The Perspective of This Year’s New Students

Each fall the humanities department of Beloit College attempts to help academics understand the incoming first year students with its “Mindset List” which reflects what the class of freshmen will have experienced, or don’t know.

It is always interesting and sobering to read this list – and makes lots of us feel older than we wish we were.  Here is their introduction, and a portion of this year’s list:

If the entering college class of 2013 had been more alert back in 1991 when most of them were born, they would now be experiencing a severe case of déjà vu. The headlines that year railed about government interventions, bailouts, bad loans, unemployment and greater regulation of the finance industry. The Tonight Show changed hosts for the first time in decades, and the nation asked “was Iraq worth a war?”

  • They have never used a card catalog to find a book.
  • Dan Rostenkowski and Mike Tyson have always been felons.
  • The Green Giant has always been Shrek, not the big guy picking vegetables.
  • Salsa has always outsold ketchup.
  • Rap music has always been mainstream.
  • Chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream has always been a flavor choice.
  • The KGB has never officially existed.
  • Babies have always had a Social Security Number.
  • Bungee jumping has always been socially acceptable.
  • The European Union has always existed.
  • There has always been a Cartoon Network.
  • They have always been able to read books on an electronic screen.
  • Women have always outnumbered men in college.
  • There have always been flat screen televisions.
  • Britney Spears has always been heard on classic rock stations.
  • Someone has always been asking: “Was Iraq worth a war?”
  • Most communities have always had a mega-church.
  • There has always been a computer in the Oval Office.
  • Avon has always been “calling” in a catalog.
  • Official racial classifications in South Africa have always been outlawed.

Atheist Calls for Christian Transformation

From The Times of London

December 27, 2008

As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God

Missionaries, not aid money, are the solution to Africa’s biggest problem – the crushing passivity of the people’s mindset

Matthew Parris

Before Christmas I returned, after 45 years, to the country that as a boy I knew as Nyasaland. Today it’s Malawi, and The Times Christmas Appeal includes a small British charity working there. Pump Aid helps rural communities to install a simple pump, letting people keep their village wells sealed and clean. I went to see this work.

It inspired me, renewing my flagging faith in development charities. But travelling in Malawi refreshed another belief, too: one I’ve been trying to banish all my life, but an observation I’ve been unable to avoid since my African childhood. It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God.

Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.

I used to avoid this truth by applauding – as you can – the practical work of mission churches in Africa. It’s a pity, I would say, that salvation is part of the package, but Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it. I would allow that if faith was needed to motivate missionaries to help, then, fine: but what counted was the help, not the faith.

First, then, the observation. We had friends who were missionaries, and as a child I stayed often with them; I also stayed, alone with my little brother, in a traditional rural African village. In the city we had working for us Africans who had converted and were strong believers. The Christians were always different. Far from having cowed or confined its converts, their faith appeared to have liberated and relaxed them. There was a liveliness, a curiosity, an engagement with the world – a directness in their dealings with others – that seemed to be missing in traditional African life. They stood tall.

At 24, travelling by land across the continent reinforced this impression. From Algiers to Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and the Central African Republic, then right through the Congo to Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya, four student friends and I drove our old Land Rover to Nairobi.

We slept under the stars, so it was important as we reached the more populated and lawless parts of the sub-Sahara that every day we find somewhere safe by nightfall. Often near a mission.

Whenever we entered a territory worked by missionaries, we had to acknowledge that something changed in the faces of the people we passed and spoke to: something in their eyes, the way they approached you direct, man-to-man, without looking down or away. They had not become more deferential towards strangers – in some ways less so – but more open.

This time in Malawi it was the same. I met no missionaries. You do not encounter missionaries in the lobbies of expensive hotels discussing development strategy documents, as you do with the big NGOs. But instead I noticed that a handful of the most impressive African members of the Pump Aid team (largely from Zimbabwe) were, privately, strong Christians. “Privately” because the charity is entirely secular and I never heard any of its team so much as mention religion while working in the villages. But I picked up the Christian references in our conversations. One, I saw, was studying a devotional textbook in the car. One, on Sunday, went off to church at dawn for a two-hour service.

It would suit me to believe that their honesty, diligence and optimism in their work was unconnected with personal faith. Their work was secular, but surely affected by what they were. What they were was, in turn, influenced by a conception of man’s place in the Universe that Christianity had taught.

There’s long been a fashion among Western academic sociologists for placing tribal value systems within a ring fence, beyond critiques founded in our own culture: “theirs” and therefore best for “them”; authentic and of intrinsically equal worth to ours.

I don’t follow this. I observe that tribal belief is no more peaceable than ours; and that it suppresses individuality. People think collectively; first in terms of the community, extended family and tribe. This rural-traditional mindset feeds into the “big man” and gangster politics of the African city: the exaggerated respect for a swaggering leader, and the (literal) inability to understand the whole idea of loyal opposition.

