Jesus and the Dispossessed, by Justin Phillips

(AP Photo/David Goldman)
(AP Photo/David Goldman)

“Very few African-American Christians would consider themselves to be evangelical, because for many the term often implies a white racist.” – Marquez Ball

By  in The Other Journal

At the Republican National Convention, Senator Lindsey Graham noted the shifting national demographics and commented, “We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.”1

Graham said this at the 2012 convention.

Hundreds of pieces will be published as a postmortem on those Americans, particularly evangelicals, who supported Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. Robert P. Jones has recently referred to them as “nostalgia voters . . . culturally and economically disaffected voters that are anxious to hold on to a white conservative Christian culture that’s passing from the scene.”

Rod Dreher says this bloc holds the paradoxical view that the future is rightfully theirs and that the space for them in the United States is shrinking. This “dispossession,” as Dreher calls it, is “psychologically traumatic to certain whites who expected the world to work in a different way—a way that favored them.”2 Trump and his ilk offer a temporary balm to the damaged psyche of the dispossessed by making them feel good about who they are (i.e., real Americans) and what they could be (i.e., great again), all of which is tied directly to who they are not (i.e., immigrants, Muslims, etc.).

Marquez Ball further complicates things by suggesting that the term evangelical evokes racist undertones, saying, “Very few African American Christians would consider themselves to be evangelical, because for many the term often implies a white racist. . . . The 2016 presidential campaign of Donald Trump is challenging white evangelicals to prove that evangelical is not a code word for ‘white racist.’” As Michael Horton says, “many who call themselves evangelicals today find their ultimate loyalty in preserving or regaining a lost socio-political and cultural, perhaps even racial, hegemony.”3 Both Ball and Horton identify the significant baggage of the term evangelical, now reinforced by those who support Trump’s candidacy, which is simply an undercurrent of what evangelicalism has always been in America. If white evangelicals wish to be reconciled with people of color, then they should confess precisely how they have been possessed by something other than the faith they proclaim, irrespective of the repercussions that will befall the penitent and their structures of power.

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The Day the Purpose of College Changed, by Dan Berrett

After February 28, 1967, the main reason to go was to get a job

If a university is not a place where intellectual curiosity is to be encouraged, and subsidized, then it is nothing.

The newly elected Gov. Ronald Reagan confronted student protesters in Sacramento just weeks before dismissing “intellectual luxuries.” (Bettmann, Corbis, AP Images)
The newly elected Gov. Ronald Reagan confronted student protesters in Sacramento just weeks before dismissing “intellectual luxuries.” (Bettmann, Corbis, AP Images)

The governor had bad news: The state budget was in crisis, and everyone needed to tighten their belts.

High taxes threatened “economic ruin,” said the newly elected Ronald Reagan. Welfare stood to be curbed, the highway patrol had fat to trim. Everything would be pared down; he’d start with his own office.

California still boasted a system of public higher education that was the envy of the world. And on February 28, 1967, a month into his term, the Republican governor assured people that he wouldn’t do anything to harm it. “But,” he added, “we do believe that there are certain intellectual luxuries that perhaps we could do without,” for a little while at least.

“Governor,” a reporter asked, “what is an intellectual luxury?”

Reagan described a four-credit course at the University of California at Davis on organizing demonstrations. “I figure that carrying a picket sign is sort of like, oh, a lot of things you pick up naturally,” he said, “like learning how to swim by falling off the end of a dock.”

Whole academic programs in California and across the country he found similarly suspect. Taxpayers, he said, shouldn’t be “subsidizing intellectual curiosity.”

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Dan Berrett writes about teaching, learning, the curriculum, and educational quality. Follow him on Twitter @danberrett, or write to him at dan.berrett@chronicle.com.

Partnership not Persecution: A Modest Proposal for the Future of China and her Christian Intellectuals

Why the current spiritual awakening on Chinese campuses may offer China with its best hope for a future of peace and prosperity.

If China’s political leaders forswore persecution and instead looked to partner with Christian intellectuals committed to a ‘faithful presence’ theology, the implications for China’s future could be earth-shaking.

by Gary David Stratton, PhD | Senior Editor

Obama’s current visit to China for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit and his call for improved human rights in China at the same time when Chinese officials are in the midst of a crackdown on both student protests in Hong Kong and student-filled Churches in Beijing has thrown a media spotlight on the future of Christianity in China among its young intellectuals. (See, The rise of Christianity in China and Cracks in the Atheist Edifice.)

The Great Wall stretches for over 4000 miles, nearly as wide as the current divide between China’s government and her Christian intellectuals.

While the government has worked hard to erase public memory of the 1989 pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square, images of crowds and tanks continue to haunt Chinese officials, especially in light of the global phenomena of social media driven revolution. As reported by the Chronicle of Higher Education, “Political analysts have speculated that the government crackdown is a reaction to the protests across the Middle East, which leaders here fear could encourage similar uprisings.”

