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Where Academic Freedom is the Freedom to Quit

It's fair to say that academia, like much of American society, has self-selected itself into fairly narrow ranges of political expression. Mainstream colleges may not be quite the nests of leftist thought that their critics make them out to be, but the preponderance of professors tend to be somewhere on the liberal to radical left spectrum. And on Christian and overtly conservative campuses, it's even harder to find profs whose politics lean left. All of which is sad enough, given that the whole idea of education is to learn how to question your beliefs and enhance your ability to discover.

But now, at Patrick Henry College in Loudoun County, five professors have quit--and one of them was summarily dismissed before he could leave of his own accord--because they concluded that the college was not interested in free-ranging inquiry. The last straw for the professors came after they expressed their view that the Christian students who attend Patrick Henry need nourishment not only from the Bible, but from great thinkers such as Aristotle, Plato, Machiavelli, and Marx--and the college responded that Scripture is the "ultimate standard."

An article in Leesburg Today spells out the professors' basis for their decision to leave a school where, as they knew from the start, "our Christian faith precedes and informs all that we at Patrick Henry College study, teach and learn." Not only have there been instances in which texts were banned, but "Students are afraid to raise questions or criticize the school," the article quotes classics Professor David Noe. Some students have quit Patrick Henry because of the constricted academic environment as well, the paper reports.

But while the college's chancellor and founder, longtime Loudoun political activist Michael Farris, contends that no books are banned and that liberty is an essential part of the school's mission, Patrick Henry College's official statement on academic freedom pretty much confirms much of what the dissenting professors claim:

At first blush, academic freedom would appear to mean the freedom of those holding academic posts to conduct research and teach the subject of their expertise in whatever way they see fit. The imposition of any guidelines that restrict the freedom of the scholar are undesirable, for restrictions serve to stifle creativity and silence challenges to the current orthodoxy, challenges that, as we have seen throughout history, ought to be heard. If this is what academic freedom means, then religious colleges that require faculty to sign faith statements do indeed appear to limit academic freedom.

The college asks that we be frank and honest about how people of like philosophies tend to segregate themselves, and if we accept that, they say, what's wrong with those people coming together to "define academic freedom as the freedom for scholars holding similar worldviews to associate and in so doing to form a community of scholars actively pursuing truth in a collegial and cooperative fashion?"

The college defends its limited openness to other ideas by saying that this is essentially what happens on any campus. "Far from being onerous, this exclusion is usually mutually agreeable. Would a politically left-leaning feminist seek to be a contributing member of a community of conservative Thomists? Or vice versa?"

In defending their own barriers against teachings that challenge their Christian worldview, the college's administrators overstate the degree of intellectual conformity in the rest of academia. Sure, the band of views represented on most campuses is unnecessarily clotted in one or another spot along the ideological spectrum, but I've yet to encounter any major college where there aren't prominent dissenters who seem to have no problem making their views known and attracting considerable followings. And even where leftist perspectives seem to have the upper hand, there is at least lip service paid to the idea of being open to and probing any and all views. To shut that door is to stifle the dissent and discourse that are the only effective path to enlightenment.

All of this has importance well beyond the little school in Purcellville because in its short history, Patrick Henry has become something of a feeder college for the White House staff and other important policy shops in Washington. The college was founded with the explicit aim of bringing the conservative Christian perspective into more powerful positions in the federal and state governments.

If the kids who are taking on those jobs have just emerged from four years at an institution where a government professor--not exactly a liberal, but a former employee of the Republican Party of Orange County in southern California--believes he is not supposed to teach Thomas Hobbes' "State of Nature" because it might be used to break down morality, then we've got some awfully sheltered and intellectually constipated folks making policy for this country.

In an ideal world, the departing professors would stay and fight, reaching out to students whose families chose to send them to a place where young minds are outfitted with blinders. But perhaps the professors' departure will ring the alarm beyond the Purcellville campus. A society that chooses to place boundaries on inquiry is destined to decline and eventually collapse; as the cultural conservatives who created a place like Patrick Henry should know more than most, it's about the freedoms, stupid.

By Marc Fisher |  May 15, 2006; 7:30 AM ET
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Christian colleges exist not to further but to stifle learning.

Posted by: candide | May 15, 2006 9:21 AM

Have to agree with Mr. Fisher on this one. The reality is that academia, in spite of concerted attempts by the no-nothings who run Patrick Henry College (a name that now seems wildly ironic), is a mixed bag of fruits and nuts. The kind of intellectual uniformity of thought that PHC enforces is impossible in any large US institution. Academic departments are herds of cats; they don't even come close to pointing in the same direction.

I suggest that Patrick Henry College change its name (Karl Marx University? Rush Limbaugh Technical College?) to avoid further denigrating the name of a brave young man who we were all taught to admire.

Posted by: Judge C. Crater | May 15, 2006 9:43 AM

Candide,

Neglecting the fact the you offer no proof for your assertion, keep in mind that many of today's "Ivy League" universities started out as Christian colleges. By the way, PHC is not typical of most Christian colleges.

Posted by: RJD | May 15, 2006 9:47 AM

Judge,

Admiring the irony in your (intentional?) misspelling of "know-nothing". Bravo.

Posted by: RJD | May 15, 2006 9:50 AM

PHC wasn't established with academics in mind, it was established with politics in mind. The sole aim of PHC is train a new generation of Christians to be politicians. And if that is their goal, it follows that the school can't sustain any real academic tradition.

Posted by: Corinne | May 15, 2006 9:56 AM

"A society that chooses to place boundaries on inquiry is destined to decline and eventually collapse"

Is Intelligent Design restricted from being taught at public schools? If so, does that mean our society is "destined to decline and eventually collapse"?

Posted by: ?? | May 15, 2006 10:04 AM

Is Patrick Henry College accredited? Have any of its students been indicted for raping African-American strippers?

Posted by: Curious | May 15, 2006 10:11 AM

"Is Intelligent Design restricted from being taught at public schools?"

You can teach ID all you want in the philosophy class. But an unprovable hypothosis can't be science and can't be taught as science in science classes. In order to do teach ID as science, you would have to change the entire meaning of the word "science" and render it meaningless.

Posted by: Lioness | May 15, 2006 10:14 AM

Lioness,

You've got that a little mixed up. Hypotheses, by their very nature cannot be "proved." They can only be falsified. If a hyopthesis cannot be falsified, then it cannot be taught as science.

Posted by: Curious | May 15, 2006 10:19 AM

As a deeply religious (though not Evangelical) Christian who has spent nearly half a century comfortably in and around academia, I agree with everything in this column.

This story is sad news for the kids at Patrick Henry, but it carries truly ominous implications for our nation. What does it say about our vaunted American freedoms and the future of our country that the majority wing of today's politically dominant Republican party, as crystallized in an institution existing explicitly to shape political and governmental leaders, not only feels no obligation or necessity to prepare its students to test, debate, and explore their beliefs in a context of pluralism--but deliberately and actively stifles such attempts?

I don't know about you, but the implications of that fact give me chills.

Posted by: JJH | May 15, 2006 10:20 AM

So certain faculty, science teachers, can't teach ID but others, philosophy, can't? Isn't that a restriction? I don't understand how you are not imposing restrictions on faculty.

In what class is it appropriate to teach that the holocaust didn't happen? http://www.adl.org/Learn/Ext_US/Butz.asp

In order to most broaden perspectives shouldn't we make Jewish people study Arthur Butz's material?

Posted by: ?? | May 15, 2006 10:22 AM

I am guessing that the average Patrick Henry Student can pass a California High School exit exam, had SATs well over 1400, and can name all 9 Supreme Court justices, something the Taliban at Yale cannot do. But let us close them down for the diversit of opinion absent in the left-wing university attended by anti-American journalists. Ward Churchill is the loved professor of the MSM, and the media would love to decide who works in the government. Where is your outrage for the anti-semitics in academia?

Posted by: Karen | May 15, 2006 10:22 AM

JJH,

I've got to say that your leap from a small, irrelevant school in Purcellville, Va., to "the majority wing of the politically dominant Republican party" makes me wonder about where you studied. What kind of school would let you graduate without a basic understanding of logic?

Posted by: Curious | May 15, 2006 10:24 AM

I think PHC's official statement on academic freedom has a major flaw in it. In the statement is says:

"In other words, regardless of whether or not scholars sign statements of faith, they tend to form voluntary associations with like-minded colleagues. The obvious corollary to this reality is that some people are excluded from some groups. But, far from being onerous, this exclusion is usually mutually agreeable."

Mutually agreeable. I believe this is true though not absolute. And there are many with open minds who see some truth in those they choose to disagree with most of the time.

Debate, as we know so well here, leads to enlightment. If there is only one world view there is no debate and thus no possibility of enlightenment since it is the defense of an idea that makes it a strong idea, not limiting the expression of differing ideas. The real truth behind colleges and universities is that there is no absolute truth, just ideas we come to agree upon to varying degrees through debate and defense of the idea. PHC prevents that for the sake of a functional academic department. But a department with only one world view is by definition dysfunctional since there is no such thing as only one world viewpoint.

Just as some consider democracy dysfunctional and dictators functional since democracies disagree all the time within themselves while dictators get things done, PHC is choosing the dictatorial argument. That is not academic freedom or freedom of any sort, it is the exact opposite.

Posted by: Sully | May 15, 2006 10:24 AM

This story only confirms for me what I have already known on an instinctual level: That conservative Christians are among the most blatant hypocrites dwelling on this turbulent planet.

We have all seen, heard and read of the conservative distaste for Academia in general, insisting that it is little more than a nest of left wing subversives, anarchists and Godless socialists. What we have not seen, heard and read about is that the worst forms of repression area actually more prevalent in Christian academic societies as your article so graphically demonstrates here.

It is all so similar in the way the conservative right looks at the media. There has been a proliferation of conservative outlets of news and opinion in recent years in all media. And all one need do is frequent these media to ascertain that they are in every metric one can imagine, just as biased, just as partisan, and just as oppressive in their smackdown of any opposing viewpoints as they insist that the liberal media are.

There is an old shopworn, overused phrase from an old Jack Nicholson movie: "You don't want the truth! You can't handle the truth!" How very appropriate that old shopworn phrase is to the old shopworn charges from the right about bias in academi and in the media.

Posted by: Jaxas | May 15, 2006 10:25 AM

This is just the next step of culture wars. Basically as a Christian you have a certain set of beliefs. Depending on your interpertation of the bible it is natural to want to ensure that these beliefs are reflected in society.

The problem occurs when a group of people with power motivations purposefully manipulates individuals based on religion to fulfill their own thrist for power.

Finally, there is more to Christianity than gays and abortion. How about the enivronment social justice and equality. These themes are expressed by many "non-biblical" scholars and removing them from the educational program is a real disservice to the students.

Posted by: novamiddleman | May 15, 2006 10:39 AM

"Christian colleges exist not to further but to stifle learning."

No, Christian colleges are neither intended to stifle learning, no is that what their faculties and administrations attempt to do. They are, however, institutions that are grounded on certain assumptions. They present themselves to students as providing an education based on those assumptions, and are very open about what those assumptions are. Far from misleading prospective students, they take pride in their approach and highlight it prominently.

It is entirely appropriate for an institution of learning to have a guiding principal: a christian worldview, an environmentalist ethos, a humanist worldview, or a materialist worldview. Students (and their parents) are much, much less likely to be misled about the kind of education they will recieve at one of these institutions than they are at many others, where there's no guiding philosophical approach or touchstone recognized by the faculty.

As several have noted, many institutions that are currently recognized as liberal and non-religious (if not effectively anti-religious) started out as Christian colleges. Academic organizations evolve and change over time - as do those of religious movements and groups. Christian colleges became more liberal and secular as mainline denominations became more liberal and secular. Similar changes in conservative denominations will have the same effect in the colleges and universities affiliated with them.

Having said that, I disagree with some of the decisions made by this particular college. I'm a graduate of a conservative Christian university, and believe that the statement of faith for faculty is a vital element of such a school. I wanted to be taught in a Christian environment (just as most Wiccans and Unitarian Universalists would want to choose an environment consistent with their world view). But it is vital to study history, philosophy, science and the humanities in a serious fashion (we did study Hobbes - and Darwin, Plato, Freud . . . )

Society must seriously and openly debate a wide variety of ideas (although I do believe that our society currently takes a sophomoric joy in toying with the most ludicrous and degraded ideas simply because we can). Undergraduate classrooms do not have to be the setting for that (take any cause that gives you personal hives - Nazism, for example). Should a professor be able to teach National Socialism in an undergraduate philosphy class? Some make take a purist view and say, heck, yeah - freedom of speach for tenured professors is the highest of all goods! I'm a dad who's sending a son off to a public college as a freshman this fall. Take it from me - if our universities go down that road, millions of Americans will no longer support those institutions politically, financially, or with our children.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2006 10:51 AM

This is just another story in a long line of stories that makes me sad.

I was educated at a Christian high school, and went on to a college that was founded as a Christian college but has since become one of those "horribly scary hotbeds of liberalism". Those eight years were some of the BEST of my life, as I was constantly exposed to different thinkers and different philosophers, challenged by things that questioned all of my beliefs, made me uncomfortable or just plain scared me.

And yet I feel that I am a stronger person for it. I am well-read, I understand WHY I believe what I believe and disagree with what I disagree with.

Studying the liberal arts does not mean that you just reread the Bible and a few Billy Graham books. It means you read anything and everything. No wonder we are a nation of people who make important political decisions based on slogans that fit on bumper stickers.

Posted by: OD | May 15, 2006 10:52 AM

The substitution of a shared superstition for the research, debate, and discovery which make up human intellectual history only confirms me in my atheism. this is one (albeit not the only, but the one most germane to this conversation) direct result of the force-feeding of the conservative christian moral code to the population of a nation promised freedom from the divisive effects of enforced adherence to a social and political phiiosophy born thousands of years ago.

see y'all in hell!

Posted by: dzhugashvili | May 15, 2006 10:55 AM

It would be nice if open discourse was the norm for Patrick Henry College, and the current adminstration, but that only happens on TV shows. The current adminstration doesn't allow dissent, so why should their feeder school? I suppose PHC is where they learn how to leak CIA agents names if the CIA agents husband publishes a op ed that disagrees with the administration. It doesn't seem that the college or the administration is behaving in a Christian manner. Those radical Jesuits taught me that learning about dissenting ideas and other ways of thinking could only erode my faith if I didn't really believe. If I believed, other views would only strengthen my relationship with God. I also agree that the college should change its name, as should Liberty College. Intolerance College, Right Wing University, Using Religion to Our Own Ends College, are all names that should be considered.

Posted by: Sue | May 15, 2006 11:03 AM

Someone wrote:
"Far from misleading prospective students, they take pride in their approach and highlight it prominently."

But they use the excuse that academic departments of schools that allow professors of differing world views are dysfunctional. That is a statement they do not even try to support. It is an excuse for their imposition of a single world view. In other words, they lie to support their closed mindedness.

That same Someone continued:
"I'm a graduate of a conservative Christian university, and believe that the statement of faith for faculty is a vital element of such a school. I wanted to be taught in a Christian environment (just as most Wiccans and Unitarian Universalists would want to choose an environment consistent with their world view).

First you need to understand that not everyone considers themselves to be a part of a single world view. You should ask yourself why there are so many world views and determine the good and bad in each instead of insulating yourself within one, and the only one you have probably known. By insulating yourself in a Christian college you insulated yourself from a rich experience. If you do not trust yourself to maintain your christianity when experiencing other ideas, you need to question the basis of your faith. No one benefits when they isolate themselves from the rest of humanity.

Posted by: Sully | May 15, 2006 11:07 AM

If a professor believes that studying Hobbes will lead to a breakdown in morality, then he is not qualified to teach anything. Because he is an idiot and obviously doesn't understand the source material. The mentality this institution has decided to adopt, the responses that defend it, the people in this country who agree . . . it all just makes me want to cry. Why are people so scared of knowledge? What are they protecting? What are they trying to isolate themselves from? Are we entering the next Dark Ages for Western culture?

Posted by: Jerry from DC | May 15, 2006 11:08 AM

Responding to Karen,

I had to read this posting several times to make sense of it. Sadly, it seems to be an unsupported rant. However, even rants should be addressed logically, if it possible. So, let us start with the first assertion, that Yale is full of Taliban supporters. To the contrary. Prior to 9/11, many in academia were in the forefront in protesting the destruction of cultural artificats, the stifling of opinion, the sequestering of women, and the broad limitations that had been placed on education in Afghanistan. To call academia left wing and then to equate it with the Taliban is truly a contradition. The next two assertions claim that liberal academics and "anti" American journalists stifle opinions. Regarding the first, having been on both liberal and conservative college campuses for the most of the past ten years, I can truly say that on the "liberal" campuses I saw a greater variety of speakers, conservative and liberal, and a greater feeling of freedom to speak out. By feeling, I mean that liberals and conservatives felt safe in putting forth their own cases. More importantly, people on both sides expected these cases to be supported with some sort of facts. Concerning the second, anti-American journalists: Perhaps you might clarify how you define "American." If American means accepting government statements without investigating other sources, welcoming the single news source (FOX) administration we have, or guiding the evidence by your opinions (rather than the other way around, yes, liberal universities are full of Anti-Americans. But so is the nation. There is another article today dealing with trickle down economics and how economists on the right and the left have found that it does not work. Despite this, conservative policy makers continue to claim the opposite. Your claim for the lack of free inquiry in higher education in the United States is equally unfounded and unsupported.

Posted by: Jill | May 15, 2006 11:11 AM

Is it ironic or sad that our entire university system is based on one that was started by the Catholic Church, and ultimately led to Western civilization's development and growth, and these "christians" want to turn the system on its head? Everyone who defends this school's philosophy on education should read and reread above what the Jesuits taught Sue:

"Those radical Jesuits taught me that learning about dissenting ideas and other ways of thinking could only erode my faith if I didn't really believe. If I believed, other views would only strengthen my relationship with God."

Posted by: SJ | May 15, 2006 11:12 AM

I realize that Patrick Henry was a crazy Baptist at a time that the majority of Virginians still worshipped in the Church of England, but don't you think the guy who stood up and said, "Give me Liberty or give me Death?" is spinning in his grave right now? How embarrassing for him that his peers' namesake institutions -- George Mason, James Madison, Washington (& Lee), and two that were run/started by his peer Thomas Jefferson, William & Mary and UVa -- are all well-respected academic institutions truly interested in learning.

And poor Patrick gets stuck with the close-minded new school started by a political hack.

Posted by: Me | May 15, 2006 11:17 AM

Patrick Henry is in the business of safely reinforcing previously held beliefs. Learning is the process of acquiring NEW and different knowledge, which can serve to reinforce one's beliefs, but not necessarily.

My teachers in elementary school taught me that 2+2=4, but I still counted it out on my fingers.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2006 11:20 AM

Despite being alleged hotbeds of liberalism, most non-religious universities do not seek to hire only like-minded persons, nor do we seek to indoctrinate our students (as if we have that kind of power over time and space... if we did, our students would study more and drink less).

It is illegal for us to ask people about their religion or their political views in the hiring process, and most people in my field (political science!) do not engage in research that would reveal their political orientation, even if they themselves choose not to disclose it (research is about questions of fact or policy, not opinion and personal belief). While we may be political in our personal lives, one should not confuse that with our work behavior.

