Advice for Students in Unsafe Places

“But, Professor, I learned in church that God wrote the Ten Commandments himself on stone tablets and gave them to Moses. Isn’t that what happened?”

“It is unscientific and absurd to believe that God ever turned stone-mason and chiseled commandments on a rock.”

Such went the confrontation of traditional Christian belief and confident modern thought at Syracuse University—in 1909. And such collisions have resumed again on campuses throughout North America.

As Christian students return to universities across Canada this month, they, and perhaps their parents, will worry about whether their education will cost them their faith.

Ironically enough, our campuses nowadays are awash in worries held by lots of different kinds of people about being confronted with ideas and experiences they don’t like, from “trigger warnings” to “speech codes” to “safe places.”

It is easy to mock such worries about the big, bad, secular university, even as studies show that, in fact, religious belief and practice does not tend to wane as one gains higher education.

The whole Christian educational complex, to be sure, both Catholic and Protestant and from kindergarten to graduate school, can be seen as a gigantic “safe place” for Christian faith. As Adam Laats reports in his recent book, Fundamentalist U: Keeping the Faith in American Higher Education (Oxford University Press, 2018), fear of non-, sub-, and anti-Christian influences was always a high motivation in producing Christian colleges, from Harvard, founded in 1636, to (Patrick) Henry, founded in 2000.

And just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not really out to get you.

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