Honesty & Integrity in Higher Education

As a new academic year approaches, I continue to be grateful for the liberty I have to teach from my Christian conservative perspective. At my university, I don’t have to tread carefully; I can fully expound on Biblical principles and make application to the courses I offer.

Professors at secular universities who have my perspective are not always so blessed. Neither are the students who swim against the progressive tide at those places:

Even guest speakers who go against the prevailing orthodoxy on campuses are experiencing hostility. Most often this is directed at conservatives who are invited to share at an event, but I recently noticed a fascinating divergence from the usual: Richard Dawkins, the outspoken atheist, had an invitation to speak at Berkeley withdrawn. Why? He had made comments critical of Islam.

Liberals love clichés, especially ones about freedom of speech, etc. The reality is somewhat different than their self-righteous pronouncements:

While my university does have a definite statement of faith that all professors must sign, that covers only the basics of Christian doctrine. There is room for discussion on many issues, as long as that discussion is based on those basic beliefs.

Take history, for instance—my subject. There are many questions that arise from a Christian standpoint when looking at the history of America. What about slavery? What are the real reasons for why we had a civil war? Was big business good for the nation or a detriment? What are the proper limits for civil government? Was it right to engage in a particular war? What about the dropping of those atomic bombs on Japan? Can that be justified?

Christians will differ on some of those issues. I have definite views. My study of history from my Biblical perspective leads me to believe that there was a lot of Christian influence, especially in early America. I also like to highlight people and events that bolster that viewpoint.

Yet that doesn’t mean I whitewash history to make it conform to my preconceived notions. While I would like for Thomas Jefferson to have been a Christian, I have to tell students that the evidence indicates he wasn’t. Many people love Andrew Jackson, but I frankly abhor much of what he did. Southern partisans praise Stonewall Jackson; my praise is muted, to say the least.

It has become fashionable to decry all of American history because of some of the blemishes in our character that have occurred, but we need to be more nuanced than that:

Honesty. Integrity. Those are my guidelines when teaching.

If only those were the guidelines for most of American higher education.

Christian Higher Education: Discernment Needed

In my last post, I critiqued the current campus scene in colleges and universities nationwide and extolled the virtues of evangelical colleges. While not walking back that endorsement, I do want to point out that as long as we are on this earth, nothing is perfect, and that applies to evangelical institutions of higher education as well.

Some evangelicals seem to have some kind of inferiority complex because of their affiliation with a Christian college. They continue to look at what they consider to be prestigious universities as the epitome of higher education and strive to be acceptable to them intellectually. Let’s be honest: since the only places you can get many doctoral degrees are at those institutions, some Christian professors teaching at evangelical colleges may consider themselves to be second-rate because of that affiliation.

I disagree, of course, because I think all true learning begins with the knowledge of God and His ways. But I have seen an envy of sorts pop up in a number of colleagues over the years.

I’ve also seen an uncritical acceptance of trendy thought patterns. Every evangelical college has its quota, it seems, of social justice warriors who mirror the policies promoted by “progressive” forces in the secular world. In one sense, I understand how this can happen. Christians care for the poor; they see a need to help; they then adopt the clichés and attitudes of the Left who, to them, appear to be as concerned for the poor as they are.

Never mind that progressive, socialist policies have only hurt the poor wherever they are tried. They then label anyone who disagrees with such policies as uncaring, greedy, and unrighteous. And they have to ignore the incipient totalitarianism of the progressive Left that shouts down anyone with a different point of view and seeks to force conformity.

Personally, I have experienced what it means to be in the crosshairs of a Christian university administration when I have challenged certain trendy movements. At one of the universities where I taught, I was called into the academic dean’s office to answer for my teaching “heresies.”

What offenses did I commit? Well, first of all, I held to the Biblical view that parents are the ones who should decide how their children are educated, not the government. For advocating private schools and homeschooling, I was going against the university’s goal of placing students in public schools.

I never said that Christians shouldn’t be teaching in those schools as missionaries; I was merely stating that parents should take their educational responsibilities seriously and make sure their own children were brought up in the faith.

For that, I was a heretic, I guess.

The second teaching that got me into trouble was my concern over how much of modern psychology had found its way into Christian psychology and counseling. In particular, I questioned the emphasis on self-esteem because I see it as an artificial, self-centered approach that denies the true Christian message of recognition of sin and repentance prior to salvation. I believe that movement has done great damage in the church.

