The President of Fuller Seminary’s Speech at the Wheaton Consultation on Evangelicalism

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As many of you now know, evangelical leaders of the non-court evangelical variety met at Wheaton College earlier this week to discuss the future of evangelicalism.  See our coverage here.

One of the evangelical leaders in attendance at the meeting was Mark Labberton, president of Fuller Theological Seminary, a flagship evangelical institution in Pasadena, California.  On Fuller’s historic role as a vanguard of the 20th-century evangelical movement I strongly recommend George Marsden’s Reforming Fundamentalism: Fuller Seminar and the New Evangelicalism.

Labberton has spent most of his career as a pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA), but as president of Fuller (replacing evangelical icon Richard Mouw) he has become a prominent anti-Trump evangelical.  He is the editor of Still Evangelical: Insiders Reconsider Political, Social, and Theological Meaning.

Labberton spoke at the Wheaton gathering.  Here is a taste of what he said:

This is not a recent crisis but a historic one.  We face a haunting specter with a shadow that reaches back further than the 2016 election—a history that helps define the depth of the sorrow, fear, anger, anxiety, and injustice around us. Today’s egregious collusion between evangelicals and worldly power is problematic enough: more painful and revealing is that such collusion has been our historic habit. Today’s collusion bears astonishing—and tragic—continuity with the past.

Right alongside the rich history of gospel faithfulness that evangelicalism has affirmed, there lies a destructive complicity with dominant cultural and racial power. Despite deep gospel confidence and rhetoric, evangelicalism has been long-wedded to a devastating social self-interest that defends the dominant culture over and against that of the gospel’s command to love the “other” as ourselves.  We are not naïve in our doctrine of sin that prefers self over all, but we have failed to recognize our own guilt in it.

Our professed trust in Jesus has not led evangelicals to die to ourselves, but often to justify our own self-assertion—even when that means complicity in the suffering and death of others. The scandal associated today with the evangelical gospel is not the scandal of the Cross of Christ, crucified for the salvation of the world.  Rather it is the scandal of our own arrogance, unconfessed before the Cross, revealing a hypocritical superiority that we dare to associate with the God who died to save the weak and the lost.

In order to be concrete about this, let me choose what I believe to be the top four arenas in which this violation of spiritual and moral character has shown itself:

Read the rest here.

I am glad that Labberton sees this as a historical problem.  I assume this is why Mark Noll was at the Wheaton consultation.

CBN Reports That “Several Christian Leaders” Walked Out of the Wheaton Consultation on Evangelicalism

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Rumor has it that those who left the meeting made their way to this Wheaton, IL establishment (just kidding)

Here is a taste of Jenna Browder and David Brody’s report:

WASHINGTON – CBN News has confirmed that at least a few people walked out of an intense invite-only evangelical meeting this week at Wheaton College after the affair turned into “crazy Trump bashing.”  

The two-day gathering involved a group of faith leaders and was billed as a discussion of the evangelical movement in light of Trump’s presidency. But it became more than that.

Two sources with intimate knowledge of the meeting say the first day turned into a lot of “one-sided venting” against President Trump and the majority of evangelicals who voted for him.

Both sources confirm that the issue of sin came up in discussing how evangelicals could vote for Trump. “The conversations were difficult,” according to one source who attended both days of the meeting. “There was a lament.”

After that first day, a few people felt so uncomfortable with the rhetoric against Trump they left, forgoing the last day of the conference.

It’s important to note that no members of President Trump’s faith advisory group were present or ever officially invited.  

If this report is accurate, some of the leaders at Wheaton discussed whether or not voting for Trump might be considered a sinful act.  Frankly, I am glad this topic was discussed.

Read the entire article here.

Was John Kasich at the Wheaton Consultation on Evangelicalism?

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If you are not familiar with what I am calling “the Wheaton consultation on evangelicalism” get up to speed here.

According to The Wheaton Record, Ohio governor and 2016 GOP presidential candidate John Kasich was present for these conversations about evangelicalism in the age of Trump.

Here is a taste of Giselle Gaytan’s reporting:

The meetings took place Monday afternoon until evening and Tuesday morning in the Wilson Suite on the fourth floor of the Billy Graham Center, and many of the people in attendance were the leaders Keller spoke about.