Since university students played a key leadership role in those protests, it is only natural to assume that Christian university students are a potential threat to political stability in China. However, as the number of Christians in China begins to surpass the number of communist party members, the broad spiritual awakening on Chinese campuses could actually offer a bright hope for peaceful engagement of Christian intellectuals in the future of Chinese culture-making. (See, Vibrant Faith Among Future Chinese Culture Makers: Christians Now Outnumber Communists, especially on Campuses.)

By working against a new generation of Christian leaders on many of China’s leading universities, the Chinese government may actually be working against the very intellectuals who might become their strongest allies against an Egyptian-style revolution.

A Call for ‘Faithful Presence’ Among Chinese Christian Intellectuals

While some Chinese Christian intellectuals may indeed choose to embrace “power-based” approaches to culture-making, many espouse the “faithful presence” advocated by University of Virginia Christian public intellectual James Davison Hunter. Based upon Jeremiah’s prophesy to the Jewish exiles in Babylon, Hunter calls for Christians to “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”[1] (See, CT’s excellent interview with James Davidson Hunter below.)

While written for the American cultural context, Hunter’s ‘faithful presence’ theology clearly applies to China’s current political situation as well.

Hunter’s faithful presence approach to culture-making emphasizes cooperation between individuals and institutions in order to make disciples and serve the common good. As Hunter asserts in his Oxford University Press volume To Change the World:

“If there are benevolent consequences of our engagement with the world, it is precisely because it is not rooted in a desire to change the world for the better but rather because it is an expression of a desire to honor the creator of all goodness, beauty, and truth, a manifestation of our loving obedience to God, and a fulfillment of God’s command to love our neighbor.”[2]

While Hunter wrote ‘To Change the World’ for the American cultural context, his ‘faithful presence’ approach to culture-making is clearly applicable to China as well.

The presupposition that the goal of Christian intellectuals is regime change is as mistaken as it is foolish. Christians intellectual leaders primary concern is only that “the will of God be done on earth as it is in heaven.”[3] They serve to remind God’s people to follow the scriptural admonitions to: (1) “be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good,”[4] and, (2) pray “for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives.”[5]

Do you not need such citizens to make China great?

A Call for Restraint Among China’s Government Officials

Sadly, the current government crackdown could force Christian intellectuals into the unenviable position of choosing revolution over cooperation. As former Wheaton College professor Dennis Ockholm asserts: it is not Christians but governments who force the church to choose between “Christ Against Culture” and “Culture Against Christ” positions. [6] The last thing the Chinese government should do at this time is force their Christian intellectuals into this a position of cultural opposition.

Crackdown or Cooperation? Police usher worshippers onto bus at the site of a planned outdoor prayer service led by the Shouwang Church so popular with Christian intellectuals and top university students

Instead, I would propose that the Chinese government pursue a different strategy altogether. When Jerusalem’s first century political leaders first faced the powerful social-disruption often caused by Christian spiritual awakening, their initial instinct was a crackdown similar to current events in Beijing–incarceration, inquisition, and threats.

However, Gamaliel—a wise and honored leader—proposed a different strategy: let the Christians alone. He said in essence, “If the Christians are wrong, then their movement will eventually collapse on its own. However, if they are right and we persecute them, then we may not only find ourselves on the wrong side of history, we will be the ones who lose in the long run.”[7] Sadly, Gamaliel’s counsel prevailed only the briefest season when Jerusalem’s leaders quickly returned to their reign of terror—a reign that only served to strengthen and spread Christianity across the Roman world. Still, Gamaliel’s counsel is very much in keeping with the wisdom of China’s ancient tradition of the responsibility of each regime to act virtuously toward their citizens lest they lose their Mandate of Heaven to rule.

Two hundred years of Christianity in China have only proven the wisdom of Gamaliel’s counsel concerning Christianity in China. When Mao Zedong made it his personal mission to eradicate the one million Christians in the Middle Kingdom, the intense persecution he sponsored only served to strengthen and scatter Christianity throughout China. Today there are no less than 87 million Protestant and Catholic Christians in China, and no reason to believe that their numbers won’t continue to grow.

A Partnership for Peace and Prosperity

If China’s political leaders forswore persecution and instead looked to partner with Christian intellectuals committed to a ‘faithful presence’ theology, the implications for China’s future could be earth-shaking. Under-girding Communist egalitarianism and Confucianism ethics with the soul-strengthening power of authentic Christian spirituality could result in exactly the kind of revolutionary society the communist party first envisioned when it came to power.

Contrary to current Beijing policy, the specter of 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square is the best reason NOT to keep Christian intellectuals at arms length.

Such a synthesis might even form the foundation for the same kind of greatness that supported American society in its earliest days. The United States was not founded as a ‘Christian nation,’ so much as an unusual fusion of Christian ideals and Enlightenment intellectualism. America’s Christian/Intellectual synthesis (now nearly completely abandoned) helped form one of the strongest nations in history.

Might a similar synthesis be key to China’s future peace and prosperity?.