Then I had the audacity to put those views in a book. Apparently, that was the final straw. For those two reasons, I was told my contract would not be renewed. The book was an attempt on my part to help Christians understand the Biblical grounds for government and public policy, as I came to realize that the main reason some Christians drifted into progressive policies is that they don’t have a firm grasp of Biblical principles as applied to government.

That book is available for purchase on Amazon. I still use it in my basic historiography course.

While having my contract ended stung at the time, God opened another door that was far more fruitful. I have learned through experiences like this that I should never despair because He always has something for His people to do.

That old maxim that says when one door closes, another opens, is accurate when you believe that God works all things together for good for those who love Him.

So what am I saying? Be discerning. Not all advertisements for Christian education tell the whole story. Dig deeper and know what is being taught before sending your 18-year-old off to college. Avoid the heartbreak of seeing your children adopt views that run counter to the Biblical foundation you have tried to instill within them.

Losing the Culture

Eight years of Ronald Reagan didn’t do it. Massive congressional election victories in 2010 and 2014 didn’t do it. Despite conservative successes at the polls at various times, we see the nation continue to slip away from its Christian and constitutional moorings. Why is that?

David FrenchDavid French wrote an insightful essay the other day that points to the problem. He calls on conservatives—and Christian conservatives, in particular—to recognize what has transpired. He begins by saying, “We’ll often seek every reason and justification for . . . failure short of our own flaws before we face the truth.”

What truth? We have been living with the illusion that there is this vast conservative army out there ready to turn things around and we have focused on politics as the means for doing so.

That army, he says, does not exist in the strength we had hoped it does, and our focus on politics has blinded us to where the real battle lies.

Real conservatives, French believes, have proven to be “a minority within what looks increasingly like a minority party, at least at the national level.”

Yes, Republicans control Congress. Yes, Republican governors and state legislatures outnumber Democrats. If this is so, why has so little changed? Why are we further from our founding principles than ever?

French pinpoints the problem:

In hindsight, the reason for their error isn’t hard to discern. Indeed, it’s a reason that conservatives have been identifying for years. Conservatives have been competent at winning elections, but they’ve been terrible at influencing the culture. Thus, they’re good at holding down the right side of a leftward-shifting political spectrum, but they can’t arrest the broader cultural shift to the left.

Paul WeyrichIn spite of many electoral successes, the nation keeps marching Left. He then quotes an essay by Paul Weyrich, one of the founders of the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation, written back in 1999, which warned of the problem. Weyrich noted,

It is impossible to ignore the fact that the United States is becoming an ideological state. The ideology of Political Correctness, which openly calls for the destruction of our traditional culture, has so gripped the body politic, has so gripped our institutions, that it is even affecting the Church. It has completely taken over the academic community. It is now pervasive in the entertainment industry, and it threatens to control literally every aspect of our lives.

French then goes on to explain why he thinks this has happened. There is a real difference between conservatives and progressives. Conservatives vote for champions to go to Washington to straighten out the mess and then they return to their lives without infusing all their daily interactions with what they say they believe.

Progressives, on the other hand, “take their core values into every sphere of existence.” They don’t compartmentalize their lives; they want what they believe to affect everything.

That’s how you get local bar associations celebrating Earth Day, or third-grade classes doing a whole semester’s worth of art projects on climate change, or corporate HR departments running extended, celebratory profiles of transgender employees. It’s the agenda, always and everywhere.

We trust in politics to set things right. We are placing our trust in the wrong place. It’s the culture that drives a society, while politicians, eager to get re-elected, follow along in its wake.

I’ve often called on Christians to realize that their faith is not to be relegated to church activities. We are to take it into all spheres of life. When we shy away from doing so, it’s no wonder the culture becomes ever more depraved.

French concludes,

Until we’re willing to make at least the same commitment to our ideals that progressives make to theirs, we may still offer words of defiance, but our actions will show our true intent. Right now, the movement is busy dying. It’s time to get busy living.

I couldn’t agree more.

The Redistributionist President

Barack Obama was in full socialistic, redistributionist mode yesterday. At a speech before an audience at the “progressive” Center for American Progress, he called income inequality a “defining challenge” for the U.S. Memories of his comments to Joe the Plumber flood the mind. First of all, one must ignore the fact that income inequality has only increased on his watch; so if that’s what he calls a defining challenge, he’s obviously failed at meeting it.

For someone like Obama, it is a fundamental tenet that some people just have too much, and it’s the government’s job to take from the wealthy and give to those further down the economic ladder. This recalls comments he made back in 2010, when he argued, “I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money.” Well, is it his responsibility to determine who has reached that point, if indeed such a point exists? There are some rich people I would like to see making even more money because they use it to promote the Gospel. Should the government step in and stop them? Let’s go back to a basic Scriptural principle—it’s not money that’s evil, but the love of money that leads us astray.

