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Rev. DeVries is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church in Wingham, Ontario, Canada.

“Tenured Bigots” 

Such is the title of a telling article by Mark Bergin in WORLD magazine (August 18, 2007). It is common knowledge that the institutions of higher learning in North America are dominated by professors who have little regard for, or are openly hostile toward, traditional values and Christianity. That would appear to be especially true with regard to evangelical (including Reformed) Christians. Bergin contends that statistics now confirm that most faculty members do not like evangelicals, and that they are not ashamed to admit it. He reports:

David French has known for years that college campuses are bastions of anti-evangelical bias. He knew it when he served on the admissions committee at Cornell Law School and watched his colleagues ridicule evangelical applicants as “Bible thumpers” or members of the “God squad.” He knew it during his tenure with an education watchdog organization that routinely challenged university speech codes bent on silencing evangelical viewpoints. He knew it when he shifted into his current role as director of the Alliance Defense Fund’s Center for Academic Freedom, a position from which he’s filed numerous lawsuits on behalf of victimized evangelical students. 

But only now can French declare with certainty that his anecdotal observations accurately represent a widespread statistical reality. In a recently released scientific survey of 1,269 faculty members across 712 different colleges and universities, 53 percent of respondents admitted to harboring unfavorable feelings toward evangelicals. 

“The results were incredibly unsurprising but at the same time vitally important,” French told WORLD. “For a long time, the academic freedom movement in this country has presented the academy with story after story of outrageous abuse, and the academy has steadfastly refused to admit that the sky is blue—that it has an overwhelming ideological bias that manifests itself in concrete ways. This is another brick in the wall of proving that there’s a real problem.” 

Unlike much of the previous foundation for that proof, this brick hails from a non-evangelical source. Gary A. Tobin, president of the Institute for Jewish and Community Research, set out to gauge levels of academic anti-Semitism compared to hostility toward other religious groups. He found that only 3 percent of college faculty holds unfavorable views toward Jews. In fact, no religious group draws anywhere near the scorn of evangelicals, Mormons placing a distant second with a 33 percent unfavorable outcome. 

Tobin was shocked. And his amazement only escalated upon hearing reaction to his results from the academy’s top brass. Rather than deny the accuracy of Tobin’s findings or question his methodology, academy leaders attempted to rationalize their bias. “The prejudice is so deep that faculty do not have any problem justifying it. They tried to dismiss it and said they had a good reason for it,” Tobin told WORLD. “I don’t think that if I’d uncovered bigotry or social dissonance about Latinos, women, blacks, or Jews, they would have had that same response.” 

Cary Nelson, president of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), told The Washington Post that the poll merely reflects “a political and cultural resistance, not a form of religious bias.” In other words, the college faculty members dislike evangelicals not for their faith but the practical outworking of that faith, which makes it OK. 

Other prominent voices from the academy have suggested that the anti-evangelical bias does not likely translate into acts of classroom discrimination. Tobin intends to test that claim with a subsequent survey of 3,500 students in the coming academic year. My guess: “You can’t have this much smoke without some fire,” he said. 

French can readily testify to that . . . . 

. . . In another landmark case at Missouri State University, junior Emily Brooker objected to an assignment in which students were asked to write their state legislators and urge support for adoptions by same-sex couples. The evangelical social-work major was promptly hauled before a faculty panel and charged with maintaining an insufficient commitment to diversity. The panel grilled Brooker on her religious views without her parents present, convicted her of discrimination against gays, and informed her that to graduate she needed to lessen the gap between her own values and the values of the social- work profession. 

The Alliance Defense Fund sued Missouri State on Brooker’s behalf, pressuring the university into dropping the discrimination charges and paying for Brooker to attend graduate school. An independent investigation into the incident found such widespread intellectual bullying throughout the university’s school of social work that investigators recommended shutting the program down and replacing the entire faculty . . . .

. . . Robert Shibley, vice president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), told WORLD his organization can hardly keep up with intellectual intolerance and free-speech infringements against evangelical and conservative groups. “College campuses overall are not living up to the ideal of having a marketplace of ideas, of having true intellectual diversity to go along with racial and religious diversity,” he said. “In too many cases we see groups—evangelical Christians and conservatives, primarily—face sanctions or punishments that are more severe than those of groups with other viewpoints. Or they’re punished for things that other groups wouldn’t be punished for at all.”

How sad, how shameful, that while almost all of America’s first colleges and universities were established as Christian institutions, in our day the faculties of these institutions, and many others, are free to inject their anti-Christian biases into the classrooms. One would presume that, of all people, university professors would be guardians of academic freedom and tolerance on campus. But tolerance is often a one-way street. Tolerance and political correctness apply in all areas other than Christianity.

What is worse, political correctness has also invaded many religious institutions of higher learning. In private Christian (even Reformed) colleges, students maintaining strict biblical, confessional convictions are sometimes belittled or harassed.

