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[253] Cos and Locals

Many years ago I read an article about college faculty, dividing them into two groups: Cosmopolitans and Locals.  Cosmopolitans were faculty establishing a name for themselves in their discipline through publishing and conference presentations.  The Locals confined their activities to the local college.

This split is sharply evident in Christian colleges.  There is a minority of faculty, Cosmopolitans, that do publishable research—books, articles, and conference presentations.  By doing so, they put themselves and their institutions on the larger academic map.  The majority, however, are Locals.  Often because these colleges are “teaching institutions,” they opt to limit their activities to teaching, committee service, and publishing in non-academic, denominational periodicals, often claiming these endeavors consume all of their time.

This is unfortunate.  Please understand, teaching a worthy priority.  Committee service can make a contribution.  Writing articles in denominational magazines have their place.  But none of these are terribly difficult to do, and they certainly do not establish oneself as a scholar in one’s field.  In fact, they hardly constitute a full-time job.  I know that firsthand.

What is even more unfortunate is that many Christian colleges not only do not encourage cosmopolitan activity, but have faculty that–perhaps out of jealousy—subtly denigrate colleagues who go more widely. I experienced that as well.

In short, in many of these schools you can become a full Professor without having done a shred of research beyond your doctoral dissertation, provided of course that you taught your classes, served on designated committees, and carried out the other pedestrian tasks of your employment.  Conversely, publications and research are generally not highly regarded.  In fact, you may be penalized should your research take you away from campus with any frequency.

Christian colleges need to address this.  Ideally, faculty that do research should have accommodations made in their workload, affording them more time to do scholarship.  At the very least, these institutions need to recognize, encourage, and applaud their Cosmopolitans who are making a mark for Christ in secular academe.  It is the Cosmopolitans who are models of what scholarship really is.  It is they who are preparing their students, by example, to serve Christ in the world. DC

[252] PM as Philosophy

Postmodernism (PM) is everywhere, even in the Christian College.  A professorial colleague of mine lamented at how PM has seeped into many of this presumably Christian students.

The pernicious notion that objective metaphysical (spiritual) truth does not exist undermines the foundation of the Christian faith.  For the believer, as certainly as you cannot drive anywhere but north from St. Louis to get to Chicago, you cannot be a disciple without accepting immutable, unbending, spiritual truths.  Truth is the pathway to Christ.  In the King James version of the Bible, truth appears 118 times.  PM, by making truth subjective, contradicts the teachings of scripture.

The Christian college needs to confront this heretical strain eroding the structure of their students’ faith.  More particularly. PM needs to be treated as a philosophy, and critiqued as such in basic philosophy, apologetics, and theology courses.  The stability of their students’ faith may depend upon it.  DC

[251] Spirit of Error

As our nation departs from its Judeo-Christian moorings it enters a spirit of error.  The Judeo-Christian tradition is rooted in a set of beliefs; high among them is that humans are flawed, error-ridden by nature, and unable to find their way to non-material truth apart from engaging the truth of their creator.  The writings of the founders are anchored to this belief.

Secular progressivism denies the very existence of that creator, and hence the very existence of that truth.  Instead, humans are viewed as the highest form of life in the universe.  Furthermore they are viewed as an ever-evolving, ever-improving life-form—and therefore capable of determining ever-better prescriptions for human thought and behavior.  In short, they can determine what is politically correct.

In the secular-progressive world, there is no metaphysical truth because there is no metaphysical foundation to life.  In other words, we humans are on our own.  For the Christian, the consequence of this thinking is inescapable.  It means flawed humans are now attempting to construct our national sense of reality.  Moreover, because of their flawed natures, it is impossible for their constructions to be accurate.  We hear more and more public pronouncements, often from political figures, that run counter to Christian values.  They are disturbing, and they should be, because they are the outflow of a society lost in a spirit of error.  DC

[250] Correlations

According to Michael J. Knowles, atheists are now the number one religious group in the U.S.  Americans who profess no religion now constitute just under a quarter of the population, nosing out Catholics and Evangelicals for first place.

Because of this growth, open defiance of Judeo-Christian principles has become louder, bolder, and more frequent.  In decades past, the cultural overlay of the nation’s Judeo-Christian heritage functioned as a sort of informal censor throughout the country, keeping non-believers from openly attacking the gospel and its adherents.

There are some disturbing correlations with our national abandonment of religion.  Here, according to Knowles, are a few.  One in 5 U.S. adults experiences anxiety disorders, the latter being now the #1 mental illness in the nation.  One in 6 take antidepressant medications, with the number soaring among younger Americans.  The suicide rate among U.S. teenagers is up by 70% since 2006.

