It’s outrageous. Something ought to be done about it. ‘College’ in the US apparently has the unmitigated gall to teach things that conflict with Christianity. Isn’t that illegal?
Spend a couple of days at the workshop and it becomes clear that, for many of these students, college is fraught with peril. There is the pressure to party, to drink, to have sex. There is also the subtle pressure to conform to a non-Christian worldview. There are biology courses that ask students to accept evolution, which workshop organizers and most of the students reject as untrue and ungodly. There are literature courses that see any text, including the Bible, as open to multiple interpretations. And there are philosophy classes that view absolute truth as nothing more than an illusion.
The subtle pressure to conform to a non-Christian worldview – meaning, the expectation that students will give rational answers to questions. That if asked to write an essay on the Renaissance, they won’t begin every sentence with ‘God made it come about that’. That they will read secular books on secular subjects and think about them in rational, empirical, non-supernatural ways. Yes, no doubt such a pressure is there – but how can university subjects be taught properly if it’s not? How can you have biology courses that don’t ‘ask students to accept evolution’? How can you have philosophy courses that view ‘absolute truth’ as revealed by a deity and passed on by authority, when that’s not philosophy but religion? The problem seems to be basic, in fact downright foundational.
Even though he is a devout Christian, Mr. Thomas chose to attend a secular college because it will “make me a more well-rounded person.” Still, he is worried about what he will encounter in the classroom. “You always hear horror stories about professors treading on students’ beliefs,” he says. “I hope they won’t ignore my point of view.” When a professor or fellow student asserts something that runs contrary to Christianity, Mr. Thomas intends to speak up. And now, thanks to the workshop, he knows what to say.
He wants to be a more well-rounded person – which is a very good idea, especially for a ‘devout’ Christian – but he is also determined to reject anything ‘that runs contrary to Christianity’ – thus assuring that he can’t possibly (unless he fails in that project) become a more well-rounded person. It’s basic. You can’t do both. You can’t both get a real education – which involves asking genuine questions, not ones with predetermined answers; which involves following the evidence wherever it leads; which involves learning things you didn’t know before; which involves learning things that don’t conform to what you want to believe – and reject in advance anything ‘that runs contrary to Christianity.’ That’s not education – that rules out education. Vocational training, yes, but education, no.
Columbia undergraduates study the Bible not as divinely inspired scripture, but as literature. For Ms. Keyes this was distressing. But, she says, Summit taught her that the Bible is “historically accurate,” and this knowledge kept her from believing that it belonged on the same plane as Homer or Aeschylus. “It equipped me to think through things and not accept everything I was told,” she says.
Except of course when that everything is told to her by the people at camp. Summit taught her something that is not true, and that equipped her to accept everything she was told provided the tellers are Christian.
It’s sad, really.