The president’s speech yesterday was full of all the progressive buzzwords and hobby horses: education spending; collective bargaining; minimum wage; Social Security; Medicare; and of course the omnipresent Obamacare. The progressive vision of how to create prosperity for all is for the government to shift the wealth around and get more of the wealth for itself so it can help us spend our way into prosperity. If that sounds a trifle contradictory to you, it only means you can think clearly:

Buck Would Stop Here

And don’t expect this administration to be honest about how its policies are working. We now know they fudged the unemployment numbers right before the 2012 election to make it appear things were rosier than everyone thought they were:

Fabricated Lie

Trust is not the hallmark of this White House. Honesty and transparency are in short supply. Why should we ever believe anything that emanates from that source? And given the progressive ideology that dominates, why would we want to give them even more funds to carry out their income inequality project?

Obama began his term of office with a national debt of $9 trillion; it’s now more than $17 trillion. How’s that spending-our-way-into-prosperity approach working out?

The Unraveling of the Obamacare Utopia

History is replete with odd visionaries and assorted crackpots who try to set up their version of utopia. They are always disappointed with the results. The word itself was a play on words when it was created. Utopia literally means “no place.” In other words, there is no such place as a perfect society when men are involved in setting it up. How can it be otherwise? Mankind is so imperfect it can never fashion perfection on its own.

Even worse are coercive/compulsory utopian dreams. This is when men attempt to use government to force everyone into their schemes. Modern progressives are the source of most of those attempts; they always fail.

Obamacare is one such utopian fantasy, and the unraveling of this scheme is happening before our eyes. When even the Obama-subservient media, whether the news branch or the entertainment portion, begin to take notice, you know something may be changing. News outlets such as NBC are now reporting Obama knew back when he was promising that everyone could keep insurance plans they like, that he was blatantly lying. On the entertainment side of the media behemoth, Jon Stewart is skewering not just a botched rollout but the dishonesty and incompetence of a beloved president he rarely touched before.

The comical rollout has served as the attention-getter. While it’s not the core problem with the program, it has performed admirably as a glaring example of this administration’s typical bumbling and blundering. It is a bracing reminder of what you get when you give priority to style over substance.

The website has been a total disaster:

Error

The question has become, “Can it ever really be fixed?”

Humpty

We now know the company contracted to develop the site has connections to the Obamas. One of the key players went to college with the First Lady. It also is a failed company. It was supposed to set up a gun registry in Canada, but after many years of trying, it was booted off the job. Apparently, it has a shared quality with the administration—complete incompetence.

Last night Megyn Kelly on her Fox program reported the site was down again, and when her people called to find out how long it would take to be back up, they were told anywhere from five minutes to two days. Nice to have such precision. But we’re told if we can’t get access to the site, we can always call the toll-free number for assistance.  Reports indicate that’s not working so well either.

Call Us

Edith Is Ready

This is all quite humorous, but the real glitch is the program itself, and the real story is the lies we were told from the start. Insurance companies, saddled with Obamacare demands for how their polices must be set up, are dropping their individual plans everywhere. At latest count, at least two million people are losing their current plans on January 1. That’s only the beginning. Those numbers will rise drastically over the next weeks and months. But that’s only the portion of the population with individual plans. Wait until the full force of the law hits employers. The plans will become so expensive, they will opt for the penalties instead, and untold millions will be forced to go into the Obamacare exchanges. Ultimately, Obama and his ideologues will achieve their real goal: a single-payer system completely controlled by the federal government.

They’ve been careful not to be up front about that goal; they know that would spell doom for their utopian vision. So they’ve simply lied, again and again, about their intent and the consequences of putting this law into effect:

Pants Fires

The real threat, though, is much greater:

Biggest Lie

That’s the biggest lie of all.

For now, the media is following this story, however reluctantly. If they lose interest, or realize they may be undermining their hero, they may drop it eventually. Now is the time to educate the American public about the true nature of their president and his plans. I’m hoping the website fiasco is an answer to prayer—literally. It focuses the attention of the public in a way no other problem may have done. This may be God’s way of giving us another chance to make things right. What will we do with this opportunity?