According to the program, the attendees included Governor of Ohio John Kasich, author and pastor John Ortberg, pastor Charlie E. Dates, historian and professor Mark Noll and editor and writer Katelyn Beaty. The sessions opened with “Framing the Issue Before Us: ‘Still Evangelical?’” Eight different “issue groups” were discussed in session four, including “‘Islam, Public Virtue — Beyond Abortion and LGBTQ’ and ‘Who Leads? Partisan Media or Pastors?’”

Chaplain Timothy Blackmon told the Record that evangelicals in attendance included leaders from National Latino Evangelical Association, Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) and Christianity Today. Presidents of CCCU schools, pastors, authors, denominational leaders and public theologians also attended, coming from a diverse range of nations such as Croatia, Slovenia, Malaysia, China and Brazil.

Read the entire article here.

 

“Red Evangelicals” and “Blue Evangelicals”

Evangelicals met at Wheaton College this week to talk about the future of evangelicalism in the age of Trump.  We have written about this here and here.  The meeting took place behind closed doors, but we are starting to learn a bit about more thanks to participant Katelyn Beaty‘s twitter account:

Some quick observations based on Beaty’s tweets:

  1.  I am glad to see that Mark Noll is there.  This is a historical problem.
  2. A major realignment of American evangelicalism seems more realistic than ever.
  3. From the tweets, it does not appear that this meeting is about trying to reconcile with the court evangelicals.  It appears that this group is critiquing court evangelicalism and the 81% and trying to move in another direction.

Court Evangelicals: How Dare These Other Evangelical Leaders “Steal the Microphone” From Us!

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Wheaton College

CBN News is reporting that some of the court evangelicals are not particularly happy that evangelicals leaders who do not frequent the court of Donald Trump met at Wheaton College this week.

Here is a taste of Jenna Browder’s piece:

Those at the meeting held at Wheaton College indicated they wanted to make sure political allegiances to Trump don’t get in the way of the gospel message but it didn’t sit well with some evangelicals who support Trump’s policy initiatives.

Johnnie Moore, an unofficial spokesman for the Faith Advisory Council, was among the many pro-Trump evangelicals not invited.

“We don’t take it personally; we just pray for them,” Moore said in a statement to CBN News. “I’ve said it many, many times, but I’ll say it again: we have been honored to fight to protect religious liberty that even extends to protecting the rights of those who disagree with us on religious grounds, even when they are unkind.”

Robert Jeffress is another advisor not included.  

Richard Land also questioned the weight of the meeting given the absence of some well-known names. 

“Any definition of ‘thought leaders’ and any definition of evangelicalism that excludes the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Franklin Graham is a pale imitation – anemic and incomplete,” said Land. 

Other members of Trump’s Faith Advisory Council spoke to CBN News off the record, one voicing his concern over what he sees as this group of evangelicals trying to steal the microphone from those who support Trump. He pointed to the fact that many invited to participate are part of the anti-Trump movement and hold more progressive views on public policy than traditional evangelical Christian voters who supported Trump in 2016.

“It’s a meeting that will have very little impact on evangelicalism as a whole,” Jeffress told CBN News. “Many of them are sincere but they are having a hard time understanding that they have little impact on evangelicalism.”

Read the entire piece here.  The response of the court evangelicals speaks volumes.  They seem legitimately bothered that this other meeting has taken place.

As I wrote in The Washington Post on July 17, 2017: “The court evangelicals are changing the religious landscape in the United States. The Trump presidency is only six months old, but it is already beginning to alter long-standing spiritual alignments.”

What Do You Get When You Google “Evangelicals”

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Wheaton College

“When you Google evangelicals, you get Trump.”

This is what Doug Birdsall, the honorary chair of the evangelical Lausanne Movement, recently told Washington Post reported Sarah Pulliam Bailey.  (Birdsall also had a very brief stint as CEO of the American Bible Society.  I chronicled it here).

Is Birsdall correct?  Yes.  Earlier today I typed the word “evangelicals” into Google and these were some of the top hits:

Christian Host: Evangelicals Back Trump Because His Oval Office is Scandal-Free 

For many, Christianity and Trumpism are synonymous.  These evangelicals are pushing back

President Trump gets a Stormy Daniels bump with evangelicals

Evangelicals are planning a high-profile meeting with Trump

An Anti-Trumper Evangelical Weighs in on Trump’s True Believers

Evangelicals and Trump

A group of evangelical anti-Trumpers is planning to meet at Wheaton College next week to address this issue.  Maybe I should get Eerdmans to send all of them an Advanced Readers Copy of Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump. 🙂

Those attending are Tim Keller, A.R. Bernard (former court evangelical), Birdsall, Darrell Bock, Jenny Yang, Mark Labberton, Ed Stetzer, Jo Anne Lyon, Harold Smith, and Gabriel Salguero.

