Why is it Wrong for Our Concordia Professors to Sign a Petition in Support of William Ayers, by Pr. Rossow

We are in a political season and the posting of a petition in support of William Ayers was a political act. Our concern however is not political. Our concern is for the church. By their signatures the Concordia professors who signed the petition in support of William Ayers have signed on to a philosophy of education that contradicts what the Scriptures teach.


It would seem enough reason for a Christian to avoid a petition, if that petition supports a man who admits to helping organize fire-bombings of the Pentagon and individual homes amongst other radical actions and that even though these things happened years ago, to this day he states that he does not regret these things. But that is not the most important reason for questioning these signatures on this petition. The most important reason is of a more churchly nature.


The issue for the church is the matter of what sort of education theory is to be espoused in our university. Dr. Johnson, the president of Concordia, needs to take a stand against the pagan education theory of William Ayers that is described in the petition. If Dr. Johnson will not do it, then President Kieschnick needs to step in and take a stand against this sort of godless theory making its way into our university. If President Kieschnick will not take such a stand then we the pastors and lay people of the synod will need to find some way to make sure that the universities of our common confession are indeed founded on education theory that is not pagan and godless but scriptural and Lutheran.


If all you have read is the petition you will probably think that I am exaggerating when I claim that William Ayer’s philosophy of education is pagan and godless. On the surface it just looks like a statement in support of academic freedom. But if you limit yourself to the superficial view of the petition you have also been deceived into thinking that the worst thing William Ayers ever did was walk in a few protest marches as a young kid. After all, here is how the petition describes his fire-bombing activity: “It’s true that Professor Ayers participated passionately in the civil rights and antiwar movements of the 1960s, as did hundreds of thousands of Americans.”


So let’s take a look at what William Ayers says about education theory and see what is being hidden in the code words of the petition which says that he is simply a proponent of free speech and academic freedom. We will only be able to scratch the surface here. We encourage you to pursue the links provided here to learn more about Ayers’ pagan, godless ideology.


Bill Ayers is a Radical

Just for the record, before we get to the education theory, here is a snippet of Ayers describing the work of the American Red Army – the group with which he did the fire-bombing: “Kill all the rich people. Break up their cars and apartments. Bring the revolution home. Kill your parents” (quoted on the website “A Guide to the Political Left“).


Bill Ayers Education Theory is Based on Dialogue and Not the Communication of Truth

Concerning education theory, the first point to be made is that William Ayers’ theory is post-modern. What that means for education theory is that he believes that education is more about dialogue than it is about imparting knowledge and information. It also means that his verbiage tends toward gobbldy-gook and is just so much semantics. Consider this quote from Ayers:


We are most human after all when we are in dialogue—dialogue stimulates the mind and the imagination. It creates community even if the community it creates is sometimes contentious; dialogue is the harbinger of disequilibrium because it is an inquiry into something complex; dialogue requires self-awareness, empathy, thought, and a willingness to commit to using language well.


Here is Ayers quoting his mentor, Paulo Friere


Through dialogue the teacher-of-the-students and the students-of-the-teacher cease to exist and a new term emerges: teacher-student and students-teachers. The teacher is no longer merely the-one-who-teaches, but one who is himself taught in dialogue with the students, who in turn while being taught also teach. They become jointly responsible for a process in which all grow.


Do we want classrooms filled with students teaching the teacher?


Paulo Friere was a liberation theologian in Chile in the 1960’s For those of you who know anything about liberation theology this will make sense. Liberation theology is a leftist, liberal version of Christianity that asserts that Jesus did not come to forgive sins but to create social upheaval so that the poor folks exploited by capitalism would be inspired to overturn their oppressive governments. Bill Ayers comes out of this world of thought and peddles this sort of thinking in his education philosophy. This is also the theology that is behind Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s radical preaching against America.


This mindless blathering of dialogue is apparent in a video clip where Ayers spoke last year at a commemoration of the founding of the Michigan State University chapter of the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society). As we shall show below, a “democratic society” in this case simply means communism.


Education is Intended to Result in Revolution

This emphasis on dialogue also sets the stage for Ayers views that education is intended to result in revolution. Through teacher/student dialogue there is energy created to inspire people to overturn the systems that have been set in place that have held society back. This is what the petition means by stating that Ayers calls us to question dogma, orthodoxy, and authoritative claims. Here is a quote from an Ayers treatise on improving education environments:

To be aware of the social and moral universe we inhabit and share, aware, too, of what has yet to be achieved in terms of human possibility, is to be a teacher capable of hope and struggle, outrage and action, a teacher teaching for social justice and liberation.
The fundamental message of the teacher, after all, is this: You can change your life. Whoever you are, wherever you’ve been, whatever you’ve done, the teacher invites you to a second chance, another round, perhaps a different conclusion. The teacher posits possibility, openness, and alternative; the teacher points to what could be, but is not yet. The teacher beckons you to change your path, and so she has but one basic rule: to reach.