Anxiety – fear of evil spirits, of ancestors, of nature and the wild, of a tribal hierarchy, of quite everyday things – strikes deep into the whole structure of rural African thought. Every man has his place and, call it fear or respect, a great weight grinds down the individual spirit, stunting curiosity. People won’t take the initiative, won’t take things into their own hands or on their own shoulders.

How can I, as someone with a foot in both camps, explain? When the philosophical tourist moves from one world view to another he finds – at the very moment of passing into the new – that he loses the language to describe the landscape to the old. But let me try an example: the answer given by Sir Edmund Hillary to the question: Why climb the mountain? “Because it’s there,” he said.

To the rural African mind, this is an explanation of why one would not climb the mountain. It’s… well, there. Just there. Why interfere? Nothing to be done about it, or with it. Hillary’s further explanation – that nobody else had climbed it – would stand as a second reason for passivity.

Christianity, post-Reformation and post-Luther, with its teaching of a direct, personal, two-way link between the individual and God, unmediated by the collective, and unsubordinate to any other human being, smashes straight through the philosphical/spiritual framework I’ve just described. It offers something to hold on to to those anxious to cast off a crushing tribal groupthink. That is why and how it liberates.

Those who want Africa to walk tall amid 21st-century global competition must not kid themselves that providing the material means or even the knowhow that accompanies what we call development will make the change. A whole belief system must first be supplanted.

And I’m afraid it has to be supplanted by another. Removing Christian evangelism from the African equation may leave the continent at the mercy of a malign fusion of Nike, the witch doctor, the mobile phone and the machete.

Belhaven Leadership Council

I invited the Student Leadership Council for lunch last week in the President’s Dining Room.  They are an impressive group and I was glad for the opportunity to dialog with them about the year ahead.  Each of these students is uniquely gifted, with a vision and commitment to their assignment. These are students who are serious about making Belhaven a better place, strengthening our student’s college experience, and honoring God in all they do.

This is unlike the traditional “Student Council” where students represent a class or sector of the campus (usually spending most of the year ineffectively finding some common ground in order to get something done.)  The Leadership structure our students have developed through the past decade is focused on outcomes, and this group hit the ground running on day one with a full agenda.  Together they coordinate a comprehensive focus for student initiated activities and priorities.

From close to far at our luncheon on the left side of the table

As Student Coordinator of Activities, Katelyn works closely with the Coordinator of Student Leadership & Activities in planning and implementing the College activities program.  She also serves as the student leader of the Belhaven Activities Team (BAT).  Have student activity questions or ideas?  Want to serve on BAT?  Contact Katelyn at

As Student Ministry Coordinator, Sergei networks with campus ministry organizations and offers ministry-related events and services for the student body.  He can help you connect with a group who will encourage your walk with Christ.  Want to find out what ministry organizations are available to you at Belhaven?  Want to come together with fellow students in prayer?  Contact Sergei at

As the White Columns Editor, Michelle is responsible for the creation and production of the College yearbook.  She works with a student staff to create, write, edit, format and produce this lasting record of the Belhaven College school year.  Do you take quality pictures?  Have computer design, graphics or layout skills?  Contact Michelle at

As Community Outreach Coordinator, Jerry creates, organizes and implements community outreach projects for student groups of all sizes.  He is connected with local service opportunities and offers a broad range of options for students wanting to impact the lives of others.  Want to roll up your sleeves and help others?  Contact Jerry at


From close to far at our luncheon on the right side of the table

As Campus Life Coordinator, Stanton aggressively listens to students’ needs, observations and questions.  He meets regularly with the Dean of Student Life and other College administrators to discuss issues related to areas such as residence life, food services and student center services.  Have campus life questions?  Contact Stanton at

PRESIDENT – Brandon Holman
As BLC President, Brandon is the chief student body representative.  He coordinates all BLC work and represents students in a host of formal and informal settings.  He also works closely with the Director of Student Leadership, and regularly dialogues with other College administrators and faculty.  Have questions about BLC – who they are – what they’re doing- how you can be involved?  Contact Brandon at

As Student Coordinator of Intramurals, Andrew works closely with the Coordinator of Student Leadership & Intramurals in planning and implementing the College intramural program.  Have intramural questions?  Want to play a team or individual sport?  Want to work as an official or scorekeeper (trained and compensated)?  Contact Andrew at

As Editor of The Quarter Tone, Kevin is responsible for the production of each issue of the student newspaper.  He works with a sizeable staff of students who create, write, edit, format and produce each issue.  Want to write?  Have computer or graphic skills?  Want to suggest an idea for newspaper coverage?  Contact Kevin at

Dr. Phillips Presents Major Paper at Free Market Forum

Dr. Stephen Phillips, Political Science Department, has been selected to present a paper at the Hillsdale College Free Market Forum September 25-27th, which brings together business and political science faculty from a wide range of Christian and private colleges.  His was selected among seventeen proposals.  His topic is “The Morality of Free Trade.”  I asked Stephen to summarize his work so I could include it here on the blog:

I examine the problems associated both with various forms of protectionism, as well as with the “Fair Trade” movement.  I promote free trade, bounded by a biblical morality, as the best option.  I show the broad benefits of free trade: improvements in wealth, education, health, and even greater freedom of ideas, including the spread of the gospel.  I provide numerous references as well as empirical evidence to support my positions.

