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In a secularizing culture, can Christian colleges and universities thrive?  Can they even survive?

Hi, I’m Rex Rogers and this is episode #30 of Discerning What Is Best, a podcast applying unchanging biblical principles in a rapidly changing world, and a Christian worldview to current issues and everyday life. 

During April 2007, just before my time as president at Cornerstone University concluded, the campus was visited by an uninvited group of gay and lesbian students, along with other supporters, who called themselves Soulforce

Big money backers had recruited them and organized a national bus tour of Christian colleges and universities. Their intent, they said, was to protest and bring awareness to what was then called the Gay Rights movement. They lined the campus boundaries for a time, then spread out across campus walking into classrooms demanding access and dialogue. Clearly, the Soulforce students had been trained, and tried to force their way onto private property in the hopes of getting arrested and creating photo ops.

The next morning the group first disrupted, then basically tried to take over chapel. While I spoke with several Soulforce individuals, I had told their leaders the day before, “No thank you,” regarding their demand to enter our classrooms, and I got quoted that way in the local press. At the chapel, I walked to the front and dismissed everyone.

Other Christian colleges and universities at the time responded differently. 

Some invited the group for discussions, some treated them to refreshments, others like us said, No thank you. In my role as president, I never criticized or demeaned the students, though I thought their moral views and their methods were wrong, and I also thought they were being used by sophisticated national gay politicos and donors.

In the aftermath, I received about 150 cards and letters, the most I’d ever received referencing any controversy. Some 98% supported our respectful “No thank you” approach. Of the about 2% who criticized my approach, I found it amazing that, almost invariably, somewhere in the missive they mentioned a family member who had come out and who they loved, hence their point of view. 

LGBTQ+ is an issue—almost like no other—that seems to lead people to develop or even change their moral understanding or even their theology, not because they believe they hold a new insight to biblical interpretation, but because they love a family member or friend. 

Looking back, this all seems rather tame, because Christian schools are now in serious trouble, or at least they are under considerable and mounting pressure.

Harvard University was the original Christian institution of higher learning in the new world, founded in 1636, but it long ago left its Christian moorings. 

The same can be said for most of the colleges and universities east and many west of the Mississippi River, most of which were launched by religious organizations. 

Now, among nearly 4,000 post-secondary institutions of higher learning functioning in the U.S., only about 140 present themselves as avowedly Christian and maintain membership in the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, along with perhaps 9 others that have chosen to withdraw from the CCCU. 

These are the colleges and universities now facing genuine threats to their survival. Why?

  1. National drop in college age studentssome estimates at 15%, due to abortion, changing attitudes toward higher education, higher costs, and more.

With the college age student pool declining year by year, competition becomes fiercer, costs of recruitment increases, and students place greater premiums upon perceived institutional prestige. None of this helps generally smaller, private Christian colleges and universities.

  1. Decline in families with a Christian worldview who want a Christian education for their youth.

In 2020, Christian researcher George Barna found just 6% of American adults possess biblical worldview. And only 43% of them believe in absolute moral truth.

Among 18- to 29-year-olds, a mere 2% possess a biblical worldview. If you look at several other demographic subgroups, the percentage of individuals who deny the existence of absolute moral truth is much higher: LGBTQ adults (73%), political liberals (67%), Hispanics (65%), Blacks (63%), Democrats (63%), people under age 50 (62%).

If that is not enough, there’s more to this perfect storm.

  1. American culture—especially education—has embraced ideologies promoting moral relativism, critical race theory and woke philosophies, and the sexual revolution, including same-sex marriage, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

While race politics, emphasizing diversity, equity, and inclusion, have created controversies for Christian colleges and universities, LGBTQ+ politics is the real point of the spear.

LGBTQ+ students, alumni, and associated activist organizations now have Christian colleges and universities in their crosshairs. They claim that Christian institution’s faith statements discriminate against them when such statements maintain biblical views considering homosexual behavior a sin and define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

LGBTQ+ students at Christian colleges and universities are increasing in number, forming campus organizations, becoming more open about their sexuality, 

and pressuring the boards and administrations of Christian institutions to change their doctrinal statements, student lifestyle policies, and personnel employment policies, in their vocabulary, “accepting and affirming,” LGBTQ+ individuals. 

In the CCCU, “Two member schools went on record to permit same-sex "marriage" couples on faculty and staff – Goshen College and Eastern Mennonite University,” which caused other schools in the CCCU to resign from the association.”

"Azusa Pacific University specifically removed language that barred LGBTQ relationships as part of a standing ban on pre-marital sex" from its student handbook, according to media reports.”

