Higher Education Sometimes Isn’t

Let’s compare the myth with what is all too often the reality about what occurs in a college education.

The myth is that the four years spent in the arena of higher education is a time when the student will be able, under wise direction from professors, to sift through a variety of worldviews and learn how to become discerning in a quest for what is genuine and what is not.

That has been somewhat fictional all along, simply because the culture will be a strong determinant in what is taught at colleges and universities. The idea that all sides will be fairly presented is not the usual fare. We need to remember that value-neutral education is a myth; everyone teaches from a distinctive worldview.

The reality is that parents who go into debt in the hope that college will round out their child’s educational experience may instead find an entirely different child when the experience has been completed:

What Did You Learn

Now that the radicals of the 1960s and 1970s are filling most of the professorial posts in the liberal arts programs of the universities, what else should we expect? They are now attempting to clone themselves through this new generation. They haven’t done this alone, of course; they’ve had the help of the public school system nationwide and the larger entertainment culture.

Everything now offends some students (and I use that term loosely).

Trigger Words

Well, perhaps we should provide a trigger warning for those who are now embarking on their new path in life:

Trigger Warning

There’s always this possibility, though:

Grad School

All of this is quite disturbing to me, since I teach at a university. I’m not at your typical university, fortunately. Although Christian colleges and universities are not immune to these forces, there remains more sanity when you are at an institution that continues to hold up God’s Word as the standard for learning.

Sadly, though, what we see spreading across the nation is the epitome of what I have called Snyderian Truism #11: “Higher education sometimes isn’t.”

Lewis: Leavening Society

C. S. Lewis 4C. S. Lewis didn’t write extensively on government or economics; in fact, he had a hard time being interested in either. Yet he did have a grasp of the basics. In this excerpt from Mere Christianity, he offers what may seem to be a simplistic solution to our problems, but, if followed, really would take care of them:

Some Christians—those who happen to have the right talents—should be economists and statesmen, and . . . all economists and statesmen should be Christians, and . . . their whole efforts in politics and economics should be directed to putting “Do as you would be done by” into action.

If that happened, and if we others were really ready to take it, then we should find the Christian solution for our own social problems pretty quickly. . . . The job is really on us, on the laymen.

This is a call for Christians to realize that a spiritual “job” is not limited to that of a pastor or missionary. Full-time Christian service must include every career path that exists. We are to bring our Biblical worldview into whatever we do. So when the laymen take that challenge seriously, we make headway in the society.

It’s well past time to stop confining ourselves to our little Christian corner; we have a message that needs to leaven the entire society.

Jamestown: The Natives

This my third post this week on the Jamestown settlement. I’m not quite done with it. Next week, I’ll finish this portion of American history with some commentary on why Jamestown is significant. Today, I want to shed some light on the natives who crossed paths with those early settlers. What type of society did these Englishmen find when they arrived?

First, let’s dispense with unrealistic romanticism. All humans are sinful. They have a propensity to treat others badly. This certainly was evident in the New World. The rosy picture of natives living in perfect harmony with nature and then having all that disturbed by Europeans is not very accurate. When the Spanish saw how the Aztecs carried out human sacrifices, they were horrified. That’s not meant to absolve the Spanish from their share of the blame for how things turned out, but we need to have a balanced picture of the past.

PowhatansThe natives in the Jamestown area were part of a broader grouping called the Algonquin. The Powhatan Confederacy that the English came upon was one portion of that larger grouping. They had no written language, so we have no primary documents from them personally. What we have is the English explanation of what they saw and experienced. A one-sided view can be skewed, to be sure, but further research and archaeology have substantiated much of what they told us.

The Algonquin worldview was dark. Only the chiefs and priests had any hope of a kind of life after death; they supposedly were reincarnated. The common people had this life only—no hope of an eternity in the presence of a loving God. The culture was polytheistic, featuring many gods for many different purposes. The one they dreaded the most was Okeus, who had to be appeased continually. Throughout the Algonquin tribes, child sacrifice for that purpose was practiced.

Warfare was a staple of life. Tribes had shifting alliances over time, all for the sake of self-preservation. The natives did not view themselves as one big happy family suddenly interrupted by the English. Their perception of these new settlers was that of just another tribe in the region to be dealt with.

If you were caught in a war by the enemy, you could expect to be tortured in the most cruel ways. They had developed a rather sophisticated method of skinning people alive and cutting off body parts while the victim was still conscious, and even eating those parts while he watched.