The World’s Next Great Nation

Western civilization is cracking under the weight of a rampant materialism made possible by our own failure to produce Christian citizens. It is a moral failure we invited upon ourselves by jettisoning our own Christian/Intellectual synthesis. And it is the same materialism that now threatens to devour China’s youth as well.

The moral strength provided by genuine Christian intellectualism could help shape the People’s Republic of China into the greatest nation on earth.

Yet in your very midst is the one community who might yet possess the key for a different future for China. Don’t destroy them. Embrace them. Foster an ongoing dialogue between government leaders and Christian intellectuals. Trust will be hard-won on both sides. But with so much at stake, it is trust that simply must be forged. Perhaps invitations to include top international Christian intellectuals might eventually enrich the conversation. [8]

No matter who the conversation partners might be, they need to listen carefully to one another in order to find the peace and prosperity so desperately desired by Christians and Communists alike. Who knows what fruit such a conversation might bear?

Who knows what a great nation might emerge from such a partnership?

 

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Faithful Presence

James Davison Hunter says our strategies to transform culture are ineffective, and the goal itself is misguided.

Interview by Christopher Benson in Christianity Today

Over two decades have passed since Allan Bloom’s famous polemic, The Closing of the American Mind, shook up the American academy. The time is ripe for another shakeup. Enter James Davison Hunter, whose latest contribution, To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World(Oxford), promises to shake up American Christianity. An endorsement for Bloom’s book applies just as well to Hunter’s: It “will be savagely attacked. And, indeed, it deserves it, as this is the destiny of all important books … Reading it will make many people indignant, but leave nobody indifferent.”

Hunter, professor of religion, culture, and social theory at the University of Virginia, is author of Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America and The Death of Character: On the Moral Education of America’s Children.

To Change the World comprises three essays. The first examines the common view of “culture as ideas,” espoused by thinkers like Chuck Colson, and the corrective view of “culture as artifacts,” as recently argued by Andy Crouch in Culture Making. Both views, argues Hunter, are characterized by idealism, individualism, and pietism.

Hunter develops an alternative view of culture, one that assigns roles not only to ideas and artifacts but also to “elites, networks, technology, and new institutions.” American Christians—mainline Protestant, Catholic, and evangelical—will not and cannot change the world through evangelism, political action, and social reform because of the working theory that undergirds their strategies. This theory says that “the essence of culture is found in the hearts and minds of individuals—in what are typically called ‘values.’ ” According to Hunter, social science and history prove that many popular ideas, such as “transformed people transform cultures” (Colson) and “in one generation, you change the whole culture” (James Dobson), are “deeply flawed.”

The second essay argues that “the public witness of the church today has become a political witness.” Hunter critiques the political theologies of the Christian Right, Christian Left, and neo-Anabaptists, showing that unlikely bedfellows—James Dobson, Jim Wallis, and Stanley Hauerwas—are all “functional Nietzscheans” insofar as their resentment fuels a will to power, which perpetuates rather than heals “the dark nihilisms of the modern age.”

The third essay offers a different paradigm for cultural engagement, one Hunter calls “faithful presence.” Faithful presence is not about changing culture, let alone the world, but instead emphasizes cooperation between individuals and institutions in order to make disciples and serve the common good. “If there are benevolent consequences of our engagement with the world,” Hunter writes, “it is precisely because it is not rooted in a desire to change the world for the better but rather because it is an expression of a desire to honor the creator of all goodness, beauty, and truth, a manifestation of our loving obedience to God, and a fulfillment of God’s command to love our neighbor.”

Christopher Benson, a writer and teacher in Denver, Colorado, spoke with Hunter about To Change the World. Benson’s work has appeared in The Weekly Standard, Books & Culture, Christian Scholar’s Review, Image, and The City. Mark Galli, senior managing editor of Christianity Today, assisted in the interview…

CT: How does your paradigm of cultural engagement differ from the others?

JDH: All the paradigms speak to authentic biblical concerns. Yet the desire to be relevant to the world has come at the cost of abandoning distinctiveness. The desire to be defensive against the world is rooted in a desire to retain distinctiveness, but this has been manifested in ways that are, on one hand, aggressive and confrontational, and, on the other, culturally trivial and inconsequential. And the desire to be pure from the world entails a withdrawal from active presence in huge areas of social life. In contrast to these paradigms, the desire for faithful presence in the world calls on the entire laity, in all vocations—ordinary and extraordinary, “common” and rarefied—to enact the shalom of God in the world.

Christians need to abandon talk about “redeeming the culture,” “advancing the kingdom,” and “changing the world.” Such talk carries too much weight, implying conquest and domination. If there is a possibility for human flourishing in our world, it does not begin when we win the culture wars but when God’s word of love becomes flesh in us, reaching every sphere of social life. When faithful presence existed in church history, it manifested itself in the creation of hospitals and the flourishing of art, the best scholarship, the most profound and world-changing kind of service and care—again, not only for the household of faith but for everyone. Faithful presence isn’t new; it’s just something we need to recover.