Here is a quote about the goal of education being the call to  revolution. It is from the SDS website (Students for a Democratic Society, which Ayes supports, as stated in the video clip highlighted above)


We commit to changing the character of education and to affirm the necessity of Ethnic, Women’s, Queer, and African/a studies departments as correctives to the historical bias of academia. We further affirm that curricula in general must be challenged as to both their means and their ends. Education must liberate society from, and not perpetuate, the condition of domination by a select few.


Ayers Philosophy of Education is Godless and Pagan

Consider the following quote from the treatise cited above. Notice how Ayers considers children to be hunks of goo (this is why the abortionists feel they can kill babies without guilt – we are just soulless, hunks of goo). Notice also the radical individualism that characterizes Ayers’ view of man, not too mention his use of potty language in the public square.


I urge teachers to start with a faith that every child comes to you as a whole and multidimensional being, much like yourself. Every human being, no matter who, is a gooey biological wonder, pulsing with the breath and beat of life itself, eating, sleeping, pissing and shitting, prodded by sexual urges, evolved and evolving, shaped by genetics, twisted and gnarled by the unique experiences of living—just like you. Every human being has as well a complex set of circumstances that makes his or her life understandable and sensible, bearable or unbearable; each is unique, each walks a singular path across the earth, each has a mother and a father, each with a distinct mark to be made, each is somehow sacred. This recognition asks us to reject any action that treats anyone as an object, any gesture that thingifies other human beings. It demands that we embrace the humanity of every student—that we take their side. Easy enough to say, excruciatingly difficult to enact in the daily lives of schools.


Ayers Philosophy of Education is Marxist/Communist/Socialist

The video clip referenced above is Bill Ayers speech at an event commemorating the SDS chapter at Michigan State University. Here are their nine principles of unity with my commentary in parentheses.

1. We want a participatory democratic society.

2. We want the end to restrictions on free expression. (homosexuals and lesbians must not be criticized in a truly free society)

3. We want the basic needs of all people be met. (healthcare and things of this nature are a right and should be provided by the forced redistribution of wealth)

4. We want an immediate end to all forms of oppression and domination. (i.e. capitalism)

5. We want an environmentally sustainable society.

6. We want a proper education.

7. We want a non-hierarchical society. (i.e. communism)

8. We want transparency and involvement in community interactions with businesses and other institutions. (i.e. the end of capitalism)

9. We want the end to all wars of aggression, imperialism and the socio-economic and political structures that support and profit from them. (down with the United States)


As I mentioned above, this only scratches the surface. If time permits and this issue is not resolved, we will share more details on William Ayers’ godless, pagan theory of education.


When all is said and done are our professors of education that signed this petition leftist radicals or just ignorant of the leftist education theory behind this petition? Neither option is very encouraging. Even if it is “just” the latter, action needs to be taken on this matter so that the brothers of John the Steadfast and all LCMS pastors and laymen can be assured that proper supervision is being practiced in our universities with our faculty.


Pastor Rossow

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.


Why is it Wrong for Our Concordia Professors to Sign a Petition in Support of William Ayers, by Pr. Rossow — 13 Comments

  1. This past summer my daughter participated in the deaconness program retreat at Concordia Chicago, and I have a great respect for kind, capable sisters in that program and for the Department of Theology in general. But this department does not seem representative of the college as a whole.

    What does Concordia Chicago believe or stand for? From what this article describes, I will have to agree with what an ex-admissions administrator told me last winter. Absolutely nothing. If they did, these professors who sign this petition would be gone.

    I was visiting Hillsdale College last winter, where this ex-Concordia admissions administrator now works, with a group of high school drama students. This admissions administrator gave a ten-minute presentation about Hillsdale College that would have enraged Bill Ayers and offended any post-modern student who would not be happy at Hillsdale. In fact, he said that if what Hillsdale stands for offended any students, then he suggested that they might look into Oberlin college or any number of state universities. (Oh, I wish Lutheran churches would be as forthright.)

    After his brief talk, I went forward to shake his hand because I really appreciate men to who believe and openly confess what they believe without apology. He had modeled the pattern of the Reformers: we believe this, therefore we condemn that.

    I asked him about himself, and he said that he had worked in the Concordia system for many years, including Chicago, but had been frustrated because “The Concordia University system does not know what it believes.” Hmm. I suppose this sad fact reflects the church body that runs these colleges.



    PS. My daughter will be a freshman at Hillsdale College in the fall. I would not trust any of the Concordias with my daughter.

  2. Rob,

    Thank you for this incredible account. You have hit the bullseye of our concern over this petition debaucle.

    I too endorse the deaconess program at Concordia. We currently have a deaconess intern at Bethany, Naperville. She knows theology, understands the church and sees her role as auxilliary to the office of the ministry. Her Concordia training has been excellent but like you I fear that this is the exception, not the rule.