Religious conservatives expect to get a fair shake at non-religious institutions, but they always seem to expect compliance with an ideological agenda when they are doing the hiring. Obviously, academic freedom is not a two-way street-- rather, it is a construction of "liberal academia."

If an institution does not respect the freedom of its faculty, it is unlikely to respect the intellectual freedom of its students, either. Ideological compliance for faculty is designed to promote indoctrination in students. This isn't education... it's brainwashing, or propogranda, or whatever other name you want to give it. And, it is disrespectful to students, who adults, and don't deserve to be censored.

Posted by: College prof | May 15, 2006 11:21 AM

Someone wrote:
"Should a professor be able to teach National Socialism in an undergraduate philosphy class?"

But I studied Nazism. We studied why it came about in Germany, why it thrived and became almost a religion, why its abuses were allowed by a knowing populace (even the catholic church) and why it died. We also studied how A Nazi party would do in American politics. How would Americans receive such a political party. We were unnerved to discover that a lot of what the Nazi's offered to Germans in the 1930s was something we would want today in America. We learned that Germans wanted better lives, wanted to feel better of themselves than the loosers of WW1. They wanted to prosper and the Nazis promised them what they wanted, and actually gave it to them. There were Americans watching the growth of Germany in the 30s and suggested America emulate the Nazi model. Only when the war started and the horrible abuses were later exposed to the world did people understand that making a better world is more complicated that the Germans in the 1930s thought.

Now, did you learn anything like that in your Christian college? I'd actually be more interested to know if you studied any abuses by religions, starting with the inquisition, the Inca blood rituals or the human sacrifices of the early Egyptians, and discussed how religious enforcement of belief lead to those abuses.

Posted by: Sully | May 15, 2006 11:23 AM

"But I studied Nazism. We studied why it came about in Germany, why it thrived and became almost a religion, why its abuses were allowed by a knowing populace (even the catholic church) and why it died."

That's not "teaching Nazism" that's teaching ABOUT Nazism. Big, big difference. I suspect that many of the people on this blog who're bashing Christian colleges would protest vehemently against a college that allowed an avowed neo-Nazi to teach his or her racial and political views in a university class.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2006 11:43 AM

Doesn't "academic freedom" include the freedom of Patrick Henry Colleged to teach what it wants to teach? Or can they only teach the same curriculum that it taught at Harvard and Yale?

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2006 11:54 AM

"Now, did you learn anything like that in your Christian college? I'd actually be more interested to know if you studied any abuses by religions, starting with the inquisition, the Inca blood rituals or the human sacrifices of the early Egyptians, and discussed how religious enforcement of belief lead to those abuses."

Get off it - Christians are not, as a group, neanderthals (not even conservative Christians). I've read the Koran, the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu, Confucious, the Book of Morman and the Upanishads. I've even read "Wicca and Witchcraft for Dummies" (which, by the way, is a real hoot). My philosophy professor, at a very conservative Christian university, always said that you had to read philosphy "sympathically" - to ask, as you read it, "why would he think that?"

We all have certain, perhaps provisional, assumptions about how the world works, the nature of reality,the nature of knowledge, and the nature of truth. We all - even if we're unaware of it - have a world view.

I firmly believe that we should each carefully decide what we believe, and choose our worldview in a very deliberate manner. But explicitly chosen or not, we all have one. We should think about what we believe, and carefully evaluate it - and be willing to re-evaluate it as appropriate. That doesn't prohibit us from having firmly held beliefs. We just need to know what we believe, and why we believe it.

It is not unreasonable for us to seek out teachers with whom we share core assumptions. In fact, I would argue that this is exactly what people do - even open minded secularists. That a Unitarian Universalist goes to a secular school does not prevent him or her from trying to learn about and understand conservative Christianity or Islam - but they would not typically do it by going to Bob Jones University or a madrassa. I would be willing to bet (does anyone have any data?) that far more conservative Christians attend secular schools than atheists, agnostics, or even liberal Christians attend overtly religious schools.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2006 12:02 PM

Actually, academic freedom does not really mean that. It means having an environment of free inquiry.

That being said, no one disputes that Patrick Henry can do what they want when it comes to teaching. However, what they do will reflect in the way that the degrees given are received AND the quality of instructors that PH will be able to hire. Most respected academics have more respect for their fields and themselves than to work in such an environment. It is certainly fair for those outside the college to judge, based on the closed environment of inquiry, that a degree from PH is worth very little.

The real issues here are that the highest placed conservative policymakers draw from such an ill-educated pool when hiring and that some people seem to make the mistake of thinking that PH is just a conservative equivilent to universities where free enquiry does play a large role.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2006 12:04 PM

Actually, Sully, those same radical Jesuits did teach me about previous abuses perpetrated by the Catholic Church, like the Crusades, the Inquisition, the wealthy paying for dispensations, the sale of "relics" that msy or may not have been real, and that all these abuses led directly to Martin Luther nail his 95 thesis to the cathedral door. I learned in history and religion classes about the Eygptians, the Incas, the Mayans, the early Isrealites, and others. I learned that we needed to study history, and why things happened, or we would be doomed to repeat it. I also learned that history doesn't happen in a vacuum. There are always religious, economic and societial reasons for why people do the things they do. Of course, I do need to point out that my college(St. Peter's in Jersey City; go Peacocks) accepted students of all creeds, had professors of all viewpoints and religions, and didn't censor what was taught in classes.

Posted by: Sue | May 15, 2006 12:07 PM

Medieval universities were church founded and American colleges were as well. But in both cases these institutions became meaningful only then they stopped teaching theological nonsense (when Harvard, for example, became Unitarian) and began to look for the truth. Our current crop of Christian colleges are in a state of arrested development.

Posted by: candide | May 15, 2006 12:07 PM

How shallow and weak PHC must think is the faith of their students if they cannot be exposed at all to contrasting points of view. That is the greatest lesson here -- the college does not trust its students (and the parents do not trust their children) to come to independent moral and religious positions.

Posted by: stew | May 15, 2006 12:08 PM

Someone who decided not to even use a fake name wrote this at 12:02 --

"I would be willing to bet (does anyone have any data?) that far more conservative Christians attend secular schools than atheists, agnostics, or even liberal Christians attend overtly religious schools."

I would agree with you. But perhaps it's because conservative christians are allowed to practice and express their conservative christianity at "secular" schools and atheists, agnostics, and liberal christians would not be allowed to study anything and everything, nor express their views, at Patrick Henry.

And also, say, Georgetown actually has a much smaller percentage of Catholic students than you might expect. Perhaps because it's an actual university, not a propaganda mill.

Posted by: James | May 15, 2006 12:12 PM

Karen does a good job highlighting what's wrong with the radical wing of the conservative movement. She "guesses" a number of things that are totally, factually wrong. To add on to a previous poster's debunking of her post, the median SAT score for PHC students in 2005 was 1340 (which, maybe I just scored too low on the math section to truly understand this, but that seems a bit below 1400, not "well over," as Karen contends). As for naming all the Court justices, I can do that, and I went to a piddly little state college. Big whoop. That sort of thing has nothing to do with one's ability to think rationally and understand the arguments of those who oppose you.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2006 12:19 PM

our culture is turning into a pathetic shadow of what we were founded on. Fear, ignorance, and bigotry are not what the Republican party was founded on and co-opting the christian name but none of the true ideals is frightning. I wish we had the mid-terms in a few days before they can recover the ground the party rightfully lost. It'll only take a few months for Americans to forgot how many steps backwards we've taken and all of a sudden the looming threat of gay marriage will erase all the ills that we currently face.

This university is a looming example of all that is wrong with our nation at this point.

Posted by: mike | May 15, 2006 12:21 PM

Someone wrote:
"I firmly believe that we should each carefully decide what we believe, and choose our worldview in a very deliberate manner. But explicitly chosen or not, we all have one.

PHC, according to its official statement on academic freedom, does not allow a "deliberate manner" when it comes to providing the education students require to make informed decisions about what they do or do not believe. Its simple really, truth cannot be determined where information is not allowed to flow freely.

Posted by: Sully | May 15, 2006 12:24 PM

One more disturbing element of PH, and those who choose to sequester themselves with those of like minds. As has been clear during the past six years, the nation has increasingly polarized. How can we ever expect to even remotely understand "the other side" if one group removes themselves from an open environment to one that insulates them from the way other people think or how other people view the world? It only sets the stage for further problems.

While non-Christians can try to go to Patrick Henry, they would not be accepted. PH applicants must sign a statement that says (abbrev.) "I certify that I fully and enthusiasticall subscribe to the above statement of faith, that I have accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior, for forgiveness of my sins." It is clearly not possible for a non-Christian to attend. Furthermore, the statement that they must sign includes a declaration of complete belief in the literal interpretation of the Bible and other such particulars - ensuring that only certain Christians could even apply. I have never seen an application for a college in the United States that requires an applicant denounce their faith, or to proclaim themselves athiest/agnostic/other as a requirement of admission.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2006 12:25 PM

If "choosing to sequester yourself with those of like minds" is a bad thing, then why don't all of the outraged and self-righteous posters to this blog stop reading the Washington Post and subscribe, instead, to the Wall Street Journal?

Posted by: Curious | May 15, 2006 12:32 PM

While I don't know if I personally would have attended a Christian college, there are plenty of great ones out there that provide a generally well balanced education. I wouldn't put Patrick Henry in that group. The more I read in the local Loudoun papers, the more it sounds like a cult. Here's an excerpt from the Leesburg Today (see the full article http://www.leesburg2day.com/current.cfm?catid=5&newsid=12026 ):

Some students lament the banishment of "PDAs"--at Patrick Henry this is short for physical displays of affection. When inside, any touching, whether that is a consoling hug or something less appropriate, is forbidden. Once outdoors, that same hug would be permissible. Students have at times been required to report where they attend church on Sunday, to some a private matter, or else be subject to punishment. Last year, a student assistant librarian was forced to quit because he passed out fliers inviting students to attend a church that believes one reaches salvation through baptism; the college enforces a rule that one is saved through faith alone. Strict curfews are set. Alcohol is forbidden, no matter a student's age.

I'm waiting for them to start building the gard towers and the perimeter fence.

Posted by: Local | May 15, 2006 12:34 PM

Who said that some of us do not read both?

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2006 12:34 PM

Someone wrote:
"That's not "teaching Nazism" that's teaching ABOUT Nazism. Big, big difference. I suspect that many of the people on this blog who're bashing Christian colleges would protest vehemently against a college that allowed an avowed neo-Nazi to teach his or her racial and political views in a university class."

True, but that is not happening so why bring up this red herring? Are you saying regular colleges keep out Nazi professors so its ok for PHC to restrict professors to its own ideology? I think that's a stretch.

At my high school in 1971 we had an assembly for seniors to hear from the local Nazi Party. These idiot showed up in their Nazi uniforms and a few kept their hands in their coat breast pockets even though all had been searched before coming into the school. You could tell they enjoyed the power they projected and how it made them feel. They gave a half-hour speech and then we began asking questions. The result was total disagreement with their positions. Many parents were quite angry that the school did this but I think the result made those parents proud. They did raise their children correctly because they rejected the Nazi's arguments in a free open debate. Hopefully you raised your soon-to-be freshman correctly since though Nazi professors may not be at their school, they are out there, teaching and recruiting through friendships and other social contacts.

Posted by: Sully | May 15, 2006 12:39 PM

Curious wrote:
"If "choosing to sequester yourself with those of like minds" is a bad thing, then why don't all of the outraged and self-righteous posters to this blog stop reading the Washington Post and subscribe, instead, to the Wall Street Journal?"

I know a lot of people who read both. I read many papers myself but the WSJ is too expensive :^) I do watch Fox News though, mainly for the comedy.

Posted by: Sully | May 15, 2006 12:41 PM

--
How shallow and weak PHC must think is the faith of their students if they cannot be exposed at all to contrasting points of view. That is the greatest lesson here -- the college does not trust its students (and the parents do not trust their children) to come to independent moral and religious positions.
--

Bravo to Stew for putting this so succinctly. In the age of parents who sue their schools over books in the libraries, for the fact that they play dodgeball, and live in sanitized versions of the world that they grew up in, PHC fits right in.
I prefer to think of PHC not as a college, university, or any other term implying an educational mission, but rather as a radical madrassa, such as the ones we read about in Pakistan. Their goals, and their methods, are eerily similar.

Posted by: Joe | May 15, 2006 12:55 PM

I find it odd that a "conservative" college -- and the posters who have supported PHC -- considers this a true academic model. I was always under the impression that the reason that conservatives criticized "liberal" colleges and universities is because liberal academics were stifling true debate between their own belief system and that of conservative students. I have always felt that, to the degree that happens, that is bad.

And here comes along a "conservative" college that wants to stifle true debate between its own belief system and that of liberals. Apparently, what was actually bothering conservatives in the 90s wasn't so much the stifled debate, but the fact that anything other than conservative beliefs were mentioned at all.

No wonder I find it harder and harder to go out in public and call myself a "conservative" and not be ashamed of those who have co-opted the label.

Posted by: OD | May 15, 2006 1:02 PM

If teaching ABOUT Nazism is okay, why not teaching ABOUT Hobbes, Locke, and the other great philosophers, Christian or not? Are the professors asking to advocate those positions, or simply to talk about them?
I'm a Jewish student at the law school at a Jesuit university on the East Coast. We have boards all over campus that advertise the various services going on, Jesuit priests walking around, paintings of priests hanging in the hallways. But our law school faculty is all over the range, from liberal socialists to law and economics conservatives. And in my classes, we routinely discuss conservative viewpoints; both professors and students express varying degrees of skepticism or agreement, and we usually get a good idea of arguments for and against. Obviously the students at this college are less free to learn, and consequently can expect to be less learned, than students at other, more reputable institutions. They shouldn't be running the country.

Posted by: turkishd | May 15, 2006 1:02 PM

Candide gives us a classic example of why many Christians characterize a certain thread among secular liberals as intolerant and anti-Christian: "Medieval universities were church founded and American colleges were as well. But in both cases these institutions became meaningful only then they stopped teaching theological nonsense (when Harvard, for example, became Unitarian) and began to look for the truth. Our current crop of Christian colleges are in a state of arrested development."


I don't know what was in Candide's mind as he wrote this, but the sentiments that he expresses are not all that uncommon. It's very difficult to characterize them as anything BUT intolerant.

So, Candide - what do you think? What does "tolerance" mean to you, when people who believe in divine revelation are involved. Are you willing to give professed Christians equal standing in academic discourse? Even conservative ones? If you've decided that their claims are simply incorrect - are you still willing for them to debate and defend them? Understand - they're most likely just as convinced that your philisophical world-view is incorrect.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2006 1:10 PM

Somebody asked if PHC is accredited. The college's website says that it receives accreditation from something called the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TACCS). I know absolutely nothing about them; if somebody reading does have information, please post.

http://www.phc.edu/admissions/AuthorizationAccreditation.asp

In addition, there is a link to a statement from the president of the institution saying that the school is NOT pursuing accreditation from the American Academy for Liberal Education (AALE) because of a "difficult relationship", based in large part on the school's viewpoint on creationism. The statement also says that PHC is actively pursuing accreditation from the big kahuna, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

http://www.phc.edu/admissions/AALE.asp

How any of the above fits in with this decision is beyond me (although, just based on what little I know, I can't see how SACS would accredit this school pretty much ever).

Posted by: Dr Chuck Pearson | May 15, 2006 1:15 PM

"I would agree with you. But perhaps it's because conservative christians are allowed to practice and express their conservative christianity at "secular" schools and atheists, agnostics, and liberal christians would not be allowed to study anything and everything, nor express their views, at Patrick Henry."

Are you kidding me? Students can read anything they want at a Christian university, observe any religion they want (or none at all) at a Christian university, and there's no way that any university can force a young adult to believe anything in particular. But every school ultimately decides who is qualified to teach, and what should be part of the curriculum (business schools do NOT teach the culinary arts; state schools do NOT teach religion - and yes, "sociology of religion" is different from "religion").

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2006 1:16 PM

"Are you kidding me? Students can read anything they want at a Christian university, observe any religion they want (or none at all) at a Christian university, and there's no way that any university can force a young adult to believe anything in particular."

The post you are disagreeing with specifically mentioned Patrick Henry; it did not make a blanket statement about all Christian universities. Your misdirection fails at the internet.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2006 1:22 PM

Responses to a couple of points:

(1) Intelligent Design (ID) is not science as it offers no disporavble hypothesis. As its proponents admit, the sole purpose of ID is to discredit a fundamental tenent of scince that offends certain pseudo-christians. ID belongs in a scince class as much as does astrology.

(2) As for holocaust-denial, why not teach it? Our own gov't denies the Armenian Holocaust, as does the Israeli gov't. We teach that there were few Palestinians in Palestine when the Zionists arrived, and those few who were there fled at the behest of the governments of the surrounding Arab states. David Irving should feel quite at ease with these positions. Israeli historians (such as Benny Morris) have debunked these myths, but here in the US we still preach them as gospel. The policies of PHC fit well within these practices.

(3) The point about supply-side economics is well taken. David Stockeman, Reagan's head of OMB, admitted it was nothing but an excuse to cut taxes for the wealthy. Reagan's tax hike in the 1983 and 1984 Tax Acts to counter the deficit creation of his 1981 tax cuts shows that even Reagan knew this.

(4) Ward Churchill may well be another Alan Dershowitz, but he's in good company with others in academia. Where's the right's complaints about Dershowitz? Why isn't he on Horowitz's list of academics to be persecuted?

(5) PHC is indeed representative of the core of the Republican Party. Why else do they place an inordinate number of students in White House and other governmental positions as interns and trainees? Those who hire them certainly view them as representative of the core of the GOP. If not, then why do they keep getting those plum positions?

Posted by: George | May 15, 2006 1:24 PM

I am not kidding you, 01:16 PM, I am completely serious. If this article, and the school's own website, is to be believed, teachers and students have to profess a certain belief system in order to apply, attend or teach there, and students are not taught specific texts simply because those texts do not agree with PHC's version of "christianity." Therefore, they are NOT allowed as much freedom as conservatives at "secular" colleges. Conservatives may face peers or professors hostile to their belief system, but they are not specifically prohibited from expressing themselves.

P.S. Obviously, I am not lumping all Christian colleges together here, only those, such as PHC, that exclude anything that could even possibly conflict with their limited interpretation of Christianity. I have great respect, in particular, for the intellectual curiosity of the Jesuits, who do a wonderful job of allowing their students to explore. I only wish I had such a rigorous college experience.

Posted by: James | May 15, 2006 1:24 PM

"PHC, according to its official statement on academic freedom, does not allow a "deliberate manner" when it comes to providing the education students require to make informed decisions about what they do or do not believe. Its simple really, truth cannot be determined where information is not allowed to flow freely."

You misunderstand my point. Christian universities make sense for students who have a) decided on a Christian worldview, and wish to continue their education in a Christian environment, or b) are seriously considering Christianity, and want to further explore that worldview. Generally, this will be practicing Christians or individuals from a Christian family background who have not yet decided what they believe.

A liberal arts education is incredibly valuable - but it would be pure academic arrogance to assume that it is the undergraduate curricula of today's universities that provide the basis on which young adults form their world views. If it were, it would be sadly narrow - the faiths and philosphies of 90% of the world's population may be discussed as curious objects of study, but are not taught as serious systems of thought that students might want to consider as ways of understanding the world. Bottom line, that's what Christian (and Islamic, and Jewish, etc.) institutions are for - places where a religious world view can be seriously studied as a system of thought that is useful and relevant for today's world.


Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2006 1:25 PM

I would like to respond, regarding the ideas addressed to Candide...

There are many (I daresay probably a majority) faculty in universities who are professed Christians. However, most do not bring their faith into the classroom when they are teaching. Why? Because that is not their job. At the same time, those of us of other persuasions also keep our faith out of the classroom.

Now, as far as discourse on a campus in general is concerned, I can certainly say that as one who is agnostic, I listen to those of faith with equal respect right up to the point that the faith is used to justify bigotry or discrimination. Similarly, in certain discussions, in fields such as science, I do not give credence to theories such as Intelligent Design. Is this for its religious origins? No. It is for its lack of proof and its failure to gain credence within the scientific community. Do these standards apply to those without faith? Yes. I have been known to defend the Mormon faith (LDS) to non-Mormons, Catholics to Protestants, and Christians to Athiests. Why? Because for individuals these beliefs are tooimportant to people and to treat them with blanket disrespect is to treat the individual with disrespect. Sadly though, the favor is not always returned.

The important point is that all people start out on the same playing field in academic discourse...regardless of their faith. It is provable, reliable support for their arguments that is important.

Posted by: Jill | May 15, 2006 1:25 PM

George,

You overlooked the obvious. The reason the PHC students get "the plum jobs" (interns?) is because they are so much better educated than all the cookie-cutter ivy leaguers. Have you ever even talked to a PHC-er?

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2006 1:30 PM

"True, but that is not happening so why bring up this red herring? Are you saying regular colleges keep out Nazi professors so its ok for PHC to restrict professors to its own ideology? I think that's a stretch."

This is not a red herring. The point is that academic freedom - understood as the ability of any tenured professor to teach anything they want, no matter how obnoxious to the ideals of the institution, the students, the parents or the community - is not an absolute good. Nazism is a good example, because (presumably) everyone in this discussion would agree that there would be, at a minimum, a "downside" to allowing a professor to teach Nazism as a valid and relevant political philosophy.

To repeat myself, while our society must be willing to freely and openly discuss and debate a wide variety of views - many of which may in fact be profoundly obnoxious - because that's the only way we can be sure of correcting our unconcious errors, undergraduate classrooms do not have to be the setting for that.

It is legitimate for an institution to say that it teaches from a particular philosophical foundation. Remember, not all institutions will choose the same foundation. It's legitimate for a student to choose to study at an institution because of it's approach.

Or do you really want to live in a world that's so homogenized that there's no difference between a Jesuit school, a state research university, a yeshiva, an ivy league university, and a baptist college?

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2006 1:35 PM

To 1:30 PM:

I think the direction this debate is taking is to show that "PHC-ers" cannot, by definition, be better educated than their peers at other, truly academic institutions, because PHC does not expose its students to anything other than what its founder and his conservative christian friends want. If you read only the Bible, but not Hobbes (I'm still struck by how a prof thinks teaching Hobbes will lead to a _breakdown_ of morality instead of instructing on its uses), you can't be better educated than someone who has read the Bible AND Hobbes. You CANNOT be better educated by learning less; that defies the definition of "better educated."

I will leave the obvious partisan jabs about why they do get hired to others.

Posted by: James | May 15, 2006 1:38 PM

"If teaching ABOUT Nazism is okay, why not teaching ABOUT Hobbes, Locke, and the other great philosophers, Christian or not? "

Of course it's o.k. - I would encourage it. I'm a bit dismayed that this particular school doesn't do this. I, too, went to a very conservative Christian university (protestant, rather than jesuit), and we studied about all of that. It has given me a better understanding of people and of the world. But despite the fact that this is, apparantly, an incredibly foolish example of the breed, I'm still convinced that there's a role for universities that are build on a Christian philosophy.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2006 1:39 PM

"Therefore, they are NOT allowed as much freedom as conservatives at "secular" colleges. Conservatives may face peers or professors hostile to their belief system, but they are not specifically prohibited from expressing themselves."

Let's make an important distinction here. An institution may - and should - deliberately choose who teaches. That's why many Christian schools have a profession of faith for instructors. Requiring students to accept a statement of faith is a different matter.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2006 1:42 PM

But, 1:35 PM, the reason there is a difference between a Jesuit school, a state research university, a yeshiva, an ivy league university, and a baptist college is because they all offer different strengths at different prices. But to the degree that they all offer an education, they all offer an open education. MIT is different from Berkeley, which is different from Texas, which is different from Davidson. But they all allow a student to explore, without restrictions. MIT obviously offers better engineering opportunities than, say, Oberlin, but it does not define itself by what it PROHIBITS its students to learn. PHC clearly does that -- it prohibits its students from learning and believing certain things that do not conform with what its founder believes.

Almost every legitimate university from the beginning of time has dedicated itself to acquiring knowledge. PHC has dedicated itself to reinforcing a strict subset of beliefs and prohibiting those that conflict with those beliefs.

Posted by: James | May 15, 2006 1:44 PM

"There are many (I daresay probably a majority) faculty in universities who are professed Christians. However, most do not bring their faith into the classroom when they are teaching. Why? Because that is not their job. At the same time, those of us of other persuasions also keep our faith out of the classroom. "

And that's why Christian universities exist - to provide a classroom into which faith can enter. This is important to many for whom Christianity provides a relevant and meaningful foundation for understanding the world.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2006 1:44 PM

James,
"price point" does not define the difference between a Jesuit education, a yeshiva education, and a secular education at a state school - nor should it. You should go to a Jesuit school if you think you can benefit from the understanding of the world that the Jesuit scholars can share with you. Similarly with a yeshiva, or a Baptist university. But you'll be badly disappointed if you expect Jesuit scholars, Jewish scholars, Baptist scholars and secular professors to all view the world the same way, or to teach the same things.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2006 1:49 PM

James,
I would also argue that while Jesuit scholars, Jewish scholars, Baptist scholars and secular professors view the world differently, it would be a bold and brave man indeed to say that one group is better "educated" than the others.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2006 2:05 PM

"And that's why Christian universities exist - to provide a classroom into which faith can enter. This is important to many for whom Christianity provides a relevant and meaningful foundation for understanding the world."

For a person of faith, that faith enters the classroom regardless of whether the instructor does or does not believe as they do. The vital difference between schools such as PHC and ones of open inquiry is that the classroom is not meant to reflect one's preconceived notions, but to expand, diversify, and even act as a sounding board for those beliefs.

The main question, it seems, is what is the purpose of college? Is it to educate you to analytically face the world? Is it to get you the connections you need for your career? Is it to teach you of and reinforce your faith? Sometimes you can find all three of these together, but with PHC's policies, the first will always be missing. You can't analyze if the answers is prescripted.

Posted by: Jill | May 15, 2006 2:08 PM

Actually, secret person who keeps posting (this, at 1:49 PM), price point is one of many differences between the type of education you get. VCU is cheaper than the University of Richmond. That is a difference. It is not the only difference, but it is one, and one that unfortunately dictates the college choice of too many Americans.

And I think you miss the larger point (which has been made repeatedly). I can go to Wheeling Jesuit, and get a Jesuit education, but no longer will I be taught exclusively by Jesuits. And while the school might have an overarching mission it attempts to impart to the students, it does not force them to believe any one thing or prohibit them from believing any one thing.

I am trying to distinguish for you PHC from other schools in this country. I can go to a Jesuit school and be taught by Jewish professors, Baptist professors or secular professors, as well as by Jesuits. I cannot go to PHC and be exposed to a Muslim or Hindu professor, because he or she would (obviously) not accept that Christ is his/her personal savior or that he or she is saved by grace alone. I will not be "disappointed" (as you say) because I have an advanced degree, and have gone to a private college and a public university, and (shockingly) associate exclusively with people who do not hold my exact set of beliefs, and so I know what I'm talking about. Education is important; what PHC is involved in is not education.

Do you not understand this disinction at all?

Posted by: James | May 15, 2006 2:09 PM

I never said one group was better educated. Obviously, you didn't learn to read very well in college, either.

I have distinguished what I think most would agree are very different schools -- MIT (heavily science oriented), Berkeley (an Ivy League caliber university in California, often derided as exceedingly liberal), Texas (large state university), Davidson (small, private liberal arts college in NC, known as somewhat conservative, at least moreso than Oberlin), Oberlin (small, private liberal arts college in OH, known to be very liberal), Wheeling Jesuit (Jesuit college in WV), VCU (public school in Richmond, Virginia), UofR (private college in Richmond, Virginia, started by Baptists).

Any graduate from any of those schools should hold their head up high having graduated from great schools and gotten a wonderful education. You probably could hvae taken classes from a Jewish professor or secular professor or Baptist professor or Muslim professor at most of these schools, and been better for it. But what joins all of those seemingly diverse schools is that they all devote themselves to acquiring and understanding knowledge.

PHC does not.

Posted by: James | May 15, 2006 2:21 PM

How do the PHCers get good jobs? Duh. This is an administration which hires interns competitively, based on merit. It was the previous administration which hired based on sex -- first, last, and always.

Posted by: The obvious | May 15, 2006 2:24 PM

"I am trying to distinguish for you PHC from other schools in this country."

That's fair - PHC appears to be quite unusual.

"I can go to Wheeling Jesuit, and get a Jesuit education, but no longer will I be taught exclusively by Jesuits."

This is also true - many Catholic schools now have non-Catholic faculty. They still try to fulfill a unique Catholic mission.

More generally, not all church-affiliated universities have made that decision. Many still limit faculty to professing Christians. That is their right, and many people see great value in an education provided by professors who are Christians. This can be done in a way that does not include some of the narrow-minded decisions made by PHC. This is very different from prohibiting students from thinking or asking questions, and can provide an excellent education and foundation for life.

"I will not be "disappointed" (as you say) because I have an advanced degree, and have gone to a private college and a public university, and (shockingly) associate exclusively with people who do not hold my exact set of beliefs, and so I know what I'm talking about."

Good for you - it sounds as if you received a fine education. I chose to attend a conservative Christian university, and was very pleased with the education I recieved there. I suspect you would have been disappointed by it. That's irrelevant to the point I was making, though.

Had you wished to an education provided with a Christian perspective, and had attended a yeshiva, you'd have been disappointed. Conversely, had you wanted a distinctively Jewish environment and gone to a Jesuit university, you would have been disappointed. Both could have provided you with an excellent education, but they are in fact different. There is value in both, however.

"Do you not understand this disinction at all?"

Yes, of course. You do not believe that PHC provides an adequately broad understanding of the world and other people. I will happily stipulate that. I'm drawing another distinction. Leaving the quality and depth of PHC's academics aside, many students and parents see value in - and seek out - colleges and universities that provide an education from a uniquely Christian (or Jewish, or Muslim) perspective. This legitimate and valuable. The fact that an institution of learning has such a perspective (and is serious about bringing that perspective to the classroom) does not mean that it is not providing an education.

"Do you not understand this disinction at all?"

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2006 2:27 PM

"I never said one group was better educated. Obviously, you didn't learn to read very well in college, either."

James, James, James . . . do we really have to go ad hominem?

There's a point here that I'm trying to make. These schools do not teach the same things in the same way - nor is it simply a matter of the old Sears "good, better, best" quality continuum. Religion and world view make a difference. A yeshiva will not, and cannot, have the same roster of professors as a Baptist university, or a Jesuit school, or a state school. Some people simply will not be allowed to teach at a yeshiva - what they would teach, and the way they would teach it, would be inconsistent with the yeshiva's mission. That degree of "discrimination" in hiring and promotion of faculty is not a failure of the institution - is is part of the institution's mission. Such a school may not provide the education you would want for yourself our your kids, but it does not as a result fail to be a real education.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2006 2:32 PM

It will be interesting to see whether PHC can sustain itself as an institution of higher learning, a term I use advisedly, in the long run or whether it will turn out to be more like the utopian communities of the 19th century that fell apart as the founders died because they could not attract new adherents.***

I'm betting on the latter. If PHC grows, it will be more difficulty to enforce orthodoxy. If the Republican party loses the White House, it will be more difficult to place students in internships and jobs that make the academic and socially stultifying atmosphere at the college tolerable to young people. So, there are at least two paths that predict its demise.

Another possibility is that the female students now being educated there will not be happy, in the long term, as housewives after experiencing the excitement of politics at a high level as students and young workers. And the school does, as I understand, teach that the role of married women is to be housewives and mothers.

The role is perfectly honorable--indeed, demanding--but its requirements and rewards differ from those in the public sphere, and many women are likely to find that it does not offer the combination of challenge and satisfaction available in paid jobs.

And that's just about how it feels; there's also the economic difficulty of being a one-income family (public service, does not, after all, pay as well as many alternatives) and the reality of divorce, even in conservative Christian families.

So I'm counting on the women to break down the orthodoxy that PHC is attempting to impose by controlling the actions of its teachers.


***I am not an expert on American utopian communities. If what I've said here is wrong, I'd be happy to be corrected.

Posted by: THS | May 15, 2006 2:35 PM

Joe's description of PH as a "radical madrassa" fits well. The purpose of both is to engender religious furor and hatred -- or at least disrepect -- of the ideas of others.

Posted by: rob | May 15, 2006 2:37 PM

This is where you and I agree:

"Many still limit faculty to professing Christians. That is their right, and many people see great value in an education provided by professors who are Christians. This can be done in a way that does not include some of the narrow-minded decisions made by PHC."

I think there is great value in being educated by Christian professors. I am worried that PHC is part of a larger trend in our society (and possibly world), however, of isolating yourself amongst your fellow believers so that you do not have to face the uncomfortable truth that not everybody agrees with you, or that there are legitimate shortcomings and valid criticisms of your belief system.

And actually, now that I say that, I'll bring up the "conservative" (I put it in quotes, bc I can no longer make a principled distinction, as you will see, between those who conservatives criticized 10 or 20 years ago, and those who label themselves as conservatives today) critique of liberal academia from 10 or so years ago. Conservatives used to decry (and mock, yes I'm talking to you Rush Limbaugh) the ascension of "identity politics." Liberal professors had run amok with labeling and dividing everyone into subgroups -- men/women, white/African-American/Asian-/Latino, etc., etc. And yet that is exactly what PHC (and modern conservative christians who isolate themselves from those who disagree with them, and conservatives who only watch foxnews and avoid any criticism of their policies, etc, etc) is now doing: providing an identity-politics college just for themselves.

Which is stupid and counter-educational.

Posted by: James | May 15, 2006 2:39 PM

I am an evangelical christian and would never want my children attending a college like PHC. I want them exposed to the world, to ideas and philosophies that may contradict what we believe because that is how faith is strengthened! That is the whole point of christian apologetics. It is my greatest desire that my children will also grow up to be copmmited christians but I know that ultimately, that decision is theirs to make, just as I made my decision based on researching the evidence, praying,studying other religions, etc. I will encourage my children to do the same. Faith is not something that we can will to our children or shove down their throat. I will encourage my children to read C.S. Lewis and J I Packer and other great christian thinkers but so will I encourage them to read the greek philosophers and Descartes, Nietszche, etc. Do we think that our religion and faith are so weak and indefensible that we think they will crumble when challenged?
For the record, I am completely opposed to the melding of religion and politics because as has been shown time and time again, nothing good can come out of it. It is amazing to me that peope who should know better keep forgetting Jesus'famous words:"my kingdom is not of this world".

Posted by: evangelical reader | May 15, 2006 2:40 PM

James, I'd add that it's important for a Christian school to seek out excellent Christian scholars. That doesn't necessarily mean ones who are not conservative, but rather ones who are thoughful and serious. My favorite professor in school had a theology that was probably closer to Aquinas than anyone else, but he thought deeply about everything, and wanted his students to truly understand the philosophers we studied (even though he really didn't agree with any of them who were born after, oh, I don't know, perhaps 1600?).

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2006 2:46 PM

"If "choosing to sequester yourself with those of like minds" is a bad thing, then why don't all of the outraged and self-righteous posters to this blog stop reading the Washington Post and subscribe, instead, to the Wall Street Journal?"

This is the Washington Post? *looks up at the address* Gosh, I didn't know that! Thanks for pointing it out!

Welcome to the Internet, where having good information is more important than who provides it.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2006 2:49 PM

What is curious to me is the amount of venom that is directed toward this college--it is a private school and certainly no-one is forced to attend there, or even apply there. If it is unable to turn out functioning professionals then people will stop hiring it's graduates. Any flaw in it's philosophy will be taken care of by the market, and the wailing and weeping that is going on is mere theatrics.

The venom that is evident in many of the posts is bigotry; dressed up in "eloquence" and "forward thinking" and "progress" but still bigotry. I would invite several posters to review their comments and substitute another group in whereever "christian" appears and evaluate the tone of this discussion.

Posted by: Chris | May 15, 2006 2:52 PM

Right, anonymous poster who refuses to type in a damn name to make responding to your points easier (2:32 PM), those schools do not teach the same things in the same way, nor are they on a strict quality continuum. I said neither of those things, so you're not so much offering a "counterpoint" as just adding on to my argument that there is a distinction to be made among colleges.

At the same time, there is not the distinction that you want to make. There are certain qualifications that one must meet to teach at a university, which is generally an advanced degree in the subject one is hired to teach. Beyond that, most colleges will hire the most qualified applicant, not the one who matches up with the identity of the school. For instance, every state university does not hire only atheists, every Baptist college does not hire only Baptists, and every Episcopalian college does not bring over British professors. But you seem to want to pretend they do. You want a Baptist school to have Baptist professors, Jesuits to have Jesuits, etc. But all of the colleges I used as examples do not restrict their hiring in that way. So that I can go to any one of those schools, and be taught by a Baptist, Jesuit and atheist all in the same day. But that cannot happen at PHC, because I will only be taught by an evangelical Christian for every single course for every single day I am there. That is what distinguishes a normal college (even one with an overarching mission, like a Jesuit school) from PHC: open educational institutions not taught from a single, predetermined point of view.

And I take issue with your surreptitiously sneaking yeshivas into the list, since that's essentially like comparing a Catholic seminary to Arizona State and then arguing that they each provide a different experience. We are talking about PHC as an alternative to Arizona State, or whatever undergraduate institution you want to throw in there. Yeshivas are more like seminaries. If you want to argue about how a Jewish seminary compares to a Christian seminary, I guess we can do that, but it's not this debate.

Posted by: James | May 15, 2006 2:58 PM

So many experts on Patrick Henry College! Perhaps what some of you are describing is what this college will become, but it is not what this college has been. The students have been receiving a top-notch education. They have been exposed to all the well-known thinkers of the past. They have been challenged to find "truth" wherever it may be. They have experienced academic rigor as undergraduates that is often not experienced even by graduate students.

Please do not lump all evangelical Christians into one big heap of dummies. Keep in mind, it is *because* of the faculty's commitment to inquiry and truth that this debate has arisen. There are many students as well as faculty that are leaving because of this. Give them some credit. As for those that are staying, hopefully, they will learn from mistakes made, and the college will be stronger for it in the future. The college is in flux right now, and Dr. Farris has surely seen the serious implications of his heavy-handedness. I'm sure all young colleges go through growing pains. It remains to be seen where Patrick Henry College will be established on America's academic landscape.

Posted by: studentmom | May 15, 2006 3:04 PM

Chris,

I feel completely comfortable with the tone of every single one of my posts. In light of the fact that I am not attacking the school for being "christian" but for being close-minded, I would feel comfortable attacking a similar school that was racially segregated (I assume that is where you wanted us to go with your cutesy "zinger").