Protesting students at Seattle Pacific University recently handed a rainbow flag to the President as they marched across the platform to receive their diploma. This took place as students staged a sit-in in university facilities demanding the Board reverse its decision to maintain a commitment to biblical views of human sexuality. 

The Christian Reformed Church recently affirmed its understanding of the Scripture and its creeds and doctrinal statements to mean a prohibition of homosexual activity and other sexual behavior outside the bonds of monogamous heterosexual marriage. Students at Calvin College and some personnel reacted with disappointment, suggesting the CRC’s and the school’s policies are homophobic and discriminatory. 

In 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States held in Bostock v Clayton County that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees against discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. This means conservative religious institutions may be subject to legal challenge if they cannot show that they are entitled to a ministerial exception under the law.

Thirty-three LGBTQ students are suing the Department of Education in a class-action lawsuit. The students allege that they faced discrimination at 25 federally funded Christian colleges and universities in 18 states,” including Liberty University. “The ultimate goal of the lawsuit is to strike down Title IX’s religious exemption.”

In 2021, Fresno Pacific University administration denied LGBTQ+ students the ability to form their own Pride club on campus. Students filed a formal Western Association of Schools and Colleges accreditation complaint against the school and called for a formal investigation to take place. 

Regional and state accrediting agencies, without whose accreditation schools cannot offer recognized degrees, are putting increasing pressure upon Christian institutions to align their policies with LGBTQ orthodoxy, what is now considered the only acceptable narrative, embracing all expressions of sexual orientation.

The Human Rights Campaign, America's largest and most powerful LGBT lobby organization, is pushing Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to target Christian educational institutions, demanding that the Biden Administration strip colleges that adhere to rules and positions opposing homosexuality of their accreditation.” This activist group is pressuring President Biden to advance a proposal to eliminate nondiscrimination exemptions for religious colleges if the institutions support biblical definitions of marriage or fail to offer "scientific curriculum requirements."

In other words, LGBTQ+ demands, increasing cast by activists and the courts as civil rights issues, are now going head-to-head with First Amendment religious freedom guarantees.

And it’s not just Christian institutions. 

A NY County Supreme Court judge recently handed down a ruling saying Yeshiva University, despite its Jewish religious convictions, must recognize an LGBTQ Pride club on campus.

So, it appears some Christian colleges or universities are changing, some would say capitulating, their moral views in an effort to survive, fearing possible loss of accreditation, tax-exempt status, and access to federal funds. Others are thus far standing firm. 

No one knows where this is going. But it is certain the next five years are going to make or break some Christian colleges and universities.

What we are watching here is the frontlines of the now intensifying “Second American civil war,” a worldview war pitting an ascendant non-biblical worldview vs the Judeo-Christian values upon which this country was founded. It’s a battle for America’s soul and its future.

 

Well, we’ll see you again soon. This podcast is about Discerning What Is Best. If you find this thought-provoking and helpful, follow us on your favorite podcast platform. Download an episode for your friends. For more Christian commentary, check my website, r-e-x-m as in Martin, that’s rexmrogers.com. 

And remember, it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm.

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2022   

*This podcast blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.  

Back in middle school, I remember Dad, a barber, trapping me in the barber chair ostensibly for a haircut while he talked to me about what we used to call the Facts of Life. Dad was a good man, but I sure don’t remember him telling me about Sex Week at the university.

Hi, I’m Rex Rogers and this is episode #3 of Discerning What Is Best, a podcast applying unchanging biblical principles in a rapidly changing world, and a Christian worldview to current issues and everyday life.

Some of us celebrate Valentine’s Day, and a few even Valentine’s Week, but on the campuses of colleges and universities across the country, Valentines has morphed into “Sex Week.”

Events include:

SEXtravaganza

Freaky Friday: A Beginner’s Guide to Pleasure

Condom Bingo

Sex Ed Quickie

Good Vibes and Pleasure

There’s even a “Genital Diversity Gallery” at Tulane University featuring anatomically correct displays of human genitalia, which ostensibly is intended to “destigmatize genitals and celebrate the diversity of bodies that exist.”

There are workshops on bondage, submission, sadism, dominance, masochism, fetish, foreplay, and use of various sex toys.

Other discussions center on polyamorous relationships and something labeled “ethical non-monogamy.”

An organization called The Newcomb Institute, which promotes gender equality, offers what it calls a “Wheel of Fornication,” listing statistics about sex and sexuality.

Many of these events are justified in the name of something called “Sexual Health Awareness,” or as the Ohio State University representative put it, a “deep and abiding commitment to free speech.” Apparently one event at OSU allows students to “thank abortion providers” for their perceived great service to the American people.