Here is a taste of Pulliam-Bailey’s piece:

About 50 top leaders of major evangelical institutions will attend an invitation-only gathering next week to discuss the future and the “soul” of evangelicalism at a time when many of them are concerned their faith group has become tainted by its association with divisive politics under President Trump.

The diverse group, which includes nationally known pastors such as Tim Keller and A.R. Bernard, is expected to include leaders of major ministries, denominations, colleges and seminaries. The gathering will take place at Wheaton College, an evangelical college outside of Chicago, according to organizer Doug Birdsall, honorary chair of Lausanne, an international movement of evangelicals.

The gathering, which has been in the works for several months and was discussed at evangelist Billy Graham’s funeral last month, will take place before the expected meeting of a separate group of evangelicals who advise, defend and praise Trump. Those leaders, which include members of Trump’s informal advisory council, are considering convening at Trump International Hotel in Washington in June.

Read the rest here.  Let’s remember that not all “evangelical leaders” are court evangelicals.

On Religious Exemptions

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Wheaton College is featured in this article

I found this article helpful.  The author is Patrick Hornbeck, chair and associate professor of theology at Fordham University.

Here is a taste of “The Tragedy of Religious Freedom”:

It’s clear that for at least the foreseeable future, religious exemptions will remain the subject of hotly contested battles in courts and legislatures. There is no easy solution, since as legal scholar Kent Greenawalt has noted, the two Religion Clauses of the First Amendment often stand in tension with each other and, as a result, “a good bit of the prevailing law is genuinely confusing.” The question I have been raising here—who, if anyone, should be the arbiter of whether a behavior is sufficiently grounded in religious conviction to qualify for an exemption that might be available—is just a starting point.

Read the entire piece at Religion Dispatches.

Congratulations to Crystal and David Downing

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Photo credit: Wheaton College

My Messiah College colleague Crystal Downing will be leaving us next year.  She and her husband, C.S. Lewis scholar David Downing, are headed to Wheaton College.  This is a huge loss for Messiah, but I can’t think of a better couple to share the Marion E. Wade Chair of Christian Thought at Wheaton.  Congratulations!

Here is the press release:

The Marion E. Wade Center is delighted to announce the appointment of Dr. Crystal Downing and Dr. David C. Downing as co-directors and co-holders of the Marion E. Wade Chair of Christian Thought. As Lisa Richmond, Director of Library and Archives at Wheaton College, explains, “The opportunity to have two such distinguished scholars leading the Wade Center is very exciting and holds great promise for continuing the Wade’s strong legacy of work on the seven authors. We are thrilled that the Downings are joining Wheaton in this role.” As co-directors, the Downings will share administrative responsibilities, and as a joint appointment they will also have significantly more time to invest in writing and research on the Wade authors. They will take up their responsibilities at the Wade Center on July 1, 2018.

Dr. Crystal Downing is currently Distinguished Professor of English and Film Studies at Messiah College, PA. She has published on a variety of topics, with much of her recent scholarship focused on the relationship between cultural theory and religious faith. Her first book, Writing Performances: The Stages of Dorothy L. Sayers (Palgrave Macmillan 2004) received an international award from the Dorothy L. Sayers Society in Cambridge, England in 2009. The thought of Sayers and C.S. Lewis is evident in Crystal’s next two books, How Postmodernism Serves (My) Faith (IVP Academic 2006) and Changing Signs of Truth (IVP Academic 2012). The success of her fourth book, Salvation from Cinema (Routledge 2016) has led to her current book project, The Wages of Cinema: Looking through the Lens of Dorothy L. Sayers. Crystal has received a number of teaching awards and was the recipient of the Clyde S. Kilby Research Grant for 2001 from the Wade Center. She holds a PhD in English from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Dr. David Downing currently serves as the R.W. Schlosser Professor of English at Elizabethtown College, PA. He has published widely on C.S. Lewis, including Planets in Peril: A Critical Study of C.S. Lewis’s Ransom Trilogy (UMass 1992), The Most Reluctant Convert: C.S. Lewis’s Journey to Faith (IVP 2002), which was awarded the Clyde S. Kilby Research Grant for 2000, Into the Region of Awe: Mysticism in C.S. Lewis (IVP 2005), and Into the Wardrobe: C.S. Lewis and the Narnia Chronicles (Jossey-Bass 2005). David is also the editor of C.S. Lewis’s The Pilgrim’s Regress: The Wade Annotated Edition (Eerdmans, 2014). A prolific speaker and writer, David has spoken extensively throughout the U.S. and internationally. He has received numerous teaching awards and holds a PhD in English from the University of California at Los Angeles.