Part of the significance of this presentation is that many of the faculty attending are libertarian, and don’t seem to understand or appreciate a biblical ethic for all of life.  Others attending tend to adopt a soft socialism as representing a biblical view of mercy.  I try to address both positions from a biblical perspective.

Praying for the College…..Colleges

I know that lots of people pray regularly for Belhaven College.  I often hear from alumni, friends, faculty, staff, parents, and students who tell me they are supporting us all in prayer.

I receive the following encouraging email yesterday.  What a wonderful gift this is to Belhaven, and the other schools, to have these friends pray for us.


Today I saw two ladies looking at the Legacy of Learning plaques on the sidewalk. I thought they must be alums, looking at the names of their old professors.  But they were prayer walkers, praying the Bible passages on the plaques over the campus.

They come here every year on seven consecutive weeks, to pray for God’s blessing on the campus. They go to Millsaps also, the same days. Then they go seven weeks to Hinds, then seven weeks to MC.

This is not a program of their churches, but something God laid on their hearts to do. I was encouraged by that, and know you will be also.

Joe Martin
Biblical Studies and Ministries

Sarah Palin and Worldview Convenience

I don’t write about politics on this blog – and I’m not going to start now. But, when politics gives us such a blatant example of what happens when one’s worldview is ungrounded, I can’t resist pointing it out.

The Vice Presidential choice of John McCain has caught the nation’s attention and is the talk of the country. The 24/7 news pundits quickly raised the controversy of whether Governor Sarah Palin, a mother of five children (one with Down Syndrome) should also attempt to take on the demanding job of Vice President of the United States.

. . . . . . . . carry on the political argument with your friends here

Leaving politics aside, the fascinating part of this debate is that arguing from their long-held traditional worldviews:

  • Republicans advocate women should make home obligations their priority.
  • Democrats encourage women to “have it all” in career and home.

With the surprise newcomer joining the campaign trail, the positions switched on a dime:

  • Republicans arguing Sarah Palin can “have it all”
  • Democrats insisting Sarah Palin would be shirking her responsibility to her children.

A worldview that is easily abandoned when the need of the moment demands it is not a worldview at all. A guiding worldview does not change when it is inconvenient.

Ten Radically Counter-Cultural Things that You Can Learn at Belhaven that You Won’t Learn at Other Colleges

Dr. Ligon Duncan, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, spoke for our Academic Convocation yesterday. He shared a marvelous message outlining “Ten Radically Counter-Cultural Things that You Can Learn at Belhaven that You Won’t Learn at Other Colleges.”

He gave us so much good stuff in a short time, I ask him for his outline today so I could post it here and allow us all to consider these points further:

1. Life does not revolve around self.

2. Truth exists and matters.

3. What you believe informs everything you do, and what you do shows what you really believe.

4. Real tolerance is not (and cannot be) based on relativism. All roads do not lead up the mountain!

5. Not everything that works is right.

6. Not all change is good.

7. Our technology does not give us the ability to solve every human problem.
Contra: Rationalization (or Technophilia) TECHNOLOGY CAN SOLVE ALL OUR PROBLEMS

8. This material world is not all that there is.
Contra: Naturalism REALITY IS MATERIAL

9. Freedom does not mean doing what I want to do.
Contra: Antinomianism Freedom is a right and it means I can do anything I want to do

10. You are worse than you think you are. You are what you are alone, when no one sees you.

Bigfoot Shock

A couple of guys made the news this week by getting a bigfoot costume, filling it with road kill, freezing it in ice and then calling a press conference to announce they had discovered the beast while hiking in Georgia. One of them was a former police officer. They hired a publicist, were trying to cut the best deal with the tabloid press, and then of course, the gag was exposed as a fake.

When the hoax was out in the open, the quote from the former cop was so characteristic of the worldview of our society.

He was shocked and indignant at the suggestion from a reporter that doing this would “damage his credibility.” He clearly had no internal standard of credibility if he believes a “joke,” to try to make money, and get his 15 minutes of fame, doesn’t have a component of personal responsibility.

We live in a society that becomes offended at the suggestion of consequences for actions.