Believe it or not, I am holding back in this podcast, meaning I’m intentionally not repeating the most graphic, crude and lewd, examples of what is taking place. Needless to say, it’s a long way from the “Birds and the Bees.” And it would appear there’s a serious lack of discernment among the adults in the room.

That’s what this podcast is about, Discerning What Is Best. If you find this thought-provoking and helpful, look for us on your favorite podcast platform. Download an episode for your friends.

Yale University hosted the first identifiable “Sex Week” in 2002, and the idea’s popularity has grown steadily since, as has the eroticism, pornographic displays, lasciviousness, and wanton wickedness that apparently recognize no standards of decency.

It is ironic indeed to witness universities posturing sexual “freedom of speech,” while they simultaneously corral students in “free speech zones,” limit or even attempt to cancel expressions of religious or conservative ideas, propagate woke values that suppress Christian morality, issue mask or vaccine mandates, politicize sports, and racialize virtually everything in the name of inclusion. Differing point of views, please be silenced.

But Sex Week is not about sexual health. Not really. It’s about celebration of the self and the rejection of truth, God, responsibility, and accountability. It’s a contemporary, salacious bacchanalia.

You would think that the adults operating these Sex Week events, people who, like me, grew up in the 60s, would have figured out by now that “Sex, Drugs, and Rock n Roll” really is not a recipe for a long, healthy, happy, and fulfilled lives. But alas, too many university adults are still looking for Mr. Goodbar themselves, adrift on a sea of cultural relativism they helped create, delusionally thinking they and their students can find fulfillment in a modern-day Sodom and Gomorrha.

I spent 35 years of my working life in academia, the last 19 in higher level administration. I loved every minute of it, even the hard times. And I still find ivied halls, oaken campuses, and glorious libraries compelling.

Even more, I loved the idea of learning, the pursuit of truth, free inquiry, discussion and debate, discovery. These were values rooted in my Christian faith back to the earliest European and American universities founded by people of faith. Oxford University’s motto, dating from the mid-16th Century, is Dominus Illuminatio Mea, meaning “'the Lord is my light.” Harvard University’s motto, adopted in 1692, is Veritas Christo et Ecclesiae, meaning “Truth for Christ and the Church.”

But these values celebrating knowledge, light and wisdom, truth, capital-T Truth in Christ, and the calling of the Church are fast fading if not already gone, even on some Christian college and university campuses.

Today, much of American higher education is a woke-dominated caricature of what it once was, and Sex Week is simply further evidence.

Bible believing Christians are “people of the book.” Christians believe the Bible is what it claims that it is, the Word of God once delivered.

Since we are people of the book, and since we understand that Creation is a gift from God to be developed for his glory and our blessing,Christians have historically initiated, supported, promoted, and worked in and for education. We want people to be literate, to be able to think and discern what is best, to be able to care for the world and our families, even as we carry the message of hope in Jesus Christ.

Since centuries-past, Christians have founded schools and universities and energized them with a Christian worldview rooted in the cultural mandate of Genesis 1:26-28, commissioning us to develop culture as unto the Lord.

That’s the vision we should still maintain for free and independent, nonpolitical, quality higher education. It’s “higher” not because it’s post-high school grades 13-16 but because it aspires to lofty values, the best of and the betterment of human civilization.

Sex Week is fools’ gold, false values that lead to the broad road to destruction. Higher education can do better. Our students deserve better.

Well, we’ll see you again soon. For more Christian commentary, be sure to subscribe to this podcast, Discerning What Is Best, or check my website, r-e-x-m as in Martin, that’s rexmrogers.com. And remember, it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm.

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2022

*This podcast blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.

Well, another university succumbs. It was nice knowing you UNC-Chapel Hill.

American higher education today is in dire straits. 

Once a bastion of free inquiry, reason, debate, the pursuit of knowledge, the preferred destination for bright ambitious Next Gen from around the world, much of academia is now afraid of its own students, captive to irrational ideology, political correctness, restrictions on free speech, cancel culture, racist ideas parading as anti-racism, sexual progressivism, irreligion, and jingoistic anti-Americanism. 

UC Boulder is making holding the values of BLM a non-negotiable condition for enrollment. Another step in the death march of Western universities from places exalting academic freedom to places suppressing thought and speech in the name of inclusive ideology. This university, by the way, received millions in state funds.

Central Michigan University is forcing a good professor to retire because he spoke the “N-word” while reading from a court document in class. The university would rather be “woke” than defend academic freedom, common sense, and academic excellence.

