Evan makes a sensible point about the controversy over adjunct Catholic studies professor Kenneth Howell’s dismissal from University of Illinois and subsequent reinstatement, in the course of a discussion of Tim Larsen’s article on discrimination against Christians:
there’s no reason to think that any crisis of anti-religiosity is demonstrated at UI. If anything, the only reason why Howell has successfully been reinstated is because of the huge influence that Christianity maintains in our universities. Other adjuncts have not fared so well. If an adjunct instructor were dismissed for offending students with a Judith Butler reading, for instance, I can’t imagine they would have received such support or had such luck in being reinstated. The incident would have been another data point amongst many others and wouldn’t have made any news.
I agree with Larsen that if discrimination against Christians is happening, it’s bad and some kind of action should be taken. I do think that conservative Christians do present special pedagogical challenges, both because of their own attitudes (above all the tendency toward persecution complex, which is understandable given that Christian leaders are constantly teaching them to expect persecution from godless liberals) and because of the tendency for non-Christian students and, unfortunately but sometimes understandably, non-Christian faculty to react very negatively to them.
Faculty are of course the adults in the room and should figure out better ways to deal with them and guide their students in such ways — in particular, I think faculty need to be sensitive to conservative Christian paranoia and do their best not to set it off — but I think Christian leaders need to be held responsible here as well. There are probably better ways to spend the kids’ time in youth group, for instance, than presenting high school as a hotbed of violence where you’re likely to step on a used syringe while trying to dodge the couple fucking openly in the hallway and presenting college as a place where the godless indoctrinators are going to give you an F unless you tow the party line. The reality is that non-Christian faculty and students are human beings who necessarily bring their experience into the classroom, and often their past will have included negative experiences with Christian intolerance — a situation that is not helped when Christian kids are taught from age five to be as militant and defensive as possible when the topic of religion comes up.