The university at which I teach, Texas Christian University, showed up in the news this week. What’s more, the story focused on my department, history. In case you missed it, The Blaze broke the story of how the TCU History Department is offering students internship credit to write a short history of the local chapter of America’s leading baby-killing business. The organization Students for Life of America, found out about it and issued a statement condemning it. “It is a disgrace,” read the statement, “for a large Christian university to offer credit for an internship at the largest abortion provider in the nation.” And so it most certainly is. I appreciate Students for Life of America and what they’re doing, but we need to clear up something about this “Christian” university.
Like many private universities in this country, TCU started its existence as a Christian college. Like most of those private universities, it ceased to be Christian in any meaningful sense a long time ago. TCU is no more Christian than Harvard, Yale, or Princeton–or SMU, Texas Wesleyan, or Baylor (though Baylor still likes to pretend). Each of them was founded as a Christian institution of one sort or another, but today each of them is a secular private university. This fact about TCU is pretty much universally understood in the Fort Worth area, but in the rest of the nation people are unfortunately deceived by the name.
So let’s put that to rest. The statement by Students for Life of America laments the “parents who thought their child would be receiving a valuable Christian-focused education at a private school” and are instead “paying over $53,500 a year to be swindled.” Well, if that’s what they thought, they certainly are getting swindled. But I don’t think anyone who visited TCU would imagine there was anything “Christian-focused” about it. For that matter, the university never advertises itself as being “Christian-focused” or Christian at all, which is more than I can say for some educational institutions that make bold claims and sadly fail to live up to their billing. If you’re looking for a secular private university, and you have a big (preferably, full-ride) scholarship, it may be worth considering. But it’s not a Christian university. There are some Christian students and a few Christian faculty, including one fully out-of-the-closet, Bible-believing history professor.
That brings me back around to the history department and the matter of the internship for a student or students to write the history of the local chapter of Planned Parenthood. The department has a course called “Internship in Public History,” and students can get credit in it by working for outside institutions such as the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History. In this case, Planned Parenthood contacted the department seeking a student to write up its history for a brief video presentation celebrating the local chapter’s eightieth anniversary.
The opportunity was announced in the department’s faculty meeting a week ago, to no particular fanfare. Being accustomed to being on the losing end of 17-to-1 votes, I didn’t say anything, though the thought did cross my mind that if I were an undergrad now, I’d love the opportunity to be turned loose in the local chapter’s archives, where I’d write a rigorously honest account of their past that they wouldn’t like at all. There wouldn’t be a dull page in it. Maybe I’d start with an account of what Margaret Sanger was really like. But since that wasn’t a possibility for me, I was quiet in my disgust.
The other professors in the department said little about the Planned Parenthood internship because the matter didn’t seem all that notable to them. Like the great majority of history professors in secular universities, they average somewhere to the left of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. It was not without reason that the local outpost of America’s leading abortion mill thought it would get a sympathetic hearing in this department, just as it would in any secular university history department.
You might ask if I support TCU. Well, I support my students, both those who pass through my classroom in a single semester and those with whom I’ve had the privilege of a longer relationship. I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to be an influence in their lives. I hope they’ll remember the things I’ve taught them. They are the TCU I support.
And I support the football team. A number of the players have been my students over the years. Coach Patterson is a patriotic man and always goes out of his way to have his players show special respect for the service academy teams when we play them.
What are we to learn from this little episode? Well, TCU might be a reasonably good secular private university with a great football team, but it’s not at all Christian. The name is an artifact more than a century old. Like almost all secular universities in America, its administration and faculty lean hard-left. We may well be dismayed that any students in any university would receive credit for writing a fawning history of Planned Parenthood, but we have to face the reality that students receive credit for worse things (things that teach them wrong views of the world and promote evil causes) in classrooms at TCU, Baylor, SMU, and at a secular university near you every semester. In the midst of that current of false teaching, God has allowed me to be an island, a rock in the stream, here at TCU.
Finally, God bless Students for Life of America. May their tribe increase, and may we all live to see the end of legal abortion in this country.