Back in 2008, when I was blogging more regularly at Religion in American History, I wrote a post about the changing face of The King’s College–a school that had, during the 50s, 60s, and 70s, been one of the flagship faces of evangelicalism in the New York metropolitan area.
In that short piece I wrote about the way King’s had transformed from a “pietistic, evangelistic, subcultural” and relatively “apolitical” Christian college to a campus, now located in the Empire State Building, with a “more pronounced culture war agenda.”
Since its move to New York City, King’s has definitely ramped up its Christian intellectual profile. It has also become more overtly conservative in its political sensibilities, hiring World Magazine‘s Marvin Olasky, the man behind the term “compassionate conservatism,” as its provost. Last Spring it sponsored a lecture series that included some of the country’s leading conservative voices, including Dick Armey, Rich Lowry, Robert George, Norman Podhoretz, Ed Feulner (president of the Heritage Foundation) and Rick Santorum. (To be fair, the college has also hosted Stanley Hauerwas and N.T. Wright).
The Young America’s Foundation has picked The King’s College as one of the country’s “Top Conservative Colleges,” a list that includes Hilldale College, Grove City College, Liberty University, Pat Robertson’s Regent University, and Patrick Henry College.
The shift from apolitical evangelical college to conservative Christian college was solidified this week when King’s announced that best-selling author and Christian apologist Dinesh D’Souza has been chosen as its new president.
What is most surprising about this choice, and perhaps a bit refreshing, is that D’Souza is a Roman Catholic. I am not sure Percy “Youth on the March” Crawford or Robert “walk with the King today and be a blessing” Cook would have made this selection, but we are now living in a time when conservative evangelicals and conservative Catholics have found common ground on many issues.
D’Souza told the Chronicle of Higher Education that he wanted to expand the college from 450 students to “four or five thousand.” Ambitious indeed.
When asked if his Catholicism would be a problem at an institution rooted in the “Protestant evangelical tradition,” D’Souza claimed that he was a “believing Catholic but a poorly practicing one.” It looks like D’Souza may need a PR lesson. Those rooted in the “Protestant evangelical tradition” who may still be suspect of Catholics leading their colleges might be even more suspect of a “poorly practicing” Catholic.
It will be interesting to see how The King’s College develops over the years. I hope they succeed–New York City needs some smart people with a collective alternative voice to shake things up a bit and bring some intellectual diversity to the place. Tim Keller can’t do it alone.