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[1] The Prophet Jeremiah: chapter 29, verse 7

[2] Hunter, James Davison.  To change the world: the irony, tragedy, and possibility of Christianity in the late modern world. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

[3] The Gospel of Matthew: chapter 6, verse 10

[4] The Apostle Paul’s Letter to Titus: Chapter 3, verse 1.

[5] The Apostle Paul’s First Letter to Timothy: Chapter 2, verse 2. (See also, 1 Peter 2:13-17; Romans 13:1-7)

[6] “Culture against Christ,” Evangelical Theological Society, San Francisco, November 1992.

[7] The Book of Acts: Chapter 5, verses 33-39

[8] Conversation partners as diverse as James Davidson HunterMiroslav Volf, Vishal MangalwadiGeorge Weigel, NT Wright, etc.

 

Young Adults Fleeing Churches That Embrace Partisan Politics, by Jonathan Merritt

The dramatic generational shift away from the church is primarily in reaction to the religious right

By Jonathan Merritt

Religious pollsters and demographers have long warned that young people were leaving churches in alarming numbers. According to a much talked about LifeWay Research survey, for example, 7 in 10 Protestants ages 18 to 30 who regularly attended church during high school said they quit attending by age 23. What’s been less clear is why they’re leaving.

But according to Notre Dame professor David Campbell and Harvard professor Robert Putnam, the fusion of faith and partisan politics – particularly the conservative type – is at least partly to blame. “The best evidence indicates that this dramatic generational shift is primarily in reaction to the religious right,” they wrote in the latest Foreign Affairs in an essay titled “God and Caesar in America: Why Mixing Religion and Politics is Bad for Both.” They explain: “And Millennials are even more sensitive to it, partly because many of them are liberal (especially on the touchstone issue of gay rights) and partly because they have only known a world in which religion and the right are intertwined.”

Mr. Putnam and Mr. Campbell point to the statistical growth of “nones,” those persons who claim no religious affiliation. This group has historically comprised between 5 and 7 percent of the American population. In the aftermath of the religious right movement in the 1990s, however, the percentage began rising. In the mid-1990s, it reached 12 percent. By 2011, it was at 19 percent. Between 2006 and 2011, the rise in young people aged 18-29 who reported never attending religious services was three times higher than the increase among those over the age of 60.

“In effect, Americans (especially young Americans) who might otherwise attend religious services are saying, ‘Well, if religion is just about conservative politics, then I’m outta here…

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Jonathan Merritt is author of soon to be released “A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars.” He has published more than 300 articles and columns in outlets such as USA TodayThe Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and CNN.com. Follow him on Twitter@jonathanmerritt.

Science, Religion and Politics: Mixed Results, by Dr. Rusty Pritchard

2011 Faith and Science Week: Part 2

 

Debate Photo Opp for 2012 GOP Presidential Candidates

Science and religion are at war. Or, at least that’s the impression you might get from bloggers who watch the spectacle of Republican primary candidate debates. Columnists at the New York Times and the Washington Post are up-in-arms at the hostility toward, and ignorance of, science on the part of the candidates, who seem to be vying to outdo each other in their anti-intellectualism.

Some want to lay the blame for the Republican Party’s anti-science lurch at the feet of evangelical religion, using the statements of Republican candidates as a sign of attitudes in conservative churches.

But evidence from a number of recent sociological studies indicates that the picture is a lot more complicated.  John H. Evans, professor of sociology in the UC San Diego Division of Social Sciences, wrote about his recent research in the Los Angeles Times, where he compared conservative Protestants—regular church attenders who take the Bible literally—and those who don’t admit to any religious participation. He concludes:

The conservative Protestants are equally likely to understand scientific methods, to know scientific facts and to claim knowledge of science. They are as likely as the nonreligious to have majored in science or to have a scientific occupation. While other studies have shown that the elite scientists who work at the 20 top research universities are less religious than the public, it appears that the vast majority of people with workaday scientific occupations are like their neighbors, religiously speaking.

Evans concluded that church-going conservative Protestants at the grassroots don’t at all sound like Rick Perry or Michelle Bachman or Rick Santorum on questions of science. For Evans, the seeming conflict between science and religion is much more over values that over facts. He even argues that the evangelical rejection of evolutionary theory isn’t a sign of being anti-science.

Science and Religion are Friends

Some support for the argument that religious people actually see compatibility between science and religion comes from Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith and Furman sociologist Kyle Longest, who just published a paper showing that 18-29 year olds are more integrative in the way they view science and religion (Sociological Forum, behind a firewall). As quoted by Rod Dreher at The American Conservative, Smith and Longest find the following:

Most clearly, high religiousness, in the form of importance of faith, frequently reading scriptures, and committing to live one’s life for God, increases the likelihood that emerging adults agree that religion and science are compatible and not in conflict. Counter to the prevailing wisdom on highly religious youth, emerging adults who are more religious are not less but more likely to believe that religion and science can be integrated.

