January 4, 2005

Swine Whistling Across Iowa

The Deacon at PowerLine questions a highly rated article by William Stuntz whose thesis is that there are similarities between university faculties and conservative churchgoers:

Not surprisingly, each of these institutions is enemy territory to the other. But the enmity is needless. It may be a sign that I'm terminally weird, but I love them both, passionately. And I think that if my church friends and my university friends got to know each other, they'd find a lot to like and admire. More to the point, the representatives of each side would learn something important and useful from the other side. These institutions may be red and blue now. But their natural color is purple.

This may be wishful thinking, but Stuntz makes an interesting case. PowerLine's Deacon, however, questions Stuntz's counter-intuitive suggestion:

Stuntz's piece is well worth reading because of his insights into each of these issues. But what if it turns out that two of the most deeply held beliefs of liberal intellectuals (more fundamental than their position on particular issues such as the ones Stuntz discusses) are (1) distrust of the exercise of U.S. power on behalf of U.S. interests, based on serious doubts as to whether the U.S. is a fundamentally decent society and (2) certainty that anyone who is deeply religious in the traditional sense is a hopeless rube? Would a coalition between liberal intellectuals and conservative evangelicals be possible under these circumstances? Surely not.

Having lived in the academic world, albeit eons ago, and maintaining some familiarity with it through my son-in-law and others, the Deacon's suspicions seem well-founded to me.

Suspicion of American power and suspicion of traditional Christianity (and observant Judaism, for that matter) are both rampant at universities, in spite of the Christian origins of many of these schools.

Better a Wiccan or a dabbler in Buddhism than an evangelical any day, is the mood of many left intellectuals.

That each of these worlds could and should learn from the other is an important insight. Whether they will any time soon is another question.

Personally, in reading many blogs, including those of evangelicals who are political conservatives, I'm impressed by their seriousness about ideas, and important ones at that, and how different they are from the stereotype of the TV preacher.

It seems unlikely to me, though, that the left intellectuals will undertake a serious dialogue with believers any time soon. Stuntz is right that such a dialogue might surprise both groups. When I read the Deacon's thoughts I think somehow of a line of swine, whistling their way across Iowa.

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