An 8 part special report exclusive to BarbWire.com
Part 1 of 8
But if we and our posterity reject religious instruction and authority, violate the rules of eternal justice, trifle with the injunctions of morality, and recklessly destroy the political constitution, which holds us together, no man can tell, how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us, that shall bury all our glory in profound obscurity.” Daniel Webster, 1852
Executive Summary: The culture war over who controls America continues to be in full swing. Conservatives should not assume that the election of Donald Trump ends the progressive effort to undermine and destroy traditional institutions that sustain America’s Christian culture and civil society. One of these institutions is the education system, in particular the vital network of private religious-based colleges and universities.
While conservatives long ago lost the battle for control of state colleges, these private colleges are instrumental to creating the next generation of leaders who will effectively defend America’s constitutional heritage. But they too are under attack, due to the failure of trustees and administrators to protect these institutions from the progressives who detest America’s Christian culture, its constitutional order and its free enterprise system.
This is the story of the slow and steady transformation of one of America’s leading private Christian institutions of higher learning: Pepperdine University. It is hoped that the lessons of Pepperdine will assist others in similar battles.
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A recent poll of millennials reveals that 51% reject capitalism, 44% support socialism, and even 7% preferred living in a communist country. Such startling statistics makes it obvious that America’s public universities and colleges are failing to teach the most basic fundamentals of the free market system, individual freedom, and the great principles of Western civilization that inspired our founding fathers.
The growth of “progressive” collectivist liberalism at America’s institutions of higher learning has been well known for generations, and a number of forward-thinking men responded by forming private conservative Christian colleges. Indeed, men such as Jerry Falwell, George Pepperdine, Pat Robertson, and many others did so in the hope of producing graduates grounded in the great ideas and moral truths of our 2000-year-old Western tradition, knowledgeable about America’s historically rare constitutional order, and the importance of our Christian culture. They sought graduates imbued with strong Christian character, a sense of service to others, and informed about the virtues of market economics. Such graduates would become leaders across a broad spectrum of endeavor, helping to counter America’s leftward drift and restore the country to its original constitutional order.
Many of these private Christian institutions have continued to be faithful to their founding mission, such as Hillsdale College, Harding University, Grove City College, Regent University, Liberty University, etc. Unfortunately, others have drifted away from their core foundational principles and have become mirror images of the politically correct and socialist-drenched public universities. Sadly, one of them is Pepperdine University, which recently shocked many of its donors and alumni by acquiescing to the cultural-Marxist left when it removed a beautiful bronze statue of Christopher Columbus from its undergraduate campus, also called Seaver College. For the purposes of this report, “Pepperdine” is used in referring to Seaver College, unless otherwise noted.
In the left’s narrative that many at Pepperdine now embrace, Columbus is considered an evil oppressor, a racist, and a man of “white privilege” due to his efforts to spread the gospel of revelation and reason to the New World. The effort was part of a larger movement on the left that seeks to eviscerate and redefine America’s great Western heritage.
The removal of the Columbus statue itself represents the conflicted heart of Pepperdine. If the university really believed the left’s logic that it would be morally contaminated by keeping this statue, then it would have destroyed it. But instead, the school tried to appease everyone by transferring the statue to its satellite campus in Italy, where Columbus is revered. In other words, Columbus is morally acceptable if you attend Pepperdine’s Italian campus but not if you attend the Malibu campus. This demonstrates the failure of Pepperdine to develop a coherent argument about what Columbus represents or why the school should keep the statue. This incident received national attention and, frankly, was embarrassing for many Pepperdine alumni, a group largely of the conservative persuasion.
A less publicized but perhaps more troubling example of Pepperdine’s drift is when, in July of 2016, Pepperdine removed a large beautifully carved wooden relief of Father Serra from Seaver College’s cafeteria. Serra was the courageous Spanish Catholic Franciscan priest who brought Christianity to California in the 1700’s and settled much of the state by founding 21 missions extending from San Diego to San Francisco. Apparently, Serra, like Columbus, was also a racist European, a label constantly used by the left without any historical context to further its own political agenda.
We should not be shocked or even dismayed that radical students make demands at Pepperdine. It is a major university and its mission includes engaging many points of view and allowing wide latitude in expression. However, it is distressing that the administration feebly accommodated these demands and by doing so did great damage to academic freedom and respect for the history of our civilization. The Vice President for Administration, Phil Phillips, told the Graphic that the artwork was moved because “we had students who were offended by this example of ‘conquest art’ in our cafe.”
But if this art represents “conquest art” then the Pilgrims and others who settled America were also “conquerors” and therefore, for Pepperdine to be morally consistent, they should ban all textbooks and instruction with anything to do with America’s founding. This is what happens when a school loses sight of its founding principles and starts babbling illogical leftist narratives. Pepperdine has been unable to mount a coherent defense of its own founding principles.
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.