The Plight of the Campus Religious Believer
If you’re an orthodox believer at a mainstream college, you don’t need me to tell you that you feel like an oddball, maybe even besieged. Your professors and most of your peers would treat your most deeply held beliefs with condescension and probably horror, if they knew about them.And what to do about this?
So what should you do about it?
If you had asked my advice even a few years ago, I would have told you to be the turd in the liberals’ punchbowl. When I was an undergraduate in the 1980s, I did everything in my power to challenge leftist orthodoxies. I saw offending liberals as a key public service, which I dubbed “insensitivity training.” I relied on, and fought for, the principle of free speech.
That’s long gone on campuses now.
My advice today? Grit your teeth, do your reading, make some friends, get your degree, and then make like Lot fleeing Sodom: never look back.
Sounds depressing, right? Well, I do have some good news, as you’ll see.
Big Mother Is Watching YouColleges are much less tolerant than they were even back when I was in school. Instead of welcoming free, vigorous debate designed to prepare people for adulthood, many campuses are turning the classroom into a “safe space” where infantilized pseudo-victims can wallow in their phantom pains for four long, pricey years before the college dumps them into the real world and sends the bill. The tenets of your faith, if you stood up for them, might count as “microaggressions,” “trigger words,” or even “harassment.” Citing free speech won’t get you far on most campuses nowadays.
If your creed is anything like mine, it is by any contemporary secular standard “homophobic,” “transphobic,” “patriarchal,” “sexually repressive,” and opposed to “abortion rights.” There is no way to airbrush any orthodox monotheist religion, especially biblical or ecclesial Christianity, to make it acceptable to secular progressives. It would take full-on plastic surgery, and you saw what that did to the Episcopal Church, Bruce Jenner, and every Jesuit college.
As someone who delighted in debating professors and students in and out of the classroom, it pains me to recommend a “covert-ops” approach. But the battlefield has shifted, and you are now deep behind enemy lines.
So keep your head down, and keep your faith. That last part can be difficult when peers and professors attack your religious beliefs as “retrograde” or “reactionary.” But you can do it. You can do it even if your campus ministry soft-pedals any supernatural aspect of your religion, privileging instead some social justice activism. If that’s the case, go find a local church and pray with the grown-ups at a faithful congregation. You may spot fellow students there. Befriend them.It’s not quite as bad as this essay makes out, although anti-religious (or at least anti-Christian) intolerance can be pretty bad.
You can also find like-minded students in organizations like the ISI-affiliated group on campus, Young Americans for Liberty, College Republicans, or your campus pro-life club. Maybe even a Greek organization, if those haven’t been banned from your campus. Their meetings could be a “safe space” for you.
Some institutions are better than others. A useful (but perhaps a bit dated) ranking of schools by religious commitment can be found here.
Sometimes the students are not as biased as the professors. At Marquette, for example, students apparently split about equally in voting for Republican Scott Walker and Democrat Mary Burke.
Some majors are better than others. Expect a lot of leftist indoctrination in the humanities, the social sciences (except economics and perhaps political science), communications and education. Other majors are better, although you will have to take some courses in those most biased departments.
Plot out your path carefully. You will indeed be in enemy territory.