Culture Friday: The influence of Christian colleges

MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Friday the 5th of October, 2018.

Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher.

It’s Culture Friday and time now to welcome John Stonestreet. He’s president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. Good morning to you.

JOHN STONESTREET, GUEST: Good morning, Nick!

EICHER: Let’s talk about what’s going on at Azusa Pacific University in California.

For background, it’s a fairly large Christian school, about 10,000 students. It’s situated between Los Angeles and San Bernardino.

Now, we’re a little late to the party here, and I’m glad for that. I’d considered bringing it up last week.

But had we discussed it then, we’d have missed something important. And that’s because exactly a week ago, the board of Azusa Pacific reversed a very controversial policy change on the part of the administration.

Here’s what happened.

Under pressure from students, the school had acted last month to permit romantic LGBT relationships, while keeping the school’s historic prohibition against sex outside marriage.

Odd place to draw the line: no to sex, but romance is permissible.

I think you made an analogy to basketball: it’s okay to cheat in practice, as long as you don’t cheat in the game.

And then you asked,

How would that sort of change prepare students for a life of Christian faithfulness?

In any event, the reversal came last Friday, where the board rapped the administration’s knuckles, and reversed the policy.

I have to say, I have my doubts this is over. The pressures that gave rise to the change aren’t going away. But what do you say about it?

STONESTREET: Oh, you’re such a cynic, Nick. No, you’re right. It’s not going to go away anytime soon. We’ve talked about Christian colleges a lot on our Breakpoint commentaries and what you’re reading comes off that for this past week when we talked about the Azusa story. And I actually got a couple emails, including one from a former Christian college president saying something very similar that, look, the board’s day-to-day impact on students is minimal, the board’s day-to-day impact on faculty and staff’s beliefs and what they teach in the classroom is also minimal. Which, of course, I agree.

I commended the board for a couple reasons. Number one is they did what they could do and they did the right thing, unlike the administration that allowed this policy to go forward to begin with. So, good for them. That’s the board’s job. The board’s job is to keep an institution on mission and compromising creation theology is not on mission. And he said, well, they did and they upheld the Christian view of marriage, they just changed on romance. And my answer to that this week is, look, if God has a design of a man and a woman in mind for marriage, he has a design in mind for romance. I mean, romance only serves, only exists, really, to ultimately serve marriage. And so romance is contextualized in a larger vision that God had for the world that he made possible through the institution of marriage.

But this whole story underscores — I guess one of the ironies of this story or one of the things that bothered me about the story is that California Christian colleges just came out of a time of enormous pressure from the outside to alter their historic Christian teaching on sex, gender, and marriage. And they survived and they lasted and a lot of folks think it’s going to come back and that there’s more pressure, but you had two bills that were going to enforce LGBT ideology on Christians backed off of by California legislators. And the good news is they backed off, at least in part, because they saw the good work that these schools were doing, they saw the people that these schools serve, and Azusa’s a good example of that. I mean, 10,000 students, many of them ethnic minorities, lots of financial aid. They saw that. And because they saw that they said, well, we don’t want to just put them out of business.

And then with no pressure from without, a change like this happens because of pressure from within. And the pressure from within is this kind of gradual step by step by step adjustments. You’re not preparing students for a life of Christian faithfulness if you say they can go right up to sex and marriage in same-sex relationships but no further.

And also, I think, one of the things that was left out of this story in a lot of venues was that the removal of calling anything outside of God’s design “sin,” and that was initially removed as well.

So, anyway, I commend the board for doing the right thing and not that long ago I’ve had experiences with boards who refuse to act in light of things that were being done that were wrong. So I think you’re right that it’s not going away and I think this college president that emailed me is right that this will be an ongoing issue with students and administrators and so on. I mean, there’s already student outcry about it as would be expected. So we’ll see what happens, but good for the board for doing the right thing in this instance.

EICHER: Let’s stay on academics, but this has to do with broader academia.

I’ll try to keep this brief: three self-described left-leaning liberal academics conducted an experiment. They submitted 20 academic studies to various peer-reviewed academic publications.

Here’s the catch.

They were all fake. All written under fake names with fake credentials.

Seven of these 20 fake papers earned acceptance.

Four earned actual publication.

One of the four fake papers purported to study rape culture among dogs at parks in Portland, Oregon. No kidding.

Another fake study is titled, “Our Struggle Is My Struggle: Solidarity Feminism as an Intersectional Reply to Neoliberal and Choice Feminism.”

Here’s the kicker: According to The Wall Street Journal, the second portion of the paper is a rewrite of a chapter from “Mein Kampf.” This won formal acceptance in a peer-reviewed journal of women and social work.

I looked up the group’s project summary and here’s the purpose, and I want to quote directly.

The group sought “to understand and properly criticize an ongoing problem we see in gender studies and related academic disciplines. We see this problem having negative social and political implications on a global scale, and we think constructive conversation within academia has become nearly impossible. We hope that this project will reboot that conversation and initiate necessary reforms.”

Now, they’ve chosen to use ridicule. I think it’ll provoke one of two things: anger like you’ve not seen, or it’ll just be ignored.

But, still, I think there’s an “emperor’s new clothes” quality to this and it says something about modern academia.

What do you say?

STONESTREET: I think it’s one of the reasons it’s so sad if Christian colleges don’t rise up to the opportunity that’s in front of them.

This is one of the reasons I invest time when I can to supporting Christian colleges and to lifting up these schools because what’s happening across academia right now is so ridiculous and I would call it sad if it wasn’t so infuriating and that’s what this study is trying to get at. And what’s interesting is that these professors are coming from a more liberal point of view anyway and they’re kind of realizing in their own camp there’s real problems. I mean, listen to the title of that. That’s not education.

People aren’t learning things. Everything is about intersectionality and who’s the most aggrieved and so on and so on. I mean, this is what’s happening. This counts as scholarship in today’s institutions of higher learning. This is what we’re producing: a generation of aggrieved students who find their own opportunities to either be oppressed or claim somebody else is. And unfortunately what happens is real injustice gets overlooked. What happens is real education doesn’t take place.

I’m just saying, look, in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king and in the land where academia looks like this, there’s a real opportunity for institutions that can ground their learning into eternal principles about life in the world, that can ground their learning in a grand sweeping vision about what meaning and purpose is.

This is exactly what Christian institutions have at their disposal and so that’s why it would be really sad if we saw colleges cave from within because the opportunity there to offer a better way—and, by the way, this is part of Christian history from top to bottom. Wherever Christianity went, education went. But I think it reveals a deeper opportunity that I hope Christians take advantage of.

EICHER: John Stonestreet is president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. It’s Culture Friday, John, thanks so much. We’ll talk to you next time.

STONESTREET: Thanks, Nick.

(Photo/Azusa Pacific University)

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