If you were a young boy entering manhood, the practice was to give you a powerful drug to erase the memory of boyhood. This was how you transitioned into becoming a man.

Powhatan Receiving TributeChief Powhatan (a title, not his actual name) was already advanced in age when the Jamestown people first encountered him, but he was still vital and strong. He had to be. His confederacy was held together by force and intimidation. Powhatan ruled over thirty conquered tribes: note the word “conquered” here; they didn’t apply for membership. Once in the confederacy, they owed him a tribute of 80% of their crops—in other words, he had an 80% tax rate. So how did they survive? It appears that Powhatan mastered the age-old system of redistribution of wealth. As long as you were trustworthy and obedient, he would, from his bounty, send some of it back to you.

Sound familiar? Sound rather contemporary?

Powhatan also had approximately one hundred wives, taken from the various tribes under his authority. He would then have one child with each, solidifying the connection with each tribe. One can say without too much exaggeration that he was the “father of his country.” Summary: Powhatan was an absolute despot who ruled with an iron hand.

Neither was Powhatan going to share power. When one of his priests came forth with a prophecy that a tribe coming out of the Chesapeake region was going to topple his empire, he immediately decided to kill off the Chesapeake tribe. He was efficient; they were slaughtered that day. Only when the English showed up, coming from that same region, did he wonder if they were the “tribe” destined to remove him. We have no evidence, though, of any remorse for his “mistake.”

When the Starving Time hit Jamestown in 1609-1610, Powhatan did all he could to withhold any aid, hoping they would all die out. Later, when his daughter Pocahontas married a settler, relations between the cultures relaxed for a time, only to destroyed by the massacre of 1622 that I described in an earlier post.

From the Christian point of view, what I see is a culture devoid of the light of the Gospel. It was a culture desperately in need of hope, that lacked the understanding that the Son of God—the only God—had reached out to His creation through His own sacrifice, which would take the place of human sacrifice. Pocahontas and Chanco, among others, gained that understanding and realized that hope. Most rejected it. In a previous post, I highlighted some of the true Christians who sought to minister to the natives. If there had been more of those type of men, this part of our history would have been more praiseworthy.

Snyderian Truism #2

Last week I introduced “Snyderian Truisms.” These are comments I’ve been making in class for quite some time, so I decided to turn them into official truths that I believe are undeniable. The first one was “Since God gave you a brain, He undoubtedly expects you to use it.” I give that one to my students in my American history survey courses on the very first day of class. Hopefully, it gets their attention and lets them know my expectations for the semester.

On the first day of class, I also present truism #2:

If you fill your mind with rot, don’t be surprised if you turn out rotten.

ThinkerProverbs 23:7 tells us, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” In other words, you will become whatever you put into yourself. It’s both a warning and a promise, depending on what you allow to come into your mind.

One of my biggest concerns for this new crop of students is their fascination with certain commentators on society who mask their anti-Christian worldview through comedy. I’m more than a little dismayed by how those who call themselves Christians get their information from such sources. One professorial colleague told me he asked his class how they know what’s going on in the news. The response? They watch Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, among other questionable sources of authority.

Consequently, I put my students on alert from day one. I show them a slide with the pictures of Stewart, Colbert, and Bill Maher, and I say on the slide, “If you rely on Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, or Bill Maher for your worldview and your beliefs about American history, government, or politics, please let me know—I will pray for you.”

As you can see, I don’t just mount a blistering attack on those celebrities, but I do try to place doubt in the students’ minds as to the wisdom they might receive from them. Then, for good measure, I add this on a subsequent slide: “If you rely on Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, AND Bill Maher for your worldview and your beliefs about American history, government, or politics, please let me know—I will help set up counseling sessions with one of our psychology professors.”

Injecting a little humor into my warning helps get the point across that I’m not too keen on tapping into those sources for real knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. So I point them to the following Scriptures:

Colossians 2:8—See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

2 Corinthians 10:5—We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

The Colossians verse is not an argument against philosophy, but only against the hollow and deceptive varieties. Philosophy, as originally defined by Noah Webster, is an explanation of the reason of things. I tell the students that Christians should have the upper hand for explaining the reasons for all things because we have a connection with the true Source who created all things.

The verse in 2 Corinthians allows me to remind them they have a ministry—as all Christians do—of tearing down false ideas and philosophies. They also have an obligation to submit their minds to the Lord and His truths. So don’t fill your minds with the rot the world offers, I tell them; instead, fill your minds with the thoughts that come from God Himself. By doing so, they will not only be blessed themselves, but they will be a blessing to others.