Interestingly, attending a Protestant high school, often portrayed as being the training ground for religiously sectarian or militant youth . . . is one of the strongest predictors of the integration perspective, as these emerging adults are extremely likely to agree that religion and science are compatible and their faith has been strengthened by science, as well as being significantly unlikely to agree that the two are in conflict. This shared context appears to have created a cognitive norm of viewing religion and science as potentially symbiotic, rather than overtly hostile to each other.

These emerging adults are able to maintain the authority of religion by finding a harmony between faith and science. (Read Dreher’s complete article here.)

Another study showing that religiosity leads to harmony between science and religion comes from Baylor University, where researcher Aaron Franzen finds that increased frequency of Bible reading is tied to, among other things, improved attitudes toward science. “Respondents were 22 percent less likely to view religion and science as incompatible at each step toward more frequent Bible reading,” according to David Briggs, whoreported the Baylor study for Association of Religion Data Archives. (Interestingly, higher rates of Bible reading were also correlated with greater support for social and economic justice, simple lifestyles, humane treatment of criminals, and with lower support for abortion, same-sex unions, the death penalty, and the expansion of the war on terrorism.)

Are Evangelicals Science-Friendly but still Ignorant?

Set against those salutary findings is evidence that conservative religion goes along with decreased science literacy, as measured by a standard large-scale survey of Americans conducted since 1972, which, since 2006, has contained a standard set of elementary (mostly true-false) science questions (“True or false: All radioactivity is man-made” or “True or false: Antibiotics kill viruses as well as bacteria”).

Darren Sherkat of Southern Illinois University analyzed the results (paper in Social Science Quarterly —behind a firewall). He threw out questions relating to hot-button issues for religious conservatives, like evolution, but kept in questions on the big bang and continental drift. Even when they got a pass on evolution questions, Sherkat found that sectarian Protestants (that is, evangelicals), Catholics, and fundamentalists scored significantly lower than secular Americans on the basic science literacy quiz. He controlled for variables like low educational attainment, income disadvantages, ethnicity, and regional  effects (like being in the South), and still found that conservative religious affiliation drove scores down. Josh Rosenau of the National Center for Science Education found the same thing.

Is there a way to reconcile these seemingly disparate results?

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Dr. Rusty Pritchard is a natural resource economist and President of Flourish, a organization that equips churches to better love God by reviving human lives and the landscapes on which they depend. He has been a sought-after speaker on climate issues for conferences, churches, symposia, and leadership summits, including numerous live broadcast debates. As a full-time faculty member at Emory University Rusty helped create the Department of Environmental Studies there in 1999. He holds degrees from Duke University and the University of Florida and resides in Atlanta, GA.

How Slavery Really Ended in America: The Power of Expertise in Culture Making

“Shall we now end the war and not eradicate the cause? Will not God demand this of us now [that] he has taken away all excuse for not pursuing the right?”

– Major General Benjamin Franklin Butler

Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washinton, and Samuel S. Jackson helped tell the remarkable story of America's first black regiment

Glory (1989) tells the story of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick) leader of the Massachusetts 54th Regiment—the first all-black volunteer company in America.

However, it was the moral courage and legal brilliance of another Massachusetts military leader that changed the course of history and provided a compelling reminder of how culture change is accomplished, not only by courage and conviction, but also carefully honed expertise.

How Slavery Really Ended in America

Historian Adam Goodhart’s fascinating article in the New York Times recounts how “On May 23, 1861, little more than a month into the Civil War, three young black men rowed across the James River in Virginia and claimed asylum in a Union-held citadel. Fort Monroe, Va., a fishhook-shaped spit of land near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, had been a military post since the time of the first Jamestown settlers.”

A tiny island on the Chesapeake Bay would mark the beginning and the end of slavery in America (Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division)

By what could have been something akin to divinely orchestrated coincidence, the island where the slaves took refuge was the exact spot “where slavery first took root, one summer day in 1619, when a Dutch ship landed with some 20 African captives for the fledgling Virginia Colony.”

It would also become the spot where slavery first ended in America, not by the courage of Lincoln or other politicians, nor even the conviction of Abolitionists.   Instead, the unusual expertise of a lawyer pressed into military service provided the legal argument that would free not only these three men, but an entire nation of slaves.

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Study Claims Colleges Failing to Produce Politically and Civically Engaged Citizens

New study by right leaning Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) shows civic leadership lacking in college grads.

Wilmington, DE – Typical college mission statements normally include aspirations to cultivate informed citizens who are politically active and engaged.  A startling new report on civic literacy statistically proves that these goals are not achieved by U.S. colleges and universities.

Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI), a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational organization, releases its fifth annual National Civic Literacy Report assessing how well America’s colleges and universities are preparing graduates for lives of informed and responsible civic duty.  In this year’s report, Enlightened Citizenship: How Civic Knowledge Trumps a College Degree in Promoting Active Civic Engagement, ISI seeks to answer the “Big Question”—is college capable of producing informed and engaged citizens?

