What’s Happening to Christian Education?

When I read the news I was shocked and saddened. Westminster, one of the premier college prep schools in the South, has caved in: It has agreed to surrender its distinctively Christian form of education. For about a year, Westminster has been under assault for its policy of hiring only Christian teachers. Jewish parents argued that the policy was anti-Semitic. Others said it was discriminatory, and argued that the school needed "diversity." Several major universities joined the protesters, dropping dark hints that Westminster graduates might not be welcome on their campuses. The pressure finally became too much for Westminster administrators. A few weeks ago, they announced a new hiring policy: Henceforth people of other faiths are welcome to teach at Westminster, so long as they "support" and "implement" the school's Christian mission and goals. But can a non-Christian teacher really implement a Christian mission? A Jewish teacher may support similar moral standards. But he certainly can't teach students to bring all things under the lordship of Christ-because Jews don't accept Jesus as the Christ. A Hindu teacher might support a general spirituality. But he certainly can't teach students that Jesus is the only way to God-because Hindus believe all paths lead to God. In short, people of other faiths can support Christian education only if Christianity is reduced to generic morality and piety. In which case, of course, it isn't really Christianity any more. Westminster trustees may think they have resolved the controversy, but in reality it has just begun. As soon as they announced the new hiring policy, those who had agitated for change were already demanding more. One man was quoted in a local newspaper saying Westminster must now be prepared to take "affirmative action" to hire non-Christians. He even demanded regular public disclosures to prove that the school is making "progress" in "correcting past wrongs." Past wrongs? Was hiring only Christian teachers wrong? This is an attitude that sees any emphasis on Christianity as a violation of nonbelievers' civil rights. It's an attitude that will not be satisfied until Westminster has no Christian commitment left at all: until every faith-or lack of faith-has equal status in the curriculum. The hard truth is that Westminster has started on the path to secularism trod by so many universities. Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and dozens of others began as Christian schools. My own alma mater, Brown University, was once Baptist. But some point in their history, certain faculty members and supporters came to regard the Christian faith as narrow and exclusive. They watered it down to a generic morality-which finally gave way to outright secularism. This may well be the tragic outcome for Westminster as well. Every Christian ought to learn the stages by which Christian colleges, schools, and foundations slip quietly away from their biblical moorings. We need to recognize the process, so we can raise a red flag whenever we see it happening. And we can start right now . . . with Westminster.


Chuck Colson


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