Archive for the ‘ Education ’ Category

Chambers: Higher Education & Despair

Book Cover 1What led Whittaker Chambers to become a communist? His university education was one source, not because it taught him communism per se, but because it offered nothing to believe in. Faced with a choice between nihilism and communism, he chose the latter. Here’s an excerpt from my new book that I hope you will find enlightening with respect to the decline of higher education.

Chambers chose to attend Columbia University, close enough to home that he could save money by staying there his freshman year. “When I entered,” he explained, “I was a conservative in my view of life and politics, and I was undergoing a religious experience. By the time I left, entirely by my own choice, I was no longer a conservative and I had no religion.”

It is a statement that begs for more. How did this happen, precisely? What exact role did Columbia play in this dramatic turnabout? Who and what were the influences on Chambers at this time in his life?

He entered Columbia in the fall of 1920. Already damaged from his upbringing, having viewed the less seemly aspects of life in D.C. and New Orleans, and contemplating the social and economic crises that resulted from the recent Great War, now known as World War I, Chambers was soon to be firmly convinced that the world was on the brink of catastrophe.

He referred to it later, when he could explain it better, as a fault line. As with a physical earthquake, so also society was cracking under pressures and stresses that would ultimately lead to a cataclysmic upheaval. The problem was that most people did not understand what was happening; therefore, neither did they have a solution. During his time at Columbia, he sought to figure out the nature of the crisis and to discover the solution. In the end, the university did not provide the answer.

In effect, I was asking: Please tell me what our civilization means in terms of God and man, for I cannot make head or tail of it.

It was very much as if I had gone to a madhouse and said, cap in hand: Please explain to me the principles of sanity and sane living. Again, this is entirely without any special animadversions upon Columbia University. Exactly the same thing would have been true, in one degree or another, if I had gone to any other of the top secular universities in the country. Nor would the colleges have been at fault. Their failure merely mirrored a much greater disaster which was the failure of Western civilization itself.

Columbia was, he declared, “a citadel of the mind swaying in the vertigo of a civilization changing (without admitting it) the basis of its faith from a two thousand-year-old Christian culture to the new secular and scientific culture.” Whereas the Christian culture “placed God at the center of man’s hope,” the new secular faith, which was “exclusively rational and scientific,” replaced God with Man.

This was not indoctrination into communism, at least not explicitly. “No member of the Columbia faculty ever consciously guided me toward Communism,” he stated. “Columbia did not teach me Communism. It taught me despair.” That despair opened the door for the communist solution.

Searching for meaning in life, Chambers found that his university education provided only despair. Only much later did he finally come to realize that true meaning is found only in God, to Whom he eventually surrendered his will.

Wheaton & the State of Christian Higher Education

I suppose by now most of my regular readers are already conversant with the controversy at Wheaton College over tenured political science professor Larycia Hawkins. This erupted while I was on my Christmas sabbatical so I’ve not written anything about it yet.

Today I believe it is time to share what I think, not because I am the final word on it but simply because I’m so committed to Christian higher education that a turmoil like this affects the realm in which I minister and work.

Larycia HawkinsLet’s review briefly what this controversy involves.

Larycia Hawkins, as you can see in the photo here, decided to wear the Muslim hijab as a statement of solidarity with her Muslim neighbors and/or friends.

But she didn’t stop there.

Hawkins also made a statement to the effect that both Christians and Muslims are people of the book (assuming she means the Bible) and worship the same God.

Hence the controversy.

Wheaton, an evangelical institution, suspended her temporarily while starting the process for her to explain her position more carefully before making a judgment on her future with the college. The result of that investigation has now led Wheaton to recommend her termination as a professor. That recommendation must now go through the rest of the process before it is finalized.

Is this fair? What should we think about Hawkins and this episode?

