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Concerns over Free Enterprise Lead to Sacking of Christian Professor

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : September 17, 2007

image I just read a fascinating article today in Christianity Today.  Colorado Christian University has fired a popular professor, Andrew Paquin.  CCU’s president, William Armstrong, has had concerns over Paquin’s perspectives on free market capitalism.  Armstrong wrote to Paquin several months before the firing saying that he found it “deeply troubling to hear you say that capitalism is inconsistent with the teachings of Jesus.” Read the article here.

In “unrelated news,” Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez is threatening to close the nation’s private schools unless they adopt socialist curriculum.

Both of these scenarios show us that education is often (usually) a delivery system for a particular political or economic agenda.  The second scenario sounds horribly oppressive, while many Christians would nod their head in agreement with Armstrong’s decision to sack Paquin.  The reality is that most Christians in America believe that the free market is a sacrosanct moral force for good in this world.  I think capitalism is usually better than the major alternatives, but that doesn’t mean it is good. 

Jesus cares about how we engage in the political and economic spheres of life.  But he isn’t in bed with any ideologies.  Instead, I believe that Christians can choose a different way.  We should never be comfortable with capitalism. It can never be compatible with the Way of Christ.  Nor can any other system. 

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Comments

6 Responses to “Concerns over Free Enterprise Lead to Sacking of Christian Professor”

  1. Ariah Fine on September 18th, 2007 12:11 am

    Very well said

  2. David on September 18th, 2007 8:32 am

    As a current student at CCU, it is this type of right wing, extremist dogma that concerns me the most. When we begin to take away the ability of professors to express an opinion in the classroom, the fundamental purpose of a university, “Empower students to think”, is being stripped away, degraded, and lost in a political tussle that has very little in common with actual education. I never had Paquin as a professor personally, but the actions of President Armstrong have made me question the directions of the university. Am I the next to go because of a slightly leftist view concerning economic systems? I can’t help but remember that passage in Acts where the disciples “shared everything in common.” Nevertheless, espousing such a view in the wrong company at CCU is apparently dangerous enough to get me expelled. My education has been compromised, devolving into a debased political scene where the wrong word is an imminent death. It is my deepest hope that one day students here will express something for the purpose of academia, focusing on intelligent discussion. However, it would appear that in the current quasi-Nazi state of the university higher-ups, keeping your mouth shut is the only way to avoid expulsion.

  3. Chris Smith on September 18th, 2007 8:33 am

    Thanks for posting this!

    Having graduated from a certain Christian College here in Indiana, I’m not terribly surprised by this news. Really, it seems to me simply an act of self-preservation for the university; the school exists as a result of the philanthropy of wealthy businesspeople who have a great stake in the propagation of free-market economics. This story only confirms my longtime hunch that many “Christian” colleges are anything but Christian.

  4. Norm on September 18th, 2007 3:46 pm

    Mark,

    do you see any role for ideology and if so, what is that role? Is part of our problem that we use ideology primarily as a way of “othering” so we can exercise power, without getting to know them as an individual? Then we respond to the caricature our ideologies inevitably create.

    Peace

  5. markvans on September 18th, 2007 7:12 pm

    Norm,

    You ask great questions. I’m not sure I’m equipped to offer great answers in response. :)
    I think ideologies should always be seen as transitional. In psychological lingo, they can be helpful “transitional objects” to helping us faithfully attach to Jesus Christ. They stretch our imaginations and our boundaries as we yearn for the Great Mystery that is God.

    The problem is when they cease to be transitional and become a replacement for God. All ideologies can become idols. And those that don’t adhere to those ideologies become “heretics” against our ideological god and are therefore worthy of our scorn. We marginalize them with justification.

    What do we do in response to this cycle? This is why I think postmodernism can be a helpful way forward (so long as we don’t rest upon it as an ideology). We need to constantly deconstruct and reconstruct our understanding of ourselves, our world, and our God. We must not let Truth become hardened into objectified abstractions. Instead, we need to continually re-enter the dynamic world of relationships and resist the impulse to make those relationships static.

    Just to disentangle myself from all of this abstract language, let me put it in the most biblical way I can: We need to resist making the way of Jesus into a once-and-for-all ideology. Instead, we need to follow our Lord Jesus by leading of the Spirit. Depending upon the Spirit is messy, but it is the only way forward. We need to wrestle against the Powers as we follow Jesus Christ. By his Spirit, he will transform us and renew our minds.

  6. keith johnson on September 18th, 2007 9:14 pm

    Hi Mark:

    I should say up front: I am a socialist as well as a Christian, so take my POV with a grain of salt. I would say that there are certain attitudes that capitalism tends to promote attitudes that are indeed contrary to the teachings of Christ. If you are the CEO of a firm, there are times when promoting the profitability of your firm requires you to make decisions that go against the interests of the people who work for you. Downsizing your company to make it more competitive? You throw hundreds of people out of work. You wanted to make sure your firm avoids damaging the environment? Great idea, but that raised your production costs and you lost out to your less responsible competition and the Board of Directors replaced you with someone else.

    The fact is: in a competitive capitalist economy, successful firms are those that produce what the economy demands using the cheapest production methods–they are the profit maximizers. Companies that put people above profits are at a distinct disadvantage. Now I won’t claim that it is *impossible* for the managers of firms to do their jobs in a way that is consistent with what Christ taught, but capitalism makes it hard to do.

    your friend
    Keith

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