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Ten Commandments for the “College” Church

by Ronald R Johnson (

Photo of University of Illinois campus from Jack A. Scanlan Scrapbook, 1907-1911, University of Illinois, Archives Research Center, RS 41/20/39. This is how the campus looked when Lloyd Douglas arrived in 1911.

Reprinted below is a humorous article by Lloyd C. Douglas published in the magazine, The Intercollegian, April 1919. During ten of his years as a minister, Douglas was on a university campus, first as the religious director of the YMCA at the University of Illinois (1911-1915), then as Senior Minister of the First Congregational Church of Ann Arbor, adjacent to the University of Michigan (1915-1921).

Of particular note is the Tenth Commandment. Douglas had obviously run out of numbers, so he crammed several commandments into the last one. I especially like how he warns against asking big-name faculty members to teach Sunday School if their “spiritual thermostat” is below the freezing point.

The commandments are listed with Roman numerals:


I AM the Spirit of Christianity. Thou shalt have no other business but to promote me.

Thou shalt not squander thy time by offering dissertations upon Genesis as a text book on anthropology, biology, geology, astronomy, or any other ology or onomy appertaining to the heavens above or the earth beneath or the waters under the earth; thou shalt not bother thyself overmuch with philosophical explanations of strange matters concerning which thou knowest nothing; for I, the Spirit of Christianity, am now exercised more about other things; notably, the character of thy summons in behalf of lofty ideals and worthy living.


Thou shalt not specialize upon indictments of Organized Christianity because of its ancient mistakes, for they are amply able to speak for themselves without thy help, and thy task is to remedy such blunders rather than commemorate them.


Remember the Faculty and keep its respect. Students come and go, and their opinions are easily modified; but the Faculty Man stays, and likewise do his convictions. Let him once give thee a black eye, and thou shalt be thus adorned for some time. In him thou shalt invest much of thy time and thought, that his good opinion of thy motives and methods may be won, lest he consider thee out of harmony with Truth and intolerant of truth-seekers, whereupon he hooteth at thee in his lecture-hall, after the which thou mayest as well lock thy door and throw away the key thereof.


Honor the student traditions of thy university, however silly they may seem to thee, that thy days may be longer in the academic community wherein thou hast chosen to live thy life and perform thy work.


Thou shalt not scold.


Thou shalt not commit sectarianism.


Thou shalt not bawl out the fraternities.


Thou shalt not cause thy most loyal students to flunk their courses by spending too much time scouring thy pots and pans, engineering thy pop-corn festivals, lest they evermore think of thee as one doth regard the tailor who built him the ill-fitting pants.


Thou shalt not covet university credits for thy courses in religion.


Thou shalt not covet the instructor’s right to consider it unprofessional to be interesting; thou shalt not toady to the professor who knifeth thee in the back after thou hast caused him to be made toastmaster of a student banquet within thy gates, nor ask them to teach thy classes in Bible study who, though they have large names and many letters affixed thereunto, register less than 32 degrees on their spiritual thermostat; thou shalt not covet the student’s slang, airs, dress, indifference, cold-bloodedness, or any other thing that undignifies thee and nullifies thy usefulness and causeth him to thrust his tongue in his cheek when he passeth thee by.

[These “commandments” may be of interest also – and profit – to Association Secretaries and other Christian workers in academic communities. – Edit.]

For a free PDF copy of the booklet, The Secret Investment of Lloyd C Douglas, fill out the form below: