I Love You but You Didn’t Do the Reading

Almost time for tricks ‘n’ treats–but the news kept on happening. Here are some of the top stories from last week:

Do “working-class” white evangelicals really support Trump most?

Will Queen Betsy and the Kochs end up destroying charter schools? At Curmudgucation.

I don’t find it at all difficult to imagine a future in which the scorched earth folks work to take down charter schools right along with the public system (the one that charters insist they’re part of). If I were a scorched earth person, my plan would be first to split the funding stream into several streams (public this way, vouchers over there) and then just slowly pinch off the public stream. The techniques that we’ve already seen work just fine– starve the schools, create a measure to show that they’re failing, use their failure as justification for starving them further.

Can Democrats learn to “speak evangelical?” Hell Heck yes. At the New Yorker.

“Trying to memorize John 3:16 in the car on your way to the event and then quote that is probably not the best way to connect with faith-based voters,” he said. He had seen a candidate try this trick on the way to a rally in Kansas and then struggle to remember the phrase onstage.

The US government sues a company for discriminating against conservative Christians, at EEOC. HT: DS.

According to the suit, West Reading, Pa.-based Service Caster subjected two assemblers and one assembly line supervisor to a hostile work environment because of their national origin, Puerto Rican, and religion, Pentecostal. The plant manager routinely made derogatory remarks about their national origin. The EEOC says the plant manager also made disparaging comments about their Pentecostal faith, including calling it a “cult.” The EEOC said the harassment continued even after the workers com­plained to the company owner.

Why is one evangelical university in Tennessee thriving while another shrinks? At CT.

In some ways, the schools are very similar. Both recruit large portions of their student body from Tennessee, and are especially appealing to conservative Christians. . . . full-time enrollment at Trevecca has grown by 3 to 6 percent each year since 2013. . . In that same time frame, Bryan saw enrollment decline. The number of full-time undergraduates decreased between 6 and 13 percent in 2013, 2014, and 2015, according to IPEDS. Enrollment numbers rebounded a bit in 2016, but then declined again in 2017.

Bethel Professor Chris Gehrz asks two tough questions about evangelical colleges and tax exemptions, at PS:

institutional self-preservation isn’t our mission. And if we can’t fulfill our mission except with the economic assistance of the state, perhaps this model of Christian education is ready to join others on the dust heap of history.. . . Are we [Christian colleges] doing something necessary and good for our neighbors that couldn’t be done as well by other nonprofit educational agencies that don’t impose a religious test that may discriminate against a category of citizens?

Alfie Kohn has a different question for every Democratic candidate: What do we do about high-stakes testing?

real leadership on this issue would consist of steering the conversation beyond problems with how the tests are used, to problems with the tests themselves; and from talking about how often students are tested to talking about whether these tests are needed at all (in light of the harm they do as well the availability of more informative and less destructive alternatives).

What to do with “gifted and talented” programs? At The Atlantic.

Justice in education isn’t realized through uniformity; it’s realized by ensuring that every single child has the best shot at reaching his or her highest potential.

Religious right shuts down controversial display in Connecticut library. But it’s not what you might think: This religious right is the Indian government and the display was about a 1984 attack on the Sikh minority. At RNS.

Gov’t Fights Anti-Christian Bias: Will Conservatives Celebrate?

Maybe you didn’t see this one, because no one seems to be talking about it. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed suit against a Pennsylvania company for bias against three Christian employees. On first blush, it seems like a story that culture-war conservatives would want to celebrate.

EEOC

Big Government fighting for persecuted Christians…

After all, this seems to be good news for conservative Christians. In this case, the EEOC alleges that three workers were insulted and treated badly. Their Pentecostal religion was demeaned as a “disgusting cult.” The suit points out that creation of a “hostile work environment and disparate treatment” due to the workers’ national origin and religion constitutes “unlawful practices.”

On its face, this diligent protection of conservative Christians might seem like good news for anxious religious conservatives. Very different types of conservative Christians have lamented the fact that mainstream society and government persecute traditional Christians.

From the crunchy side, for example, Rod Dreher warns,

the cultural left—which is to say, the American mainstream— has no intention of living in postwar peace. It is pressing forward with a harsh, relentless occupation, one that is aided by the cluelessness of Christians who don’t understand what’s happening.

And from the Kentucky creationism side, Ken Ham has insisted,

It’s not enough to just tell students, ‘Believe in Jesus!’ Faith that is not founded on fact will ultimately falter in the storm of secularism that our students face every day. . . . Our country has forsaken its Christian soul. We need to see that for what it is.

Rod Dreher and Ken Ham probably wouldn’t agree on much, but as Christian conservatives they agree that mainstream society has turned hopelessly anti-Christian. Yet I’m guessing they won’t take this story as good news. Why not?

First, it is simply bad strategy for them to notice. Like a lot of conservative cassandras, Dreher and Ham have both put all their chips on a persecution story. A more complicated version of that story won’t help them much.

If more thoughtful folks like Dreher DO comment on this story, they could explain it a couple of ways. First, they might claim that conservative religion was more of a free-rider in this case. The government was really interested in protecting these particular Christians because they were also insulted for their Puerto Rican heritage. Plus, intellectuals like Mr. Dreher might point out that this sort of legal protection is beside the point. Sure, the EEOC might fight against insults and harassment, but the EEOC will then turn around and persecute Christians who do not recognize LGBTQ rights. The actual beliefs of conservative Christians, Dreher might say, are nowhere protected.

So although these three plaintiffs might have the government on their side when they are mocked for being Puerto Rican Pentecostals, Mr. Dreher might retort, when they actually try to live their lives as demanded by their Christian faith, they become instead the target of the EEOC.

Or maybe conservative pundits just won’t say anything at all.