Conversely, the psychological research indicates that people who attend religious services regularly are twice as likely to describe themselves as “very happy” than those who attend sporadically or not at all.  Religious people engage in “happy-making behaviors” (marrying for example) to a significantly greater degree than those who are not.

Indeed, as Andrew Breitbart pointed out, culture is the downstream of religion; and as our faith erodes so does our sense of meaning and ultimately happiness.  Ironically, in a culture characterized by a frenzied search for meaning and happiness, its members are looking in all the wrong places.  Meaning and happiness are hiding in plain view.  DC

[249] In the Box

Identity politics is an outgrowth of postmodernism.  The latter rejects the existence of objective truth in the non-material world, hence truth is customized to the individual, a construction of each individual for herself.

That shifts the focus from looking for truth outside oneself in a spiritual realm—a truth by which one would order one’s life—to one that must be constructed from within each individual box.  Clearly in an era of diversity one is quick to look at ethnic and gender categories as a beginning point to find that truth within one’s box.  Those identity categories (being female, gay, or a racial minority, for example) then become celebrated as the core of one’s being—the center of one’s life.  They become the main source for individual truth, and once that happens, they generate battles that verge on being Darwinian in nature.  Abortion rights, immigration, and nationalism become religious issues owing to their intersection with identity categories such as race and gender.

This is the result of a “spirit of error,” the result of a society that rejects spiritual truth.  These identity categories that once gave rise to important discussions of justice and equity, as we seek the divinely endowed rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, become much more than that—they become the basis of life itself.  DC

[248] Evolution

Evolution, according to Richard Cromwick, apologist and as well-read a scientific Christian scholar as I know, is a series of unsubstantiated hypotheses.  It is called a science, but it is not science as we define it—verifiable facts about the universe.  It is at best a form of forensic science—a set of theories about the past by applying what scientific facts we have and filling in the blanks with speculation.

For years we have heard of the “theory” of evolution, with “gaps” and “missing links.”  We no longer hear that. It is now proclaimed as a science with little mention of all the still unverified hypotheses that litter the enterprise.  Furthermore, the closer one examines the theory with its millions and billions of years timeline, the less plausible it becomes, given matters as basic as the deterioration of key elements (gases, for example) necessary for the universe to exist.

It is a theory, and a not a very strong one.  Creation makes more sense.  Much of the fossil evidence, for example, is more easily explainable by there having been a worldwide flood (per chapters 6-9 in Genesis) than that we are looking at millions and even billions of years of naturalistic unfolding.  While rendering a fair assessment of evolution is beyond the scope of this essay, to say there are major scientific problems with the theory would be an understatement.

So the question is this: Why is evolution taught as fact in the public schools?

Because the issue is binary.  There are only two choices.  If evolution does not stand, creation is the only alternative explanation.  There are no other academic interstates to travel.  And to accept creation not only necessitates absorbing the humiliating intellectual blow of realizing that we humans are not the most intelligent life form in the universe, but far more humbling, we need to surrender ourselves to the transcendent creator who is. DC

[247] Search

Few verses describe our times better than 2 Timothy 3:7 that speaks of people continually learning but never coming to a knowledge of the truth.  In short, many people do not want the truth.  They want to search for truth.  Name any serious thinking person, from your next door neighbor to your favorite university professor, and chances are she will talk about truth in terms of searching for it.

We have truth.  The very word appears roughly 250 times in the Bible (depending on the translation), the most authenticated book of all time.  But people do not accept the truth, because that truth goes beyond knowledge, it requires submitting to it.  And submission does not align with the fallen nature of humankind.  So the search goes on. DC

[246] Divorce

We have way too many divorces in the Christian world.  There are well-known Christian colleges with alumni divorce rates that rival the national average.  Many of us have contributed to these disturbing statistics.

These things ought not to be.  The church and Christian colleges need to address this.  In many instances, neither has really come to grips with why divorce rates have spiked.  In the pre-industrial and industrial eras (as Aren Renn of urbanophile.com calls them), marriage constituted a culturally approved economic unit.  Men provided for their wives and children, while women managed the household duties.  The latter included primary care and nurture for children and myriad other tasks including cooking, cleaning, etc.–sans the appliances of today.

In short, marriage was a practical necessity, and divorce was devastating—economically—to both parties. In those times if you asked a man if he liked his job, chances are he would snap, “It’s a job.”  I know.  I did it.  Men did not look for “fulfillment” in their jobs. They had to make a living.

