It’s “intolerant,” some people said. “Mean-spirited,” said others. “Discriminatory.” “As bad as South Africa.”
What terrible thing are they talking about? Just this: Eastern Nazarene College, located just outside Boston, has announced that it will hire only Christian teachers.
What’s so earth-shattering about that, you may wonder. After all, Eastern Nazarene is a private school established expressly to teach a particular religious view—which is impossible unless its professors share that religious view.
But many Americans no longer seem to understand what private institutions are all about. When president Dr. Kent Hill reaffirmed the college’s long-standing policy of hiring only “committed Christians,” he was pilloried in the local press. He was compared to the Nazis. He was accused of “cleansing” faculty rosters.
Even some Christians are apparently confused over the issue. A few of the school’s own students denounced the policy as bigoted and discriminatory. A letter to the local newspaper said, “We Christians do not have a monopoly on goodness and ethics.”
Well, “we Christians” are not claiming that we do. All we want is to maintain a distinctive identity for our schools. As Dr. Hill argues, the very essence of pluralism is the “right to maintain and nurture distinctive religious communities”—whether Protestant or Catholic, Jewish or Muslim.
In fact, I wonder what would have happened if it had been a Jewish school instead, announcing it would hire only Jewish teachers. Would we have heard these charges of bigotry and intolerance bandied about?
I doubt it. When a minority group is involved, people seem more ready to recognize that there’s nothing mean-spirited about wanting to maintain a distinctive heritage. In fact, it’s at the heart of a vibrant pluralism.
We moderns love words like pluralism and diversity. But we seem to forget it means allowing people freedom to be unique. History teaches clearly that when a Christian school hires non-Christian teachers, it eventually loses its unique message and ethos.
You see, what goes on in the classroom is far more than the communication of a body of facts. The facts are interpreted within a philosophical framework, a world view. And that world view will be either Christian—or it will be something else.
And as soon as you allow in that “something else,” your message is diluted. To remain Christian, a school has to retain a critical mass on the faculty committed to a distinctively Christian world view.
For those who prefer a secular school, there are plenty of other options. But unless we allow each institution to maintain its own character and message, there won’t be any options. All our schools will give way to a drab sameness, all teaching the same secular outlook.
That isn’t diversity, it’s uniformity.
All of us who support Christian education ought to rally around Dr. Kent Hill and let him know we’re on his side. His critics may charge him with religious intolerance. But the truth is that he’s a shining beacon of integrity . . . in the face of secular intolerance.