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Jesus Creed

Chicken or Egg?


Here’s a clip from the NYTimes on what comes first — liberalism or professor:

The overwhelmingly liberal tilt of university professors has been explained by everything from outright bias to higher I.Q. scores. Now new research suggests that critics may have been asking the wrong question. Instead of looking at why most professors are liberal, they should ask why so many liberals — and so few conservatives — want to be professors.

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posted January 20, 2010 at 4:56 pm

Interesting quote at the end … “The irony is that the more conservatives complain about academia?s liberalism,? he said, ?the more likely it?s going to remain a bastion of liberalism.?
We could apply this to many realms – a mentality of establishing identity, defining “us” as opposed to “them” particularly with a tinge of playing the victim, is not a good way to get anything to change.

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posted January 20, 2010 at 7:02 pm

All the more reason to advocate a theology of engagement and transformation rather than a theology of separation and evacuation.

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posted January 20, 2010 at 8:47 pm

My experience with profs. at UW-Madison included 1) as an undergrad in an Ecology class of over 200 students where the professor routinely lambasted and berated Christians; 2). as a grad student in education where a professor was antagonistic toward Christians and gave me a final grade of BC only to X it out and write in a B. I had dared in my final paper to talk about faith in a class on teaching and diversity; 3). Interviewing an emeritus botany professor on his view of faith. This professor had publicly riduculed people for even believing in Christianity. He told me Jesus was a rabble-rousing communist who did good things for people. I could go on and on, but to me the core issue is not that so many professors are liberal, but that they are in positions of power and the whole idea of tolerance gets thrown out the window when they are confronted with cognitive dissonance, vis-a-vis a student who dares to talk about her/his faith. They hold a lot of power over students, and can shape many a destiny.

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posted January 20, 2010 at 10:54 pm

The general thesis rings true to me, with the caveat that it depends on field. The article mentioned that business and economics are not so liberal-dominated; to that list I would add engineering.
And why would any young conservative and/or Christian aspire to be a professor if all he or she heard about such people was things like that stated in comment #3 above? So it seems likely that such self-selection is a major factor, both in terms of fewer politically conservative professors and fewer Christian professors. Although I think the difference in personality the article mentions between the “corporate type” and “free spirit” is also a factor.
Similar self-selection contributes to the relative lack of Christians pursuing science (with the exception of medicine which the church values). Why would you want to be like those evil-utionists and commie global warming hoaxers that your church demonizes?

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Robert Angison

posted January 21, 2010 at 11:01 am

This issue probably has lots of factors coming together to give us the status quo.
In my, limited, experience the academic establishment has enjoyed a wide berth of freedom in terms of who it speaks to and how it speaks of people. Perhaps more than other professions.
Another matter is the nature of the major evangelical churches where intellectual acheivement is routinely quashed, young intellectuals are pushed away and out of the focus of sutdent ministries, and we hear trite proclamations of the political conservative positions from the platforms and preachers among us.
One other (I could list more) is the post-fundamentalist mentality of separation and exclusion of the “liberal” tendencies. It is a deeply rooted belief in most of our evangelical churches today that has a profound impact in how we do church and life. We have evacuated the public spaces and left the premier scholarship for others.
It makes me ask constantly, what am I doing to cultivate minds in my local congregation? What is our church doing to engage the deeply intellectual, and oft misunderstood people in our context? How are we engaging with the “intellectual decision makers” that influence our upcoming generations?
Perhaps it is equal responsibility for both parties in who pushes out and who pushes in with this debate.
You are the Church!
Robert Angison
P.S. any help on fixing this CAPTCHA thing that deletes my text would be helpful. :)

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posted January 21, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Robert #5:
Regarding the annoying CAPTCHA, I have discovered that if you use the Firefox browser it retains your text and all is well. If you use Internet Explorer, it (and your name) tend to disappear, so you need to copy the text and paste it back in.
So I would suggest switching to Firefox, except that it seems (at least in the configurations I have), Firefox does a worse job of blocking the flood of annoying popups that Beliefnet keeps trying to force on you. On Firefox, pretty much every time I look at a page I have to close some kind of popup, whereas MSIE seems to be able to block them the majority of the time.

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posted January 21, 2010 at 6:37 pm

well, if in the popular culture one community has, for a host of reasons, made a habit of demonizing other communities that they left in a theological huff it’s really no small wonder when those communities are suspicious and hostile when we start coming around again.
we’re inheritors of the fruit of some bad behavior.
and, no, we’re not victims. we have a higher standard to live up to by being gracious, kind, forbearing and, frankly, willing to take some lumps because of unwillingness to explicitly distance ourselves from voices that make people feel unsafe.

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