First, I stand solidly in the camp that says Christians and Muslims definitely do not worship the same God. Neither do I believe Muslims are followers of the Bible. Just because they trace their ancestry back to the patriarch Abraham, that is not sufficient. The Koran is not the Bible. Mohammad is not Jesus. The place of Jesus in Islam is subordinate; He is not considered the true Son of God who died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins.

The fact that there is any controversy at all about these points sheds light on the sad state of modern evangelicalism.

Further, Hawkins sought out the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) for guidance on wearing the hijab. That organization has been linked to radical jihadism while simultaneously putting on an appearance of even-handedness and fairness. It is one of the most deceptive organizations operating in our country with respect to what it actually promotes.

That she would seek out CAIR says a lot to me about her views. Reports now also show that she has been questioned previously three times with regard to her Christian orthodoxy:

  • She wrote an academic paper on black liberation theology that seemed to endorse Marxism;
  • She was at a party associated with Chicago’s Gay Pride Parade;
  • She has challenged the college’s Biblical stance on sexuality.

Rather than perceiving her as a persecuted individual, I think these incidents reveal Hawkins as someone outside the mainstream of Christian belief. Wheaton has every right to terminate someone with her views, given the college’s statement of faith.

Let’s be clear: either a Christian college stands by its statement of faith or it should surrender its identity as Christian.

What’s more troubling to me, though, is that Hawkins appears to have rather widespread support at Wheaton, by faculty, students, and alumni. If true, what does this say about the solidity of its Christian witness?

Why was Hawkins hired in the first place? Was there no indication of her views at that time? Or, more disturbing, are her views accepted and/or commonplace in the political science department?

Why would so many students support her, given her deviations from orthodoxy? Is this an indication of what they are being taught by the majority of the faculty? Is the statement of faith merely window dressing for parents thinking they are sending their children to a bastion of Christian fundamentals (which is not identical with fundamentalism as a movement)?

20140806_091616I have no animus toward Wheaton. When I did some research there last year, I was treated well by those at the Billy Graham Center and at the Marion E. Wade Center. Rather than an animus, I have a special place in my heart for such memories and the help I received.

My concern is simply that Christians be Christian, and that they make a strong witness to the world as to what that means. Accepting ideas that blend Christianity and Islam, that promote an anti-Christian Marxist philosophy, or that dismiss Biblical doctrines on sexuality are an attempt to undermine clear Christian teaching.

I’ve been concerned about this trend for a long time. The Council of Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) claims to represent conservative Christian institutions of higher learning, yet when two of its member colleges decided homosexual marriage was acceptable, there was not an immediate dismissal of those colleges from membership. They were relegated to a lower status in the organization, but apparently continue to have ties to it.

Evangelicals are sending an unclear message to the world. Well, maybe that’s not quite accurate. Perhaps the message is clear after all: we no longer take Biblical truth seriously.

I hope I’m wrong. You can be sure I’ll be following developments very carefully.

Campus Insane Asylums

On the higher education front, welcome back to the 1960s. Well, sort of.

College Protests

Yes, the latest round of protests from people with great experience in the world (aged 18-22) isn’t quite what it once was. Not that I cared for the 1960s protests, you understand. I was in college at the time myself. But this new protest movement from those who think they know everything is even more self-centered than the previous one.

It’s all aided and abetted by those who are doing the teaching, though:

Vivid Imagery

The professors who now continue the indoctrination of young minds who have been already been indoctrinated in our public school system have created some rather unrealistic expectations. Combine self-centered immaturity with a skewed view of reality and here’s what you end up with:

Can't Believe It

Socialism Will Work

The problem is that this immaturity spills over into society at large, escaping from the campuses to do greater damage. Of course, there are many adults who have the same worldview. One of them lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind this particular protest if he were completely open and honest with us:

Rainbow House

Free speech and open discussion are becoming endangered on campuses. It’s sad to witness those in charge (supposedly) cave to the pressures:

Yet Another

I’m grateful for some of our Christian colleges and universities that have not yet bowed to the new cultural sensitivity. One Christian university president made news recently, calling out a student who tried to force him to go along with the culture.

