On High

Christian college takes root in the Empire State Building

MacKenzie Horrell, a freshman from Little Rock, Arkansas, credits the school for her religious awakening. She had visited King's on a college tour her junior year in high school but was initially uninterested: "I used to think, 'Those people who believe in God—what are they living for?' " The next summer, an admissions officer called and told her he'd been praying for her. "I had been having a hard time and it really hit a spot in me," she says. "I went to my grandmother's house and she actually led me to Christ on her back porch that afternoon. Once you give your life over to Christ, that's it—I can't explain how happy I've been. God said, 'You're broken, you can let me fix you, or you can lay there and die.' "

Images of death and resurrection were prominent at the school's annual art expo last month, organized by Lukomsky, the president of the school Artisans Guild. Students showcased paintings, film, photography, and music about romance, loneliness, PMS, the meaning of art, and gratitude toward Jesus. "You just hung there and died," belted out one singer. "You didn't have to do it/Oh, but I'm glad that you did." Another read a poem, a critique of the big bang theory: "BANG. We are utterly alone. BANG. Your life has no meaning. . . . Around is strewn the evidence of Christ/And still we seek ourselves/why?" Most contributors were dressed fashionably off-kilter: arty peasant skirts, oversize shawls, lace-up boots.

illustration: Anthony Freda

King's students adjust well to the style and pace of midtown, though their relationship with the city is never quite clear: Are they here to contribute to New York? Or save it? Oakes, who has many ideas about how to "mend the social fabric," believes that evangelical Christianity, like country music, is becoming increasingly mainstream ("It's no longer just for people who love twangy music about pickup trucks") and knows of a number of groups looking to open seminaries here. "Some old, white guy like me, am I going to solve the problems of New York City?" he asks. "No. But we can be part of the maelstrom of competition. And to the extent that we do well, we'll gain credibility," he says, laughing. "Maybe I'm Darwinian in that sense."

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