We must make every effort to prepare our young men and women for what they may face on the college or university campus. Unsuspecting young students may be especially vulnerable to indoctrination in political correctness and to attack by anti-Christian bigotry.

No Heart for Special Children

Many of us have been privileged to see and experience the blessings of a child, or adult, with special needs—physical or mental disabilities. Very often such a child has a very special place within both the home and the congregation. Though there are challenges and sometimes very real hardships involved, the blessings of our covenant God abound.

But in the culture of death in which we live, increasingly such special children are not permitted to see the light of day. Medical technology, which is often a wonderful means for good, is increasingly used for evil. And prenatal testing frequently leads to abortion, which is used as a “disability prevention measure.” Joni Eareckson Tada explains in a poignant article in WORLD (September 15, 2007) entitled: “Down Syndrome Dangers”:

Every year we look forward to Doug volunteering at family retreats that we hold for disabled children and their moms and dads. He is young and athletic, a senior in college, handsome, articulate, and intelligent. The kids love him (and so do a few girl volunteers). When he first began volunteering, we assigned Doug to a little boy with Down syndrome. The two hit it off wonderfully. This energetic young man possessed a knack for relating to the boy; from that year onward, he always asked to be assigned to children with Down syndrome and their parents. 

Recently Doug said, “Joni, when I get married, I hope that my wife and I will have a child with Down syndrome.” I was startled, but chalked it up to youthful idealism. Since then, I have come to see that Doug meant what he said. He observed a special joy in children and adults with Down syndrome, as well as a godliness that strengthened his faith. He could also tell these children blessed the lives of the moms and dads to whom he administered over the years. 

I thought of Doug earlier this year when the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists began recommending broader prenatal testing for Down syndrome among younger pregnant women. Up until this year, they recommended that only older women who were pregnant be tested. But now, all mothers-to-be are routinely tested. The results? Over 90 percent of pregnant women who are given a Down syndrome diagnosis choose to have an abortion. 

This breaks my heart . . . . 

. . . I am deeply concerned about this trend. Abortion is now used as a “disability prevention measure.” The effort to eliminate Down syndrome translates into the worst kind of social engineering: the annihilation of an entire group of people who are precious. Our alternative: Accept the love and the God-blessed joys of raising a child—a life—that God has given. Jesus says, “Bless the little children, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” Even children with Down syndrome. 

A person with Down syndrome may never understand how to keep up with the Joneses or how to get over his head in debt. He or she may never be clever enough to sneak behind his spouse’s back and look for an illicit affair (yes, men and women with Down syndrome do marry, and some of those marriages are honest-to-goodness models to neighbors and friends). They won’t be cunning enough to know how to cheat, weave lies, or how to stab a friend in the back. People with Down syndrome may not have driver’s licenses, but then again, neither do I—and I get around quite well for a quadriplegic. 

That new ruling by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is a sad reflection of the growing premise in our society that a person is “better off dead than disabled.” Human beings are no longer being treated as people, but as things that can be dispensed with, altered, aborted, or euthanized. The medically fragile—whether the elderly, the unborn, or the children Doug serves—are left exposed and vulnerable in a society that has lost its moral bearings, its heart.

The wish of “Doug,” in Joni’s article, that he and his wife might one day have a Down syndrome child, called to mind the following statement of Gertrude Hoeksema to her husband, “If any child other than our own could have been our daughter, it would have been Lori.” Lori was one of God’s special children with multiple, both mental and physical, handicaps that Mrs. Hoeksema was able to mentor and instruct in Scripture for a few years. The beautiful story is told in her bookLori (Reformed Free Publishing Assoc., 1987). If it’s been a few years since you’ve read this book, pick it up and read it again. If you’ve never read Lori, purchase the book and have your heart touched.

Several weeks ago, in the Grand Rapids, MI area, many were able to attend the annual “Special Needs Program” held at Faith PRC in Jenison. I personally have not had the privilege of attending this program, due to the great distance involved, but I’ve heard much about it. I know that a requirement for attending is a handkerchief or a good supply of tissues. For to hear numerous saints, both children, young people, and adults, who have various “special needs” speak and sing God’s praises brings tears to the eyes of the most stolid of God’s people.

May the spirit of the age in which we live, which would avoid or dispense with those who are less than “perfect,” inspire us to wholeheartedly support the Society for Protestant Reformed Special Education, to volunteer our time to help out on the periodic outings of the special needs saints, to remember with prayer and acts of kindness families blessed, but also burdened, with special needs children. Take the time, make the effort, to greet and get to know these “special” fellow saints.

For our covenant-keeping God also has among His children these “special” children. As Gertrude Hoeksema related concerning Lori, “The Lord took her through the valley of death to be with Him so she could say her favorite words to all eternity: ‘I belong to Jesus.'” The words of Christ apply: “And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matt. 18:5, 6).

May God give us a heart for “special” children.