I also cannot argue with you that this is a private college where no one is forced to attend, but that does not keep me from lamenting the increased celebration of close-mindedness that our society has embraced over the last several years, and the general direction of our country's education system. What does it say about our youth that they want to avoid reading things that make them "uncomfortable" or force them to defend why they believe what they believe? Or that there are adults willing to provide that experience to the next generation?

Posted by: James | May 15, 2006 3:08 PM

Chris wrote:
"The venom that is evident in many of the posts is bigotry; dressed up in "eloquence" and "forward thinking" and "progress" but still bigotry. I would invite several posters to review their comments and substitute another group in whereever "christian" appears and evaluate the tone of this discussion."

Bigotry against what ... christians? Many on this blog identified themselves as christians. If anything this blog's venom is aimed at "christian conservatives", those who feel they are under attack by "liberals" and must defend themselves by circling the wagons, which is the analogy I would use for PHC. But bigotry, I don't really see it here. If anything it looks like bigotry is what PHC is practicing, if discriminating based on religious principles for teaching positions where christian religious principles is not a requirement. Why would a muslim, athiest or jewish professor be a better or worse teacher of American literature than a christian professor? And no one is saying the place should stop teaching or somehow close down. I think all bloggers here understand it is a private school that can do pretty much what it wants. So where is the bigotry in this blog? The debate seems to be right where it should be: when a school discriminates in its choice of professors based on religion does that affect the quality of the education?

Posted by: Sully | May 15, 2006 3:12 PM


"Perhaps what some of you are describing is what this college will become, but it is not what this college has been. The students have been receiving a top-notch education. They have been exposed to all the well-known thinkers of the past. They have been challenged to find "truth" wherever it may be. They have experienced academic rigor as undergraduates that is often not experienced even by graduate students."

What I am concerned about is not only what it has been, but what its mission and methods are. These show its ideals. I would point anyone who has been reading to the mission statement (very long) of PHC: http://www.phc.edu/about/default.asp#MissionVisionDistinctives.

This mission makes it very clear that students are not challenged to find "truth" wherever it may be. Nor are they receiving a top notched education, as it denies the prevailing research into certain fields (biology). Perhaps most important, the idea that this education is "graduate level" is preposterous. Even more than at the undergraduate level, graduate work requires the strenuous examination of basic assumptions, a familiarity and understanding of current research, and the ability to expand on that research. The first two are not possible within PHC's own mission statement and methods.

To give a specific example: The mission statement of the college is to "promote practical application of biblical principles and the original intent of the founding documents of the American republic." The idea of "original intent" is highly contested both legally and within the field of history. Yet, the mission itself denies that controversy -- limiting and misrepresenting history.

This is only one of the many ways that the mission statement - i.e. the reason to be - of the college gets in the way of a "top notch" education full of academic rigor.

Posted by: Jill | May 15, 2006 3:26 PM

"At the same time, there is not the distinction that you want to make."

What? Are you seriously suggesting that a Catholic university that truly sees itself as having a Catholic mission won't have a different faculty mix than a Baptist university that has a Baptist mission? Sure, large state universities are not staffed by only atheists - but you will get a different faculty mix than you would at a school that has an avowedly Christian mission.

I am not trying to misrepresent you - please don't misrepresent me. I'm defending the idea that a church affiliated school can have a distinctly Christian mission, and to further that mission may hire faculty who are professing Christians. Doing this will affect what is said in the class rooms, and will result in a distinctive educational experience that many find valuable. It is not the experience of being "taught by a Baptist, Jesuit and atheist all in the same day," but does not as a result fail to be a legitimate "education."

It's time to level - I understand you to be implicitly saying that if you don't have the "Baptist, Jesuit and atheist" all teaching in the same day, you don't have a "real" university education. I also understand you to be implying that the intellectual climate at all of the example institutions you mention is essentially the same.

My examples, in turn, may be a bit extreme (yes, the yeshiva is in there to make a heavy handed point) - but I do not believe that the intellectual climate is, or should be, the same in all institutions of higher learning. Religion matters. Philosophy matters. If you take either one seriously, it will affect how you think and live. Taking them seriously does not make a university a seminary.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2006 3:29 PM

Note regarding Catholic universities and their faculties:

The Catholic University of America, in the School of Arts and Sciences, at least, hires regardless of religion. In fact, they do not inquire about a religion. As a result, the faculty is often as diverse as you would see elsewhere - and as competitive. Furthermore, professors are not told what they can and cannot teach and research within their fields of study. When comparing faculty with a secular institution, Catholic University's CAS is not all that different. Sadly, due to the policies/mission statement of PHC, you could not make the same claim.

Posted by: Jill | May 15, 2006 3:46 PM

03:29 PM, I'm going to continue referring to you by the times of your posts.

"I'm defending the idea that a church affiliated school can have a distinctly Christian mission, and to further that mission may hire faculty who are professing Christians. Doing this will affect what is said in the class rooms, and will result in a distinctive educational experience that many find valuable."

Thank you for finally admitting it. I, as you may have noticed, am attacking that idea. Many may find it valuable to have their personal Christian beliefs constantly reinforced by their English Lit professor, and be comforted when they can just skip huge chunks of science class because their Biology professor wants to ignore the scientific process. That may be distinctive, but that's not a real education.

Because if you want to learn biology (as we understand it through hypothesizing and trial-and-error experiments), you learn it from a biologist. If you want to learn history, you learn it from a historian. Hell, if you want to learn about Christianity, you learn it from a historian, you don't even have to go to a Christian. To get back to my list of real colleges versus PHC -- it does not matter what type of religion professors at any of those were; I do not care what religion a professor is, I just want them to be qualified in their respective fields.

I am not saying that if one is religious, one must teach only in a seminary. But I am saying that one's religious beliefs should not be a prequalification for teaching me the distinction between Chaucer and Faulkner. One's religious beliefs should not be a prequalification for teaching me post-colonial African history. One's religious beliefs should not be a prequalification for teaching me precalculus.

I think it's as simple as that. Some want to be coddled in college by people they feel comfortable with because they all believe exactly the same thing, and I want to be challenged by those who are qualified to teach that specific class.

Posted by: James | May 15, 2006 3:49 PM

As a current student and one who has been involved in "the real world" by running for public office, as well as working and volunteering with many people I disagree with, I think I might be more highly qualified than most here to discuss the particulars of this situation. I do not yet possess a degree, but I have learned a thing or two about thinking while here at Patrick Henry.

First off, I find it delightfully funny to see all the "intelligent" arguments stating how we engender hatred and we don't expose ourselves to anything but the Bible (KJV, thank you very much). We invited the Roe of Roe V. Wade to come speak to us during chapel, and she was planning on coming until a last minute problem interrupted that chance. By the way, she's a Christian now. Yeah, Catholic, but still Christian.

Someone said something about how it was a red herring to say that teaching *about* and actually teaching and endorsing were two different things. I'll be sure to remember that they're the same when one person is describing the technique to kill, and the other is actually slitting my throat in a classroom project.

We're exposed to many viewpoints here, Christian and non-Christian, orthodox and heretical. We do have restrictions on what can be endorsed, but not what can be taught. We endorse creationism, but still teach evolution. We endorse the Trinity, but still teach about various heresies that deny it. We endorse the existence of an absolute truth, but teach the various theories that deny it. All these can be taught, but we're not about to compromise fidelity to what we all, including the professors who are leaving, believe is the ultimate source of truth, the Bible.

We aren't exactly sheltered homeschoolers here either. I've got all four Harry Potter movies above me and to my right, right next to The Lord of the Rings, Spiderman, The Interpreter, Flight Plan, and Hostage. About 10% of my 100+ books in here are religious in nature, and not all of them fully orthodox or even Christian. I play various video games that my mother has wished I wouldn't play (Spider Solitaire and Hearts are two of them... ;-) along with other heathen games, such as Age of Empires, Starcraft, and more). Whereas I don't play Grand Theft Auto or P.I.M.P, this is because I have this thing that the video game industry doesn't usually take into account, called taste.

For my History of the Western World II final on Wednesday, I'm reading "Communism" by Richard Pipes, as well as "On the Origins of War and the Preservation of Peace" by Richard Kagan. I have More's "Utopia" Machiavelli, Tolstoy, Augustine, Mill, Pirandello (one of my favorites), along with Cicero, Aristotle, Plato, and more. I've been taught that there is truth in all of these (except for Pirandello perhaps, but I still enjoy the story). This truth is indeed worth searching out. And this is all endorsed by the school (except for liking Pirandello again...)Our library has Mein Kampf, Lolita, and other works of literature that, while not endorsed, are provided to challenge what we may believe.

Now that we have some facts here from someone who would know instead of baseless conjecturing from those who think the Post and Nancy Pelosi is the arbiter of all that is true and beautiful, I think it's quite obvious that we're not sheltered. We're taught a wide variety of subject, but the truth is endorsed. And what is actually endorsed in class is left to the discretion of the professors except for certain "big things." Our two theology professors, (one of them soon to leave) disagreed on many issues. I took classes from both of them, and besides the fact that I was utterly confused, I realized that they both espoused different versions of what they said was truth, but since it was within a Biblical basis, neither was fired.

We are not sheltered from any viewpoints because of the danger they may cause to our poor little homeschool minds. Far from sheltered, we're purposefully targeted. We're hit with Kierkegaard, Nietzsche (or however his name is spelled) Mill, Plato, Machiavelli, Stalin, etc. all in the first year. And the vast majority of those who come in truthfully believing in the statement of faith, leave believing the same, and being able to expound on it better.
Further evidence of our not being sheltered is our involvement in the community. Myself and about 5 other students are involved in local volunteer efforts for about 12 hours a week. We work alongside neighbors from the town and the surrounding areas, providing emergency support to people at their health's end. The vast majority of those we work with are not Christians (I think 4-6 of the 30 we work with are) but it doesn't matter. We discuss with them, argue with them, eat with them, work with them, live with them, and then go home, and come back again at the same time next week for some more. We're not the most intelligent students at the school, but we've gained respect for our opinions, and for our tolerance. Yes. Tolerance.

We're not a madrassa. We weren't going to burn Roe when she visited. I can guarantee that she would have instead received a hug or two from some students. Yes, even though she's Catholic. ;-)

I recently ran for Town Council in Purcellville and had a wonderful time. The people I ran with weren't just like me, but I went out there acting like myself anyway. I didn't put on a face or anything. I participated in multiple interviews with many papers, including the Post (although they spelled my name wrong 7 times...) and participated in a candidate forum, as well as going about and talking to citizens asking for their votes, and getting signatures on petitions. Throughout the entire process I was told how pleased people were to see that I knew what I was talking about, and I was willing to listen. I spoke to atheists, Christians, citizens supporting Catoctin County, multiple people on the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, Republicans, and *gasp, I hope I don't get kicked out of PHC for this...* Democrats.

I had a wonderful time with everyone, and I hope and believe that the vast majority of the people I talked to (minus those I accidentally interrupted during an early dinner or phone calls) enjoyed talking with me. On election day I spoke with one wonderful lady who has been heavily involved with the election, and I had seen at multiple events, and we had a very good discussion on a big topic in Purcellville. I still disagree with her for now, but she had many good points that I still listened to. I was told by many people that they were glad I would listen to them when other candidates wouldn't. I didn't win the election, but I beat most people's expectations, including my own.

If you think PHC students are irreconcilably sheltered, why don't you try talking to us? Email me at sirtsiversen@hotmail.com. I'll give you my AIM name, and after finals are over, I'd be more than happy to discuss things with you. Even Machiavelli and Nietzsche. Come find us out here in Purcellville. We're the ones lurking around with our pants at our waists instead of our knees, our shirts buttoned to the second or third to last from the top (or ties, *good heavens!*) and holding honestly intellectual discussions with people who are most definitely not like us. We'll probably be sober, not stoned, and not worrying about wardrobe malfunctions. And we don't go about making out in public too often. And we survive. And I dare say that the results show that we thrive.

Posted by: Timothy S. Iversen | May 15, 2006 3:52 PM

Just as an interesting point. The word "taliban" is derived from the Arabic word meaning student/to study. I really don't think Karen, who made a silly remark about the Taliban at Yale knew this. But I thought I would point this out.

All education needs to teach people to think beyond a certain set of subjectively contrived norms.

Posted by: Blogbunny | May 15, 2006 3:57 PM

"We invited the Roe of Roe V. Wade to come speak to us during chapel"

It's more than slightly disingenous to cite this as evidence of your open-mindedness without noting that "Roe" (aka Norma McCorvey) has been firmly on the anti-abortion side of the argument for some time.

Posted by: Steve B | May 15, 2006 4:08 PM

James,

Re: "Thank you for finally admitting it"

??? I've been trying to make it as clear as possible!

"I, as you may have noticed, am attacking that idea."

Yes, and I've tried my best to engage you directly on that point (and have wondered why you have seemed to dodge the issue).

You say that you don't care what a professor's religion is, but only that he or she is qualified. That's fair. To be taken seriously, the faculty at any college or university must be qualified. Whether or not you understand it, many do care about the personal beliefs and moral code of the faculty. You clearly oppose the idea that a university could select faculty who are all professing Christians (or, I presume, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, etc.).

Are you arguing merely that doing so is unwise, or may not result in the strongest faculty, or are you - as it seems to me - arguing that it must, of necessity, result in something other than "a real education." That seems to imply that - by the very fact that they are professing Christians - they cannot, at least in some fields, truly be qualified. If so, please defend that assertion.

Also, what were you trying to convey when you said "[h]ell, if you want to learn about Christianity, you learn it from a historian, you don't even have to go to a Christian"? It seems to suggest that Christianity (whether you buy into it or not) cannot be taken seriously as a guiding philosophy or way of understanding the world. Would you be equally comfortable saying "if you want to learn about feminism, you don't even have to go to a feminist, you can go to a historian" or "if you want to learn about the Democratic party, you don't even have to go to a Democrat, you can go to a historian?"

Many people want to be coddled (not just Christians). On the other hand, many want to study from people who view things from a particular context (say, for example, a feminist perspective).

No one has challenged the choices you made about your education, its quality or its validity. Many people do find value in learning in a Christian environment. That does not mean that the instructors are of necessity unqualified, that they can't teach a wide variety of topics, or that it isn't a "real" education. It does not include exposure to the same variety of views - or the same type of views. I believe you will find, though, that many deeply civilized and educated individuals have come out of these institutions. (As well, of course, as some complete and utter jerks - which is just about par for any college or university).

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2006 4:15 PM

Timothy S. Iverson's last paragraph reminded of what Kris Kristofferson called the only bad song Merle Haggard ever wrote (during a 1972 concert at the NY Philharmonic, right after he parodied, and improved, the song):

We don't smoke marijuana in Muskogee;
We don't take our trips on LSD
We don't burn our draft cards down on Main Street;
We like livin' right, and bein' free.

I'm proud to be an Okie from Muskogee,
A place where even squares can have a ball
We still wave Old Glory down at the courthouse,
And white lightnin's still the biggest thrill of all

We don't make a party out of lovin';
We like holdin' hands and pitchin' woo;
We don't let our hair grow long and shaggy,
Like the hippies out in San Francisco do.

Leather boots are still in style for manly footwear;
Beads and Roman sandals won't be seen.
Football's still the roughest thing on campus,
And the kids here still respect the college dean.

Posted by: DAC | May 15, 2006 4:16 PM

"If a hyopthesis cannot be falsified, then it cannot be taught as science."

Uh, if a hypothesis can't be falsified, doesn't that make it a fact (or, to be more precise, a theory?).

Posted by: rumpole | May 15, 2006 4:24 PM

Sully,
the venom seems to be addressed towards the whole idea that some students might prefer to go to an institution where they will be taught be co-religionists. Clearly, that's not an option that appeals to - or even makes particular sense to - most people. But there are many Christians who believe it is important. Whether or not this particular school does it well - and there are schools that have absolutely no religious affiliation whatsoever that aren't very good either - I would suggest that it's a legitimate option.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2006 4:33 PM

I think that Patrick Henry or Thomas Jefferson, after looking upon the institutions that claim their legacies, would have to regard these legacy opportunists as coattail relations at best. I say this because institutions such as Patrick Henry or the University of Virginia where I attend do not really have a tradition of enhancing academic freedom or any other universal right. UVA has certainly capitalized on its unique historic status in gaining recognition for itself as a World Heritage site but this has nothing to do with rights that may or may not be enshrined here or at Monticello. These institutions that we maintain do no better job than we do as individuals in transcending the historical eras that we inhabit. Unfortunately it is probably true that we are living in an age of cultural or religious fundamentalism. One day we'll get back to understanding and teaching universal fundamental rights just as soon as we finish up some of our other crusades but we never seem to get there. At UVA the current crusade is raising money for sports arenas, private jets, etc. I suspect the Patrick Henry is under similar pressures from its alumni to build their institution. What's curious to me is that both schools have developed ways of enforcing a kind of orthodoxy that, after several decades, becomes more of an institutional tradition of hypocrisy than an academic tradition devoted to upholding the principles of their respective founders or namesakes.

Posted by: Guy Lopez | May 15, 2006 4:41 PM

"Are you arguing merely that doing so is unwise, or may not result in the strongest faculty, or are you - as it seems to me - arguing that it must, of necessity, result in something other than "a real education." That seems to imply that - by the very fact that they are professing Christians - they cannot, at least in some fields, truly be qualified. If so, please defend that assertion."

I think it's dumb to require your faculty to profess a certain set of religious beliefs when it's not a prerequisite to teach their subject matter. I think it would be dumb to say you have to be black to teach psychology at Howard. I think it would be dumb to say you have to be a Democrat or Republican to teach polisci at GW. etc etc. I think you can be Christian and be the best damn teacher of French in a school, but your Christianity is neither here nor there. I think you're limiting the pool of people from whom you are hiring if you require a computer science teacher to also be a practicing evangelical Christian. And yes, I am inherently suspect of a biologist who does not want to study evolution, but who accepts the Old Testament's conflicting creation stories as Truth on their face. But I realize I face an uphill battle with the general American public on this one.

"Also, what were you trying to convey when you said "[h]ell, if you want to learn about Christianity, you learn it from a historian, you don't even have to go to a Christian"? It seems to suggest that Christianity (whether you buy into it or not) cannot be taken seriously as a guiding philosophy or way of understanding the world. Would you be equally comfortable saying "if you want to learn about feminism, you don't even have to go to a feminist, you can go to a historian" or "if you want to learn about the Democratic party, you don't even have to go to a Democrat, you can go to a historian?""

If you want to learn about feminism, you don't even have to go to a feminist, you can go to a historian. If you want to learn about the Democratic party, you don't even have to go to a Democrat, you can go to a historian (or political scientist). etc etc. Yes, that is exactly my point. As a Christian myself -- although our "tolerant" PHC student, young Timothy S. Iverson doesn't believe I am one -- I would definitely say that Christianity is a serious and wonderful and powerful guiding philosophy or way of understanding the world. But I don't know what that has to do with my chemistry professor's qualifications. (Incidentally, the priest who married my wife and I was a chemistry professor for many years. And it was completely incidental that he was a priest while he was teaching how molecules interact.) More to the point, for someone to teach me the history or central tenets of Christianity, that individual does not have to be a practicing Christian, anymore than a person teaching me the history or central tenets of the Druid religion needs to be a practicing Druid. (Of course, if I want spiritual counseling, I'm not necessarily going to my history teacher.)

