Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Evangelical higher education and the Left

Had Christopher Hayes demonstrated any awareness of God on the Quad, I might have been inclined to say this was a decent bit of follow-up reporting, accompanied by ideologically flawed analysis. He quite often lets his subjects speak for themselves, admits some variety and nuance in the position he examines, and does not snark too much in his own commentary.

Here’s an example of his analysis, taken from his discussion of the role of "Christian worldview" in evangelical higher education:

[T]he insistence on the quantity and even the rigor of the debate obscures the real issue: just what is subject to debate. What a worldview does is cleave the world into two, identifying in one column those first principles that are taken as given (there is a God, Jesus Christ is His only son) and, in the other column, the many beliefs, values, and positions that one might hold that are less certain (like under what conditions preemptive war is justified). Exactly which beliefs get put in which column is going to have profound political consequences, even if the worldview isn’t taught with an explicitly or predominantly political end in mind. If you suggest to students that an opposition to abortion and a defense of “traditional marriage” are foundational aspects of a Christian worldview, you will very likely produce reliable Republican voters.

As he comes back to it time and again, this appears to be pretty close to his real sticking point. His preferred position is what he calls the "fact-value split," which, he says, "embodies a kind of forced humility that, frankly, keeps the entire liberal democratic enterprise running." But he never explains why abortion and marriage are (or ought to be) "private matters of conscience," like "dietary choices" (note the word) or "which day to worship," and not "public matters of law." It sounds to me like he has a "worldview" that isn’t subject to debate.

Finally, his complaint that colleges and universities that teach a "Christian worldview" end up producing Republicans may say as much about the Democratic Party as it says about the colleges and universities. If the Democratic Party were genuinely a "big tent" on these issues, if it had not effectively become (as the Roberts hearings revealed all too clearly) essentially the "Party of Roe," then other issues--poverty, the AIDS crisis in Africa, and so on--might loom larger for students and faculty at these schools, with a somewhat different partisan split emerging as a result.

Don’t get me wrong, dear readers. I’m not arguing that Republicans are wrong and Democrats are right on these other issues. Far from it. But to the extent that how to deal with the sad fact of poverty, for example, is a matter of prudential judgment, "reasonable people" (evangelical Christians, for example) are going to disagree.

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