Everett PiperDr. Everett Piper, president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, related how one student wrote that he was offended by a sermon at the university that told students they needed to be more loving. You see, that sermon made the student feel bad because it seemed to indicate he was not loving enough. Thus the basis of the complaint.

Piper’s response was right on: students are being too coddled, he remarked, and then added, “This is not a day care; this is a university.” Our culture, Piper continued, “has actually taught our kids to be this self-absorbed and narcissistic.”

Piper also took a shot at fellow academics, noting,

A liberal arts academy is about learning. It’s not supposed to be a place to suppress controversial ideas. My point was to challenge my own industry — to look my academic peers in the eye and say: “We’ve caused this.”

How refreshing to hear a voice of Christian sanity in a college world that all too often looks like an insane asylum.

That’s the voice all Christians are called to be in this culture. How many of us will stand up and be counted as one of those voices?

A Toxic Campus Environment

This new outbreak of campus unrest is more than slightly reminiscent of the turbulent period between 1964-1973, which coincided with the Vietnam War. Along with the war protests, however, we also experienced a major shift in culture. Traditional morality based on Christian faith was largely jettisoned on campuses, and in the intervening years, hostility to Biblical faith and morality has only increased.

While the ostensible rationale for the current unrest is racial, what we are seeing is a bandwagon effect as the old stale tirade against the establishment raises its ugly head once again.

What’s ironic, of course, is that the establishment in the universities is predominantly allied with the leftist agenda. Apparently, they are not being leftist enough.

The demand for free speech that supposedly was the basis for the earlier protests has been turned on its head. Now it’s free speech for me, not for thee.

Free Speech

Some fragile students are offended by almost anything with which they disagree. Everyone must come around to their point of view . . . or else. And if you deny this is happening . . .

Denier

College is also supposed to be a place where one receives a “higher” education. In some departments that has become laughable, and for certain students, it’s not even a goal:

Shocking Sports Story

And where education presumably is occurring, one has to be aware of what that education is comprised:

Imperialist Religious Fanatics

Many have commented that this generation of college students is perhaps the most coddled, immature, and crybabyish (new word?) in our history. For me, it’s always comforting to resort to one of my favorite sources of wisdom:

Perspective

Proper perspective is essential. The current generation, adrift in a sea of moral relativism, quasi-Marxism, and a sense of entitlement, is oblivious to real history, to any foundational understanding of how government under our Constitution is supposed to operate, and to the Source of all our liberties and social responsibilities.

Liberal Education Isn’t Liberal or Education

I was a college students during the turbulent years of the Vietnam War. My campus, Purdue University, probably wasn’t too different than others, caught in the wave of dissent over the war and in revolt against Biblical morality. Yet no violence ever erupted there, no one was kept from studying, professors were not publicly abused verbally, and no administrators resigned after massive protests over alleged grievances.

All of that is happening now, though, and college campuses are once again becoming battlegrounds that are, unfortunately, rather void of the intellectual firepower that they should be engaged in. Instead, what we see is an attempt to substitute slogans and anger for genuine solutions.

The latest eruption stems from perceived racial insults, but evidence for those insults appears to be thin, about as thin as the skin of those claiming to be harmed. And if you disagree with their viewpoint? Well, you should just shut up.

Suppression

By the way, we now know that the black student who started the disturbances at the University of Missouri and who went on a hunger strike to protest “white privilege” is the son of a multimillionaire. White privilege? There are a lot of white people in America who would jump to take advantage of the privileges this young man has had. He has also stated that his university education is what radicalized him.

And we still keep sending our children to these universities?