Posted by: James | May 15, 2006 4:42 PM

Guy Lopez sounds like either a freshman who has just realized how the world works outside his parents' house, or a senior being hit up for money by his soon-to-be alma mater.

Posted by: Willy | May 15, 2006 4:44 PM

Scary stuff, this article. Particularly since many graduates of this program are shunted into Washington politics.

When will these people realize that the best way to combat views they don't like is to learn all about them? That way, they can expose the flaws and crush their opponents in open debate. The Jesuits did this against Protestant theology in the sixteenth century and had considerable success.

Of course, that would assume that open and honest debate is a part of American politics today...

Posted by: Rob Busek | May 15, 2006 4:50 PM

Rob, IIRC the Jesuits started with the premise that the Protestants were right about some things. Ferris and his backers don't think their opponents are right about anything.

Posted by: Lioness | May 15, 2006 5:01 PM

Timothy,

How come all of your examples of not being sheltered revolve around your off-campus activities or from old texts. I'm sure you and I could have a vigorous debate about Machiavelli or Nietzsche, although I'd be a little rustier than you on the specifics. But what about you and your peers with saggy pants, or unbuttoned shirts, or those who don't wear ties? Certainly everyone who wears saggy pants can't be dumber than you and not worth debating. I went to a fake-christian school's graduation last weekend (St. Joseph's in Philly, I'm sorry we incorrectly worship the pope and Mary) and was struck by how many guys from Jersey go without buttoning up their dress shirts, even when they're wearing designer suits; do they have nothing to add to your education? (There were more than a few women risking wardrobe malfunctions, do they deserve nothing buy your scorn?) Is every college kid who drinks or smokes not worth engaging?

My overly sarcastic point is that you may get to read Marx and you may watch Harry Potter with your other evangelical christian roommates, but when you debate someone in your philosophy class, is that person from the same or different background than you? And I mean more than just one kid was homeschooled in North Carolina and another went to a Christian academy in Maryland. I mean how do you account for the fact that you will never have a student in one of your biology classes who is a full-blown believer in evolution? You will never have a student in one of your polisci classes willing to stand up for a woman's right to choose? You will never have a student who can describe what it feels like to have a group of well-dressed evangelical Christian students call him a "heretic"?

There's a lot you gain from book learning, and a lot you gain from running for public office or volunteering in your community. But there's also a lot you gain from interacting with fellow students from Oregon, Louisiana, Indiana and Vermont, kids who don't believe exactly the same things as you or agree with everything that you do. And that's what you're missing. That's the challlenge that PHC does not provide its students. And that's a disservice to its students and a shame that we as a country are headed in this direction with our education system.

Posted by: TCU | May 15, 2006 5:02 PM

Bigotry is bigotry, if these weren't conservative christians no one would care. As an analogy, what if a restaurant were to decide to serve only dishes with rice, would anyone care? I think not, if you were interested in another type of cuisine you would simply go to another restaurant. In the marketplace of ideas, restricting the menu is an allowable decision-the market will reward or punish your decision based on it's merit. The problem is that there are large numbers of people who take offense at other's "dietary" choices and feel compelled to force "tubers, nuts and leeks" onto the menu. To extend the analogy, a lot of people simply aren't satisfied to live and let live--they will not be happy until everyone eats the same "diet" that they do. In other words liberty is fine so long as you agree with me, do something different and we will punish you.

BTW we are talking about ideas here and it is cheap to liken choices about reading material with the restriction of others rights.

Posted by: Chris | May 15, 2006 5:11 PM

While some of us enjoy thinking that our alma maters are somehow more virtuous or principled than Patrick Henry College I'm arguing that most elite American institutions suffer from forces that ultimately becomes a tradition of hypocrisy. Students are taught are taught, in effect, to be hypocritical (see "Willy" above) and that this is excusable becaues this is the way the "world works". Somehow there is lost in our pursuits the artistic or creative freedom of our original intentions. While it is easy to pile on Patrick Henry College for perceived hypocrisy, its seems more of a scapegoat kind of response if one leaves out mentioning that this condition is pervasive and has been injurious to the realization of our American ideals.

Posted by: Guy Lopez | May 15, 2006 5:13 PM

"I think it's dumb to require your faculty to profess a certain set of religious beliefs when it's not a prerequisite to teach their subject matter."

That's a perfectly legitimate point of view - and you may even be right. It certainly does limit your potential hiring pool. You shouldn't consider a church-affiliated school that has a statement of faith for faculty members. But that doesn't mean that a school that does have one can't, per se, provide a good education.

"And yes, I am inherently suspect of a biologist who does not want to study evolution, but who accepts the Old Testament's conflicting creation stories as Truth on their face."

There are a couple of assumptions here that I would challenge. First, we're assuming that anyone who is a conservative Christian is also a young earth creationist. That's simply not true. Second, we're assuming that a Christian university that has a statement of faith will include in that statement of faith a denial of evolution. That's also not true. These typically involve what most would consider the core elements of traditional Christianity. Generally it's in essence the Nicene creed: the divinity and incarnation of Christ, his death and resurrection, etc. and a statement about the inspiration of the Bible. Finally, we're assuming that someone can't teach a theory that they don't agree with (which, if true, would be a real problem for philosophy, psychology and pol-sci departments).

"If you want to learn about the Democratic party, you don't even have to go to a Democrat, you can go to a historian (or political scientist). etc etc. Yes, that is exactly my point."

You certainly can learn about the history and current platform of the party from a non-Democrate (perhaps even a Republican). Some students are going to prefer, going to a Democrat.

Similarly, some who have Christianity as a guiding world-view will want to go to Christians. Again, that isn't the best choice for everyone, and may not have made sense for you. But a Christian can teach about Marx just like a Republican can teach me about the Democratic party (shoot - some Christians are Marxists too).

"More to the point, for someone to teach me the history or central tenets of Christianity, that individual does not have to be a practicing Christian, anymore than a person teaching me the history or central tenets of the Druid religion needs to be a practicing Druid."

You can learn church history from non-Christian historians. (Some Jewish scholars have written some fascinating and useful books about the background and meaning of the gospels.) But having said this, I don't see how you can argue that a Christian faculty can't teach a broad array of subjects other than Christianity.

Again, I hold no brief for this particular school, and I don't want to challenge or denegrate your educational choices. But some schools that see themselves as providing a distinctly Christian education do it well (at least in my opinion). Many students would rather attend a university where in the science class "it was completely incidental that he was a priest while he was teaching how molecules interact" than attending a university where in the philosphy class "it was completely incidental that he was an atheist when he was teaching about the meaning of human existance."

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2006 5:17 PM

Your analogy is flawed, Chris. I care, largely because this is about more than eating just rice. When a vegan restaurant opens on my block, I wish them luck in business as I pass them by to go to the steak house. But while I don't have to deal with the vegan's dietary choices, I do have to deal with ignorant people graduating from sheltered colleges that reinforce their narrow worldview and convince their graduates that they have a preferred status to all other citizens. I'm in line to be "left behind," and I don't really want people who think they're being snatched up by God just because of where they went to college running this country. I'm living in this country because, among other reasons, there is a separation of church and state that allows me to practice my religion (which is not amongst the "preferred" one these days). (Incidentally, if they promised to let me live, I would be willing to let them have their little "school" -- after all, that which neither breaks my arm nor picks my pocket is of no concern to me -- but they aren't willing to do let me live.) And I live in this country because we have generally supported the pursuit of knowledge and education throughtout our history; and what PHC is engaged in is the exact opposite of the pursuit of knowledge.

Liberty is fine as long as you allow for freedom. It has nothing to do with agreeing with me. When you begin to restrict freedom, though, you no longer have liberty.

I don't "hate" conservative Christians anymore than they "hate" heretics and Democrats (although I do begrudge them for hijacking my political party).

No hard feelings.

Posted by: Kris | May 15, 2006 5:21 PM

Lioness,

That is true. Ignatius of Loyola pointed out that Protestants did restore the power of divine grace when it came to salvation.

Ferris and his supporters, of course, could learn much from studying Ignatius's tactics. But they won't, because they probably don't even think Catholics are Christians...

Posted by: Rob Busek | May 15, 2006 5:22 PM

Kris,

Who has the narrow world view if you are unwilling to countenance people who have made choices that differ from your own? How do you know that you are correct? Are you in possesion of a secret truth? Are you privy to facts the rest of us aren't? How is an intolerant non-christian better than a intolerant christian? If you have experienced intolerance why do you practice it?

Posted by: Chris | May 15, 2006 5:28 PM

"I don't really want people who think they're being snatched up by God just because of where they went to college running this country. I'm living in this country because, among other reasons, there is a separation of church and state that allows me to practice my religion (which is not amongst the "preferred" one these days). "

Then vote against them. But it sounds like you're getting dangerously close to disqualifying people for office based on their religious beliefs. Conservative Christians can't serve, because they might take their religion too seriously.

"(Incidentally, if they promised to let me live, I would be willing to let them have their little "school" -- after all, that which neither breaks my arm nor picks my pocket is of no concern to me -- but they aren't willing to do let me live.)"

That's very kind of you. Who, precisely, has made you join a state church? Or prohibited you from joining any other religious group? Or an atheists association? Or prohibited you from expressing your disdain of conservative Christians? Or prohibited you from voting for whoever or whatever the heck you wanted to?

"I don't "hate" conservative Christians anymore than they "hate" heretics and Democrats (although I do begrudge them for hijacking my political party)."

Interesting. Are you suggesting that they (whoever they may be) do in fact hate "heretics and Democrats," and that thus you are justified in hating them?

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2006 5:30 PM

5:17,

"But that doesn't mean that a school that does have [a statement of faith] can't, per se, provide a good education." True, Babe Ruth was a good baseball player even though he didn't have to play against blacks, but I'd rather have seen him play in an integrated league. I'm sure you can get a great education at a school that requires its professors to sign a statement of faith, but I don't know why you can't open your doors to all kinds of faculty, as other church-affiliated schools have done, and improve your quality of education by drawing from a larger hiring pool (and applicant pool).

"First, we're assuming that anyone who is a conservative Christian is also a young earth creationist. That's simply not true." I was assuming that, particularly in light of PHC's central role in this debate, but you raise a valid point. I would say we're basically in agreement here -- that a statement of faith does not have to deny evolution -- and one that does not is a stronger one, in my opinion, but I also seem to remember reading earlier today that PHC did deny evolution, and certainly some schools would shy away from teaching it. And I know some people oppose teaching it. If a conservative Christian school does not deny evolution and teaches it, I'm all for that. Also, if a conservative Christian biologist wants to teach his students at Kansas State about evolution even though he disagrees with it, I think your comparison to other disciplines is valid. His anti-evolutionary Christian beliefs in and of itself does not preclude him from teaching evolution, but I am wary of the passion that this topic raises, so I am more comfortable with someone who is suspicious of the theory but does not feel its validity would completely upset his understanding of God's relationship to the world.

"Some students are going to prefer, going to a Democrat." Secretly, I want them to prefer that, and then I want them to have to go to a Republican to get the answer. Because I have a fundamental dislike of seeking out only those who you already agree with for answers. More to the point, though, is the assumption that a polisci professor will be unable to put aside her personal politics while in the classroom, an assumption I do not agree with, especially given my undergrad experience with polisci profs. Just as I think a Christian biologist could put aside her belief in creationism (see above), I believe any teacher should teach the subject matter to the students regardless of what she wants the students to believe (this being more difficult in math, where what you want to believe is irrelevant, since there generally IS a right answer).

"But a Christian can teach about Marx just like a Republican can teach me about the Democratic party (shoot - some Christians are Marxists too)." Again, I do not disagree with you on this point. I never said Christians were UNqualified to teach, I merely challenged the requirement that ONLY Christians could teach at a Christian school. (and methinks young Timothy S. Iverson might not consider those Marxist "Christians," primarily South American Catholics, real Christians.)

"I don't see how you can argue that a Christian faculty can't teach a broad array of subjects other than Christianity." This is exactly the impression I was trying to avoid; I do not argue that (however ineloquently). Christians can teach whatever they are qualified to teach, I'm merely challenging the requirement that one MUST be a Christian in order to teach a completely unrelated subject.

"Again, I hold no brief for this particular school, and I don't want to challenge or denegrate your educational choices. But some schools that see themselves as providing a distinctly Christian education do it well (at least in my opinion)." I think you're defending Christian schools in general, while I am attacking ONLY THIS Christian school (PHC). Incidentally, I went to a Christian high school and a college that was, at one time, a Christian seminary. I certainly have no problem with Christian schools in general.

Our exchange was particularly clumsy given the halting back and forth of communicating through blog posts -- but enjoyable nonetheless.

Posted by: James | May 15, 2006 5:45 PM

"Interesting. Are you suggesting that they (whoever they may be) do in fact hate "heretics and Democrats," and that thus you are justified in hating them?"

No, but he may be suggesting that you read some of Ferris' writings on the inherent evil of Liberals, Democrats and nonBelievers. He's spewed out a lot of hate on those subjects, and his backers have spewed out even more.

Posted by: Lioness | May 15, 2006 5:48 PM

Actually, I was trying to raise the whole issue of "christian" love and what -- despite what modern evangelicals preach -- is actually an overwhelming tolerance underlying Jesus' message. Yes, God still has standards that we must aspire to, but Jesus still loved the hookers and tax collecters in spite of their sins. You'd be hard-pressed to find a conservative evangelical Christian who gets himself on TV as a talking head or gets himself elected to political office who spouts that kind of love and tolerance.

No, I don't hate conservative evangelical Christians. I love them as much as, as a Christian, I love all of God's creatures. But that doesn't mean I can't condemn them for bringing their misguided, personal interpretation of the Bible into the public arena, to the detriment of the well-being of this country.

I realize that one can be so "tolerant" as to come back around the other side. But I am not asking the evangs to leave the country or withdraw from public life. I'm not even demanding that PHC be shut down. But I am asking them to acknowledge that what life truly is about is (1) loving each other and (2) the pursuit of knowledge for the betterment of self and others. Neither of which seems to be going on at PHC.

And then I'm asking for my party back, and for them to leave me alone.

Posted by: Kris | May 15, 2006 5:56 PM

Ok, then we agree.

Posted by: Chris | May 15, 2006 6:19 PM

If professors are not permitted to teach Aristotle and Plato as the original blog states, then students will never be able to fulfill the university's mission in support of the original ideals of the founding fathers (also a topic of debate). Their education demanded an understanding of classical philosophy as well as Greek and Latin. Thomas Jefferson, a deist (not particularly Christian), was certainly conversant with classical philosophy before he dropped out of William and Mary.

The assumption that academic department politics are based around worldview is incorrect - much of academic politics within universities has more to do with professorial egos and attempts to gain financial support for a given area/ subdiscipline than with personal philosophy or like-mindedness. "Publish or perish" is more important than agreement, as is the issue of whether to put money into engineering, physics, history, or literature. Within those departments, each subgroup also competes bitterly for allocations of assets. Religion and philosophy are much less important.

Posted by: PhD Candidate | May 15, 2006 6:49 PM

5:02, I'm from a poor (don't start with all the taunts about how we can't be poor because we go to a private school, my family is way below the poverty line) family, in a small farming town, and went to a public school for my senior year with kids I had known my entire life through baseball and hanging out in the town, and was actually quite popular with the kids from 6th grade and up. We have students here who were public schooled all the way, some who were private schooled all the way, and yes, a majority, but not all, who were home schooled all the way. And we still find tons of things to get into arguments about. We have our students who enjoy the occasion encounter with alcohol when they're home, and those who see nothing wrong with binge drinking.

As another bit of *partial* humor, think of the school's no alcohol rule this way. Would YOU really want 300 home schooled students who haven't touched the stuff before in their lives suddenly showing up in your town going to a college where alcohol was allowed? Think of it as our service to the community that we don't scare them with 300 drunk home schooled kids. :-)

As you may not have noticed from my writings, I use humor and sarcasm a bit as well. I have no problems hanging out and discussing anything with "those kids" in baggy pants. In high school, I was one of them, and have just grown into a different phase. I still converse with them even though I haven't seen them in years, and we discuss philosophy all the time.

True, this school is a bit more evangelical, but we have every right to have a statement of faith, don't we? Where does it say in any law-book that a private institution isn't allowed to make hiring decisions based on criteria that help it accomplish its mission? Should we start forcing NASA to hire people who can't get their way around a calculator as engineers just because it's scary that they're such an introverted stereotypical engineering group and could use a stereotypical busty blonde who can't add 3+1 just to spice things up? That makes little sense to me. Why should this college be forced to hire or admit those who don't agree with what we're doing or even care? I'm not saying the professors in question don't agree or care, I'm just asking a question.

I don't see why we need to have students actually believe in evolution or the right to choose. We have plenty of students, (myself included) who love playing the "devil's advocate." We have one of the best debate teams in the nation, arguing both sides of many issues, a lot of which we feel very strongly about. As one of the less intelligent students here, I'm constantly involved in personal debates (not our varsity team by any means), earnestly trying to decide which side has more truth. Yes, the arguments are usually about theology, but there are also times when we have more serious debates about economics and the war in Iraq. Although a lot of the students here are Bushies through and through, I am not, and will disagree with what they say. In my recent election, I agreed with Democrats more than Republicans, even though this school is something like 90% Republican, 10% Constitutionalist (another joke).

To James at 5:45, I'd appreciate it if you spelled my name correctly. ;-) It's IversEn, not IversOn. Nothing major. Although I get the hint that you're mocking me for having my entire name with middle initial in there... The reason is that I'm trying to distance myself from previous students who were hiding behind "anonymous sources" in previous articles. I have no problem taking responsibility for what I say. And if they have any question about who said anything after seeing my name, then there're problems. So that's the reason. I didn't do it to be elitist. I'm very far away from elitist.

One belief does not define a Christian. There are some Christians who believe that trickle-down economics is the way to go, and others who think that it's the worst idea since someone called the computer that goes underneath your desk a desktop. There can be Christian Marxists, and I'd love to hear how they integrate their beliefs, especially since I think they're contradictory. I don't see how violent revolution so everyone has the same amount of money matches up with taking personal responsibility for actions, one of those actions including laziness. If they can convince me otherwise though, I'll take it.

My illustrations of how to spot us from the crowd was another jab at ourselves. A large percentage of the student body is a bit more... conservatively dressed than your average American, as one article put it... some of our young women wear dresses that would make Laura Ingalls Wilder proud. I have no problem wearing a button down shirt un-tucked with a couple buttons un-buttoned with jeans and a suit coat. Dressing conservatively doesn't denote your personality. If you saw me while I was campaigning but never spoke to me, you might think I was stuck up. If you talked to me though, as a lot of people did, you'd find out that my personality doesn't match a suit that well. Sometimes I match emo-skater kid rags or grunge. Depends on what's on the rap, pop, or country radio station I'm listening to.

6:49, we are indeed allowed, and in fact, required to read Aristotle and Plato for multiple classes, including Freedom's Foundations and Philosophy. We just have an understanding that they weren't totally right on everything, although they sure got a lot closer than most other people after them, especially Kierkegaard.