Similarly, people did not necessarily seek deep, intimate, emotional bonds in marriage. Surely many marriages enjoyed such closeness, but a marriage bound mainly by economic convenience and the presence of children was not necessarily unsatisfying.

Things are very different in the current post-industrial age.  Marriage is not an economic necessity for either gender.  Sex is readily available everywhere and children are not always born in wedlock.  More important, we expect much more from marriage now.  We want intimacy and companionship in a lonely, segmented world.  And many of us marry people we did not know when we grew up.  We no longer live in a womb-to-tomb community that makes divorce taboo. Furthermore, we live in a secular, narcissistic culture, one in which lack of fulfillment is a sufficient reason to leave what was intended to be a lifetime union.

All the while, the Christian world has (a) not addressed the challenges of post-industrial marriage, and (b) tacitly made divorce more acceptable.

That has to stop.  Christian colleges and churches need to confront this crisis head-on.  Classes, workshops, seminars—from a Christian perspective—need to be present in churches in colleges. The family is the most important institution in a society.  When it crumbles, the society crumbles.  When it crumbles in the Christian world, we have no witness. DC

[245] Development

Whenever there is a discussion of increasing student diversity in Christian colleges you will hear this retort:  We could get more [you can fill in the blank here] but they are too far below the academic standards of our school to succeed.

There are two responses to this not-very-intelligent objection.  First, how hard is the school trying to get “qualified” minority students?  And while we are at it, how hospitable is the school to such students?  How “at home” will they feel?  Why should they want to come to the school?  For many such students, they are trading off a supposedly Christian education for an atmosphere—at the state university—in which they feel more welcome.

But let’s yield the point on the foregoing and focus on those “academically deficient” minority students.  There are two types of academically limited students.  There are those that do not have the intellectual capacities to succeed.  There are students of all colors in this group.  There are also those who are intellectually capable, but who—owing to the high schools they attended–have not had an adequate preparation to succeed in an academically demanding environment.  There are so many “Homeless to Harvard” stories out there that there should be no dispute as to the existence of this second group.

Why aren’t Christian colleges pursuing these students with an eye toward developing their academic potential?  There are myriad developmental programs available.  They began to appear in the 1970’s and have proliferated ever since.  In our electronic world there is unlimited access to them.  You don’t have to have a very good success rate for these developmental programs to pay for themselves.

If our Christian colleges truly value people of all races, and wish to develop disciples– body, mind, and spirit, they need to get past superficial barriers and engage the task aggressively.

DC

[244] Diversity at the Christian College

Christian colleges continue to struggle in attracting African-Americans and Hispanics.  There are more than a few reasons for this.  One is that these colleges draw a huge slice of their students from white evangelical churches, who by the way, are woefully behind the national population in diversity.

The colleges cannot change that.

There are things they can do.  They all involve a commitment to cultural diversity.  The key word here is cultural.  I am not talking about adding a black or Hispanic faculty member here or there, or another vice president of this or that.  This is ornamentation. A black or Hispanic student is not going to say, “Oh wow, I met this black professor.  This is the place for me.”

It goes much deeper.  Christian colleges need to examine every aspect of their culture.  Here are just a few questions for them to consider.  (Evangelical churches would also do well to adapt some of the following.)

–Do African-American or Hispanics consistently hear their sound in the music on the campus?  At least in chapel?

–Is there black and Hispanic art prevalent on the campus?

–What about the food in the cafeteria—is there diversity there?  In the campus union?

–Does the school recognize MLK Day and Hispanic holidays?

–Is there diversity among guest speakers?

–Are there courses that engage diversity?

–Are members of these groups adequately represented on student governing groups?

–Does the school have an ongoing committee whose task it is to advance diversity?

You will find many Christian colleges that cannot answer in the affirmative to any of these.  In short, they are failing to create an environment in which minorities feel at home. 

It’s not about a few more African-American and Hispanic faces in the faculty and the staff any more than that the basketball coach is a minority.  It is about an entire environment—an ethos.

Don’t try to rework diversity with white people at the throttle.  Looking at the environment through a white worldview is what has created the problem.  Call in Christian minorities who will be candid.  They are out there.  They will be willing to help.  Some are on the campus now—students.

Addressing the need for cultural diversity is a very important step.  It is not only an affirmation of the old Sunday School song, “Red and yellow, black and white; all are precious in his sight.”  It is a huge stride toward providing a genuinely relevant Christian education.  DC

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