Christian colleges grapple with Trump’s election, views on women and minorities

The Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill., on May 29, 2013. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Christoffer Lukas Müller

(RNS) Exit polls suggest 81 percent of white evangelicals voted for President-elect Donald Trump.

But support for Trump may have been less decisive on Christian college campuses, where most students are also white evangelicals.

A Washington Post/ABC News poll before the election found the views of younger adults do not align with some older ones when it comes to their beliefs about Trump supporters.

The poll, taken in September, found that 35 percent of adults aged 18-39 said it is fair to “describe a large portion of Trump’s supporters as prejudiced against women and minorities,” compared to 25 percent of those in the 40-64 age group and 30 percent of those 65 and older.

Internal, self-selecting polls from some Christian colleges in the days approaching the general election also showed weaker Trump support than among the evangelical community at large. At Wheaton College in Illinois, 43 percent of respondents said they would vote for Clinton, while at Grove City College in Pennsylvania, 52 percent said they’d vote for Trump.

Ed Stetzer, executive director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton, said the weaker Trump support among college students is a generational issue.

“Millennials do tend to be more politically progressive than their parents,” Stetzer told The Wheaton Record, the school’s student newspaper. “I do think that justice-oriented millennials are going to be really concerned with some of the comments Donald Trump has said about women, minorities, refugees, and more.”

Wheaton’s President Philip Ryken attempted to calm fears of those nervous about a Trump presidency.

In a Nov. 12 letter to students, he said: “I write to reaffirm our commitments in the Community Covenant — as well my commitment as President — that our community stands against prejudice and hatred (including racism and sexism), embraces ethnic diversity as part of God’s design for humanity in Christ, and upholds the value of every person as an image bearer of God.”

The Echo, Taylor University’s campus newspaper, reported that some minority students expressed fear and frustration at the treatment they received in the aftermath of the election results.

The incidents, which were unconfirmed by Taylor University administration, included students running down halls of the Indiana school waving Confederate flags and an intimidating Snapchat message delivered to a minority student.

At Taylor’s chapel service the day after the election, Campus Pastor Jon Cavanagh advised the student body to “be kind and gracious to one another.”

At North Park University in Chicago, one openly bisexual student was targeted with a threatening hand-written letter that included derogatory and offensive language in the wake of the election. The note included “#trump” at the end.

A series of post-election dialogues has been planned at North Park, including one event set for Nov. 21 called “a religious response to the election and how our faith can help and hinder progress.”

The president of North Park University, David L. Parkyn, emailed the student body on Tuesday (Nov. 15), saying, “messages and expressions of hate have no place on our campus.”

(Kirkland An is an RNS correspondent)

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  • What is there to grapple with? Most of these schools have always treated minorities and women badly. Their views of such groups isn’t any counterpoint to Trump’s cretinous attitudes. The only difference is Trump was at least honest enough not to look to religion for excuses for it.

  • “And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.” Jesus

    “Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, will inherit the Kingdom of God.” Jesus

    “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” Jesus

  • Christian colleges run the gamut from the extreme Left to the extreme Right, to use political terms, and the “treatment” of women and minorities is equally varied at such institutions; in this day and age, there is no institutional pattern that all subscribe to. Indeed, as illustrated in the article, schools and students both are reassessing long held positions in the Christian educational establishment. Not all such reassessments work to the progress of the Gospel, nor do all work against it. Quite the equivocation on my part, but a sincerely held equivocation, as none of us have perfect insight or vision.

  • This election was really tough for those wishing to elect a Bible-thumping “Pastor-in-Chief” or “Sunday-School Teacher-in Chief!” From the beginning they faced a big dilemma: support a racist, mysoginist anti-Semite, or a corrupt, lying impostor getting rich from a lively pay-to-play business selling government influence.That’s a tough choice!

    The solution I’ve been preaching for eons: both evangelical and “main-stream Christians should be concentrating on spiritual growth! Their colleges’ “value-added is focusing on the ethical dimensions of business, industry, physical and social science and human resources, rather than the distraction of politics to bring about the kingdom of God.

  • When a school, religion, political party, or individual begins to compromise on basic human rights is when they lose the moral high ground. This is where Christian Evangelicalism finds itself and why many of us feel it can be described as a religious cult and American Christianity’s biggest enemy.