Posted by: Timothy S. Iversen | May 15, 2006 7:09 PM

Right now, Christian's are on the defensive because *some* of them were fooled into thinking that George Bush was a Christian and "one of them". I know, there are some "christian" groups that practice hatred and bigotry and intolerance; some who even now continue to support this administration of perverts, liars, and scounderals. They are anti-science, ignorant fools. I would argue that those sorts are not Christian's at all. They are members of a psuodo-christian ultra-right movement, but they are a distinct minority in this country and they're "approval ratings", measured in new members and memebers leaving their churches, are shrinking about as fast as Bush's.

The Bible has an awful lot to teach anyone with a mind and heart open enough to explore it. It addresses "leaders" like George Bush and even warns of the consequences of the pendulum swing that appears to be the citizenry's reaction to him. In Mathew, Christ says of leaders and men "..the good man out of his treaures brings forth good and evil man brings forth evil". Ask yourself what good George has brought to the people of this country? Christ also says that to bring gain to the rich and famous and those already with wealth, as he has done with his tax cuts, is like the rich man who proclaims his loyalty to the king "... did I not feed you and give you water and honor...and the king answered...I came to you, disguised as an ordinary man and I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and
you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you
did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me...and he cursed them".
There is something very profound and revolutionary in those words and something we all need to strive to live up to.

Posted by: Mike Brooks | May 15, 2006 7:34 PM

Isn't it ironic that a "conservative" university would dicourage its students to read the conservative philosopher Thomas Hobbes?

I don't know why Patrick Henry takes this position but I have read Hobbes. His discussion of politics and religion is indeed a repudiation of the religious right's agenda. Hobbes understood that fundamentalism undermines reason, induces fanaticism, and becomes self-destructive.

I am all for religion in the public square but unless it is tempered with tolerance and humility, religion is a destructive force. Thoughtful thinkers of the Christian Right understand that. Most of the political entrepreneurs do not.

Since the Renaissance, Europeans do not agree about the nature of God anymore. Among other things, that's what Hobbes wrote about. We still don't agree about God today. Hence Hobbes remains an important voice in contemporary politics.

If it were true that PHC discourages the study of Hobbes then that would amount to an admission of weakness.

Posted by: Hellmut | May 15, 2006 7:45 PM

Timothy, I'm sure you could debate the "other side" of the abortion issue or the evolution issue from what an Evangelical Christian considers the "other side" of those issues. But have you ever talked to any of the multitude of different types of people about what they really beleive?

I was reared in an Evangelical Christian background. I became a pro-choice feminist Liberal Pagan. I can say with authority the Evangelical Christian opinion I was taught about what "those people" believe isn't even in the same galaxy with the real reasons "those people" have for what they believe. "Those people" come in a wide variety of worldviews that don't have anywhere near the same starting point as Evangelicals. The only way to learn what they really think is to talk to lots of them and get outside the Evangelical Christian mindset.

Posted by: Lioness | May 15, 2006 7:48 PM

Speaking as a PHC student, which I am, I would like to correct one misconception that seems to be a reoccurring theme. I have read Hobbes, Locke, Plato, Aristotle, Rousseau, Robespierre, Mill, Kant, Adams, Nietzsche, and many others for classes here. Just thought I'd clear that up. :)

Posted by: Student | May 15, 2006 10:32 PM

Again, we are not discouraged from reading anything (barring those high class magazines such as FHM and Maxim, etc.). To continue to attack us as sheltered because we're not allowed to read Hobbes or anyone else is pointless because it is untrue. Again, we are *required* to read Hobbes, Machiavelli, and others for Freedoms, as well as many other authors that espouse entirely non-Christian worldviews. Required. Not banned. Thanks.

Going back to my days in public school, I debated both sides with many of my fellow classmates. We always remained respectful when discussing the topic, and I actually had more heated arguments with my government teacher about the Red Sox and the Yankees than anything else. I have actually had very few discussions with other evangelicals on the topic of abortion, so I really don't know how they address it. I honestly couldn't tell you how other Evangelicals debate abortion. I can tell you how *I* debate each side though, which has been shaped by discussing it with those who actually believe it. Not those who are playing with the topic.

A lot of the students here have been involved in forensics leagues througout high school, debating many topics they agreed or disagreed with. They had to have good arguments for both sides if they wished to win, and when you meet our debate team, you know that losing isn't really one of their options. They'll debate the side they disagree with so well still, that they'll beat other PHC teams debating the side they agree with. We're very intellectually stable and we're quite open to a good healthy disagreement.

Again, if you talked to me or many other PHC students, you'll find, (and as I hope I'm proving through this discourse) we're not narrow-minded, brainwashed children spouting propaganda over and over again, louder each time to drown out the voice of reason. We join reason in a chorus to increase the beauty of our argument. We listen to bad music to know what bad music is. We dissect it to determine what makes it bad music, and see if it has bits and pieces of good music tucked away. This may come as a shocker, but even rap has a bit or two of good music tucked away in it. Even Nietszche and Kierkegaard had one or two things right. They may not be obvious, or even that big, but they're there. And that's what we're doing here.

It's sad though to see so many people ignore the facts, such as the author of this editorial and many of the comments posted so far, because they don't fit with your preconception of a conservative Christian college. That's worse than anything we've been accused of doing.

Posted by: Timothy S. Iversen | May 16, 2006 4:39 AM

On one hand, I am glad to see these articles about my school being printed. After months and years of repeating essentially the content of these articles to friends, bosses, fellow church members, reporters, and even classmates who failed to see the problem, I am glad to know that the truth has finally come out.

But now I fear an important point is being lost in the debate. Not all of the students at PHC are cogs in a giant Farris/Republican machine. Remember, we sat under and learned from these 5 courageous men who did something that is rarely done in Christian circles - they stood up for right and justice and refused to be silenced, or intimidated, or forced into conformity. Remember, they are being excised for things they *actually* taught, not just things they wanted to teach but couldn't. And they didn't just talk about the importance of freedom and justice and truth, they actually stood up and lived it out right in front of us... and sometimes for us when we were the ones being persecuted.

The things that Farris has done to this school are unexcusable. The vision that was PHC could have become great. Some of us came here because we wanted a thorough, rigorous, classical liberal arts education and an emphasis on leadership. We thought that what we decided to do with that education (that we paid for) would be up to us. Our professors agreed. But Farris, and unfortunately the majority of students who follow him, do not agree. For Farris, education means little of itself - it is merely a means to a different (religio-political) end. And frankly, I think he resents the fact that some of his students don't buy into his specific agenda - he certainly proved that he resents the professors that don't. But the fact still remains, in spite of Farris and all his BS, that some of us have received a truly excellent, broad, liberal education here - an education we are proud of, even if we can't be proud of the school in which we learned it. And it is a shame that most of those responsible for instilling this education in us have just been forced out the door. So maybe "awfully sheltered and intellectually constipated" will apply without qualification before too long, but it doesn't really apply to those of us who were here for those fleeting early moments when the PHC experiment almost lived up to its promise.

PHC students are not automatons (well, some are, but not all of us). Some of us are adults who can think for ourselves (we learned a lot of that by watching 5 men tell a tyrant he could not tell them what to think or do). I'm not going to parade out my normality statistics, I'll just say this - if any of you are still skeptical, and if you ever run into one of us, just ask that person which side of the controversy he was on - Farris' side or the professors' - and that will tell you just about everything you need to know about him.

Posted by: SaveRoot student | May 16, 2006 5:01 AM

"I was reared in an Evangelical Christian background. I became a pro-choice feminist Liberal Pagan. I can say with authority the Evangelical Christian opinion I was taught about what "those people" believe isn't even in the same galaxy with the real reasons "those people" have for what they believe. "Those people" come in a wide variety of worldviews that don't have anywhere near the same starting point as Evangelicals. The only way to learn what they really think is to talk to lots of them and get outside the Evangelical Christian mindset."

Lionness, please bear in mind that some of us have talked to a wide variety of people, read the sacred writings of a variety of world religions, looked at those other world views, and come back to a traditional Nicean understanding of Christianity.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 16, 2006 8:58 AM

"unless it is tempered with tolerance and humility, religion is a destructive force."

Yeah, well - so are most philosophies, including political philosophies. Fools can turn any movement into a "destructive force" - including the Democratic party.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 16, 2006 9:00 AM

Chris wrote:
"Bigotry is bigotry, if these weren't conservative christians no one would care. As an analogy, what if a restaurant were to decide to serve only dishes with rice, would anyone care?"

You analogy is not correct. The proper analogy would be a cooking school that only taught how to cook rice dishes. Would a graduate of that school be considered a chef? And, more importantly, would you consider a graduate of such a cooking school to have received a well rounded cooking education?

Posted by: Sully | May 16, 2006 9:18 AM

"Lionness, please bear in mind that some of us have talked to a wide variety of people, read the sacred writings of a variety of world religions, looked at those other world views, and come back to a traditional Nicean understanding of Christianity."

I'm sure you have, just as I've read voraciously in a wide variety of religions, especially in Christianity, and come back to Neo-Platonism. That isn't my question. There's a huge difference between the image of nonChristians that's presented within a standard Evangelical Christian context and the reality of our lives. There's a huge difference between the image of Liberals that's presented in Conservative and real Liberals. When you play these roles, are you playing the Evangelical Christian stereotype or do you know enough about what they really think to play the real part?

I'm a Liberal. When I hear William F. Buckley talk about Liberals, I can't find my own position in what he's saying. (And I certainly can't find it in what Ann Coulter says about Liberals!) I can't find my own position in what Pat Robertson or other Conservative Christians say about nonChristians, and certainly not in what they say about Pagans. Shoot, I'm a Classical Homeschooling mother as well. I don't show up anywhere on Mike Ferris' radar screen. The man's writing stopped showing even a hint of comprehension that someone could be a Liberal Pagan Classical Homeschooler back in the 1990 when he ruined the HSLDA by marrying it to the Republican party.

So when you play "the other side" for debate purposes, have you engaged in long discussions with people who really do hold those views to see if they agree with your interpretation of their positions?

Posted by: Lioness | May 16, 2006 10:08 AM

Thank you, SaveRoot. That's the picture I got of both PHC and Ferris from previous stories and interviews. Ferris has stated in interviews that he set up PHC after Evangelical Christian Republican politicians came to him asking where they could find interns who were well-educated BUT who also held their own specific belief system. In that regard, PHC is very much a trade school set up to produce young people trained in a highly specialized trade. Of course Ferris is going to insure that his "product" meets the qualifications of his "customers".

Posted by: Lioness | May 16, 2006 11:39 AM

Sully,
In answer to your question, yes, chefs that specialize in cooking pastries, or asian food, or italian food, or french food are called chefs. It is likely that most chefs who studied French cookery would tend to choose courses related to their chosen field of specialization--and it is unlikely that french cooking schools will include a large number of italian, thai or chilean specialists in the interests of diversity. The market will reward the school if sufficient numbers of chefs from the school are hired, making rational the choice to specialize in french cooking.

Why try to tell the marketplace what it wants and what it doesn't want just because you can't get over your own bigotry about fundamentalist christians.

Face it, a degree from Patrick Henry tells employers to anticipate a certain skill set, just as a degree from Harvard or Montgomery College provides the same type of information. If the skill set of the Patrick Henry students is desirable then the market will reward them, otherwise they will have to expand their skill base in order to compete more effectively. But any discussion of "should" and "would" and what is best is merely an attempt to prevent the market from working. Perhaps you fear that the market would not punish Patrick Henry for their perceived deficiencies and perhaps this bothers you because you, personally, don't like the choices made by conservative christians.

Posted by: Chris | May 16, 2006 2:27 PM

Another anonymous student making claims that they know can't be backed up...

Hopefully they'll take note of recent developments today around noon to rethink their position about who're the true troublemakers here...

And I wouldn't stoop to calling this Save Root student who I disagree with intellectually constipated or anything of the sort. Intellectual constipation implies willful attempts to deny the use of reason. I haven't met any students here like that. Even those I disagree with. Every student here has attempted to use reason to reach their conclusions. No matter what, I will say that the fact that very few of the students have just relied on sensationalism to guide their actions is commendable. Two of the people I've spent a ton of time with this semester are some of the largest supporters of the professors who are leaving. They're some of the people I respect the most here for their level-headed handling of the situation, even though I disagree with them, and they know it.

But these comments by SaveRoot show the mindset of a lot (not all) of the students siding with the professors through all this. Because the school has done a few things they don't like, specifically related to the rules, they're going to whine about it and try to bring the school down around their ears. They're not intellectually constipated. They're just not looking at the facts. Throughout this entire controversy, the Save Root students have been complaining of a lack of due process, when the professors leaving and their sympathizers consistently violated due process themselves, or attempted to thwart it by refusing to provide promised responses to allegations. The students have been misled by certain professors, (not even all the professors leaving) to believe that they're being mistreated and that their freedoms are being abused. If that's what they believe, then they're sorely mistaken, and they're more than free to leave. They will be missed, but their ignorance will not. If, after today, students continue to deny the facts of the situation, then they might indeed incur the allegation of heading down the road towards intellectual constipation. Now that both sides have actually spoken, instead of the one side trying to cause trouble.

Facts are irrefutable, and it's pointless to argue with someone who denies the basics. It's impossible to convince someone that water molecules can be separated into two atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen, when they believe that it's composed of barium and mercury. The students who continue to think that certain professors are in the clear after today are those people who deny the true makeup of the situation for whatever reason, that reason being in part the fact that certain professors leaving encouraged behavior discouraged by the school, and would try to subvert the school's attempts to retain a good image in the community. While not a part of the issue at hand, many of the hardcore SaveRoot students are like the blind Democrats of the South following the Civil War. No matter that the Democrats didn't agree with the South on most issues, but the good thing was that they weren't Republicans, so the South stood by them until the very near past. These students are siding with certain professors because once before, the professor did something they liked, and now they blindly ignore facts and attempt to force reason to accomodate their twisted view of reality because these professors are "the nice guys."

But that's an entire other topic compared to academic freedom.

And this college is not just here to supply little brainwashed homeschooled minds to DC. Farris and those who requested that he create a college (also parents who wanted a place where their values taught at home would be given a transition period into the real world, instead of instantly jumping into the mosh-pit of debauchery that characterizes many colleges today, and instead of keeping them sheltered at home taking online classes for the rest of their lives) all know that you can't really make it in DC without being able to discuss that which you disagree with. From what I've seen just in these posts, I have a more charitable view of liberals and non-Christians than many of these people equating myself with Zaccarias Moussaui.

This school is a training grounds for students who may have had sheltered lives at home to start getting used to the real world, as well as providing those of us who weren't sheltered with a first-class liberal arts education that will prepare us for whatever we plan to do later.

Again, it is ignorance of the *facts* to say that we're hiding from the world, when we're engaging exactly what you say we're hiding from. That shows, again, not intellectual constipation, but ignorance.

Posted by: Timothy S. Iversen | May 16, 2006 4:31 PM

Well Timothy, what did happen today? Not all of us had a chance to catch up on the gossip around the cafeteria table at lunch, you know. :)

Posted by: Lioness | May 16, 2006 5:06 PM

"I'm a Liberal. When I hear William F. Buckley talk about Liberals, I can't find my own position in what he's saying. (And I certainly can't find it in what Ann Coulter says about Liberals!) I can't find my own position in what Pat Robertson or other Conservative Christians say about nonChristians, and certainly not in what they say about Pagans."

That's without a doubt completely true. I can't find myself in what is being said about consevative Christians (or Republicans, for that matter).

"So when you play "the other side" for debate purposes, have you engaged in long discussions with people who really do hold those views to see if they agree with your interpretation of their positions?"

Yes - that was exactly the point of my saying that I'd taken the time to read the scriptures of the great world religions (Koran, Tao Te Ching, Upanishads, Analects of Confucious, Book of Morman, etc.), study Judaism under a rabbi, read books about Wicca written by and for Wiccans, books about Shinto written by Shintoists, books about Buddhism written by Buddhists, books about Islam written by Muslims, books about Hinduism written by Hindus.

To come full circle:

"There's a huge difference between the image of nonChristians that's presented within a standard Evangelical Christian context and the reality of our lives. There's a huge difference between the image of Liberals that's presented in Conservative and real Liberals."

There's also a huge difference between the image of conservative Christians that's presented by nonChristians (and many liberal Christians) and the reality of our lives. There's a huge difference between the image of Conservatives that's presented by Liberals and real Conservatives.

Don't judge us by our kooks - it only reinforces the tendency of those among us who would judge you by your kooks.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 16, 2006 5:20 PM

"Don't judge us by our kooks - it only reinforces the tendency of those among us who would judge you by your kooks.

No, it isn't fair to judge you by your kooks. But you will be judged by how YOU handle your kooks.

Some of your kooks have been in positions that they have abused their powers to hurt innocents. Others of your kooks are currently in positions where they have and can hurt a lot more innocents. One of these kooks was a wild-eyed bomber, some of these kooks have been abusive preachers and deacons, and some of these kooks hold high office.

THESE PEOPLE ARE NOT YOUR FAULT. You're too young to have stopped them. But that won't be the case for much longer.

Evangelical Christians are quick to point out other people's kooks, but when you point out the Evangelical Christian kooks to other Evangelical Christians, they have a very bad habit of sitting on their hands and moaning that, "We're not allowed to weed the garden. Only God is allowed to do that." This tendency looks an awful lot like hypocrisy to those who aren't Evangelical Christians, and is the main source of your bad reputation.

Meanwhile the weeds are choking the garden and killing all the little flowers.

Not everyone who clusters at the foot of the Cross is a good person. Anytime the members of any group decide they can't criticize anyone who wears their label, that label becomes a refuge for scoundrels. It doesn't matter if the label is "Christian", "Pagan", "Democrat", "Republican" or what.

The time will come when you will be in a position where you find that someone who wears your "Conservative Evangelical Christian" label is doing something bad and is hiding behind that label to get away with their misdeeds. I'm not picking on Evangelicals here, it's a position we all find ourselves in at some point. But you will have to decide if you speak out against that person before they can hurt anyone else, or if you turn away because it would be "disloyal" to speak against another wearer of your label. We will judge you on what you do in that instant, as will the God(s) who watch over us all.

Good luck.

Posted by: Lioness | May 16, 2006 11:54 PM

Sir Iversen,

I guess by "facts" you mean "whatever Farris says"? You have to be kidding if you think I'm going to take his word at face value. You speak of the use of reason - and yet I am astonished at the number of students who unquestioningly believe every word Farris says, like so many sheep. Look, Farris has repeatedly banned the professors from defending themselves to their students, and even fired one for trying to do so. Yet when the truth comes out, and his precious ego is suddenly blemished, he does not hesitate to blare his side of the story to the entire campus and stir up just as much "disruption" as he is accusing the other side of doing!

"Because the school has done a few things they don't like, specifically related to the rules, they're going to whine about it and try to bring the school down around their ears."

The rules have nothing to do with this. I am not a child. Vengeance is not my goal, truth is. You will never get anywhere in politics if all you can do is impune motives - where's the reason in that?

"Throughout this entire controversy, the Save Root students have been complaining of a lack of due process, when the professors leaving and their sympathizers consistently violated due process themselves, or attempted to thwart it by refusing to provide promised responses to allegations."

Due process is provided BY the authority TO the ones they are in authority over. You can't violate due process when it is being granted to you! The only people who can violate due process are the ones in power, by withholding it. Which, if you actually read the professors' side, was *why* those promised responses were never delivered.

"The students have been misled by certain professors, (not even all the professors leaving) to believe that they're being mistreated and that their freedoms are being abused. If that's what they believe, then they're sorely mistaken, and they're more than free to leave."