The Downings are the first to be jointly appointed to the Wade directorship in the more than 50-year history of the Wade Center. They follow Wade founder and first director Clyde S. Kilby (1965–1980), director Lyle W. Dorsett (1983–1990), and director Christopher W. Mitchell (1994–2013).

Let’s Remember That Young Evangelicals Have Never Been a Moral Majority

183a7-wheatonThe Economist “Lexington” columnist visited Wheaton College and this is what he/she found:

...One of America’s foremost Christian institutions, it was founded by abolitionists in 1860 and doubled as a stop on the Underground Railway. These days its leafy campus also houses a museum dedicated to a famous alumnus, Billy Graham, “America’s pastor”, in the admiring phrase of George H.W. Bush. And in the political-science class to which Lexington was welcomed, the students, 14 evangelical sophomores from across America, seemed mindful of that dual legacy.

They were contemptuous of the acquiescence, or worse, of their co-religionists to Mr Trump’s racial divisiveness. “Evangelical Christianity is supposed to be about love thy neighbour,” said Tim, a uniformed soldier from Ohio. “It gave me a sense of betrayal,” said Jessica, a Mexican-American from San Diego. “It was like our own community turned against my family.” Like Mr Graham, the students also worried that the church had become too political and too partisan. “We’ve become over-identified with a political party,” said Drew, from Pittsburgh. Only two of the students had voted for Mr Trump (though most of their parents had). Nine said they were now uneasy about being identified as evangelical.

Read the entire piece here.

Can Evangelical Christian Colleges Learn Anything from John Henry Newman?

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Some evangelicals at Christian Colleges do not believe that John Henry Newman is useful today because his famous book The Idea of a University is addressed to Christian “gentlemen.”  I understand this critique. I also think it is short-sighted.  Indeed, Newman wrote the lectures that became Idea in 1854–a time when the most prestigious British universities were only open to men.  But his lectures on the university also offer a lot of interesting insights for anyone who works, teachers, or leads a Christian college.

In a plenary address at “The State of the Evangelical Mind” conference this past week, Tim Larsen, the McManis Chair of Christian Thought at Wheaton College, applied Newman’s work to the task of cultivating the evangelical mind on Christian college campuses.

Drawing from Newman, Larsen offered several characteristics of a Christian liberal arts college:

  1. Christian liberal arts colleges must pursue “substantial knowledge.”  Students should study those things that distinguish us from other animals.  Larsen argued that money should be used to pursue this kind of “substantial knowledge” and not the other way around.
  2. Christian liberal arts colleges are about “formation,” not careerism or the pursuit of monetary comfort.
  3. Liberal arts colleges must promote “the entire circle of knowledge.”  They should embrace and celebrate the fact that psychologists, biologists, historians, sociologists, economists, and theologians, among others, all offer useful ways of understanding the world.
  4. Students at Christian liberal arts colleges should not be sheltered from “unsettling realities.”  When students are sheltered from certain ideas they are only “delaying their education” and, in essence, turning their education over to the world.
  5.  Theology must be a core discipline at a Christian liberal arts college and it must inform all the other disciplines.

The Q&A was lively.  I was interested in how Larsen’s model might work at a college without a denominational or Christian confessional core or specific doctrinal statement beyond the basic historic Christian creeds. At the college where I teach there is no particular theological system that can serve as a starting point for how theology might inform the work we do in our fields.  Jay Green followed up on my question by asking Larsen how to balance disciplinary-specific ways of thinking with the integrated model Larsen proposed in his lecture.

