During the summer, The Huffington Post reported that among the top ten political schools, American University is number one. Seeing that news, I called my daughter and congratulated her for attending such an elite school. The report mentioned that while most of students lean to the left, one can find Republicans on campus. I was aware of the left leaning of the university when, during my first visit to campus, I saw that in their student center they have six huge portraits – President Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former UN General Secretary Kofi Annan, and former Senator Bob Dole. In the current political context Bob Dole is a politician from the distant past and currently is known for selling Viagra.
It is interesting to see how the political views of our children are changing. A good number of years ago, one of our students came home from college and I asked him to speak to the church. It was very interesting to me that, while in the first year his teacher in one of the religious courses told him that his paper sounded more like a sermon, in his second year he returned and spoke about how about how all religions lead to God! This is something that he did not learn in this church – he learned that from a university professor.
As someone who almost lost my faith in the first year of college, I am very much aware of the impression that our professors have on us. In my case it was not even a professor – it was an Introduction to Philosophy textbook that sent my faith spiraling downwards.
In one of my seminary classes, one student asked me why I do not teach church history as though all views are correct. She recommended for my enlightenment a book that her university professor had written. We talked after class and I explained that her request was impossible. In math, not all answers are the same – there are wrong answers and there are correct answers. In history I cannot say that Napoleon won every battle he fought, because he lost some battles and some of the ones that he lost were very important. In church history I cannot teach that Athanasius, who defended the divinity of Christ, was like Arius who denied that Jesus was fully divine.
My daughter is studying International Relations at AU because that department is considered one of the best in the country. She plans in the near future to work for an international organization that deals with hunger. She wants to take her Christian beliefs and apply them in such a way as to benefit God’s people throughout the world. She has to take the best that AU gives her, sometimes in contradiction to what she believes as Christian, and see how she can apply that to her future.
As I listen to my daughter talk about her new political and philosophical leanings, I have to chuckle. One of my paternal great-grandfathers was the mayor of our community during the Austrian Hungarian Empire. He had 12 sons and daughters. Some stayed in our area and some went to Germany. In the late 1940’s the family became a beehive of political contradictions – there were children who were fascists, communists and legionnaires (akin to the Knights of Columbus).There were also children who were a part of the Nazarene Church and they did not want to have anything to do with politics.
As a pastor, I try to keep politics out of the pulpit because our congregation is so diversified politically. However, at our dinner table we do not hold that popular belief that it is not polite to discuss religion or politics. We discuss politics, religion, philosophy, sociology, literature – or any other subject that one can present with coherence and passion. Not only are the discussions going on all the time, but my children warn their friends that they have to be able to defend their statements.
I do not know the future of my kids. I hope that whatever position they take is based on truth and they are able to defend it with integrity for their sake and the sake of those who will benefit from those views.