Mislead, I suppose, because they taught us what freedom actually is? And we don't want to leave, because we think the education is worth it in spite of all the mistreatment. Says a lot about the education. But we would be very wrong not to oppose injustice and abuse.

"The students who continue to think that certain professors are in the clear after today are those people who deny the true makeup of the situation for whatever reason,"

True makeup of the situation = Farris' point of view? If this is nothing more than a disagreement over which side to believe, then it's not about facts or ignorance or poor motivations, we just choose to believe the side we find more reasonable and trustworthy. It is telling that even Farris did not dispute the basic facts. But this is beyond you or me now. The facts have been submitted to a candid world, and if telling the world the truth is the same thing as trying to destroy the school, then the school has destroyed itself.

Posted by: SaveRoot student | May 17, 2006 1:20 AM

I'm pleased that this thread is drawing to a close, because I'm a little surprised by the (well-meaning, I'm certain!) folk who don't seem interested in Fisher's discussion point.

It's not about whether Farris (or the lecturers and students highlighted in the recent stories & columns) have moral or intellectual high ground for their opinions and claims. What's interesting is the intended aim(s) of the institution, and how it/they (the institution & folks who run it) decide upon the methods used to advance it/them.

Posted by: Bob S. | May 17, 2006 2:45 AM

If I may offer a condiment analogy:

"Catsup" eaters have always been uncomfortable with those who insisted upon bringing "ketchup" to the cookout, and there's always been quiet sniping about whether these are two different entities or different faces of the same taste.

But they've always agreed that salsans (who overtook them more than a decade ago as the most commercially important condimentians) have an invalid point of view, and should left to presenting their views in other tomato condiment venues.

Posted by: Bob S. | May 17, 2006 2:59 AM

Lionness,

re: "THESE PEOPLE ARE NOT YOUR FAULT. You're too young to have stopped them. But that won't be the case for much longer."

Please get off it. I'm a married father of two in my mid-forties. I've seen saints in the church, and I've seen evil men who've perverted the gospel. I've made my choices, and some of them have been difficult. I have taught in my church, and I've confronted ministers who have needed confronting (though I've played peacemaker many more times).

I don't know why you seem so set on labeling me an evangelical - that's the one term I have carefully not used (not that I have any particular animus against evangelicals - I simply don't consider myself part of the "evangelical movement"). I am conservative, and I do have a very traditional view of the core tenets of Christianity.

Please don't try to link me with any particular named set of kooks - I do my best to avoid associating with anyone I see as irrational or irresponsible. I'd identify the group I'm affiliated with a bit more specifically, but having seen your comments about evangelicals, I'm afraid now of what you'd do with the label. Frankly, I am as dismayed and frustrated by your last set of comments as you would be if I tried to link you with the loonier fringes of the new age and alternative spirituality movements.

I also suspect that you and I would not always agree about who, exactly, is or is not a "kook." Please note, though, that I haven't attempted to identify any liberal, Democratic, neo-Pagan or non-Christian kooks in this discussion. My key point is that it is neither fair nor helpful to tar any of the great world religions with the brush of the extremists among them. It's also not safe. Whether you can see them or not, the movements you would identify with have people that the rest of us (outsiders) would view as kooks. Most groups (I suspect yours included) aren't very good at identifying or dealing with their nutcases - possibly because, within the family, it's easier to see "misguided zeal" than a bad case of "that boy's just plumb crazy".

Posted by: Anonymous | May 17, 2006 9:37 AM

"May", I'm sorry, I mistook you for a student. I have very carefully not named names, as that would lose my point in a sea of particulars. I have used the term "Evangelical" because Conservative Christians I have spoken with before find it neutral. I apologize if my use of it offends you.

However, the point was raised about why other people consider Conservative Christians (I'll use that term instead, if it's all right with you) offensive. A large part of it stems from a perception of hypocrisy when Conservative Christians fail to stand up publicly against those who use their banner to do evil.

Every banner is going to attract its share of crazies and con artists. The more popular a banner is, the larger number of crazies and con artists it will attract. That's human nature. The question is always, "What will the rest of the people under that banner do about them?"

Liberal groups aren't very good at dealing with kooks either, but at least we have a tendency to make such allegations public. It's part of what makes us so chaotic. It can result in hurt feelings, mine certainly got hurt when allegations were made against me a few weeks ago: http://lionesshomeschool.blogspot.com/2006/03/bruised.html But it's good overall, because it clears the air and it does prevent anything worse than feelings from getting hurt.

Conservative Christian groups don't tend to react the same way. There have been many church abuse scandels where Conservative Christians have not taken steps to confront the crazies, kooks and con artists in their midst. Many of them eventually result in people becoming nonChristians, which is where I hear about them. (It's also where I started from, but that's another story.)

I have spent a lot of time asking Conservative Christians, "Why didn't you *do* something to prevent this?" I keep hearing that same tired line, "We're not allowed to weed the Garden. Christians aren't allowed to criticize other Christians!" This fig leaf of an excuse is specific to Conservative Christians. No one else uses it. In the past it has encouraged idleness in the face of evil that has hidden behind a Conservative Christian badge. It is because of that very idleness in the face of evil that so many people have nothing but scorn for Conservative Christians.

I'm not blaming anyone in particular, but it is a widespread problem. And things have improved. 20 years ago, when I first started speaking about this, no one had ever heard of the term "church abuse". These days there are at least some people willing to talk about it, and a few even willing to ask nonChristians how to counsel those who have left the Christian church because of church abuse. This is a big step forward, but it doesn't solve the problem.

However, with more Conservative Christians holding high office these days, the same pattern of abuse and idleness has occured and will occur in politics. Consequently this pattern is no longer a "church problem". It's become a country problem.

As a nonChristian, there's only a limited amount I can do about it. I've spoken on this problem for 20 years, and my words are usually dismissed with ad hominem attacks, "She's a nonChristian! She must hate Jesus! She must hate all Christians! Don't listen to a thing she says!" Realisticly, the only people who can solve the problem are other Consevative Christians changing the culture of their churches which encourages weeds to flourish.

I don't care who weeds the garden. I do care passionately that the garden gets weeded before any more flowers choke.

Posted by: Lioness | May 17, 2006 12:38 PM

Lioness,

If I may step aside from the blog debate for a moment, I am so sorry that you have been hurt by a group of Christians. Some were likely hypocrits; others were likely misled; and - if what I've seen in churches is any indication - still others were simply flawed people (like most of us).

re: "I have used the term "Evangelical" because Conservative Christians I have spoken with before find it neutral. I apologize if my use of it offends you."

I appreciate that you aren't trying to offend me. But please understand, Christians who are conservative DO NOT constitute a monolithic group that can conveniently be labeled "Conservative Christians." That's a bad as saying that all Pagans are the same.

I don't know which flavor of Christian you're talking to, but if there's anything we're good at, it's tearing each other down. That's why there are literally thousands of different Christian denominations in this country, casting anathemas at each other.

I sense - please correct me if I'm wrong - that your complaints are as much political as they are theological or ecclesiastical. That's a whole different discussion. There are plenty of very theologically conservative Christians who vote Democratic - many for reasons that they tie back to their faith. It is truly massively unfair if you are blaming all conservative Christians for the failings you see in politically active Christian Republicans.

"I don't care who weeds the garden. I do care passionately that the garden gets weeded before any more flowers choke."

Assuming that your allegory refers to the Christian community, I would respectfully submit that it is no longer your garden. You have left and moved on. You may have a neighbor's understandable dismay at the unkempt lawn down the street (and may be annoyed by the dandelion seeds and unraked leaves that blow over into your yard). But this is where I live. I am planting, nourishing and tending as well as I know how - as are many others.

Jim Jeffords left the Republican party. That was his right, he was very open about it, and I question neither his reasons nor his motives. But now, having left the party, he cannot be part of any reform movement within it.

Similarly, now that you've left Christianity, you are in no position to "weed the garden." I strongly suspect that when you try to do so, Christians who are still committed to the garden question your motives (since you are no longer committed to Christianity) and assume that its an attack. You are in much the same position as I would be if I tried to reach out and help the Islamic community deal with its extremists. I'm not part of the family, and have no standing to address family problems. Nor can I help weed your particular garden. I strongly suspect that you don't have any particular interest in my list of liberal, Democratic and non-Christian kooks, crazies and con artists (not that you should, other than as an indication of how those particular groups and people appear to outsiders).

Posted by: Anonymous | May 17, 2006 1:55 PM

Lioness,

If I may step aside from the blog debate for a moment, I am so sorry that you have been hurt by a group of Christians. Some were likely hypocrits; others were likely misled; and - if what I've seen in churches is any indication - still others were simply flawed people (like most of us).

re: "I have used the term "Evangelical" because Conservative Christians I have spoken with before find it neutral. I apologize if my use of it offends you."

I appreciate that you aren't trying to offend me. But please understand, Christians who are conservative DO NOT constitute a monolithic group that can conveniently be labeled "Conservative Christians." That's a bad as saying that all Pagans are the same.

I don't know which flavor of Christian you're talking to, but if there's anything we're good at, it's tearing each other down. That's why there are literally thousands of different Christian denominations in this country, casting anathemas at each other.

I sense - please correct me if I'm wrong - that your complaints are as much political as they are theological or ecclesiastical. That's a whole different discussion. There are plenty of very theologically conservative Christians who vote Democratic - many for reasons that they tie back to their faith. It is truly massively unfair if you are blaming all conservative Christians for the failings you see in politically active Christian Republicans.

"I don't care who weeds the garden. I do care passionately that the garden gets weeded before any more flowers choke."

Assuming that your allegory refers to the Christian community, I would respectfully submit that it is no longer your garden. You have left and moved on. You may have a neighbor's understandable dismay at the unkempt lawn down the street (and may be annoyed by the dandelion seeds and unraked leaves that blow over into your yard). But this is where I live. I am planting, nourishing and tending as well as I know how - as are many others.

Jim Jeffords left the Republican party. That was his right, he was very open about it, and I question neither his reasons nor his motives. But now, having left the party, he cannot be part of any reform movement within it.

Similarly, now that you've left Christianity, you are in no position to "weed the garden." I strongly suspect that when you try to do so, Christians who are still committed to the garden question your motives (since you are no longer committed to Christianity) and assume that its an attack. You are in much the same position as I would be if I tried to reach out and help the Islamic community deal with its extremists. I'm not part of the family, and have no standing to address family problems. Nor can I help weed your particular garden. I strongly suspect that you don't have any particular interest in my list of liberal, Democratic and non-Christian kooks, crazies and con artists (not that you should, other than as an indication of how those particular groups and people appear to outsiders).

Posted by: Anonymous | May 17, 2006 1:56 PM

Lioness,

If I may step aside from the blog debate for a moment, I am so sorry that you have been hurt by a group of Christians. Some were likely hypocrits; others were likely misled; and - if what I've seen in churches is any indication - still others were simply flawed people (like most of us).

re: "I have used the term "Evangelical" because Conservative Christians I have spoken with before find it neutral. I apologize if my use of it offends you."

I appreciate that you aren't trying to offend me. But please understand, Christians who are conservative DO NOT constitute a monolithic group that can conveniently be labeled "Conservative Christians." That's a bad as saying that all Pagans are the same.

I don't know which flavor of Christian you're talking to, but if there's anything we're good at, it's tearing each other down. That's why there are literally thousands of different Christian denominations in this country, casting anathemas at each other.

I sense - please correct me if I'm wrong - that your complaints are as much political as they are theological or ecclesiastical. That's a whole different discussion. There are plenty of very theologically conservative Christians who vote Democratic - many for reasons that they tie back to their faith. It is truly massively unfair if you are blaming all conservative Christians for the failings you see in politically active Christian Republicans.

"I don't care who weeds the garden. I do care passionately that the garden gets weeded before any more flowers choke."

Assuming that your allegory refers to the Christian community, I would respectfully submit that it is no longer your garden. You have left and moved on. You may have a neighbor's understandable dismay at the unkempt lawn down the street (and may be annoyed by the dandelion seeds and unraked leaves that blow over into your yard). But this is where I live. I am planting, nourishing and tending as well as I know how - as are many others.

Jim Jeffords left the Republican party. That was his right, he was very open about it, and I question neither his reasons nor his motives. But now, having left the party, he cannot be part of any reform movement within it.

Similarly, now that you've left Christianity, you are in no position to "weed the garden." I strongly suspect that when you try to do so, Christians who are still committed to the garden question your motives (since you are no longer committed to Christianity) and assume that its an attack. You are in much the same position as I would be if I tried to reach out and help the Islamic community deal with its extremists. I'm not part of the family, and have no standing to address family problems. Nor can I help weed your particular garden. I strongly suspect that you don't have any particular interest in my list of liberal, Democratic and non-Christian kooks, crazies and con artists (not that you should, other than as an indication of how those particular groups and people appear to outsiders).

Posted by: Anonymous | May 17, 2006 1:56 PM

May, I accept your apology. I did belong to a specific denomination, but since I've heard stories of the same pattern of abuse and idleness from refugees from over a dozen different Conservative Christian denomination I'd say the pattern isn't limited to any one particular denomination. I'm also trying to go out of my way not to paint all Conservative Christians as bad people or all Conservative Christian churches as bad churches.

I must respectfully disagree with you that this problem is no longer mine. I only wish that were the case, but time has shown that it is not the case for two reasons.

The first reason is because church abuse utterly shatters its victims. Since they no longer trust the church they go elsewhere for counseling. I'm one of the ones who holds them while they scream, weep, and rage it out of their systems. It takes them an average of ten years to recover enough to regard the church with anything approaching equaminity again. That's an awful lot of screaming. Listening to it is not my favorite job, but I can't in good conscious turn my back on them. The church that abused them usually doesn't spend a dime counseling them or a minute holding their hand. So yeah, I'd say that earns me - and the rest of us survivors -- a say in a situation which continues to churn out more victims. When the day comes that no more victims come running from that garden I will gladly cease to comment on the shape its in.

The second reason is political. While not all Christian Conservatives feel the same, the avowed goal of many Christian Conservatives is to run the country as if it were one big Conservative Christian church. That means that all the problems inherent inside a Conservative Christian church are getting practiced across the body politic. And that concerns me a great deal.

Posted by: Lioness | May 17, 2006 3:50 PM

"The first reason is because church abuse utterly shatters its victims."

Many groups and philosphies do horrible things to people when they go awry. Christianity is not alone in this. Certainly, if someone comes to you seeking help, and you are able to help, you should do so. That does NOT make Christianity, or even conservative Christians, evil. I know - and appreciate - that you are trying to avoid saying that, but it is a very imporant point to remember. Caring Christians have provided a needed refuge to many, many hurting people.

It sounds as if you would argue that more have been harmed than helped. I suspect that is due to your experiences and the people you have known (as my understanding has been shaped by my experiences and the people I have know), and that there would be no particular benefit in our discussing which side of the scales are more heavily weighted.

I would suggest to you that personality and temperament matter (some people will be manipulative and abusive regardless of the religious or political group they are in), and that it is important to make a distinction between honest believers and charlatans. I would also suggest that it is not correct to equate being theologically conservative with being manipulative and abusive (nor being theologically liberal with being caring and concerned).

"[T]he avowed goal of many Christian Conservatives is to run the country as if it were one big Conservative Christian church."

I have to be very clear here - while I believe that Christians should be politically involved (just as any other concerned citizens) I firmly believe that churches, as churches, should stay out of politics. So, while I have strong political views, I will not speak as a representative of my church (even though I have a leadership role in my local congregation) on a political issue. The church has a more important mission (remember, I am theologically conservative, so in my mind saving souls is more important than winning elections), and can't afford to get entangled in government.

Having said that, it simply is not true that the stated goal of conservative Christians is to run the country like a church. Many Christians believe that our current laws do not reflect their moral values, and want to work through the legislative process to change those laws. (I would note that this is true of many liberal Christians as well - they just disagree with the conservative Christians over which laws and moral values those are.) That should be cool with people - after all, animal rights activists, anti-smoking activists, gay rights activists, pro-choice activists and environmental activists do the same thing. As long as it is done within the context of the political processes outlined in the constitution, this is completely proper.

I've heard many argue that it is not legitimate to advance any argument in the political arena that's based on faith. I find nothing in the constitution to support that claim. Of course, when (for example) the argument that abortion should be prohibited because it constitutes murder is advanced legislatively, based on Christian conceptions of the beginning of life, it must be supported by reasoning that will pursuade non-Christians and liberal Christians or it will ultimately fail (as it has so far).

So far as I am aware, no one has seriously suggested that the voting rights of non-Christians be curtailed or limited, that faith-based reasoning be given a privilaged place in legislative debate, or that any religious entity or leader be given review or veto power over the actions of government. Certainly some conservative Christian leaders have significant influence among a number of voters; so does Michael Moore. That's not in and of itself problematic.

I have to be honest. I sincerely believe that many allegedly liberal and progressive policies have done serious damage to our society over the last 30 years (since I've been old enough to really follow politics). I recognize that you, just as sincerely, believe that many allegedly conservative policies are doing serious damage to our society. You may be right (heck, we may both be right).

"So yeah, I'd say that earns me - and the rest of us survivors -- a say in a situation which continues to churn out more victims."

I could criticise, say, the Democratic party or the progressive movement for the damage I might believe they have done and are continuing to do. That's my right - and if they are prudent they will occassionally listen to what others have to say. That does not earn me any right to have a say in their deliberations, organization, actions, development or anything else. I can try to say things that might persuade members of those groups, or people who are considering joining those groups, or policymakers who are considering the proposals of those groups. I can affect how groups or movements of which I'm a part react to them. I can vote against them and their proposals. But since I'm not a Democrat, I quite rightly have no say in the platform or governance of the Democratic party.

You can claim standing, by dint of personal experience, to speak to people who are evaluating the claims of the groups you have had experience with. Just recognize that you're now an outsider, and that does make a difference. No matter how important your insights, it will affect the way they are heard.

Look - I've known a number of people who have been through very abusive church experiences, who decided to stay with Christianity. The particular subgroup they were involved with was a perversion of Christianity, and involved leaders on serious power trips. It took many years for them to recover (we had a minister at our congregation, for many years, who was one of those survivors). I do appreciate where you're coming from. Recognize, though, that true church abuse is a perversion, and that serious Christians view it as such. (I would note that not all theologically conservative Christianity with a meaningful code of personal morality is abusive.)

Bottom line - I'm happy as a clam with your saying that church abuse is the work of the devil, and should be condemned by all. It's evil, it's unjustified by scripture, and it tarnishes the reputation of Christ. If you can help people harmed by it, God bless you.

I'm not happy with turning the descriptive term "conservative Christian" into the title "Conservative Christian" - just as many would be unhappy turning the descriptive term "democratic" into the name of the political party "Democratic." I'm particularly unhappy with it being conflated into a political movement (by anyone).

Posted by: Anonymous | May 17, 2006 5:09 PM

"I'm particularly unhappy with it being conflated into a political movement (by anyone)."

Including Mike Ferris? Pat Robertson? Don Wildmon? I have to agree that I'm unhappy with those folks and the organizations they represent conflating Conservative Christianity with a political movement. I'm a great deal unhappier that there are many Conservative Christians out there who are letting them get away with it. Not you, not all, but many. And those many are tacitly supported by many more Conservative Christians who stand back and let them get away with turning their faith organizations into political movements.