Penn State is replacing binary words and pronouns in course descriptions. This will increase both quality teaching and student learning? Many other universities are wasting time and intellectual capital on the same pursuit of purist vocabulary, eliminating use of “offensive” words like “picnic” or phrases like “rule of thumb.” 

Victor David Hanson says, “Today's universities and colleges bear little if any resemblance to postwar higher education. Even during the tumultuous 1960s, when campuses were plagued by radical protests and periodic violence, there was still institutionalized free speech. An empirical college curriculum mostly survived the chaos of the '60s. But it is gone now.”

“Imagine, Hanson notes, “a place where ‘diversity’ is the professed institutional ethos, while studies reveal that liberal faculty outnumber their conservative counterparts by over 10 to 1. Imagine a liberal place where in 2021 race can still be used as a criterion in selecting and rejecting applicants, choosing prospective dorm roommates, organizing segregated dorms and restricting access to special places on campus.”

Political activism now triumphs over empirical problem-solving.

The recently late, and great, professor Walter E. Williams said, “The bottom line is that more Americans need to pay attention to the miseducation of our youth and that miseducation is not limited to higher education.” He argued equity had replaced equality of opportunity and much of higher education today is little more than leftist brain washing.

Education and critical thinking are out. Indoctrination and victimhood are in. 

It’s all-the-more disheartening because it was so preventable.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2021    

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.    

American higher and now secondary and even elementary education are being swamped by “woke” people looking for things about which to be offended, claiming victimhood based upon race, gender, or class, and seeking to install their propaganda at the expense of liberal education.

Universities like Princeton, Cornell, Rutgers, Northwestern, to name a few, are trying to outdo one another in proclaiming their racismabject apologies, and kowtowing to the new woke ideology. Their political correctness knows no limits.  Even elementary schools are being required to embrace Black Lives Matter racist propaganda.

The more woke education becomes the more it declines, turns in on itself, and implodes. Education is no longer perceived as a place of free inquiry and exchange of ideas to advance knowledge but as a political battleground where the Left vies for the minds of America’s youth.  It’s what one commentator called the “Great American Awokening.”

Leftists—not classical Liberals who actually believe in freedom—promote “wokeness,” to the point they don’t discuss but make demands, which turns them into tyrannical bullies. They attack and demean, destroy reputations, get people fired, and tear down history and tradition, offering racist solutions in the name of “anti-racism,” an ironic lack of self-awareness.

Woke education leftists are anti- intellectual. They believe misogyny, racism, and bigotry characterize all whites and American systems, which they say are ipso facto against women and non-binary people, affirm patriarchy, binary gender roles, and heteronormativity and thus further exclusivity, classism, racism.  They argue these terrible discriminations are irredeemably embedded in all structures, systems, and institutions (which themselves are setting on “stolen land,” rooted in historic colonization and white supremacy), so they cannot be changed, repaired, reformed, or saved. So they must be “burned down.”

So in the end, woke education is about little more than destruction in the interest of power.

I spent 34 years in higher education. Loved every minute of it. I hold a Ph.D. in political science and to this day appreciate the critical thinking, energetic grad school seminars discussing world issues, the joy of learning, the feeling nothing was beyond our ability to comprehend, and the great camaraderie with other academics. But alas that campus culture is mostly gone and what’s left of it is fast disappearing.

This is an harbinger of worse to come, because what happens in the university does not stay there. It turns up in a few years in society and culture. This is what we are witnessing now, 20-somethings who’ve been sold a bill of goods, who despise their heritage, reject its gifts, and offer no better alternative. And worse, none of this makes them feel better. They are in fact full of anxiety, fragile, and ill-prepared for life.

Woke education is not just ill-advised. It is threatening, dangerous, damaging, and destructive.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2020

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.

I wrote an article that was just posted this week. It's called Why America Should Revisit Civic Education. I sincerely believe we're going to pay a severe price if we do not resurrect civic education. 

Learning about one’s country and what makes it a distinctive nation, learning about this nation’s ideals and achievements past should be a key part of an American youth’s upbringing. And it used to be, but not so much anymore. Yet learning to act like a citizen does not just happen.

Survey after survey demonstrate that each generation of American citizens understand less of what it means to be a citizen, as opposed to simply a subject. We no longer grasp the essentials of republican government, we can’t list president’s names, let alone explain who did what and why it was important. Worse, as a culture we no longer have a clear sense of what it means to be an American, which creates problems for us at home—for example, the immigration issue—and abroad—for example, knowing who and who not to befriend.

Civic education that once played a prominent role in elementary and secondary education needs a transfusion of support and passion. We need to help our youth rediscover the beauty of America’s founding ideals. We need to help them reinvigorate the hope that it is possible to design a government in which free and thinking people can decide what is best and pursue it.

