Last weekend, the Washington Post reported on a new survey by the Institute for Jewish and Community Research. The survey found that "53 percent of its sample of 1,200 college and university faculty members said they have 'unfavorable' feelings toward evangelical Christians." That's far higher than the unfavorable ratings for any other religious group—the next highest was Mormons at 33 percent, followed by Muslims at 22 percent.
The American Association of University Professors tries to explain away the statistic as a result of how professors feel about Christian political engagement or Christian views on science. But as pollster Gary Tobin counters, "If a majority of faculty said they did not feel warmly about Muslims or Jews or Latinos or African Americans, there would be an outcry. . . . No one would say, 'The reason they feel this way is because they don't like the politics of blacks or the politics of Jews."
Now I need to stress that I'm not crying "persecution." When Christians in some countries are being killed for their faith, we should thank God every day that we can exercise our freedom of religion. Besides, as my colleague Roberto Rivera points out on our blog, The Point, it was Jesus Himself who told us, "Blessed are you when they insult you . . . because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven."
So there's not much surprising here. But it's still a valid concern. Christian college students have a right to the same respect and consideration from their professors as every other student, and when the professor judges them solely on the basis of their religion, it can mean serious consequences for their education and future job prospects. Much less what it says about the entire university system.
The Post cites a Missouri State University student who, when she wouldn't complete an assignment in support of same-sex adoptions, "was hauled before a faculty panel on a charge of discriminating against gays." The student filed suit and the university settled. But not all cases end this well. And what about Christians trying to keep their jobs as professors?
But the problem goes beyond how individuals are treated within the system. Colleges and universities play an enormous role in shaping the thinking of every generation, and professors know it.
Is it any wonder, then, that our universities are producing generations of people who consider Christianity anti-intellectual at best, and oppressive at worst? And remember, the influence of our universities goes way beyond the campus gates and the classroom. The very same professors who distrust evangelical Christianity are publishing enormously influential reports, studies, and books that make headlines, influence political leaders, and shape our culture in profound ways.
So what are we as Christians do? First, prepare our young people for what lies ahead. Visit our website, BreakPoint.org, for Christian worldview materials that can help—especially if you have high school teens, our curriculum called ReWired. Second, we need to encourage more Christians to pursue academic careers. Third, we need not be discouraged. We know that Truth will win out—even in the halls of academia.
From BreakPoint®, May 10, 2007, Copyright 2007, Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with the permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or distributed without the express written permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. "BreakPoint®" and "Prison Fellowship Ministries®" are registered trademarks of Prison Fellowship Ministries