Thursday, January 22, 2004

O Israel, if only you would heed! 

Upon reading the St. Olaf magazine yesterday, the glossy best-foot-forward P.R. arm of my alma mater, I couldn't speak for half an hour. I don't know why this grief hit me so hard. Ever since graduation, the magazine has utterly disgusted me with its shiny photographs of smiling students, carefully selected for a multiracial mix of good-looking faces; the alumni profiles always of either successful businessmen and -women or of volunteers from only those causes pleasing to the academic left; the confident statements that Progress and the Future are being embraced vigorously "on the Hill." Still, while I was there the college maintained some the trappings of its Norwegian Lutheran heritage, and with my eyes shut I refused to realize that it would place itself squarely and defiantly on the wrong side of the culture wars.

My first clue was in a timeline of the college's Embracing of Diversity, when the 2002 entry proudly proclaimed that benefits were extended to same-sex domestic partners of faculty and staff. Grievous, but all too common. But when the alumni almanac titled its first page "Marriages and Partnerships," I began to get mad. And the final page, the "last word" of the face the college chooses to put to the world, was an article by an Episcopalian religion professor wholeheartedly endorsing her church's choice of of Gene Robinson as a bishop, replete with the tired half-baked arguments that we are moving to a new Phase in Christianity and that no one takes Scripture as normative anymore. Livid barely suffices to describe me.

What has happened to my school? None of these weakminded and cowardly professors and bureaucratic clerks could have looked St. Olav in the eye for a solid minute. Martin Luther would have vivisected them verbally. And Berndt Julius Muus...if he had known that the college he founded for Norwegian farmchildren would one day be endorsing sodomy as the Future of the Church, I daresay he might have reconsidered things.

Perhaps this was only to be expected. The college can't very well be more courageous than the ELCA itself, which is the negotiated compromise of American churches whose European sires had been toadies of their governments for centuries. When a church actually funds abortions, why should I expect it to hold to anything Christian?

No, my college is dead. Or at least, the faith is dead there officially. Only a live thing can swim upstream, as Chesterton wrote; and I have seen no signs from the college administration in recent years that it is going anywhere except where the flood of academic elitism washes it. The young undirected fire of the student Christian groups will blaze on, fueled as it is by the Spirit, but for the administration and (as nearly as I can tell) the campus chapel, the Gospel is dead. Vague references to "a college of the church" will always remain in the campus brochures as a selling point for enrollment and donations, but a gospel that makes demands on you, that requires you to do things against the culture--that gospel is not being heard by ears deadened by money.

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