Our Cultural Waterloo

Campuses will be in the legal and cultural frontline.

Colleges with a mutual interest in religious freedom and in preserving Christian standards of sexual morality and human personhood should talk to each other, abandon pipe dreams of “dialogue,” and coordinate their legal actions and political lobbying. They have the constitutional right to do so. America is still a free country. The whole is far greater than the sum of its parts. But time, focus, and realism are of the essence.

 

Tradition ascribes to the Duke of Wellington the saying that the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton. Today, I suspect the cultural Battle of Waterloo will be won—or lost—on the campuses of Christian colleges, and that in two ways.

The first way is obvious. The expansion of the scope of Title IX legislation by the Obama administration makes colleges that hold to traditional Christian moral positions on homosexuality and transgenderism vulnerable to loss of government funding and to damaging legal actions. We might add the related matter of accreditation: Failure to conform to Title IX will be punished with notations and probable loss of accreditation. Perhaps even more deadly than these threats is the role of the NCAA, as schools that are not “friendly” to LGBTQI students will find that they are unable to compete in sporting events. Sadly, while the choice between sport and one’s faith should not merit a second thought, I expect that this will be the point at which many colleges crack.

How Christian colleges respond to all this will be critical. The desire expressed by some to dialogue with their opponents on this matter is not a good sign. At worst, it represents the cynical prelude to capitulation: “We listened, we heard, we changed.” At best, it represents a miscalculation based upon the naïve idea that both sides have some level of mutual respect and an interest in co-existence. There is no evidence that this is the case, and now that the Southern Poverty Law Center regards the Alliance Defending Freedom as a “hate group,” I might suggest that such optimism verges on criminal negligence.

In conversation after conversation over the last few years with friends at Christian liberal arts colleges, I have encountered the assumption that few administrators will choose fidelity to their faith over institutional prestige. And administrators are only half the story. There are also the professors. The dominant philosophy in so many secular humanities departments—that there is nothing so complicated in history or literature that it cannot be reduced to a simple question of power and exploitation—has allowed academia to be hijacked by those who are marked less by their knowledge of their subject than by their ability to spout angry clichés about privilege and power and hegemony. These people represent the spirit of the age, and their language is seeping into Christian discourse. In some colleges, it may not be the administrators who lead the charge for change.

And this brings me to the second way. Colleges are where the battle for the minds of the next generation will take place.

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