    Pastor Rossow

  3. I graduated from a Concordia University several years ago as I prepared for work in the church. I transfered from a state university, so I found it refreshing to once again be at a Lutheran educational institution like I had been in day school. At the same time I was often disappointed with the similarities between Concordia University and the state school I came from. A lot of my fellow non-church work students were given little exposure to Lutheran doctrine and practice. I was often under the impression that educating church workers was simply an aside to the greater educational business the University was involved in. I was being taught Lutheran doctrine in my theology classes, but the rest of my curriculum was like the state school minus the teaching of evolution. We had daily chapel services and Sunday church services, but it was difficult to find a Bible study lead by a pastor. Much of the student led devotional time I was exposed to had a decidedly charismatic tone. I pray that the kids in our Lutheran colleges will get more Christian guidance from the grown ups leading these institutions even if these kids are, in a way, out on their own for the first time in life.

  4. One searches in vain for supporters of Ayers from Hillsdale, Wheaton, Westmont, Biola, Grove City, or Gordon College. And each of these provides a liberal arts education that is as good as, or more likely better than, what is available at a Concordia. I’m a fairly recent convert to Lutheranism and I’m appalled that a tradition so rich in theology and learning is in such sad pedagogical shape today. There are those in the system who are seeking to reform it, both confessionally and academically, but we need more of them. This is a mission field. If we don’t actively and internally seek to institute change, the future of the system, and therefore the synod, is cloudy indeed.

  5. Those quotes remind me of many esoteric statements in various academic disciplines. When you break them down they really don’t say much at all.

    Notice the Hegelian dialectic of teacher (thesis) + student (antithesis) = synthesis (changed life). That is actually the best thing Ayers stated in these quotes.

  6. Dr. P.

    You are correct that it is a Hegelian thing, and then some – Marx of course being Hegel’s star pupil (historically speaking). The big difference of course is that Marx is a practitioner not of the pure dialectic (spiritual) but of dialectical materialism (no spirit – just matter).

    Ayers is a self avowed Marxist. This is why I assert that his edudational theory is antithetical to Christianity. The Marxist dialectic of material says that all there is, is matter. There is no God. As a matter of fact God is the opiate of the people used by the capitalists to keep the workers enslaved in their factories. When the worker creates an object, he is metaphysically a part of that thing. His being is in the matter (i.e. there is a dialectic/dialogue between the worker as material and the material of the object he makes – this is the dialectic of material). This is why Ayers and other Marxists claim that “the man” (the capitalist) is a thief. He steals the being of the worker (which is in the product) and then sells it for a profit. This is why Marxists want to overturn society – so that the worker becomes “the man.”

    This stupid hocus pocus metaphysics makes its way into his education theory. This is why he and his mentor Friere, speak of the student becoming the teacher and the teacher becoming the student. But it is more than just stupid. it is godless because it is materialistic.

    I have gone on too long already. Maybe more in another comment.

    Pastor Rossow

  7. It reminds me of the endless blather about group learning and discussion. I tell my students that we are free to discuss as much as they desire. However, their opinions of any given topic must be based on facts.

    You understand Marx pretty well. Without trying to sound like a liberation theologian (which I am definitely not) we could discuss from a moral, theological perspective the nature of economics. Luther was certainly antagonistic to lending at interest and exploitation of peasants.

    This examination of Ayers’ philosophy also demonstrates what the ancients knew. Education always results in some form of moral formation. It is soulcraft.

  8. Rob,
    The Concordia Universities are not the only Lutheran schools that are secular outside of theology departments. This extends all the way down to our grade schools. Our son attended a Lutheran school for K and 1st grade until we realized the education was identical to public school except without evolution and the addition of Bible study and chapel. We need to get back to classical Lutheran education, forget about what “the state” thinks when it comes to “certification,” and start teaching our students the important things again. We now homeschool, and as far as college goes, we will not be sending him to a Concordia even though I am a Concordia grad. We are looking into Patrick Henry college in Virginia, but we have years to decide. 🙂

  9. well i am not going to lie this truely frightens me since i am planning on attending CUC in the fall. we as a church are supposed to be of one faith so why is there so much turmoil in the synod?

  10. Even though no one will probably read a new comment on such an old post, I’ll at least ask the question and see what happens. Is it the duty of the Concordia system (or Lutheran education in general) to shelter our children from what the world will throw at them? Or is that even a possible endeavor? It was semi-possible when we all spoke German and isolated ourselves, but what about now? How can we prepare the next generation to be able to give answers to questions they don’t think exist?

    On a personal note, I went to a CU school and was taught evolution in the one biology class I HAD to take. So I just proclaimed God’s truth, happily accepted my B-, and went on with life. I now have a better understanding of where evolutionary biologists come from and can better offer them God’s truths. But had I not been prepared by my parents and my public education, that one biology class may have caused me to doubt my faith since it offered answers to questions that I might not have otherwise asked.

  11. Clarity –

    I don’t mind the professors teaching the yutes what Bill Ayers stands for. What I contest is that they signed a petition in favor of what he teaches.


  12. While I entered into this discussion late the website with the petition appears to have been taken down. So my only information thus far is what has been provided on this blog. Specifically, did those who signed the petition do so in order to defend Bill Ayers’ teaching or to defend his character? I suppose a little of both since every signer has their reasons (political, personal, etc). I’ve searched the internet and can’t find a website with the petition on it. Is there still an active link somewhere?

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