Many Christians believe that college campuses are where students’ faith goes to die. Staffed with God-hating, leftist professors, colleges are cesspools of vice, SJW nonsense, and anti-religious thought — so claim many Christian parents. But are worried Christian parents correct? According to a report published on FiveThirtyEight, Christian parents have less to fear than they believe. The title of the report asserts, “College Professors Aren’t Killing Religion.”
FiveThirtyEight points out that the fear that colleges undermine faith is a longstanding tradition in this country. The article references William Jennings Bryan’s suggestion:
“that a warning label be affixed to university classrooms, stating: ‘Our classrooms furnish an arena in which a brutish doctrine tears to pieces the religious faith of young men and young women.’ Armed with anecdotes and a 1916 study — which asserted that over four years, students would ‘gradually abandon the cardinal Christian beliefs’ — Bryan barnstormed the country decrying the malevolent forces of higher education.”
Undoubtedly, many of the readers of PJ Media probably say “amen!” to Bryan’s words from just over a century ago. FiveThirtyEight says “not so fast,” though.
FiveThirtyEight concludes that “though the U.S. is becoming less religious, college curricula have little or nothing to do with it. A recent study found that 24 percent of Americans are now religiously unaffiliated, including 38 percent of young adults. But these changes are occurring at a much earlier age than Bryan or other critics imagined.”
“a recent survey by PRRI, which found that most Americans who have left their childhood religion did so before reaching adulthood. Seventy-nine percent of young adults age 18 to 29 who have become religiously unaffiliated report having made this decision during their adolescent and teen years. But this was not always the case. Those age 65 or older who left their childhood religion reported doing so much later: Only 38 percent who reported leaving their religion did so during their childhood years. The majority (63 percent) of unaffiliated senior citizens left during their college and post-college years.”
For me, here’s where the facts become interesting (and telling, I think). If their numbers are correct, and I have little reason to doubt FiveThirtyEight, Americans are abandoning religion quicker than their counterparts were in previous generations. That fact means less devoted Christians are stepping foot inside college classrooms. That alone helps account for the drop in the number of college students abandoning faith. However, there are two further and possibly more important conclusions that I see.
William Jennings Bryan was right. The secularization of our society is, in large part, the direct result of the efforts of twentieth century college professors. Sixty-three percent of senior citizens abandoned their faith while in college. The current tastemakers, cultural icons, and thought leaders were indoctrinated with secularism’s rejection of faith while in college; they took it with them into the larger cultural arena.
The current crop of children who are abandoning their faith before entering college are having their worldviews shaped by the pop culture that is a creation of the previous generations. In other words, the professors of the twentieth century whom William Jennings Bryan warned about are still undermining the faith of our youth. They’re doing it through their students and their students’ students, is all.
My second important conclusion is a rejection of the belief that “faith” is something that can be abandoned — true faith cannot be abandoned, that is. In Romans 8:38-39, the Apostle Paul provides this assurance to the elect saints of God: “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Parents can rest assured that if their children truly repent of their sins and place their faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, nothing will be able to wrench them away from Jesus. No matter how intense the efforts are to destroy it, true faith will remain throughout college and beyond.
Those who do abandon their “faith” are demonstrating which type of “soil” they are, referencing a parable told by Jesus.
Luke 8:4-8 records the Parable of the Soils: “And when a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable, ‘A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.'”
True faith always bears fruit. False faith, as seen in people who claim to believe in Jesus because of things like pressure from their parents or societal expectation, is a faith that will wither and die when confronted with obstacles. If a student is swayed by a college professor to discard Christianity, that college student gives evidence that the “seed” of the Word of God fell on a heart (“soil”) that was hardened to the actual things of God to begin with; he was a “Christian” for self-serving ends.
There is a difference between a society that claims to be religious and a society comprised of faithful Christians. When William Jennings Bryan spoke his words of warning, society was the former; this nation was never the latter. The secularization of society is simply revealing that there have always been fewer actual Christians in America than many wish to believe.