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December 4, 2005 - The Devil in the Details













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Last weekend in the pages, in part of a review of the kind of stories that appear in the Sunday papers (see The Sunday Funnies Featuring Curveball) there was something mentioned in passing, really a minor thing.  That's a curious lawsuit out here - a group of students from Christian academies are suing UCLA, actually the whole University of California system.  The problem is bias, in particular anti-Christian bias.  It's a problem with admissions criteria.  The University of California schools won't give them credit for high school science courses that say science is wrong - God did it all - so they cannot get in.  And they haven't read "ungodly" books so they seem to be a bit short in history and literature.  One assumes they're fine in mathematics.

I mentioned this in conversation with my friend, the high-powered Wall Street attorney who studied constitutional law under the man who chaired the committee on the potential impeachment of Richard Nixon.  (Nixon resigned before that could happen.)  I told him the argument being offered seemed to be that these are pubic universities, and that such public institutions cannot use a religious test to bar applicants for admission - it's a violation of the first amendment regarding the state not taking sides in religious matters.  These kids, so the claim goes, were facing discrimination because of their religion.

My Wall Street attorney friend said this suit would never fly, that universities have some sort of "academic freedom" to set standards as they see fit. 

 

The university system has the right to set its own standards?  Maybe so, but we shall see on December 12th when the Federal District Court in Los Angeles will hear this lawsuit.  Can you deny admission to a taxpayer-funded public institution based on religious belief, or are these students truly unprepared for college work?  They claim they are not unprepared at all, just devout and godly - and being persecuted for being so.

By the way, there is a matching lawsuit - Evolution Fight Flares at UC-Berkeley (UPI - Monday, November 28, 2005) - "A civil lawsuit has been filed against operators of a University of California-Berkeley website that's designed to help instructors teach evolution."

The argument there is that the Darwinian set of ideas about evolution is, in essence, a form of religion and the state has no business at all spending citizens' tax dollars to support one religion over another - it says so right in the constitution and all that.  So shut down that website - don't provide religious training to teachers for them to teach a specific religion in public schools.  That one is on shakier grounds, of course.

As for the first lawsuit - brought by the Association of Christian Schools International, representing more than eight hundred of such schools in California, and specifically the Calvary Chapel Christian School of Murrieta (out in Riverside County between Lake Elsinore and Temecula) - there is more detail from Thomas Vinciguerra in the New York Times, Sunday, November 27th in Here's the Problem With Emily Dickinson.

Vinciguerra notes some of the courses in question, those for which the University of California will not allow credit, do not concern Darwin at all, as in "Christianity's Influence in American History" and "Christianity and American Literature."

 

And most of the courses draw on textbooks published by Bob Jones University, down in Greenville, South Carolina.  You know, the school that says it has stood for "the absolute authority of the Bible since 1927."  Ashcroft has spoken there, so has Bush, so has McCain.  No music, no dancing, and until some recent lawsuits, no mixing of "others" with the white race.  (Previous comments in these pages here and here.)  No one watches SpongeBob SquarePants cartoons there.

What Vinciguerra found in the source texts is interesting.

Thomas Jefferson is kind of the antichrist, according to United States History for Christian Schools - Timothy Keesee and Mark Sidwell (Bob Jones University, 2001) –

 

American believers can appreciate Jefferson's rich contribution to the development of their nation, but they must beware of his view of Christ as a good teacher but not the incarnate son of God. As the Apostle John said, "Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son" (I John 2:22).

 

And slavery had nothing to do with economics and wasn't really a political question. The problem was sin.

 

The sin in this case was greed - greed on the part of African tribal leaders, on the part of slave traders and on the part of slave owners, all of whom allowed their love for profit to outweigh their love for their fellow man. The consequences of such greed and racism extended across society and far into the future. It resulted in untold suffering-most obviously for the black race but for the white race as well. ... The Lord has never exaggerated in warning us of sin's devastating consequences - for us and for our descendants (Exodus 34:7).