Without this effort, at risk is a nation of, by, and for the people. Without meaningful civic education, at risk long-term is life, liberty, freedom of worship, and the pursuit of happiness.

To me these ideals are too rare and too precious to risk them further. We must teach America’s wonderful heritage. This is not civil religion. It’s civic education for the good of all.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2012

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

Tenure is a sacred word in higher education. But its long-standing dominance in academia may be coming to an end, in part due to mounting financial pressures facing college and university administrators across the country. Actually, it’s more than that: tenure will eventually come under review because municipal and state budgets are upside-down and must be cut to re-establish some kind of financial sanity—education is a part of the pie.

Boards of trustees, school boards, and legislators are reconsidering the wisdom of continuing to create an administratively untouchable class of employees whose compensation acts as a “negative endowment” upon the institution, especially when these personnel retire. Citizens are wondering why individuals employed to serve the public good are granted greater benefits, higher average salaries, extended time off, and contracts for life while the rest of us have to work for a living.

Tenure may be earned by fulltime faculty members, usually after they’ve taught five or six years, when they demonstrate knowledge of their discipline, ability to write and publish research, and one would hope, positive student feedback, and teaching competency. Assuming this is so, faculty peers who consider evaluated colleagues worthy of a long-term commitment may recommend them to the institution for tenure.

Tenured faculty members can pretty much consider themselves employed for life or good behavior. Tenure is a legally defined “property right” that once extended can only be retracted through due process. While it’s possible to release a tenured faculty member for cause, the process is fraught with emotional and legal hurdles, so it is rare indeed.

Tenure originated in the Middle Ages as a means of protecting teachers from arbitrary professional harm. It’s called “academic freedom,” the idea a professor can pursue a line of inquiry or propound views that may not be considered acceptable by others, who may be in a position to suppress the ideas or fire the professor for holding to “wrong views.” In some notable examples the idea has worked.

Meanwhile, about two-thirds of faculty members nationally do not hold tenure. As non-tenure track adjuncts they teach heavy loads, are compensated less, and yet for the most part serve students well and otherwise perform admirably. They do not enjoy the protections of the special one-third.

I should note that tenured faculty members are not a recently discovered new “enemy,” or at least they shouldn’t be considered such. Tenured faculty members in general are not the problem. And among the two-thirds non-tenured professors many are cultivating notable careers. It’s the few among them who abuse the system who are the problem, and even more, it’s the system itself that’s become unnecessary and financially unsustainable.

Tenure is now more about job security than academic freedom. I say this because there is so much case law and other precedent protecting freedom of speech or expression that faculty members are well protected as citizens of these United States. Tenure acts more often as a protection of position than ideas.

Tenure reduces accountability and undermines competitive incentives—faculty peer reviews can come under great pressure to overlook problems and endorse a suspect colleague. When this happens, the system helps perpetuate poor professors, thus robbing students of the high caliber their high education costs should give them the right to expect.

Tenure creates highly inflexible financial and operational commitments for institutions that can no longer maintain them. If an institution needs to reposition its workforce for better productivity or if an institution needs to reduce the size of its workforce, tenure gets in the way. In fact, tenure protects the highest paid teachers, which translates to lower paid teachers taking the brunt of cuts even if at least some of them may be better in-classroom instructors. Tenure protects teachers in disciplines supporting majors students may no longer want, so schools are left with faculty/student ratios that can’t support the program but can’t be changed.

Tenure isolates faculty and reinforces disciplinary values rather than institutional values. So if they’re so inclined, faculty can teach the way they wish and no longer respond to administrative influence, much less directives, to improve pedagogy or increase excellence. They can focus more on advancing within their professional disciplines than upon teaching.

Tenure is an impediment to academic excellence. Even if it must be phased out via new hires, I’d argue public or private secondary schools and low endowed postsecondary institutions interested in surviving should eliminate tenure, which no longer protects academic freedom. It just protects poor teaching and poor teachers.

In lieu of tenure, institutions can put in place longer contracts, sometimes called “term tenure,” of up to five years. They can tie professor advancement and salaries to actual in-class teaching excellence, not solely advanced degrees and most of all, not simply seniority. They can reward excellence and achievement in a multitude of other ways short of granting employment for life.

Tenure isn’t evil. It’s just a system that’s seen its day and should be set aside. Like cutting taxes, an act that first seems to produce less will in a short time produce more—competitive excellence and financially sound institutions. Most of the rest of the workforce outside teaching does quite nicely without tenure. Education can too.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.