The All-Out Assault on the Family

Confession time. Until a couple days ago, I had never heard of Melissa Harris-Perry. That’s because I don’t watch MSNBC. I have better things to do with my time than spend it on a network that has been shown, via reputable studies, to be little more than a shill for the Obama administration. Yet my attention was drawn to comments made by Ms. Harris-Perry, who apparently is a weekend host for one of MSNBC’s programs.

According to Rich Lowry of National Review, “MSNBC runs sermonettes from its anchors during commercial breaks. They are like public-service announcements illuminating the progressive mind.” In this case, Harris-Perry devoted 30 seconds to berating our society for not spending enough on public education. In the process of her remarks, she stated,

We have never invested as much in public education as we should have because we’ve always had kind of a private notion of children: your kid is yours and totally your responsibility. We haven’t had a very collective notion of these are our children. So part of it is we have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families, and recognize that kids belong to whole communities. Once it’s everybody’s responsibility and not just the household’s, then we start making better investments.

I see. Does anyone hear the echo of “it takes a village”? We’ve been down this road before with Hillary Clinton. I’m sorry, Ms. Harris-Perry, but children are the responsibility of their parents, not the whole community. The whole community did not give birth to them; they came into this world via their parents. To me, it’s amazing how brazen the Left has become; they can say nearly anything publicly now and expect no backlash. Well, they got one this time. Back to Rich Lowry, who wonders how this slipped past those who decide what airs on this channel:

Her statement wasn’t an aside on live television. She didn’t misspeak. The spot was shot, produced, and aired without, apparently, raising any alarm bells. No one with influence raised his or her hand and said, “Should we really broadcast something that sounds so outlandish?”

The problem, of course, is that compared to what’s already in the public sphere—same-sex marriage is a prime example—statements like this don’t appear so outlandish anymore.  Some on the Left now seem to be competing for the title of “most shocking idea of the week.” Lowry again, exposing the progressive mindset, puts it this way:

As the ultimate private institution, the family is a stubborn obstacle to the great collective effort. Insofar as people invest in their own families, they are holding out on the state and unacceptably privileging their own kids over the children of others. These parents are selfish, small-minded, and backward.

What we are witnessing, be it via abortion, same-sex marriage, or the “it takes a village” mentality, is an all-out assault on the family. If they get their way, family, as defined Biblically and traditionally in our culture, will be no more. The word will lose all meaning since it can mean anything. This is one of those battles that must be fought; we cannot plead weariness or bow to the trend because it seems inevitable. Victories come by the hands of those who remain firm and strong, and we are called to be both.

Winning the Semantic Battle

I comment frequently to my students that if you win the semantic battle, you can often win the war. How you frame yourself or your belief system/cause is extremely important, and if you can create an image that is positive, while not being dishonest, you can draw people to your side.

Unfortunately, that also works for those with less integrity. Margaret Sanger, for instance, the great promoter of eugenics and lowering the birth rates of those she deemed “human weeds,” cleverly called her organization Planned Parenthood. That sounds very respectable, doesn’t it? I mean, what would be the alternative—chaotic parenthood? In this way, she and her followers have fooled many and garnered support they wouldn’t have won if those erstwhile supporters really had understood Sanger’s agenda.

The same is true in politics. I’m no great fan of polls, particularly opinion polls on politicians and their job-approval ratings. Those change with the wind, and the public seems to vote based on the emotion of the day. There are some polls/surveys, however, that reveal more precisely the thought—or lack thereof—of the electorate. For instance, Pew Research has just released a new survey that looks at the favorability of a number of political labels. Here’s the breakdown on how the public perceives certain words:

  • Progressive: 67% favorable
  • Conservative: 62% favorable
  • Liberal: 50% favorable
  • Capitalism: 50% favorable
  • Libertarian: 38% favorable
  • Socialist: 31% favorable

Notice that there is scant approval for socialism. Yet the highest ranking term is “progressive,” which is the same thing as socialism. Voters seem to understand that socialism is not a positive thing, but they are unable to discern that what they dislike about socialism is fully present in progressivism. That’s why those who have a socialist bent rarely use that word; they use “progressive” instead. It’s more positive-sounding, right? Again, who wants to be the opposite of progressive—a “regressive” person? That sounds too much like “turning back the clock,” which is another phrase that has a negative connotation [an undeserved connotation since turning back the clock would be quite beneficial in some ways].

We perish for a lack of knowledge, which leads to a lack of understanding, which in turn leads to foolish decisions. Those who grasp the strategy need to begin framing their Biblical and constitutional beliefs in words that convey the wisdom of those beliefs. We need to win the semantic battle if we ever hope to win the overall cultural war.