I liked Larsen’s lecture and have always been attracted to the kind of Christian liberal arts institutions that he described (with a lot of help from Newman).  I do wonder whether such a vision would only work at a handful of Christian colleges.  At most Christian colleges the humanities (the study of the things that separate us from other animals) are in decline, professional programs prevail, and students decide what to study based on economic considerations. Some Christian colleges even prevent students from engaging with certain texts and ideas that are considered dangerous by the administrators in charge.

Football and God

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The NFL season began last night.  That means it’s time for Christianity Today and other religious publications to start publishing pieces on Christianity and football.  This year is no exception.  Check out this piece by Paul Putz and Hunter Hampton, two emerging scholars of religion and sport.

Here is a taste of “God and the Gridiron Game“:

Some Protestants, especially “muscular Christians” like Yale graduate and University of Chicago football coach Amos Alonzo Stagg, saw nothing wrong with the physicality of the sport. Indeed, football’s defenders often cited the prevalence of pious “praying” players as evidence of the game’s compatibility with Christian morality. But many Protestant leaders denounced football’s brutality. Charles Blanchard, president of Wheaton College from 1882 until 1925, took this view. He placed football in the same category as gambling and hard liquor, and viewed the sport not as a heroic, manly game, but a savage sport inhibiting students’ development into productive and civilized men.

In the 1890s and early 1900s, football’s leaders responded to critics like Blanchard by instituting a series of reforms (such as the legalization of the forward pass and the elimination of mass plays) to open up the game. Over time the rule changes helped to protect football from charges of brutality.

The passion that the game inspired in participants and spectators protected football as well. Presbyterian theologian J. Gresham Machen was one of many to fall under its spell. “When I see a vacant field on one of these autumn days,” Machen wrote to a friend while in Europe in 1905, “my mind is filled with wonder at this benighted people which does not seem to hear the voice of nature when she commands every human being to play football or watch it being played.”

Read the entire piece here.  In their next piece, I would like to see Hampton and Putz historicize this story.  How much longer can Christian colleges continue to field football teams and keep their moral integrity?

The Prophetic Witness of American Evangelicals

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Ed Stetzer, the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College, gets it right in his recent piece at Christianity Today.  According to Stetzer, “if you are unable to critique a president, you’ve lost your prophetic witness.”

Here is a taste:

This is key, and the point of my article today. These events don’t call people’s loyalty into question, they expose the loyalty they already have in their hearts. And that’s concerning when the Rorschach test exposes where their hope truly lies…

I don’t think everyone needs to speak up on everything, but I’m talking about those who defend that which Trump saw that he needed to correct—with him (finally) condemning racism in this instance.

Christians have a prophetic witness, but we can lose that witness when we are unable to see (or speak to) the errors or failings of leaders. And if Christians feel the need to defend even an obvious and divisive mistake (and my Twitter feed is filled with those people), they hurt the church’s witness and tie it too closely to a person, not the truth.

Now, if that’s your job in the White House, I get it. You sometimes have to defend even the errors. But if Christians do the same, it shows the world that our loyalty is to the person in the White House rather than the Person who said He is the Truth.

If you are a Christian, you should be able to speak out against error, injustice, and the depraved strategy of silence. Many did, some said nothing, but some went to the defense of something, ironically, the President two days later felt the need to correct.

If you’re a Christian who acts like President Trump can do no wrong, you’re giving the message that he’s the savior. He’s not. He is fallible, human, and makes mistakes that we, as responsible Christians and members of Christ’s household, should not be afraid to address.

So, rather than defending his error, which he himself felt the need to correct today, search your heart and ask, have I become too connected to a secular leader?

Read the rest here.

What is Bernie Sanders Doing?

This is why many evangelicals turn to a strongman like Donald Trump. They believe that their religious liberties are under attack and Trump will defend them.

Whatever one thinks about Russel Vought’s religious beliefs or the way he handled Bernie’s grilling, what happened here should concern all of us.  Even atheists are concerned.

This seems to me to be a clear violation of Article VI of the United States Constitution: “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

Here is a taste of Emma Green’s piece on the incident at The Atlantic:

Article VI of the U.S. Constitution states that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” On Wednesday, Senator Bernie Sanders flirted with the boundaries of this rule during a confirmation hearing for Russell Vought, President Trump’s nominee for deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Sanders took issue with a piece Vought wrote in January 2016 about a fight at the nominee’s alma mater, Wheaton College. The Christian school had fired a political-science professor, Larycia Hawkins, for a Facebook post intended to express solidarity with Muslims. Vought disagreed with Hawkins’s post and defended the school in an article for the conservative website The Resurgent. During the hearing, Sanders repeatedly quoted one passage that he found particularly objectionable:

Muslims do not simply have a deficient theology. They do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ his Son, and they stand condemned.