“Our study clearly shows that college has absolutely zero positive influence in encouraging graduates to become actively engaged in more consequential aspects of the political process, like expressing your views to elected officials, donating your time to candidates you believe in, and attending various political events,” states Dr.Richard Brake, co-chair of ISI’s National Civic Literacy Board.  “Instead, becoming educated about American history and the fundamental principles that shape our Republic ensures citizens will do more to influence the electoral process than simply casting a vote.”

The report was based on a comprehensive survey which determined, among other things, whether respondents had engaged in passive (e.g. voting) and/or active (e.g. signing a petition, attending a rally) political and community activities at least once in their lifetime.

Key findings of ISI’s rigorous scientific study include:

• College fails to promote high levels of civic knowledge, with a bachelor’s degree exerting zero influence on a graduates’ “active” civic engagement
• Gaining greater civic knowledge trumps college as the leading factor in encouraging active civic engagement
•  Frequent religious attendance and civic self-education increases active citizenship.

According to Jameson Cunningham of Shirley & Banister Public Affairs, the study reveals that “college has zero positive influence in encouraging its grads to become politically engaged—although many universities promote this ability in their mission statements.” He sites Georgetown University as an example of schools seeking to produce graduates who will be “responsible and active participants in civic life.”  Yet Georgetown alumni “are no more likely to attend a rally, write a letter to the editor or volunteer for a candidate than the average citizen.” Whereas, a self educating movement such as “the Tea Party is a prime example where increased civic education leads to increased active civic engagement.”

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ISI was founded in 1953, by Frank Chodorov and William F. Buckley, Jr. Over the years, ISI has established itself as a leading conservative educational think tank. IIt claims to be an “educational pillar of the conservative movement and the leading source of information about a free society for the many students and teachers who reject the post-modernist zeitgeist.”[1]

Complete findings in the 2011 Report, available at  www.AmericanCivicLiteracy.org.

[1] Lee Edwards, Educating for Liberty: The First Half-Century of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 2003).

Muslim Extremism or a New Pharaoh? The Future of Free Speech, Democracy and Religious Freedom in Egypt

Protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square celebrate the resignation of Egypt President Hosni Mubarak on Friday. (Reuters / February 11, 2011)

The streets of Cairo erupted in celebration as 18 days of protest led to the surprise announcement that president Hosni Mubarak had resigned after nearly 30 years of iron-fisted rule.

What now for Egypt? Sharia Law, Democratic Society, a Military Dictatorship, or something else altogether? Will the freedom and unity afforded by nationalism and Facebook hold? Or will Egypt’s military or the Muslim Brotherhood make a play for greater power?

Excerpts from four of the best pieces I’ve read on the coming new order in Egypt.

..

Avoiding a New Pharaoh

By Nicholas Kristof of the NY Times (@NickKristof on Twitter)

Eighteen days of protests lead to rejoicing in Tahrir Square Friday night. (Photo: Moises Saman for The New York Times.)

So Hosni Mubarak is out. Vice President Omar Suleiman says that Mubarak has stepped down and handed over power to the military. This is a huge triumph for people power, and it will resonate across the Middle East and far beyond (you have to wonder what President Hu Jintao of China is thinking right now). The narrative about how Arab countries are inhospitable for democracy, how the Arab world is incompatible with modernity — that has been shattered by the courage and vision of so many Tunisians and Egyptians.

It’s also striking that Egyptians triumphed over their police state without Western help or even moral support. During rigged parliamentary elections, the West barely raised an eyebrow. And when the protests began at Tahrir Square, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that the Mubarak government was “stable” and “looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.” Oops. So much for our $80 billion intelligence agency. On my Facebook fan page, I asked my fans (before the Tahrir protests began) what the next Tunisia would be. A surprising number said Egypt — if you were among them, you apparently did better than our intelligence community. Indeed, Egyptians in Tahrir told me that they were broadly inspired by America’s example of freedom, but that their greatest inspiration came from Tunisia and Al Jazeera. On Tahrir Square, there were signs saying “Thank you, Tunisia.” So, all of you Tunisians and Egyptians, “mabrouk” or “congratulations”! You’ve made history. The score in Egypt is: People Power, 1; Police State, 0.

But the game isn’t over, and now a word of caution…

Continue reading: Avoiding a New Pharaoh

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Egypt’s Christians After Mubarak

By Cornelis Hulsman in Cairo, with additional reporting by Dale Gavlak in Amman, Jordan for Christianity Today. (@CTmagazine on Twitter)

A two-year wave of persecution preceded Muslim-Christian unity in the protests: Will it continue?

There is much to make Christians in Egypt anxious about their relationship with Muslims. On January 1, a suicide bomb killed 23 people at an Alexandria church, and today’s resignation of President Hosni Mubarak signals changes that may make Christians’ presence more precarious. It’s no wonder that the country’s Christian minority is praying for peace more fervently than ever.

The demonstrations demanding Mubarak’s resignation, which began after the January collapse of Tunisia’s authoritarian government, were a rare instance of the country’s Muslims and Christians uniting in common cause. Many pastors and church leaders had urged Egyptian Christians, traditionally known as Copts, not to participate in the demonstrations in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. [Some] …even stood guard when Muslims paused for prayer.

