As America approaches 30 years of postmodernism and plunges further down the slope of post-Christian-turned-anti-Christian popular culture, new attempts to label Christian and Catholic schools as bigoted, homophobic and racist institutions, committed to shaping students in their own image, are anything but surprising.
The birth of postmodernism signaled the death of reason and the apotheosis of subjective feeling, naturally leading many of those who were educated in America’s school system since about 1989 categorically to reject Christianity as an appealing belief system or way of life. This explains the direct correlation between age and tolerance of Christianity among American adults and adolescents. The older one is, the more likely to have a positive impression of Christians, regardless of personal faith.
And therein lies an ironic conundrum: Theism in general — and Christianity in particular — has shaped so much of what everyone continues to enjoy as members of a free society, even those who are so passionately intolerant of all things Christian. The equality of all persons, representative government, the abolition of slavery, civil rights, freedom of speech and the right to assemble and protest — to name a few — were all rooted in Judeo-Christian principles. Many found their place in modern history through the efforts and influence of activist Christians.
How long before the fading of such principles from our collective memory results in the loss of the ensuing freedoms? Kill the root and you soon will miss the fruit.
But perhaps what plagues our nation and our world most in these turbulent times has been the failure of secondary and higher education institutions to equip their graduates with the life skills necessary to succeed in the workplace, in human relationships or as productive contributors to a civil society. American employers most value professionalism, critical thinking, oral and written communications and collaboration. These are skills and attributes that college graduates lack, according to business leaders.
The point of education is to expunge ignorance, but with few exceptions (like The University of Chicago), colleges and universities have allowed themselves to be held hostage, turning over the keys of the curriculum and even executive leadership to the whims and mob rule of the very youths they have pledged to educate.
No collaboration there. No professionalism. No critical thinking. And the only communication learned or practiced is social media-driven crowd sourcing and shouting down anyone with an alternative point of view. Little wonder employers are concerned. How will these actions and attitudes in new hires further the mission or boost the bottom line for American businesses and corporations?
To be clear, children of Christian parents, wherever they are educated, are less likely to be bigoted, homophobic or racist than any previous generation. And schools, even if they wanted to, would be generally powerless to reverse this trend.
Like any grouping of educational institutions, private K-12 schools range in quality. But on the whole, they continue to attract the interest of parents as a viable alternative to public education for their children. As a subset of private schools, faith-based schools also vary in quality. But the best of these are not indoctrinating children in Catholic or evangelical beliefs, but rather affording their students the opportunity to engage a broader range of ideas and philosophies than is possible at public schools. They are not intent on telling students what to think, but on teaching them how to think. They seek to imbue them with those qualities most desired by employers and most necessary to be positive influencers in their generation.
Last I checked, religious institutions are still free to believe what they will. And purposeful followers of Christ are more likely to be driven by love than by phobia. Jesus made abundantly clear His acceptance of those who were most rejected by the society of His day.
So why do sociologists identify Christians as the most feared and hated people group in America among those based on ethnicity, political persuasion, sexual orientation, gender identity, socio-economic status and religious affiliation? Doubtless, Christians behaving badly are culpable, but a decades-old growing phobia of being held to a higher standard by a higher power is equally to blame.
Would that all people groups might embrace the philosophy of St. Francis of Assisi: “Where there is Love and Wisdom, there is neither Fear nor Ignorance. Where there is Patience and Humility, there is neither Anger nor Annoyance.”
Robert Littlejohn, Ph.D., is an educator, scientist and author of the book “Wisdom and Eloquence: A Christian Paradigm For Classical Learning.”
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.