  • I’ll bet you $1000 that all of the “incidents” are either fictional stories or self-created.

    Students are always ideological tyrants, but never before have so many students been ENCOURAGED to exert tyranny on the basis of total delusion. In previous decades the faculty and administration tried to counter normal student lunacy with civilization and facts. Now the “adults” are worse than the kids.

  • David, I completely agree with your first sentence. The second is too all encompassing. As the article tells us, there are some wonderful evangelical folks. It’s the leadership, the ones with the money and power, who are poisoning the entire pool. The average evangelical in the pew and the school need to denounce those false prophets loudly and repeatedly. Most of all, they need to cut off their money supply. Nothing will silence them sooner. Don’t contribute, don’t buy their endless stream of products, don’t support them through your silence or equivocation.

    Just as Muslims find themselves in the position of having to renounce terrorism in the name of Allah, evangelicals need to do the same regarding Falwell, Dobson, Jeffress, F Graham, Perkins, Robertson, Reed, etc. to save evangelicalism.

  • HL, I am an amateur student of religion, especially fundamentalist Christianity and am a Christian myself (I think). Christian Evangelicalism, in my opinion, falls into the category of a cult. While those in the pews may be gullible pawns of their religious godfathers in the pulpit, they are still culpable. I do not dislike these people, I pity them. They have done more to damage Christianity than any other other one thing, much more than secularism.

  • While I will readily agree that both candidates were deeply flawed, the choice between them was a no-brainer. Another choice would have been to vote for a third party or NOT TO VOTE. Instead, these folks made a bargain with the devil.

  • I”m sorry you don’t see the dilemma of trying to measure the sins of one candidate against the other. No matter how one voted, the question persists in terms of how and when you’ll turn loose of your opposition to work and pray for unity and moving forward.

    Once a friend of mine helped elect a bishop in the Episcopal Church. In the process he was instructed to “give us the best man you possibly can, and trust that God will make him into a bishop! (I say “man” here, because at that time, no women were in the running)

  • “While those in the pews may be gullible pawns of their religious godfathers in the pulpit, they are still culpable.”

    Okay, you have a valid point there. That’s what I had in mind when I said they have to cut the leadership off.

    I can wholly agree that Christians have done much more damage to Christianity than non- believers. Their fear of and animosity toward the secular world is misplaced.

  • I had absolutely NO trouble measuring the sins of these two candidates. Until Mr. Trump convinces me that he is not the vulgar candidate we observed the last 18 months, I will do everything in my limited power to obstruct his misguided agenda. To do less would to be complicity. I’m almost 70 years old, so I’m not doing this for me but for my daughter and yours.

  • In other words you (and your god) have given up on Mr. Trump and you won’t even offer him your prayers in the hope that he is humbled to see the enormity of the job of being president, and proceeds prayerfully for himself! You’re hoping that your opposition will create lots of “drag” on his progress. So, what else do you do with your time and considerable influence? You are one pathetic delusional individual with an oversized sense of your power and influence. The Trump presidency will move on without you!

  • I am waiting to hear that all those evangelicals who voted for Trump but insisted they aren’t racists have jammed the phone lines to complain that Steve Bannon has been raised to the position of Trump’s chief political strategist. I’m also waiting to hear they will be marching to complain about Jeff Sessions, “The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was intrusive” -nominee for Attorney General, who was eliminated from consideration for a previous federal post because of his record of racism. Because they aren’t racist, right?

  • Speaking for yourself there, mean old faux Christian Bill. I’m not a Christian, faux or otherwise.

    You typify your bigoted kind, but you are even far from being the sharpest tool in that shed. It has been kinda fun to watch you lose arguments here.

  • It maybe time for Students of Color to leave Christian schools in rural America go home to safer communities with more supportive people. I have several kids in school. I am not going to pay a premium, transport them and then listen to them cry over the phone because they are getting harassed. We are buying an education and there is no reason to support one that is abusive. Kids you don’t have to stay you can move on to a closer school.

  • Edward, lol… have 18 comment marge following you also? Ah, the third Christian he/she/it has trolled…..they seem to have difficulty with Christian anything……lol…

  • No, you just demonstrated that I am not personally trolling you. Further, Christianity is indeed a difficulty for the world, because it demands that people put aside critical thinking and believe in a set of fairy tales about a bigoted, mass killer “god”.

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