“In my view, the statement made by Mr. Vought is indefensible, it is hateful, it is Islamophobic, and it is an insult to over a billion Muslims throughout the world,” Sanders told the committee during his introductory remarks. “This country, since its inception, has struggled, sometimes with great pain, to overcome discrimination of all forms … we must not go backwards.”

Later, during the question-and-answer portion of the hearing, Sanders brought this up again. “Do you believe that statement is Islamophobic?” he asked Vought.

“Absolutely not, Senator,” Vought replied. “I’m a Christian, and I believe in a Christian set of principles based on my faith.”

Where Sanders saw Islamophobia and intolerance, Vought believed he was stating a basic principle of his belief as an evangelical Christian: that faith in Jesus is the only pathway to salvation. And where Sanders believed he was policing bigotry in public office, others believed he was imposing a religious test. As Russell Moore, the head of the political arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, said in a statement, “Even if one were to excuse Senator Sanders for not realizing that all Christians of every age have insisted that faith in Jesus Christ is the only pathway to salvation, it is inconceivable that Senator Sanders would cite religious beliefs as disqualifying an individual for public office.”

Read the entire piece here.

Many conservative evangelicals are likely to turn this into another culture war issue. Few will try to use this incident to think more deeply about how to balance the exclusivist claims of religious faith with participation in a pluralistic society.  The former is easy, and because it is easy it often becomes our default position.  The latter takes hard work–work I am not sure many evangelicals are interested in, or capable of, performing.

Mark Noll Talks Trump, Hawkins, and the Evangelical Mind

NollCheck out this interview with Noll at The Wheaton Record, the student newspaper of Wheaton College.  As many of you know, Noll taught at Wheaton for 27 years before moving to Notre Dame for the final decade of his teaching career.  In this wide-ranging interview Noll talks about Donald Trump’s election, the Larycia Hawkins case at Wheaton, his retirement plans, and the state of the evangelical mind.

Here is a taste of editor Ciera Horton’s interview:

C: The word “evangelical” took center stage in the presidential election and continues to do so. However, there does seem to be a disconnect between Trump’s policies such as the now-blocked travel ban, immigration and sole support for Israel which Christians are divided on — so how do you explain the evangelical support and winning the evangelical vote?

M: I think what’s called “evangelical support for Trump” had to do with the pro-life position of the Republican party, it had to do with a lot of antagonism against some of the cultural steps taken by the Obama administration. It certainly had to do with the memory of Bill Clinton’s immorality in the White House, and a lot of white evangelicals were concerned about economics…I do think we have increasing numbers of Christian academics who would have a much more sophisticated approach to political life than, “I’m angry at Hillary so I’m voting for Trump.” But I’m worried about the Christian populace at large listening all the time to their media go-to and never being concerned about folks who are trying to see things more broadly.

Read the entire interview here.  It appears just in time for Nollstock (Nollfest?, Nollapalooza?) next month.

Larycia Hawkins Lands at the University of Virginia

Hawkins_LFormer Wheaton College political science professor Larycia Hawkins will spend the next three years at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia.

Here is a taste of a piece at the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Larycia A. Hawkins, the associate professor of political science who was placed on leave by Wheaton College, in Illinois, for expressing solidarity with Muslim students, has a new job, at the University of Virginia.

She will conduct research on the relationship between religions and race at the university’s Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture as the Abd el-Kader Visiting Faculty Fellow, which is named for the 19th-century Islamic scholar and leader. The position is renewable for up to three years.

A decade ago, Ms. Hawkins was a fellow at UVa’s Miller Center, which the university calls “a nonpartisan institute that seeks to expand understanding of the presidency, policy, and political history.”

Ms. Hawkins and Wheaton, which suspended her in December over her assertion that Muslims and Christians “worship the same God” and her decision to wear a hijab in solidarity with Muslims, reached a “confidential agreement”last month that resulted in her departure from the institution, where she was the first and only black female tenured professor.

