The New Apartheid

If it's true that university campuses set the trends for the wider society, then we may be headed for a jarring crack-up of American culture. Student groups today seem to be splitting into ever-smaller subgroups. New Republic magazine reports that at Oberlin College, for example, the Asian-American Alliance has splintered into East Asians and South Asians. Similar splits have broken up the Korean, the Jewish, and the Muslim student groups. Not to be outdone, a group of homosexual students has split four ways: one for black males, one for black females, one for white males, and one for white females. Today's students seem determined to congregate only with clones of themselves. Many campuses have special theme houses where students can live with people of their own race: an Asian house, Jewish house, Latino house, African-Heritage house. The same separatism has even invaded the academic program. The curriculum has splintered into East Asian Studies, Judaic Studies, Latin American Studies, Women's Studies, Black Studies. Many colleges have dropped required courses that treat Western culture as a whole. This is nothing less than intellectual balkanization. Black students want to read only books by black authors; women want to read only books by female authors. The assumption seems to be that race and gender determine how people think. Some may try to justify this in the name of ethnic pride, but it's much more than that. It's a blow at the very principles America is built upon. America is a nation of immigrants. What gives us cultural cohesiveness is not a common ethnic background but a common belief--belief in such principles as the rule of law, the value of the individual, the freedoms outlined in the Bill of Rights. Indeed, America depends for its very existence on the conviction that we can transcend our native cultures and commit ourselves to a unified national vision. That's why America's national motto is E pluribus unum--"out of many, we are one." That motto, of course, is a secularized version of biblical teaching. In the first century, Jesus' apostles scattered across the globe with the message that God is not just the God of the Jews but of the entire universe. The Gospel is for Jews and Gentiles, Greeks and barbarians, men and women, rich and poor. But today's university students are being taught that there is no set of principles that can command allegiance from all people. As a result, we are in danger of splintering into a thousand squabbling nationalities, each hiding out in its own cultural and intellectual ghetto. What's at stake here is not only the future of American culture but the very notion of Truth itself. When black students or women students or Latino students refuse to even read the works of other people, they are saying that each group has its own truths--that there is no single, overarching, universal Truth. But Christianity makes the bold claim that it is an overarching, universal Truth--the truth about ultimate reality. So the breakup of the universities is not just a disaster for American culture. It's a disaster for anyone trying to communicate the Christian truth. It will be impossible to preach that Christianity is true when Truth itself is splintered into a thousand ethnic fragments.  


Chuck Colson



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