I’m blessed to be teaching at a Christian university where none of this has boiled over. I know for a fact that I would be one of those whose speech would be suppressed if I ever tried to teach at a typical public university. What’s ironic is that professors who have fomented this attitude—who euphemistically refer to themselves as “liberal”—are now seeing their words and actions come back on them in ways they never imagined. Many are probably still blind as to how they have created what we now see:

Out of Hand

Created a Monster

All the rhetoric about “safe spaces” has another unintended consequence—a “safe space” from thinking:

Safe Spaces

A segment of our population, both in so-called higher education and outside of it, is so perpetually aggrieved by everything that one cartoonist believes he has come up with the perfect editorial cartoon, one designed never to offend anyone:

Editorial Cartoon

Actually, that will be judged rather offensive, too, I believe, because it pokes fun at those who are so easily offended. Such insensitivity!

The height of the crybaby mentality surfaced this past weekend when some of the Black Lives Matter protesters were outraged over news coverage of the Paris attacks. You see, that distracted people from the REAL attacks on the feelings of college students.

Here’s a word of caution for those whose feelings are so hurt:

No Lives Matter

Time to get a grip on reality and the real problems we all have to face together.

What People Don’t Know

Teaching about Andrew Jackson and his faith in the common people the other day, I noted another of my Snyderian truisms: “Public opinion polls are not the fount of all wisdom.” I mentioned to my class that it really would be nice if voters had some concept of how our government was set up in the Constitution and what limitations there are on the federal government’s authority before allowing them to vote.

Of course, it would be rather unwieldy to quiz each voter as he or she approaches the voting booth, but one can dream, right?

And then, shortly after commenting on this in the classroom, I came across a couple of comic strips that addressed that very problem. I thought you might like them today; they may provide a few minutes of profitable meditation:

Small Test

Voting Test

And then there’s our citizens’ knowledge base about the rest of the world:

What's Canada

If you think my blog today betrays the weariness of a professor attempting to enlighten the current generation of college students, you are a person of great insight. I have to keep in mind the encouragement of this Scripture:

And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary.

Thank you, Lord, for the reminder.

In Support of Christian Higher Ed

Education CollageI remember my one experience teaching at a public university, which will go unnamed. I was an adjunct there for at least three semesters and thoroughly enjoyed the classes I taught. Student evaluations at the end of each semester were high, and it was my first taste of college-level teaching, prior to getting my first full-time position.

I recall fondly one student who walked out to the car with me after the last class session one time, telling me that what I had presented during class had changed his mind about abortion—he now saw how wrong it was.

Not so fondly do I recall one very loud and critical feminist whose age told me she was straight out of the 1960s, arguing vocally with me during class and then reporting me to the chair of the history department. The crux of her message to the chair was that I, with my conservative views, never should be allowed to teach there again.

The phone call I received from the chairperson, a woman I never met face to face, was cordial, to an extent, as I explained the perspective I brought to the classroom. She mouthed the right words, saying that all views should be allowed—after all, everyone believes in free speech, right?

I got off the phone thinking everything was fine. I was never asked to teach there again, despite the positive student reviews. One radical feminist got me tossed.

I can’t imagine what would happen to me today if I ever tried to teach at another public university. The attitudes have hardened considerably since the 1980s.

Back at College

This is why I’m so grateful that the Lord has opened doors for me to teach at Christian colleges and universities for the last 27 years. Yes, I’ve had my heartaches along the way, and, at times, I’ve joked that it’s one of God’s minor miracles that I still believe in Christian higher education.

Yet I’ve had the high honor of helping to direct the thinking and the lives of a few thousand students during this time. Also, I’ve been given wonderful opportunities to develop courses tailored to my interests: “Ronald Reagan and Modern American Conservatism,” “The Witness of Whittaker Chambers,” and “C. S. Lewis: History and Influence,” to name a few.

The Obergefell decision is the latest threat to the liberty of Christian colleges to be what God has called them to be. We are at a critical junction in this nation with respect to the future of Christian higher education. Please pray for our liberty to continue unhindered, and pray that those involved with Christian education remain firm in the faith, never wavering from the truths in God’s Word.