The Executive Director at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture is sociologist James Davidson Hunter. The Institute publishes the Hedgehog Review.

 

Did Wheaton College and Larycia Hawkins Really “Reconcile?”

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Jacob Lupfer, a graduate Oklahoma Baptist University and a doctoral candidate in political science at Georgetown University, is not buying it.

Here is a taste of his recent piece at Religion News Service:

(RNS) The ongoing drama of Professor Larycia Hawkins’ strained relationship with her employer, evangelical Wheaton College, was headed for a climactic heresy trial this month.

Instead, the parties announced in a Saturday (Feb. 6) statement that they will part ways, despite supposedly having “found a mutual place of resolution and reconciliation.”

If separating from a tenured professor under a confidential agreement is “reconciliation,” then surely the word has no meaning.

Confidential agreements often include undisclosed financial payments. I have no insight into what legal counsel Hawkins may have received. But if Wheaton did pay Hawkins to go away, then selling the departure as reconciliation seems especially egregious.

Unfortunately, actual reconciliation was unlikely right from the start of this bungled episode. Hawkins had run afoul of Wheaton’s conservative ethos before, as when she was photographed in a Chicago home on the day of the LGBT pride parade.

Read the rest here.

Academic Freedom: From the University of Washington to Wheaton College

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Several years ago Tracy McKenzie moved from the University of Washington to Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois.  He is thus ideally suited to speak about the issues surrounding academic freedom at Wheaton in the context of the Larycia Hawkins case.

Here is a taste of his post “Academic Freedom in a Christian Context” from his blog “Faith and American History.”

My professional life has been framed by two very different institutions. For the first twenty-two years of my academic career, I taught at the University of Washington in Seattle. In many ways, my time there was a blessing. The UW is an elite academic institution with an extraordinary faculty and world-class resources. During my time there it boasted five Nobel Prize winners, one of the largest libraries in North America, and was ranked by the Economist as one of the top twenty public universities in the world.

I also made several good friends at UW and benefited from a number of genuinely kind colleagues who took sincere interest in my well being, both personal and professional. Finally, I should acknowledge that I flourished there professionally—in certain respects. I was awarded tenure, rose in rank from assistant to associate to full professor, won the university’s distinguished teaching award, and was accorded a prestigious endowed chair in U. S. history.

And yet while I was experiencing a certain measure of professional success, my soul was always deeply divided. I can best describe the alienation I felt by quoting from Harry Blamires, one of the last students of C. S. Lewis. In his book The Christian Mind, Blamires wrote hauntingly of “the loneliness of the thinking Christian.” Describing my life at UW, Blamires described his own experience as a Christian in the secular academy as akin to being “caught up, entangled, in the lumbering day-to-day operations of a machinery working in many respects in the service of ends that I rejected.”

That is eventually how I came to think of my time at UW. For all of its discrete strengths, the university is less than the sum of its parts. Like the secular academy overall, it is “hollow at its core,” to borrow the words of historian George Marsden.  There is no common foundation, no cohering vision, no basis for meaningful unity. After twenty-two years of faculty meetings, I can attest to the truth that the faculty functioned best as a group when we avoided larger questions about our collective mission and purpose. As long as we could each do our own thing we were fine.

When it came to matters of faith, the university’s unwritten policy was a variation of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” It celebrated racial and ethnic diversity relentlessly but was never all that enthusiastic about a genuine diversity of worldviews, at least among the faculty and in the curriculum. If you espoused a vague “spirituality” that made no demands on anyone–or better yet, seemed to reinforce the standard liberal positions of the political Left–all well and good. Otherwise, it was best to remember that religious belief was a private matter that was irrelevant to our teaching and our scholarship.

For twenty-two years I accommodated my sense of calling to this secular dogma, bracketing my faith and limiting explicit Christian expressions and Christian reflections to private conversations with students who sought me out. In his book Let Your Life Speak: Listening to the Voice of Vocation, Parker Palmer writes movingly about the costs of such segmentation. Vocation is a calling to a way of life more than to a sphere of life. “Divided no more!” is Palmer’s rallying cry.

If I were to characterize my experience since coming to Wheaton five and a half years ago, these are the words that first come to mind–divided no more. Wheaton is not a perfect place, nor did I expect it to be one when I came here. But I can honestly say that I have experienced much greater academic freedom at Wheaton than I ever did at the secular university that I left.

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