Secular ideas have wrought devastating consequences upon colleges that are easy to see. Yet there are students even here at Hillsdale who want our school to follow the recent secular trends of our culture. One of these students, Blake Estep, last semester wrote an op-ed titled “The Importance of Identity, Why Hillsdale College Should Consider Secularization.”
Estep proposes to secularize our school by dissolving its religious affiliation and ending its identification as a “Christian institution.” He argues that Hillsdale’s religious identity discourages non-Christians from attending, thereby limiting religious dialogue to a “majority Christian perspective” and hindering its pursuit of truth. Advocates of secularization claim that ending Hillsdale’s religious connections would make the college more “inclusive” for non-Christians and foster a diverse student body.
Contrary to these claims, Hillsdale is succeeding in its mission of pursuing truth and opening its door to all. It is not taking any coercive action to limit the diversity of religious dialogue on campus. The very existence of God can be up for debate here on campus. Even with its religious affiliation, the student body actually contains a variety of faiths, including Catholicism, Anglicanism, Calvinism, Lutheranism, Mormonism, and Judaism. Opponents may allege that the first five of these are Christian, yet they teach different principles and doctrines whereas the Bible instructs Christians to be of the “same mind” and “same judgment” (I Cor. 1:10, NKJV).
Besides letting good ideas to be taught, Hillsdale’s self-proclamation as a “Christian institution” allows for a strong presence of religious liberty not often present at most other institutions. The very Christian ideals emphasize on freedom and its strong connection to truth. The apostle Paul wrote that “where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (II Cor. 3:17, NKJV). Jesus Himself proclaims to be “the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn. 14:6, NKJV) and that the truth shall set men free (Jn. 8:32). With this biblical principle ingrained within its identity, Hillsdale manages to foster a lively environment of civil discourse and religious tolerance not seen today in most other institutions.
Another false claim labels the college as a “self-imposed echo chamber” that prevents students from knowing why they hate ideas such as communism and moral relativism. In fact, classes in the politics, philosophy, and economics departments give thorough examination of these ideals.
One class, Modern Political Philosophy II, focuses on the arguments of subjectivist thinkers such as Hegel, Nietzsche, and Marx. The Koran is discussed in the Western Theological Tradition core class. Estep’s op-ed even admitted that the college is “generally inclusive” of non-Christian students.
Unfortunately, it is not enough for the opponents of Hillsdale’s religious identity. Supporters of secularization appeal to the self-centeredness of students in order to attack the Judeo-Christian values that define the liberal arts’ pursuit of truth. This self-centeredness is the desire to subject truth to personal feelings rather than the objective will of what the founders described as the “Laws of Nature and Nature’s God.” It has destroyed this virtuous pursuit under the false pretenses of “inclusivity” and “diversity.” Secularization would unleash this Orwellian culture onto our campus. How can Hillsdale live up to its mission if it adopts this culture?
Just look at the consequences of secularization at schools such as Oberlin, St. John’s, Swarthmore, and Denison. Blake’s op-ed touted these schools as examples of secularized liberal arts institutions with religious backgrounds. Yet, all four of these schools have become cesspools of trigger warnings, safe spaces, and identity politics.
At Swarthmore, students have been taking classes such as a seminar on “Fat Justice and Feminism,” which teaches them to fault Ronald Reagan for the troubles of fat people. Denison University is run amok with divisive race hustlers and Black Lives Matter activists. One of its professors even claimed that stating “all lives matter” is “covert” white racism. After becoming a secular institution in 1964,
Oberlin College has reaped the poisonous fruits of its decision. It has included safe spaces for feminists feeling unsafe about a female conservative speaker coming to campus and even considered a policy mandating transgender sensitivity training for the sake of “inclusivity.”
Despite being known for teaching the great works of western society, St. John’s College has not been immune to the consequences of secularizing as it has promoted a student study group examining the “depravity of whiteness.”
From these documented incidents, it would be utterly laughable to claim that these secularized institutions are even pursuing truth.
When examining Estep’s article, I thought of Oklahoma Wesleyan University president Dr. Everett Piper’s speech at the 39th Annual National Conservative Student Conference. In his speech, Piper echoed the warning reflected in Richard Weaver’s 1948 book, “Ideas Have Consequences.” In light of the recent desire to secularize our school, my fellow Hillsdale students and faculty ought to heed this warning.
It is no wonder Piper declared at YAF that higher education in America is in a crisis as many more of these institutions act as progressive indoctrination centers after falling into the trap of secularization. Hillsdale is among the few that do not even face these incidents since it aims to educate rather than indoctrinate. Based on the actual consequences of secularizing, why should our school even consider this terrible idea?
Doyle Wang is a sophomore studying politics. He is a George Washington Fellow.