Over at the Alliance Defense Fund’s Academic Freedom File, my colleague Jeff Shafer has written a fascinating blog post analyzing the intellectual roots of academic efforts to stigmatize Christianity and divorce kids from their religious upbringing. It begins:
The late American philosopher Richard Rorty (d. 2007) in describing his assessment of the role of university professor wrote: “When we American college teachers encounter religious fundamentalists, we do not consider the possibility of reformulating our own practices of justification so as to give more weight to the authority of the Christian scriptures. Instead, we do our best to convince these students of the benefits of secularization.” The re-education imperative is one that he, “like most Americans who teach humanities or social science in colleges and universities, invoke when we try to arrange things so that students who enter as bigoted, homophobic, religious fundamentalists will leave college with views more like our own.” Rorty explains to the “fundamentalist” parents of his students: “we are going to go right on trying to discredit you in the eyes of your children, trying to strip your fundamentalist religious community of dignity, trying to make your views seem silly rather than discussable.” He helpfully explains that “I think those students are lucky to find themselves under the benevolent Herrschaft [domination] of people like me, and to have escaped the grip of their frightening, vicious, dangerous parents.”
In fact, some of our student clients have heard simplified versions of this very sentiment, and I can distinctly remember my own southern, religious upbringing being venomously caricatured during my law-school days. The fact that my father was a math professor who earned his Ph.D. (a real-life Good Will Hunting) in a mere ten months was irrelevant compared with his status as an elder in a very conservative evangelical church. I had to be “rescued” from my own heritage.
I stubbornly resisted rescue, but many students — eager for acceptance and feeling isolated — give up, surrendering to the dominant culture and feeding an academic beast that demands conformity, in speech and belief.