The Case Against Barack Obama: The Summary & a Challenge

All week I’ve detailed the reasons why Barack Obama should not remain as president. Today, let me summarize and talk about the electoral challenge before us. As I said in the first post, one must begin at the beginning—a person’s worldview. His supporters usually try to skip over this, but it is the essence of the man. It consists of one part false Christianity, one part Marxism, and one part anti-Western civilization. The combination is lethal for the country because all of his policy initiatives flow from this worldview.

Another toxic ingredient is the character he has developed over time, which is dominated by a spirit of privilege, self-righteousness, and outright arrogance. He is always right; opponents have no valid points to make. Add to that a kind of disinterest in the daily details of his responsibilities and a penchant for spending time with the trendy/celebrity culture, and you have someone who can’t be trusted with the highest office in the land.

On the economic front, nearly four years of his policies have left us weak as a nation, with unemployment over 8% during his entire term. This hasn’t occurred since the Great Depression. The question Ronald Reagan posed after four years of Jimmy Carter is being raised once again: are you better off than you were four years ago? Incredibly, yet somehow unsurprisingly, the Obama campaign is claiming we are better off. Well, perhaps some segments of the population can say that:

Small businesses, in particular, have been hard hit. The uncertainty and proposed taxes on them depress hiring. Obama doesn’t understand the free market; what’s worse, he doesn’t even like it. Obamacare has already begun to drag us down further. So what’s his prescription to those who are looking for relief?

Obamacare also has become the front line of attack on religious liberty. In the guise of helping people, religious organizations are forced to provide abortifacients. As I noted in the post two days ago, lawsuits over this are springing up, and they should be. This is a fundamental abrogation of the First Amendment. It’s also part of his overall disdain for basic Biblical morality, showcased by his abortion-on-demand belief and his promotion of homosexuality. The only “sin” he seems to want to recognize is the “sin” of bigotry, defined as holding to traditional moral standards.

There’s so much more on the domestic side that I didn’t cover, but everything else he has supported, from green energy to Fast and Furious, also emanates from his aberrant worldview.

The War on Terror, from Obama’s anti-colonial, anti-Western lens, is over. He as much as declared it to be when he took office. The term itself was replaced by “overseas contingency operations.” He sympathizes with what he believes are the oppressed of the earth, not the least of whom are Muslims, while simultaneously undermining the security of Israel. Only yesterday did the first crack appear in the administration’s blatant lie about the attack on the Libyan consulate that resulted in the murder of our ambassador. Before yesterday, the cause, supposedly, was the trailer for an anti-Muslim film that could be seen on YouTube. Now, according to Jay Carney, it is “self-evident” that it was a planned, coordinated terrorist action. Why the change? Simply put, the lie couldn’t be sustained; too much evidence to the contrary was making it ridiculous. It was an attempt to shield Obama from political damage. It didn’t work. Now, will the media call it the lie that it was?

Here’s the challenge: can the electorate awaken from its stupor and see clearly enough to reverse the direction in which America is headed? My biggest concern is illustrated perfectly in this political cartoon:

Will voters allow their emotions to control their rational thinking? It’s very easy to become cynical about the intelligence of the American electorate:

Frankly, our future as a nation might be more secure if fewer people vote. I know that sounds like a heretical statement if you believe in representative government, but if the majority of the electorate are unprincipled and reject a Biblical worldview, that majority will lead us into deeper spiritual darkness by their votes. I want to believe we aren’t that far gone yet, but I wish I could be more certain. This election will probably provide the answer. If we keep Barack Obama in office, we may have sealed our fate.

May God have mercy on us and preserve us as a people. May He give us another chance for national redemption.

The New Zeitgeist

I’ve been thinking more about how Christianity and the absolute morality it embraces are experiencing a new, and more vociferous, round of condescension. The culture’s disdain for what are usually termed traditional values seems to be increasing. As I told one of my classes this past week, what was considered basic morality forty years ago is now criticized as hateful. I’m not the only one noticing this:

In the entertainment portion of our culture, one doesn’t have to search long and hard to find the new “zeitgeist.” We are preached at from almost every television program that homosexuality is not only permissible, but that anyone who opposes it is either hopelessly backward or evil. How many shows celebrate saving sex until marriage compared with the number that assume everyone lives together before marriage? When was the last time you witnessed a strong Christian portrayed as a model for how one should live rather than as a bigoted hatemonger? Do you remember when you didn’t have to be bombarded with vulgar language, particularly before 10:00 p.m.?

