Congratulations to Philip Jenkins for his balanced article “Teaching Religion and Religious Teaching” (December 1996). I witnessed the peculiar status of religious studies programs during my undergraduate years (1976-80), when most major public university humanities programs were dominated by people whose various political disagreements were bridged by a shared hostility toward traditional Judaism and Christianity. That hostility translated into an aggressive misinterpretation of the First Amendment which absolutized the establishment clause (freedom from religion), while trashing the free exercise (freedom for religion) and freedom of speech clauses.
This hostility toward Jewish and Christian faith combined with naiveté regarding religio-political passions, leaving more moderate academics defenseless against movements claiming secularhumanist justification (i.e., based on equal rights and personal responsibility). While militant Afrocentrists, feminists, and Hispanic and “queer” nationalists believed neither in equality nor personal responsibility, secular humanists, already in thrall to therapeutic notions opposed to equality and responsibility, no longer knew what they believed.
Despite their own internal chaos, the insurgents won through aggression and the appearance of certainty. Secular humanists fancied themselves as being universally tolerant, but they were simultaneously fascinated with and afraid of those who seemed certain and ruthless.
Once ensconced in their own autonomous programs, the insurgents set about taking over, beefing up, and agitating for one program after another (remedial skills, minority counseling, English as a Second Language, education, English literature, comp lit, etc.). Needing a rallying point that would be generic vet visible, the insurgents conceived the “privileged, white heterosexual male,” and identified him with “western civilization” and “Judaism and Christianity.” So what if “Europe,” “whites,” and “Christianity and Judaism” were hardly synonymous? As Jenkins points out, these religions were born in the Mideast and spread through Northern Africa and Asia (and some 90 percent of American blacks are Christians). Thus, devout Jews and Christians teaching religion must be silenced because they are “the enemy,” while feminist, Islamic, Afrocentric, and gay theologians may proselytize without fear.
This is the logical result of higher education today, which has sacrificed truth on the altar of the self and permitted certain groups to create God and the world in their own image.
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