I have been waiting for us to arrive at Reed College. While I was fascinated with Albania and appreciate the Horse Brass Pub very much, I love Reed.
I first learned about Reed through the book Blue Like Jazz which was written by Tony’s friend named named Don – who he mentions in this chapter.
It rocked me.
One of the reasons it impacted me so much was that I lived in upstate NY at the time and we had a Reed. Our college was called Skidmore and it had much the same reputation in our town.
When I would go to our area’s pastor breakfast, my fellow ministers would make many of the same disparaging remarks about Skidmore that Tony mentions about Reed.
Evangelicals have an odd relationship with colleges like this. Whether it is the free-thinking, the critical scholarship or the permissive lifestyle of many students – these kind of colleges are seen as something between mission fields and combat zones. They represent a threat.
It was through Blue Like Jazz that I figured out that I had inherited a terrible allergy. My heart was wrong. My attitude was wrong. My approach was wrong.
I instantly changed my perspective and we developed a wonderful relationship with many Skidmore students. I’m not sure how much we changed the campus – but I was changed greatly by my relationship to the campus.
When I moved to the Pacific NW for seminary, the town that I lived in and pastored in had a Reed. Evergreen State in Olympia Washington played the same role for us that Reed played for the christian community that Tony represented. We were able to connect with an amazing young man who was a student at Evergreen and I would drive out every Sunday morning and most Wednesdays to pick him up for church.
I’m blogging my way through Neighbors and Wisemen for Lent. If you want to catch up on the previous entries [click here]
I am fascinated with this pattern. What sits behind it, for me, is an awareness of a massive shift in american Christianity in the 20th century. After the Scopes Money Trial in the 1920’s, conservative Christianity lost much favor in the public arena. In the court of public opinion we had won that trial but lost much respect and influence.
The result was that conservative Christianity retreated into its own self-made institutions. You see the rise of Christian colleges, Christian radio, and eventually even Christian bookstores, Christian TV, and other manifestations of products tailored to those who wanted to consume Christian goods.
In an open capitalist market it is easy to see why this happened. The assault from the outside world led some branches of the family to pull back into their safe bubbles and develop an animosity to the outside world.
Eventually we got what came to be known as The Culture Wars.
If you want to read a fascinating book, look into The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. Here is a spoiler alert: the Evangelical mind was neglected in lieu of the Culture Wars. We are still suffering for it.
So when it comes to these radical College expressions, they are something to be resisted and even combated. I think that we are worse for it. The culture is worse for it. Our scholarship (or lack thereof) suffers because of it.
That is why I am so happy that Tony is taking us onto Reed’s campus.
We have some growing to do. We have some repenting to do. We have some bridges to build and we have some lesson to learn.
Ring the bell – school is about to start!
I’m glad that we are on this journey together.
I would love to hear your experiences of this kind of combative mentality
or your what the culture wars look like in your area.