We’ve come a long way out of many closets in the past few years. As a result, politicians have become bolder in their pronouncements against traditional morality. For the first time in my lifetime, a major political party is set to endorse homosexual marriage. When the Democrats hold their convention next week, reports are that they plan to spend a lot of time advocating the right to abortion and same-sex marriage. They think we’ve reached that tipping point in our society when pushing for those measures will actually increase their likelihood of victory. They’re going to make a big deal over the artificially trumped-up/imaginary Republican “War on Women.” How many will see past that hypocrisy?

Will this really help the Democrat ticket? If it does, we are in worse shape as a nation than I thought. Naturally, I’m hoping that tactic backfires, but I’m only cautiously optimistic.

I’ve stated this before, but it bears repeating: Christians need to come to grips with the fact that we’re not necessarily a majority anymore. We are quickly becoming a despised minority group subject to increasing pressures to conform to the modern zeitgeist. If we continue to resist, we will be hated. Yet we were told in advance this would be the case. This happened to the One we follow as well. As He told His disciples shortly before his crucifixion,

If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, “A slave is not greater than his master.” If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. . . . All these things they will do to you . . . because they do not know the One who sent Me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates Me hates My Father also.

The reason the prevailing culture of the time rose up against Jesus was because He revealed the sin in their hearts. If we are steadfast in pointing out the sins of our culture, it will rise up against us also. We need to be prepared. As the apostle Paul told Timothy, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

I teach and write with the hope that we’re not that far gone yet as a culture, that a semblance of Biblical thinking may still remain and can be fanned into a flame once more. But if I am wrong, and the hostility toward the Biblical worldview has become so dominant it cannot be reversed, I will continue nonetheless. God has called us to faithfulness, and my purpose for living is to please Him by doing His will, regardless of the results. He looks at the heart and rewards accordingly. He’s seeking a faithful army that will remain steadfast. As His word abundantly demonstrates, He always works with a godly remnant. I want to be part of that remnant.

 

Why Santorum & Not Romney?

I thought it might be time for a full-blown explanation for why I back Rick Santorum over Mitt Romney, realizing even as I write this that Romney has the inside track for the nomination. If anything I say can make someone reconsider his/her support for Romney or help someone understand better why Santorum should be considered seriously as the Republican nominee, I will have accomplished my purpose. If no one is convinced by what I say, at least I was faithful to write what is on my heart.

Some of what I say will not be politically correct, even in Republican circles, but I urge you to read all the way through before coming to a conclusion.

Why I Support Santorum

I didn’t start out as a Santorum backer. At first, I thought he was an afterthought as a candidate. Neither could I understand why anyone who lost his last Senate campaign believed he had a shot at the presidential nomination. I wrote him off.

Shortly before the Iowa caucus decision, however, I began paying attention to his approach: he was dedicated to meeting people one-on-one; he traveled to every county in Iowa, willing to speak to whatever size group; he ran the campaign on a shoestring, yet was making an impression. As I listened more to him, I realized I agreed with much of what he was saying. When he stunned the political world by winning Iowa [however belated the result], I decided to purchase his book It Takes a Family. Reading it solidified my support.

I don’t know how many who are currently reading this post have taken the time to read Santorum’s book, but I presume it is a minority, to say the least. I’ve reported on the contents of that book in this blog from time to time, offering excerpts and commentary. Here’s what I learned about Santorum by reading it:

  • He is a genuine Christian who grounds his politics in his Biblical worldview.
  • His worldview, as expressed in the book and in other speeches I’ve heard him give, is, on most points, similar to mine: religious/theological beliefs are the cornerstone of society; government has no right to excise religious faith from the public square; family is the bedrock of society, and policies must be family-friendly; government should only do those things that family, church, and other private organizations cannot do.
  • When he discusses history, such as when he contrasts the American and French revolutions, he and I are on the same page.
  • While he sometimes allows federal government aid when I would have constitutional scruples against doing so, his aim is never to grow the government but to strengthen the family and those private agencies that form the backbone of a prosperous nation.
  • He does not believe government is the solution to our problems, despite what his critics may say.
  • Even when I disagree with the specifics of a particular policy he has advocated, I understand the motives behind his advocacy, and they are always honest and focused on trying to do the right thing.
  • He has lived out his faith admirably through his devotion to family and principle.
  • He and his wife have homeschooled their children because they believe they can provide the type of Christian education the children will need to stand firm in a culture that is slipping away from its Biblical moorings.

