Dinesh D’Souza: Catholic or Evangelical?

Last week we commented on the decision by The King’s College to appoint Dinesh D’Souza as its new president. Evangelicals are making a big fuss over whether or not D’Souza is a Catholic or an Evangelical. And if he is a Catholic, does he meet the doctrinal requirements to run an Evangelical college?

Christianity Today has posted an article exploring the nature of D’Souza’s faith. He claims that he is Catholic in “background” but is also “part of” the Evangelical world. His wife is an Evangelical and they have attended Calvary Chapel in San Diego for the past ten years. He even goes so far as to claim that he does not describe himself as Catholic today. His views, he claims, align with the Apostle’s Creed and C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. I would think this qualifies as “Evangelical.”

I am struck by two things about the buzz surrounding D’Souza’s appointment.

First, King’s seems to be OK with D’Souza’s faith. That is all that matters. Like I said in my earlier post, I am not sure Percy Crawford or Bob Cook would have been completely happy with the choice, but D’Souza must have convinced the folks at King’s that he can work within an Evangelical Protestant framework. If Sarah Pulliam Bailey’s CT article is accurate, it does seem that D’Souza can work within this framework.

It also seems, and someone correct me if I am wrong, that D’Souza may have been more attractive to the folks at King’s for his conservative political and cultural views than his commitment to Protestant Evangelicalism.

Second, it always fascinates me how Evangelicals tend to be overly concerned with defining who is an Evangelical and who is not an Evangelical. Why are we so obsessed with this?

I remember a few years ago one of my Evangelical students enrolled in the very fine M.A. program in American religious history at Wheaton College. After taking a semester of classes and getting to know his fellow graduate students, he was very surprised at how much theological and historical discussion was devoted to trying to define Evangelicalism.

Messiah College is rooted in the Evangelical tradition, but we are a more ecumenically diverse place than Wheaton. Our Evangelical students–and they are a strong majority– often engage with fellow students who either do not speak Evangelical language or come from another Christian tradition. In the best of all possible worlds, the faith of our Evangelical students is enriched by this encounter, much in the same way that the lives of our Catholic, Episcopalian, Orthodox, and Lutheran students are enriched by their encounter with the Evangelical majority.

My student, who had a very embracing Christian college experience, could not grasp why his fellow Evangelical students and professors in his graduate program were so concerned about what he perceived to be narrow definitional issues.

So I would tell my Evangelical friends to avoid spending too much effort trying to figure out if D’Souza is part of the club. There are a lot more important projects that we of orthodox Christian faith need to tackle, and we need to do it together.

2 thoughts on “Dinesh D’Souza: Catholic or Evangelical?

  1. Tim: Good points. I am not ready yet to say that King's is a college in “name only,” but it is certainly a college with a particular political and cultural agenda. Of course you could probably say this about any institution of higher education, (including the one where I teach) whether it be a state university or a church-based liberal arts college.

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  2. John,

    It's not just Evangelicals who are concerned with whose in the club. Catholics are too, sadly–especially new converts and hyper-conservative Catholics.

    But on Dinesh D'Souza, my question is not so much whether he's Catholic, Evangelical, or something in-between, but why any self-respecting academic institution that cares about fairness, openness, and objectivity would want him to be the symbol of their institution? Of course the answer to my question is embedded in the nature of King's College, which is a “college” in name only.

    – Tim

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