 

As for Teddy Roosevelt and all the progressives through FDR, their problem was they thought folks could be better people –

 

On the whole, they believed that man is basically good and that human nature might be improved. ... Such a belief, of course, ignored the biblical teaching that man is sinful by nature (Ephesians 2:1-3). Progressives therefore also ignored the fact that the fallible men who built the corrupt institutions that they attacked were the same in nature as those who filled the political offices and staffed the regulatory agencies that were supposed to control the corruption.

 

Ah yes. Some things cannot be fixed.

As for literature, there's that bad guy Mark Twain - as seen in Elements of Literature for Christian Schools - Ronald Horton, Donalynn Hess and Steven Skeggs (Bob Jones University, 2001) - as Twain called God "an irascible, vindictive, fierce and ever fickle and changeful master." –

 

Twain's outlook was both self-centered and ultimately hopeless. Denying that he was created in the image of God, Twain was able to rid himself of feeling any responsibility to his Creator. At the same time, however, he defiantly cut himself off from God's love. Twain's skepticism was clearly not the honest questioning of a seeker of truth but the deliberate defiance of a confessed rebel.

 

Oh yeah, and Emily Dickinson, although she did view the Bible as a source of poetic inspiration, "she never accepted it as an inerrant guide to life."  Christina Rossetti, gets a pass.

As for science courses, see Physics for Christian Schools - R. Terrance Egolf and Linda Shumate (Bob Jones University, 2004), and the section "What is Christian about physics?" –

 

Some people have developed the idea that higher mathematics and science have little to do with the Bible or Christian life. They think that because physics deals with scientific facts, or because it is not pervaded with evolutionary ideas, there is no need to study it from a Christian perspective. This kind of thinking ignores a number of important facts to the Christian: First, all secular science is pervaded by mechanistic, naturalistic and evolutionistic philosophy. Learning that the laws of mechanics as they pertain to a baseball in flight are just the natural consequences of the way matter came together denies the wisdom and power of our Creator God. ... Second, physics as taught in the schools of the world contradicts the processes that shaped the world we see today. Trying to believe both secular physics and the Bible leaves you in a state of confusion that will weaken your faith in God's Word.

 

Studying the motion of objects, using math and stuff like that, will weaken your faith?

There's more in the Times item.  This should be an interesting case.

And God may be sending signs.

Piece of Supreme Court building falls
Chunk of marble falls onto where tourists normally enter; no one hurt
Associated Press - 10:51 am ET Monday, November 28, 2005

 

A basketball-sized piece of marble moulding fell from the facade over the entrance to the Supreme Court, landing on the steps near visitors waiting to enter the building.

No one was injured when the stone fell.

The marble was part of the dentil moulding that serves as a frame for the frieze of statues atop the court's main entrance.

A group of visitors had just entered the building and had passed under the frieze when the stone fell at 9:30 a.m.

Jonathan Fink, a government attorney waiting in line to attend arguments, said, "All of a sudden, these blocks started falling. It was like a thud, thud."

 

The sound of God's displeasure? The AP item quotes a local saying folks were picking up pieces of the stone and to expect them for sale on eBay tomorrow.

And as mentioned here in Lining Up the Week: What's Hot News, What's Not, Seymour Hersh has a new article in the New Yorker on Bush, and it touches on religion.

 

It finally was made available online - UP IN THE AIR - Where is the Iraq war headed next? - and it contains this passage:

 

"The President is more determined than ever to stay the course," the former defense official said. "He doesn't feel any pain. Bush is a believer in the adage 'People may suffer and die, but the Church advances.'" He said that the President had become more detached, leaving more issues to Karl Rove and Vice-President Cheney. "They keep him in the gray world of religious idealism, where he wants to be anyway," the former defense official said. Bush's public appearances, for example, are generally scheduled in front of friendly audiences, most often at military bases. Four decades ago, President Lyndon Johnson, who was also confronted with an increasingly unpopular war, was limited to similar public forums. "Johnson knew he was a prisoner in the White House," the former official said, "but Bush has no idea."

 

And so it goes.































 
 
 
 

Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
 
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