For these reasons, I pray for Santorum’s success as a candidate.

What are his deficiencies? For one, he does have a tendency to speak off the cuff and get into trouble for using certain terms and phrases. Yet when I investigate the substance of his critiques—calling Obama a snob and feeling like “throwing up” when he listens to JFK’s speech—I find that I agree with the critiques he offers, wishing only that he had used more wisdom in expressing them.

I always prefer someone who speaks the truth, even inelegantly at times, to someone who is measured in speaking yet has nothing significant to say.

I don’t expect perfection from a candidate; if I did, I would never vote. Santorum’s worldview and heart, coupled with a good number of policies with which I agree, are sufficient for me.

Why I Don’t Support Romney

Since I started with worldview when speaking about Santorum, let me do the same with Romney. Here’s where I’m going to depart from Republican political correctness and may earn the disfavor of many because I’m going to introduce a theological concern. As an evangelical Christian, I want to know what a candidate believes about ultimate reality. For me, Mormonism is a skewed version of reality. Being theologically literate, I cannot simply look away from Romney’s Mormonism and say it doesn’t factor into my analysis of him. From my viewpoint, Mormonism is a cult that tries to disguise itself as Christian. Its basic tenets on the nature of Christ and salvation are not orthodox Christian. In fact, many of its beliefs border on bizarre. So I ask myself whether I can trust someone who has willingly accepted those beliefs.

I do realize, though, that political parties are not churches, and there must be coalitions to achieve goals. Most Mormons—Harry Reid is a notable exception—maintain an outward morality that is similar to Christian morality. In addition, most Mormons are conservative politically, and they believe in limited government and the free enterprise system. Therefore, I don’t automatically conclude that I won’t vote for a Mormon. However, given the option between someone who mirrors my worldview and someone who does not, I lean toward the one with whom I expect to be spending eternity, a Christian brother or sister.

Now we come to political philosophy and policy. Even if Romney were an evangelical Christian, I would still choose Santorum over him. Why? Let me count the ways. Just what is his overarching political philosophy? Is it the current conservatism he says he espouses, or is it instead the way he ran campaigns and governed Massachusetts? They are markedly different.

As I’ve noted before, and as Santorum has articulated in the debates, Romney has no ground whatsoever to attack Obamacare. Romneycare definitely was its forerunner and inspiration. An op-ed Romney wrote for USA Today back in 2009 has resurfaced this week in which he urged Obama to adopt the individual mandate that he [Romney] created in Massachusetts. Apparently, the president took his advice. This revelation also gives the lie to Romney’s defense that he saw his healthcare solution as only for the state, not for the nation. He can’t credibly say that anymore, not when he was pushing for Obama to copy what he did.

On pro-life and the homosexual agenda, his record is spotty. He’s even supported Planned Parenthood. When he first ran for office in Massachusetts, he concluded he had to set aside his pro-life position and run as a pro-choicer to win. That’s reprehensible. Now, all of a sudden, he’s a confirmed pro-lifer again. Why? Is it because he knows he can’t get the Republican nomination running on pro-choice? That was his calculation in the past; why should we believe he has changed now?

Will a President Romney really appoint federal judges who go by the original intent/wording of the Constitution? A survey of those he appointed in Massachusetts would indicate otherwise. Frankly, I don’t trust him, and that’s the bottom line for why he does not have my support.

What If Romney Wins the Nomination?

If Romney becomes the Republican nominee, I will vote for him. Not enthusiastically, but strategically. He may turn out to be a major disappointment as a president, and at that point I don’t promise not to tell my fellow evangelicals who promoted his candidacy “I told you so.” But if forced to vote between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, four more years of the latter would be inconceivable. The Obama worldview is even further from the truth than Romney’s. It is radical and dangerous. If Obama has to work with a Republican Congress, he will just do what he is starting to do now—rule by executive fiat and ignore the role of Congress. He will attempt to set up an imperial presidency. That must be avoided at all costs.

As I noted at the beginning of this unusually long post [I normally don’t tax you with this much verbiage], the odds are against Santorum. The states where he is strong divide delegates proportionally; the states where Romney is expected to win, such as California and New York, have more delegates and their primaries are winner-take-all. This is clearly an uphill fight for Rick Santorum, but it’s a fight worth making. He is the better candidate when it comes to worldview and principles. And those should be our guide.