Christian FlagSome thoughts after writing sections of a paper on eschatological discourse in the Bible, Talmuds, and Qur’an all night…

Class discussion today was interesting, to say the least. Topic was American fundamentalism, and we came at the topic from two directions. One, politics and the media, and Two, the role of education in “the culture wars” over “family values.” Combination of things that came up got me thinking about a whole bunch of related topics.

First of all, I should just say that while I realize all to well the baggage that “born again” carries with it, as a symbol or metaphor it’s pretty darn good, and it’s a shame that this element of what Jesus was getting at is tarnished by so much judgmentalism and hypocrisy and especially of the triteness it connotes these days.

David James Duncan recently wrote that he was raised a chosen person, although it was not of his choosing. That’s an equally fitting description of so many Gen X and Y’ers who were like me, being born and brought up born again. I’m all for preserving and passing on the family and community faith. Of course. And in the context of today’s class, several students, God bless ’em, realized that for kids like this, the culture wars (such as they are today) aren’t being fought on fair turf. They’re being fought precisely on those kids who are being brought up born again. Born again/evangelical parents are not out in the trenches to fight for what they think is “the Christian worldview” (which is just as well, because I can’t even find THE Christian worldview, but that’s a post for another day). They’re putting their kids in the trenches; just look at Ron Luce’s Battle Cry. But it’s also evident in the educational process. We have “Christian Colleges,” like the one I went to way back when, a very typical, “this-is-your-father’s-evangelicalism-style” Christian college in Massachusetts. We have “Christian schools”, high schools and elementary schools, middle schools and preschools, out the wazoo. And they’re all evangelical schools, designed by and for evangelical parents and born again students. (And yes, I’m labelling here, knowing perfectly well that Parochial School are also Christian schools, but the “Christian School” label has been so coopted by Protestant Evangelicals with their heads up their … never mind.) And homeschool coops and individual homeschool families are pretty much radical vanguard of getting bona-fide Christian (read: evangelical) education that will ensure that our kids come to think the same way we do, or at least think the way we want them to think about our religion and our values.

Then I had one of those moments. How come we don’t have any “mainline” or “progressive” or (heaven forbid!) “liberal” Christian institutions of learning? There are Catholic ones. There are Evangelical ones. There are colleges and universities (perhaps most of them, in fact) that were founded by and affiliated with mainline denominations (like Methodists or Presbyterians) but who are no longer connected with their denominational ancestry. What is the deal here? For those of us who are uncomfortable with Evangelical hegemony over the role Christianity (and religion in general) could or should play in our society, why are there no other options for Protestants, or Jews, or Muslims, or whatever?

I have some thoughts, but I’m interested in hearing others’. Start things off; I’m going to bed, but will check in tomorrow and probably write a follow-up or two.