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God and the academy

"God and the academy" Continued...

Issue: "Who'll be king of the Hill?," Oct. 7, 2000

Today's academic climate has become so anti-intellectual that a reaction is setting in.

Conservative scholars are finding their voice. New organizations, such as the National Association of Scholars, are standing up against the relativism, the political correctness, and the rejection of the Western intellectual tradition. New professional organizations-in some of the most tarnished fields such as English, history, and art-have been set up as alternatives to the mainline groups that have vandalized their own disciplines.

Ironically, sacrosanct academic principles that were once established to protect the voice of "minority" positions such as Marxism and other unpopular ideas now serve to protect the voice of Christians and conservatives, now that they are in the minority. "Academic freedom" means that a professor can advocate virtually anything he wants in his own classroom or his own research, without fear of censorship or reprisal. Today academic conservatives are wrapping themselves in the mantle of academic freedom, against attempts to silence them from the left.

When English professor David Clemens at Monterrey Peninsula College in California objected to a mandate that all courses must include treatment of "race, class, and gender issues," he argued that this requirement was imposing a particular ideology on a course that had nothing to do with it. With the help of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a group that poses legal challenges to assaults on free speech and religious liberty on college campuses, Mr. Clemens made the case that the requirement to be politically correct amounted to a "loyalty oath." Just as patriotic loyalty oaths during the Cold War were seen as an impermissible infringement on academic freedom, the requirement that professors genuflect at the altar of racial and gender ideologies should also be impermissible. The college changed its policy and made the requirement voluntary.

With the postmodernists rejecting such academic staples as truth, goodness, and beauty, they are, in effect, abandoning the field to those who have a worldview big enough to embrace them. Emerging lines of research, such as Intelligent Design theory, are showing that the universe may not be meaningless after all. One could make an academic career just in shooting down the bogus research put out by scholars who, by their own admission, are "constructing" truths to advance the agenda of particular interest groups. (No, goddess worshippers did not treat women well. No, the Greeks did not steal all of their ideas from Africa. No, scientific facts are not just a construction of male, patriarchal scientists oppressing the female Mother Nature.)

Some Christian students and faculty members, to counter peer pressure, are banding together themselves through campus ministries and local churches.

Christian Leadership Ministries-a division of Campus Crusade aimed at faculty members-and the organization of apologist Ravi Zacharias organized a conference in June that brought together 317 professors and graduate students from 16 different countries. Attendees envisioned a Christian professors network that would provide mutual support, stimulation, and help. A new website (Facultylinc.com) allows scholars to participate in forums and e-mail discussion lists, according to their disciplines, interests, and concerns.

Despite all of the hostility to Christianity on college campuses, Christianity keeps thriving. College is still the place where many young people come to Christ. Christian graduates tend to look back on the college years as the time when Christian fellowship with other believers was most intense and urgent, a time when their faith seemed particularly real. Christian students who have to contend for their faith daily in a hostile climate often come out of college as battle-hardened warriors of the cross. Christian faculty members exist on most university campuses in most disciplines. Though sometimes beleaguered, they continue to serve their students and their fields in Christian vocation.

God keeps calling Christians, both as students and as faculty members, into the academic arena. For all of the attempts to exclude God from academia, He refuses to go away.

Gene Edward Veith
Gene Edward Veith

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