May, I don't know where you live, but around here the political dominance of "Christian Conservatives" isn't hypothetical. I'm a stone's throw from the HQ of a major Conservative Christian lobbying organization, in a town where Conservative Christians do control all the offices. All the political decisions that are made are based on that organization's agenda. "Multi-culturalism" means "we let the Catholics play." It has been stated in public and in print that this town should serve as a political model for how Conservative Christians should run the state and the nation.

In state elections candidates who don't belong to a major Conservative Christian church don't stand a chance at the polls. Candidates for local and county office no longer list their party affiliation on election ads; the very first thing they list is their church membership. It's not Democrat vs. Republican around here; it's Baptist vs. Methodist.

So when I speak of political offices that are run like Conservative Christian churches, I'm not speaking hypothetically. When I speak of familiar patterns of abuse and idleness showing up in those political offices, I'm not speaking hypothetically either.

Nor is the situation limited to my state alone. It's a condition that is spreading, and I don't see it going away anytime soon. Because, and this is the really scary part, most of my Conservative Christian neighbors have been convinced it's "disloyal" to vote for a candidate who doesn't belong to a major Conservative Christian church, even if they dislike that candidate personally.

Under those circumstances, the scenario I postulated is not far-fetched. I think we can both agree that is unfortunate for all of us.

Posted by: Lioness | May 17, 2006 11:45 PM

"Me" of 15 May 2006 @ 11:17AM

You write: "I realize that Patrick Henry was a crazy Baptist at a time that the majority of Virginians still worshipped in the Church of England, but don't you think the guy who stood up and said, "Give me Liberty or give me Death?" is spinning in his grave right now?"

You are factually incorrect. Patrick Henry was not a Baptist. He was Anglican. He was not a fan of religious freedom nor a separation of church and state. After the revolution, while Governor of Virginia, he publically called for tax dollars to support the Anglican Church in its post-revolution form, and, that it be the "state church" of Virginia.

The folks you need to be thanking for pioneering religious freedom in America are Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. In fact, the great unsung hero of religious freedom in America is actually James Madison. Jefferson was, no doubt, the "concept man". But it was Madison's skillful, diplomatic/political skills that shepherded the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom through the General Assembly and the US Constitution's First Amendment through the Congress when he was a Congressman representing Virginia's Orange County area.

You can find historical substantiation of these points in Ralph Ketchem's biography of James Madison by UVA Press. Obviously, in a blog comment I don't have the space or time to post a formal citing of sources like I would in a formal, scholarly work.

Perhaps, Patrick Henry College is perfectly named after all?

NotNotJayHughes

Posted by: NotNotJayHughes | May 18, 2006 8:47 AM

Lionness,

I think we have to make some critical distinctions here.

When I said, "I'm particularly unhappy with it being conflated into a political movement (by anyone)."

Your responded with, "Including Mike Ferris? Pat Robertson? Don Wildmon? I have to agree that I'm unhappy with those folks and the organizations they represent conflating Conservative Christianity with a political movement."

You are obscuring a distinction that I am being very careful to observe. There is a difference between Christianity that is theologically conservative and has a challenging moral and ethical code (which would include, for instance, the Greek Orthodox Church), and what you are giving the title "Conservative Christianity."

Moving into the protestant realm, there are many, many, many conservative protestants who do not listen to (nor contribute to, no even particularly like), Mike Ferris, Pat Robertson, or Don Wildmon.


"In state elections candidates who don't belong to a major Conservative Christian church don't stand a chance at the polls. Candidates for local and county office no longer list their party affiliation on election ads; the very first thing they list is their church membership. It's not Democrat vs. Republican around here; it's Baptist vs. Methodist."

Depends on which state and which local. In many states (the one in which I live, for instance) you simply can't win if you don't oppose any restrictions on abortion, support legalizing same-sex marriage, oppose the war on terror, and support tougher restrictions on smoking. Why? Because most of the voters in this state think those positions make sense; that, in turn, is because they are consistent with those voters' personal beliefs.

If you are (cursed?) to live in a area where most of the people who vote have conservative social and political views, then positions consistent with those views will be required for any candidate to be elected. You clearly find it disturbing that voters find a candidates religious faith relevant. I sense that you're finding it relevant too - just in a different way. It sounds as if you would not vote for someone who professes conservative religious and moral views, and takes them seriously enough that you think they might affect the person's public polic decisions. That's your right. Voters look at lots of things to try and get a bead on how people think, and how they're likely to act in office: political affiliation; professional background; membership in or opposition to groups such as the ACLU; stated moral beliefs (war is wrong, a fetus is a human being, the earth is our mother, animals deserve the same consideration as huma n beings, etc.); and religious affiliations. The fact that moral beliefs and religious affiliations are on the list does NOT a theocracy make.


"most of my Conservative Christian neighbors have been convinced it's "disloyal" to vote for a candidate who doesn't belong to a major Conservative Christian church, even if they dislike that candidate personally."

Sounds a lot like the flip side of "anyone but Bush." Look, lots of people hold their noses and vote for candidates they find personally distastful, because they either think the alternative is worse, or because there are other issues they believe to be more important. For instance, I trust (hope?) that many feminists who supported Bill Clinton were holding their noses at the way he treated particular women. This may be foolish, but there's nothing nefarious about it.

"Under those circumstances, the scenario I postulated is not far-fetched."

If the scenario you are postulating is a full-blown theocracy, then yes, I think it's pretty far-fetched. If the scenario your postulating is a period of time when, due to a growth in the number and political activism of conservative protestants, that our public policies shift to reflect the views of that group, then sure - that happens. It's no different than the shift in public policies that occured during the 1960's and 70's, reflecting widespread social changes during that period. If there's anything history teaches us, it's that the tide will turn.

Let's get very serious about this idea of "conflating." Religious leaders, of all stripes, address issues of broad social significance, be that abortion, poverty, hunger, divorce, the Palesinian problem, or war. Religious leaders of all stripes go further and advocate specific policies, and at least suggest that believers should support candidates that also support those policies. (And don't you dare try to limit that to "Conservative Christians" supporting Bush Republicanism; the Pope has spoken against the Iraq war as well as abortion, the World Council of Churches has made as many liberal political pronouncements as the Southern Baptist Convention has made conservative ones; and African-American churches have supported as many Democrats, and reliably, as predominantly white ones have supported Republicans).

Any particular church urging members to support/oppose a particular cause or issue, be it abortion, same-sex marriage, or war, does not make that church the same thing as the political parties that try to advance or defeat those causes - just as the ACLU supporting causes generally associated with Democrats does not "conflate" the ACLU with the Democratic party. The ACLU has a different mission (or at least claims to have a different mission) than the Democratic party, and will part ways with Democrats when they don't agree. The World Council of Churches has also advanced many causes generally associated with Democrats, but that doesn't mean it is a part of the Democratic party. Again, the World Council of Churches has a different mission (or at least claims to have a different mission) than the Democratic party, or the ACLU. They may advance many of the same causes, but they aren't the same thing.

Fight Pat Robertson and Focus on the Family all you want (I'll continue to hold my own person opinions about Michael Moore and Al Franken). But don't equate them with the Taliban - it makes you look paranoid. And for goodness sakes, don't assume that every conservative protestant (or every conservative protestant congregation) is somehow out to suborn the nation. We have better things to do.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 18, 2006 10:04 AM

"If "choosing to sequester yourself with those of like minds" is a bad thing, then why don't all of the outraged and self-righteous posters to this blog stop reading the Washington Post and subscribe, instead, to the Wall Street Journal."

Uh, plenty of us do. You state it as though you just *know* we don't--the WSJ has excellent reporting, why wouldn't we?

Posted by: NYC | May 18, 2006 11:52 AM

"Bigotry is bigotry, if these weren't conservative christians no one would care. "

This is completely pointless--you have absolutely no way of knowing what "might* happen. This is a whiny dodge "We're viiiiictims! Stop picking on us 'cause we're conseeeervative!" to get out of responding to the actual points people are making.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 18, 2006 12:49 PM

"...abortion should be prohibited because it constitutes murder is advanced legislatively, based on Christian conceptions of the beginning of life..."

This is not true. *Some* Christians believe abortion is murder; many do not. Jesus said nothing about when life begins; He *certainly* did not define it at conception.

One big problem I have with conservative Christians is how they constantly try to co-opt the term "Christian" and define it for everyone. I wish they'd accept that their construct of Christianity is one of many--there are many, many people who call themselves Christian who believe differently from them. Essential Christianity is what Christ said--Love God, love each other, I am the Way and the Truth. Everything after that is specific to your particular denomination, which is no better or worse than anyone else's.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 18, 2006 1:12 PM

May, I have been very careful to say that no particular church which identifies itself as Conservative Christian has been trying to influence politics. Organizations that identify themselves as Conservative Christian are a different matter.

In political offices where everyone is a member the same two churches, both Christian, both Conservative, in places where the election of anyone who is not a member of those two churches isn't going to happen, it can be extremely hard for them to remember that not every constituent is both Conservative and Christian. When reminded of that fact, politicians have often expressed the view that perhaps the rest of the constituency should join their church instead of trying to accomodate different beliefs.

In such a monoculture, where they see the same faces both at work and it church, they can and sometimes do forget which location they're in. Behavioral patterns which had previously been confined to the church start showing up at work. Sometimes these behavioral patterns are good. Sometimes they are bad.

One particular bad behavior pattern that appears in a few, not all but a few, churches that are both Christian and Conservative turns especially toxic when practiced in political circles. That's what I'm talking about. Please stop trying to give me a bigger paint brush than I'm using.

Posted by: Lioness | May 18, 2006 2:11 PM

"If you are (cursed?) to live in a area where most of the people who vote have conservative social and political views"

Feh. I live in an area where there are no civic meeting places because of "of course" any group worth belonging to is going to meet at a church, where a 15-year effort to set up a Ren Faire in a area sorely lacking in tourist attractions has been permanently stalled because "they're Satanic", where there's no new lower-income housing and no bus system because the Powers that Be only want the "right people" living in town and the remaining factories have had to leave town because their workers can't afford housing and transportation costs. All this and more has been done in the name of creating what is billed as a conservative Christian "Paradise". what it's created is a town where jobs are fleeing, hate grafittee is left outside the UU Fellowship and cops shove boys in wheelchairs down steep banks.

I'm not saying it's a place where you'd want to live, but it is marketed as an ideal location for people who are conservative and Christian, and as a model for politicians who happen to be conservative and Christian to strive for.

Posted by: Lioness | May 18, 2006 2:36 PM

I am a junior at PHC, and have read with great interest, some disgust, and some laughter at the (maaaany) comments above.

If any of you have specific questions about the school or the recent happenings, I would be glad to answer them.

Posted by: One PHCer | May 18, 2006 2:59 PM

Thanks, One PHCer. Perhaps you could fill us in on the recent developments today around noon, to which another student referred in a post above. So many of us are trying to understand.

Posted by: What happened? | May 18, 2006 7:35 PM

""...abortion should be prohibited because it constitutes murder is advanced legislatively, based on Christian conceptions of the beginning of life..."

This is not true. *Some* Christians believe abortion is murder; many do not. Jesus said nothing about when life begins; He *certainly* did not define it at conception."

Come on - that was clearly a hypothetical, and one that I would argue is realistic. The point being made is that if individuals with one set of religious beliefs want to advance public policy positions based on those beliefs, they have to find reasons persuasive to others for it to work.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 19, 2006 11:43 AM

Lioness,

we might actually like each other, were we to meet.

"I have been very careful to say that no particular church which identifies itself as Conservative Christian has been trying to influence politics."

Thanks - I had not caught that.

"Organizations that identify themselves as Conservative Christian are a different matter."

Groups that are set up with no other role than to influence politics and culture (and that aren't subject to the natural limits of the small "d" democratic process, such as a political party) seem naturally to gravitate to very purist, hard-line positions. You're well aware of groups like that set up by conservatives. I'd suggest that the MoveOn's of the world share the same tendency. It's an unfortunate tendency. I suspect it's simply a matter of feeling like you have to shout an easily understood slogan as loudly as possible in order to outweigh the cheerleaders on the other side.

"it can be extremely hard for them to remember that not every constituent is both Conservative and Christian. "

Yeah, that's tough. I live in a place where it seems very difficult for politicians to remember that not every constituent is both liberal and a skeptic. (By the way - I don't know if it's important or not - but why do you keep capitalizing the word "Conservative"? It's not the name of a party, and there are lots of different flavors of conservatives - social, fiscal, theological.) I think it's simply because there are few enough of us that they can gain and keep office without paying any attention to us (and anything they do to acknowledge our concerns will almost inevitably risk alienating their base of supporters).

" Please stop trying to give me a bigger paint brush than I'm using."

Sorry - I don't mean to. I haven't been sure just how large a brush you were using, or where you were trying to apply the paint. Perhaps it's just a matter of my suggesting that you may have splashed a bit more paint around than you really intended to. (In real life, I'm a terribly sloppy painter. My wife won't let me do it any more - she's religated me to the prep work, which I'm pretty good at.) Perhaps the boring definitional stuff we're sometimes forced to could be thought of as a form of rhetorical "masking tape."

"All this and more has been done in the name of creating what is billed as a conservative Christian "Paradise". what it's created is a town where jobs are fleeing, hate grafittee is left outside the UU Fellowship and cops shove boys in wheelchairs down steep banks."

I'm not in a position to have an opinion on the place, but if it is as you describe, it sounds as if these are sins that come with their own punishment. Utopian communities do not have a great track record in this country. If they can't create a workable society, it'll fail. I'd get out of there.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 19, 2006 12:05 PM

"Come on - that was clearly a hypothetical, and one that I would argue is realistic. The point being made is that if individuals with one set of religious beliefs want to advance public policy positions based on those beliefs, they have to find reasons persuasive to others for it to work."

That was the main point, I agree. But the point to which I was responding was something else--I disagree with language like "...based on Christian conceptions of the beginning of life." I think it's imprecise and reinforces the idea that there is one paradigm of Christianity.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 19, 2006 3:11 PM

Judge C. Crater said, "I suggest that Patrick Henry College change its name (Karl Marx University? Rush Limbaugh Technical College?)"

Crater, you shouldn't insult Marx that way. While Patrick Henry College exhibits tendencies of both extreme left and extreme right (stifling free speech), they would tend far more to the extreme right (fascism).

Please recall that Marx had no use for religion at all. According to Marx, "Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusions."

I fully agree with that.

Fundamentalist religion will never be compatible with academic freedom. Seems to me the five professors should have known this going in. I reckon they got educated.

Posted by: Max | May 20, 2006 3:59 PM

According to Marx, "Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusions."

There speaks a man who never met a God.

Posted by: Lioness | May 22, 2006 9:11 AM

"That was the main point, I agree. But the point to which I was responding was something else--I disagree with language like "...based on Christian conceptions of the beginning of life." I think it's imprecise and reinforces the idea that there is one paradigm of Christianity."

Fine - the phrasing probably should have been " . . . based on _certain_ Christian conceptions of the beginning of life." Would you have picked the same nit had the writer talked about " . . . humanist conceptions . . .", ". . . liberal conceptions . . .", ". . . democratic conceptions. . ." or ". . . Western conceptions . . ."? None of those movements or systems of thought are monolithic, or have only a single paradigm. The original language, ". . . based on Christian conceptions. . . ," never implied that those were the _only_ Christian conceptions, or even that they were universally accepted by all Christians.

Posted by: Huh? | May 23, 2006 12:18 PM

well gawlllly! Who cares, really, so long as people recognize PHC for what it really is, just as Liberty and Bob Jones University are recognized for what they really are, and just as UC Berkely are recognized for their own particular academic cultures and heritages. Think anyone studying or teaching at UKansas, UNebraska, Ole Miss, etc. really have a problem with the education they're receiving or representing?

Why does this whole conversation smack more of God-less Massachusetts liberals and California crazies versus strictly conservative "Bible is absolute word of God, completely unvarnished by the slightest hint of hyperbole regardless of whether it could nonetheless represent God's truth" and "Dancing is sin!" moralists who go to church on Sundays and have adulterous relations with secretaries and interns on Tuesday, Wednesdays, and Thursdays?

At any rate, Viginia is a right-to-work state, so private employers can do what they want, and likewise, professors that desire true academic freedom are in fact free to seek it elsewhere if they have not found it where they sit.

The only thing about this whole story that makes me feel kinda sad is that someday, somewhere, someone in the real world - you know, the one that exists outisde of the pathetic world of politics - is going to be interviewing an alumni of PHC for a real job, unable to get past the disgraceful controvery that's come up here and call into question, rightly or wrongly, the overall quality of education the alum. received, and perhaps with it, rightly or wrongly, that person's credentials and competencies.

Posted by: G. Willikers | May 23, 2006 2:17 PM

"in its short history, Patrick Henry has become something of a feeder college for the White House staff and other important policy shops in Washington. The college was founded with the explicit aim of bringing the conservative Christian perspective into more powerful positions in the federal and state governments." The paranoid side of me reads that and worries that the college has an agenda to make America more theocratic. I know that has little to do with the issue of the professors who quit. Is the college teaching students that America should be a Christian nation and that other religions aren't American? I think that's a legitimate question. Certainly, fundamentalist initiative such as restoring mandatory prayer in public schools and posting the Ten Commandments in courthouses are theocratic in spirit.

Posted by: John | May 25, 2006 9:00 AM

"I live in an area where there are no civic meeting places because of "of course" any group worth belonging to is going to meet at a church..." Lioness, you made me curious as to where that area is. It sounds almost like the all-Catholic town in Florida where the Domino's founder has created an essentially theocratic government.

Your post is not the first time I've heard Renaissance devotees accused of promoting Satanism, and I've never understood why some Christians feel that way. I have an interest in Celtic culture but I'm not into the whole Renaissance thing.

Posted by: John | May 25, 2006 9:20 AM

"The paranoid side of me reads that and worries that the college has an agenda to make America more theocratic."

Yep - you're paranoid. Especially if you think they can actually do it.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 25, 2006 11:23 AM

My complaint is there are a lot of really excellent, diverse, and progressive home-educated families out there who have nothing to do with Farris, the Home School Legal Defense Association, or Patrick Henry College. Farris blackens our image by pretending to speak for us.

By omitting mention of that fact, reporters and bloggers have helped create a distorted image of all home educators in the minds of readers with a limited knowledge about the subject. It is somewhat akin to leaving a casual reader with the impression that all Muslims are Taliban Islamicists, or that all Christians subscribe to the creed of Bob Jones University.

If you want to really understand home education, you might want to check out, for example, home education's most prestigious award for outstanding college-bound students from anywhere in the world, the Protege Award, at www.quaqua.org and www.quaqua.org/protegerec.htm. Home education has its own scholarship program, and many of the recepients are budding scientists who hold very different views than Farris' flock. The Quaqua site also has a LOT of good leads and legal information and is popular in the home-education community. www.quaqua.org/history.htm www.quaqua.org/legal.htm www.quaqua.org/list.htm.

I don't belong to Quaqua, but if you go to the site I think you could find where the leaders are listed, and you can find lots of links on the Quaqua site to other unaffiliated home education organizations and publications, all of which are more representative of what exists out there among 2 million home educators than what happens at Patrick Henry with its 300 students.

Anyway, I hope someday the media will report on home education in a way that is complete and contextual. They could start by pointing out that Farris is not liked or accepted by most home educators, and most of us do not study in any way resemblng Patrick Henry College. Then those reporters might even want to report on the positive things the rest of the general home education community are doing!

Posted by: Martha | July 26, 2006 6:16 PM

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