Law Religion Culture Review

Exploring the intersections of law, religion and culture. Copyright by Richard J. Radcliffe. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Book Review: God's Harvard: A Christian College on a Mission to Save America.

Washington Post writer Hanna Rosin's God's Harvard: A Christian College on a Mission to Save America is a political book.

First, it's political in the traditional sense. For example, according to Ms. Rosin's account, Patrick Henry College's ["PHC"] primary mission is to create Christian politicians (p. 16) to "save America" as the subtitle suggests.

However, the tome questions whether its George W. Bush clones or wannabees would save the nation. Rosin's text holds its students, administrators and faculty (for the most part) up to ridicule. Rosin's political bias makes clear that she thinks a school producing such politicians and other "culture warriors" would not save but sink the nation. As support, I offer this telling quote from one of Rosin's friends: "If they're all like her [one of the PHC students who lived with Rosin's family], we're in trouble." (p. 8.)

In addition to the troubling "us v. them" dichotomy, this snippet (which Rosin repeated in a brief interview on NPR) evidences a fear of these folks, no matter how pleasant they may seem. Rosin fans these flames suggesting her readers should be afraid of these accomplished students and their school. Chapter Six's "Go For Christ!" rally cry in the course of a political campaign couldn't have sounded the alarm of a marriage of Evangelicalism and Republicanism more loudly.

The book is political in other senses too. Rosin's work explores gender politics, school politics and the "politics of dancing" at PHC. Rosin seems to fixate on gender roles, dress codes and codes of conduct as if those somehow define "God's Harvard."

In diverting on these tangents, the book fails to deliver on its potential, much like Gary Coleman's current career. I hoped the book would explain whether and how this new institution [PHC] is "God's Harvard." In other words, I wanted this book to show how an "evangelical" college can compete in the rarefied air of this nation's finest universities.

Despite the title, this educational focus eluded the book. Rosin takes easy paths when she, predictably, discusses creationism-believing, home-schooling, movie-viewing predilections of the school's constituencies. The best part of this book unfortunately was never written or edited out of existence.

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