Coptic Orthodox Bishop Markos told Christianity Today that he walked out on his neighborhood’s streets and was soon surrounded by friendly protestors. Markos said, “We are all one. There are no tensions between Muslims and Christians at all in this uprising.”

The bishop’s statement highlighted the unity between Muslims and Christians over democratic reform. But the underlying issues of religious conversion, intermarriage, and new religious buildings will continue to fuel deep tensions…

Christians are Egypt’s largest minority, representing 6 to 10 percent of Egypt’s 85 million people. About 90 percent of all Christians in Egypt are Orthodox, [but] Egypt also hosts a small but influential population of Protestants and evangelicals (more than 250,000), mostly located in Cairo and other major cities.

Many Christian leaders believe that the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic political group banned in Egypt, will grow in political power with Mubarak’s ouster. The brotherhood maintains strong support among some Egyptians. Religious-freedom analysts believe the leaders of the brotherhood, famous for the slogan “Islam is the solution,” could very well usher in repression of all minority religious groups…

Continue reading: Egypt’s Christians After Mubarak

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The Muslim Brotherhood and the Gospel of Christ

By Bob Kubinec for Christianity Today. (@CTmagazine on Twitter)

Once an openly radical group, the Muslim Brotherhood now espouses a moderation that might bode well for Egypt's Christians

The recent protests by Egyptian opposition movements have revealed a deep and abiding prejudice in the U.S. foreign policy community toward the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. These feelings are shared among many evangelicals who tend to view all Islamic groups as prone to violence and militantly hostile to Israel and the Christian church.

While it is clear that the Muslim Brotherhood’s views on a range of policy issues fall short of the American ideal of political liberalism, it is unfair to paint the group as the biggest threat in Egypt to the safety of Christians and the survival of Israel. The Muslim Brotherhood’s conservative tendencies pale in comparison to the current regime’s persecution of their own citizens.

Although it may appear at first counter-intuitive, Egypt’s Christians could well be safer if the Muslim Brotherhood were a part of the ruling government….

Continue Reading: The Muslim Brotherhood and the Gospel of Christ

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Egypt’s Facebook Revolution

By Catharine Smith of The Huffington Post (@HuffingtonPost on Twitter.)

Activists credit Facebook and other social media with success of peaceful coup

Shortly after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarek stepped down from power on Friday, activist Wael Ghonim spoke with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and credited Facebook with the success of the Egyptian people’s uprising.

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I want to meet Mark Zuckerberg one day and thank him […] I’m talking on behalf of Egypt. […] This revolution started online. This revolution started on Facebook. This revolution started […] in June 2010 when hundreds of thousands of Egyptians started collaborating content. We would post a video on Facebook that would be shared by 60,000 people on their walls within a few hours. I’ve always said that if you want to liberate a society just give them the Internet. […]

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Continue reading:  Egypt’s Facebook Revolution

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Muslim Brotherhood and Secular Reformers Join Forces to Support ElBaradei

Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel laureate and opposition leader, joined the protesters in Liberation Square in Cairo. (NYTIMES)

Culture-making and faith connections in Egypt’s turmoil became clearer as Muslim extremists joined secular reform movement leaders in supporting  Mohamed ElBaradei as spokesman for opposition to president Hosni Mubarak.  Two New York Times articles highlight the “good news – bad news” elements of this coalition that make it difficult for President Obama and the U.S. State Department to discern if they are helping or hurting Muslim extremism in the region.

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Opposition Rallies to ElBaradei as Military Reinforces in Cairo

CAIRO —Egypt’s powerful Muslim Brotherhood and the secular opposition banded together Sunday around a prominent government critic to negotiate for forces seeking the fall of “President Hosni Mubarak, as the army struggled to hold a capital seized by fears of chaos and buoyed by euphoria that three decades of Mr. Mubarak’s rule may be coming to an end.

The announcement that the critic, Mohamed ElBaradei, would represent a loosely unified opposition reconfigured the struggle between Mr. Mubarak’s government and a six-day-old uprising bent on driving him and his party from power.

Though lacking deep support on his own, Dr. ElBaradei, a Nobel laureate and diplomat, could serve as a consensus figure for a movement that has struggled to articulate a program for a potential transition. It suggested, too, that the opposition was aware of the uprising’s image abroad, putting forth a candidate who might be more acceptable to the West than beloved in Egypt.

In scenes as tumultuous as any since the uprising began, Dr. ElBaradei defied a government curfew and joined thousands of protesters in Liberation Square, a downtown landmark that has become the epicenter of the uprising and a platform, writ small, for the frustrations, ambitions and resurgent pride of a generation claiming the country’s mantle.

“Today we are proud of Egyptians,” Dr. ElBaradei told throngs who surged toward him in a square festooned with banners calling for Mr. Mubarak’s fall. “We have restored our rights, restored our freedom, and what we have begun cannot be reversed.”

Dr. ElBaradei declared it a “new era,” and as night fell there were few in Egypt who seemed to disagree.

