance, the members of the Jubilee Partners community regularly stage silent protests against the death penalty there. Recently, others joined them there to advocate on behalf of Troy Davis during the last days of his life. Just this week, taking their cue from Occupy Wall Street and We Are the 99 Percent, protesters have demonstrated by “occupying” the space in front of the Arch. 


On the lighter side, student lore says that if a student walks under the Arch, he or she will never graduate. That’s actually not so bad, especially compared to a similar superstition concerning the seal in front of Langdon Hall at Auburn University: if you step on it, not only will you never graduate and never find true love, you’ll also be a student at Auburn. 


What do you think? Are there other examples of culture created in response to the Arch that I missed?

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