FIRST THINGS Goes to College, By Martin R. Noland

I used to be an avid reader of and subscriber to “First Things” magazine.  Not because I agreed with the outlook of the editors or the stable of authors, but because they were interested in the same things I was interested in.  “First Things” got its start in 1989 when Richard John Neuhaus got the “boot” from the Rockford Institute and needed someplace to exercise the fruit of his prodigious mind (see the full story in First Things #192 [April 2009]: 35-36).

When Neuhaus died in 2009, he left a big hole in the “Public Square” (see tributes in First Things April 2009).  The editors carried on valiantly.  Then this year the editors did a “makeover” and started including crossword puzzles.  Crossword puzzles?!  Oh well, I suppose folks on the subway need something to do, and who wants to buy the New York Times just for the crosswords.

This month’s issue, November 2010, is more like it.  I don’t mean the crosswords puzzle.  That is still there on page 84.  The issue is about “God and American Colleges.”  Maybe it’s time for me to re-up my subscription.

This November 2010 issue is a Christian version of US World and News Report annual collegiate issue.  Almost all of our Lutheran colleges don’t come out looking very good, by most measurements.  Here are some brief snippets to whet your appetite:  Valparaiso University – first on the list of “Schools in Decline, Filled with Gloom”; St Olaf College – “religion can be completely avoided” says one student; “Gettysburg College” – “Religious convictions are not unknown”; Concordia University Wisconsin – fifth on the list “Schools on the Rise, Filled with Excitement.”  Well, at least CUW got some praise.  The other Lutheran colleges are not even mentioned.

Then there is the knockout article by Stanley Hauerwas titled “Go With God” (pp. 49-53).  It is a personal letter to any student contemplating or already enrolled in college.  With just the right tone, it gives excellent advice on how to survive as a Christian in college and to think about studies in a Christian way.  Hauerwas talks about being a college student as having a “calling,” and he is right.

Maybe the readers of BJS aren’t interested in the things I am interested in, so maybe First Things is not your cup of tea.  That’s fine.  But do a big favor to all the kids you know–who are going to college or plan to go–by getting a copy of Hauerwas’ great article and begging them to read it, before they go to bed tonight.   They’ll thank you–some day–for your thoughtfulness and concern about their faith.

Pastor Dr. Martin R. Noland
Trinity Lutheran Church
Evansville, IN

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