De-Christianizing Christian Colleges
While I was in Jerusalem, news broke that Baylor University, the Texas Baptist school, had at last approved an LGBT student group. Denny Burk, a Baptist theologian, comments:
Some people call this having their cake and eating it too. I call it a failure of basic integrity. If Baylor wishes to be a Christian university, it cannot affirm LGBTQ+ identities in any way. Sexual immorality and denial of God’s design in creation are not compatible with following Christ. You cannot serve both Christ and sexual immorality. You have to choose. But Baylor’s board apparently thinks they can have both. They are wrong. If you split the baby, you kill it. And that’s what Baylor has done to its Christian identity.
What does this mean for Baylor? The board approval of this student group is the death knell to their claim to be a Christian university. No one believes that claim anymore. The baby has been torn in two, and nothing short of a miracle can make it whole again.
I was sorting through my e-mails the other night, and found this one I sent to a friend some time ago, after I had been giving some talks at Christian colleges. I have slightly altered this to shield the name and identity of the Christian college in question (it’s not Baylor), so as not to get the professors who talked to me in trouble. Enough time has passed, and I’ve talked at enough Christian colleges and universities since then, that it should not be possible to figure out which school this is. But I can tell you that it’s a big one. One of the profs there told me it made him sick how the school’s recruiters banked on the desire of parents that their kids go to a Christian university, when in fact at best the school serves as a vaccination against ever taking Christianity seriously, and at worst … well, read on:
I was thoroughly depressed by what I heard here at [university], from both professors and some of these students. This campus is thoroughly post-Christian. The hook up culture is rampant, with many kids using a particular app to find those around them who are “DTF” (Down to F–k). Rape is a problem on campus, but one professor told me that the school hamstrings itself in dealing with it because the school is terrified of using the language of morality, only consent. The one thing they would never, ever tell their students is that sex is morally wrong outside of certain contexts. A couple of professors told me that the overwhelming majority of these kids come from Christian high school backgrounds, but are also “functional nihilists.” There are a few kids here and there who are vaguely Christian, and striving to discover truth, but they are largely alone, and struggling hard against the tide.
One professor told me that he routinely encounters kids who have never read the Bible, and know nothing about the Bible. At all. Quote: “Dr. [name], you assigned the Book of Genesis, but I couldn’t find it in the bookstore.” And: “Whoa, I didn’t see Jesus coming back from the dead. I knew he died for our sins, but that resurrection was a real plot twist.” I’m not making this up.
I was in conversation with three professors, all of whom said that it would be professional suicide to speak in class about what the Bible and the school’s religious tradition teaches on LGBT sexuality. I told them they must be exaggerating. Oh no, they said, it’s serious. One prof who is involved in Title IX compliance on campus said there are lots of cases around the country of non-tenured professors losing their jobs or otherwise suffering severe professional sanction just for presenting arguments against gay sex, even neutrally, as part of theological or philosophical discussions. It’s no joke. In this same conversation, a professor said a student came to his office hours and asked him what he thought of homosexuality. “I was sweating bullets,” he said, and talked about how he gave a noncommittal answer.
Think of it: at a Christian university, a nontenured professor is terrified to say what he really believes — that is, in the teaching of the Bible and his denomination — about homosexuality, for fear that he will lose his job and destroy his career (because no school wants to hire a bigot). And these professors are watching these kids drown in hedonism and nihilism, and can’t throw them a lifeline, because the one non-negotiable on campus is sexual freedom, and to deny that in any way, even in principle, is an assault on the personhood of the student, as far as the university is concerned.
This is our world now.
Somebody at the Christian college I visited before [this one] mentioned a program at another Christian university she was affiliated with in which the director screened out students by asking them if they habitually watched pornography. If the answer was yes, he wouldn’t accept them into the program. He eventually had to give up, because if he adhered to that standard, he would have had almost no one in the program.
At a Christian university.
Subscribe for as little as $5/mo to start commenting on Rod’s blog.