Dr. ElBaradei also criticized the Obama administration, as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered the message via Sunday news programs in Washington that Mr. Mubarak should create an “orderly transition” to a more politically open Egypt, while she refrained from calling on him to resign. That approach, Dr. ElBaradei said, was “a failed policy” eroding American credibility.

“It’s better for President Obama not to appear that he is the last one to say to President Mubarak, it’s time for you to go,” Dr. ElBaradei said.

The tumult Sunday seemed perched between two deepening narratives: a vision of anarchy offered by the government, and echoed by Egyptians fearing chaos, against the perspective of protesters and many others that the uprising had become what they called “a popular revolution.”

Read entire New York Times article here: Opposition Rallies to ElBaradei.

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Egyptian Army Says It Will Not Fire on Protesters

There appeared to be more protesters in Liberation Square in Cairo on Monday than on previous days. (NYTIMES)

CAIRO —Egypt’s new vice president said on Monday that President Hosni Mubarak has authorized him to open a dialogue with the opposition for constitutional and political reforms. The vice president, Omar Suleiman, did not offer any further details.

It was not immediately clear who Mr. Suleiman was addressing his offer to, or whether the opposition would accept. Throughout the protests, the overriding demand of the protesters has been Mr. Mubarak’s resignation.

The Egyptian Army announced Monday for the first time that it would not fire on protesters, even as tens of thousands of people gathered in central Liberation Square for a seventh day to demand the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.

The extraordinary announcement — delivered on state TV with no elaboration by the Army’s official spokesman — declared that “freedom of expression through peaceful means is guaranteed to everybody.” Yet, coming from a government dominated by former military officers, including Mr. Mubarak, it raised as many questions as it answered.

Experts said it could reveal cracks in the ruling elite, or perhaps reflected an evolving strategy to resurrect the police, who were back on the streets Monday for the first time in days. Others took it at face value, as a straightforward promise to abstain from any violence against Egyptians, but others saw a veiled threat to those who would go beyond “peaceful means.”

Whatever the motivation, the opposition was not prepared to celebrate the announcement as the turning point it was in Tunisia…

Read entire New York Times article here: Egyptian Army Says It Will Not Fire on Protesters

Nobel Prize Bio of Egyptian Resistance Leader Mohamed ElBaradei

Culture Makers You Should Know: An Ongoing Series

Egyptian Laureate Mohamed ElBaradei has Called for President Mubarak to Step Down

From Nobel Prize website: Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei is the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an intergovernmental organization that is part of the United Nations system. He was appointed to the office effective 1 December 1997, and reappointed to a third term in September 2005.

From 1984, Dr. ElBaradei was a senior staff member of the IAEA Secretariat, holding a number of high-level policy positions, including Agency’s Legal Adviser and subsequently Assistant Director General for External Relations.

Dr. ElBaradei was born in Cairo, Egypt, in 1942, son of the late Mostafa ElBaradei, a lawyer and former President of the Egyptian Bar Association. He gained a Bachelor’s degree in Law in 1962 at the University of Cairo, and a Doctorate in International Law at the New York University School of Law in 1974.

He began his career in the Egyptian Diplomatic Service in 1964, serving on two occasions in the Permanent Missions of Egypt to the United Nations in New York and Geneva, in charge of political, legal and arms control issues. From 1974 to 1978 he was a special assistant to the Foreign Minister of Egypt. In 1980 he left the Diplomatic Service to join the United Nations and became a senior fellow in charge of the International Law Program at the United Nations Institute for Training and Research. From 1981 to 1987 he was also an Adjunct Professor of International Law at the New York University School of Law.

During his career as diplomat, international civil servant and scholar, Dr. ElBaradei has become closely familiar with the work and processes of international organizations, particularly in the fields of international peace and security and international development. He has lectured widely in the fields of international law, international organizations, arms control and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and is the author of various articles and books on these subjects. He belongs to a number of professional associations, including the International Law Association and the American Society of International Law.

In October 2005, Dr. ElBaradei and the IAEA were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for efforts “to prevent nuclear energy from being used for military purposes and to ensure that nuclear energy for peaceful purposes is used in the safest possible way.” In addition, he has received multiple other awards for his work. These include the International Four Freedoms award from the Roosevelt Institute, the James Park Morton Interfaith Award, and the Golden Plate Award from the Academy of Achievement. Dr. ElBaradei is also the recipient of a number of honorary degrees and decorations, including a Doctorate of Laws from New York University and the Nile Collar – the highest Egyptian decoration.

Dr. ElBaradei is married to Aida Elkachef, an early childhood teacher. They have a daughter, Laila, a lawyer in private practice, and a son, Mostafa, a studio director with a television network, both of whom live and work in London, England.

From Les Prix Nobel. The Nobel Prizes 2005, Editor Karl Grandin, [Nobel Foundation], Stockholm, 2006

This autobiography/biography was written at the time of the award and later published in the book series Les Prix Nobel/Nobel Lectures. The information is sometimes updated with an addendum submitted by the Laureate.

Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 2005

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