Overestimating Hostility to Religion, and Misunderstanding Evangelical Christians

Responding to two essays on the state of evangelical Christianity in the U.S., John Wilson—an evangelical himself—describes how detached both are from his own experiences. One of the essays asserts that until about 1994, American society was, in general, favorably disposed to Christianity, and only since about 2014 has it become hostile:

Recently I wrote about how when I started college (in the fall of 1966), God used my professors’ utter contempt for “organized religion,” their certainty that no educated person could continue to hold such primitive convictions, to help draw me back to the faith in which I had been raised. In the 1980s, I worked for a reference publisher. One day over lunch, one of my fellow editors asked me (making clear he intended no offense) how someone like me (he meant, in part, someone who read a lot) could be very much a small-o orthodox Christian of the evangelical variety. His question was genuine. We had a good conversation.

As for the suggestion in the other essay, by David Brooks, that “modernity” has “left us with bitterness and division,” Wilson writes:

I have read the equivalent of those sentences (with their invocation of “modernity”) thousands of times, and yet I can’t understand how people (let alone people I myself have learned so much from) find them persuasive. This claim always seems to me to be radically ahistorical, for there has been bitterness and division among humans since the fall—it is hardly an invention of modernity.

And what of the coming post-religious future?

[W]e continue to worship each Sunday at Faith Covenant Church in Wheaton, Illinois. We share the astonishing convictions and hopes that have sustained the faithful for 2,000 years, extravagant as they sometimes seem, all too often distorted by misguided believers . . .

Read more at First Things

More about: American Religion, Evangelical Christianity


How to Save the Universities

To Peter Berkowitz, the rot in American institutions of higher learning exposed by Tuesday’s hearings resembles a disease that in its early stages was easy to cure but difficult to diagnose, and now is so advanced that it is easy to diagnose but difficult to cure. Recent analyses of these problems have now at last made it to the pages of the New York Times but are, he writes, “tardy by several decades,” and their suggested remedies woefully inadequate:

They fail to identify the chief problem. They ignore the principal obstacles to reform. They propose reforms that provide the equivalent of band-aids for gaping wounds and shattered limbs. And they overlook the mainstream media’s complicity in largely ignoring, downplaying, or dismissing repeated warnings extending back a quarter century and more—largely, but not exclusively, from conservatives—that our universities undermine the public interest by attacking free speech, eviscerating due process, and hollowing out and politicizing the curriculum.

The remedy, Berkowitz argues, would be turning universities into places that cultivate, encourage, and teach freedom of thought and speech. But doing so seems unlikely:

Having undermined respect for others and the art of listening by presiding over—or silently acquiescing in—the curtailment of dissenting speech for more than a generation, the current crop of administrators and professors seems ill-suited to fashion and implement free-speech training. Moreover, free speech is best learned not by didactic lectures and seminars but by practicing it in the reasoned consideration of competing ideas with those capable of challenging one’s assumptions and arguments. But where are the professors who can lead such conversations? Which faculty members remain capable of understanding their side of the argument because they understand the other side?

Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: Academia, Anti-Semitism, Freedom of Speech, Israel on campus