I recently Unfriended someone on Facebook, a former student in my church Youth Group. Their posts had turned increasingly political and hostile toward religion. They were now officially on the Bash the Church bandwagon, critical of all they (and their parents) once held sacred. So what happened to the innocent teenager I once knew? Answer: They went to college.
Radio talk show host Dennis Prager, in a column entitled Why God Isn’t Doing Well These Days, offered four reasons why the belief in God is declining in America. His number one reason is
…increasingly large numbers of men and women attend university, and Western universities have become essentially secular (and leftist) seminaries. Just as the agenda of traditional Christian and Jewish seminaries is to produce religious Christians and religious Jews, the agenda of Western universities is to produce (left-wing) secularists.
…the more university education a person receives, the more he is likely to hold secular and left-wing views.
Prager’s argument is a fairly common one, an argument employed by many Evangelicals: Growing secularism is due to an atheistic academia.
While I don’t disagree with the assertion that “Western universities have become essentially secular (and leftist) seminaries,” I question whether or not universities are the primary cause of secularism in America. You see, I think the Church is more at fault for the rise of secularism than the University. Or to put it another way:
The growth of secularism is not due to the rise of the University but the decline of religion.
In Why College Students Are Losing Their Faith, Conor Friedersdorf takes on Prager’s assertion this way:
…if four years of college undo 18 years of parenting and religious affiliation, perhaps the faith community’s tenuous hold is the problem, not the particular place outside its bubble where that hold evaporates. Consider the believers we’ve seen in history. With all the persecution that Judaism and Christianity have survived over the centuries, an argument that sites America’s Top 310 Colleges as a first order adversary is hard to credit. (emphasis mine)
Is it just me, or do we Christians constantly look for scapegoats for our lack of cultural influence? Instead of looking in the mirror and letting judgment begin in the house of God (I Pet. 4:17), we point fingers at Hollywood, the media, the press, and the universities. Everyone’s to blame but us. No wonder America is being swiftly secularized — Christians have been in cultural retreat for the last half century, building our own echo chambers to keep us unspoiled from the world.
Listen, the Church has survived centuries of persecution, corruption, martyrdom, even genocide, and now we want to blame… colleges? Jesus said that the gates of hell could not withstand His church (Matt. 16:18). I think the secular university fits in that category.