UnEducated UnBelievers

I don’t know how to put this tactfully, so I’m just going to say it.  At its most innocuous my Christian undergrad perpetuated a highly critical spirit of non-Christian scholarship among students and distastefully discounted “outsiders” (possibly even hindering some from considering Christ) at its worst.  I’m suggesting that we, the Christian community, openly admit to this tendency of ours, name it, shame it, and move on to healthier structures of Christian education.

Let me show you what I mean.


In preparation for our graduation ceremony, college administrators told us that they would take extra pains to be sensitive to our non-believing families.  At the ceremony, however, the keynote speaker talked about death for 40 minutes.  It might have been distasteful, sure, but it could have been worse!

Well, worse it got.

The capstone of the graduation and my college experience was the President’s prayer at the end.  The audience, including the Buddhists in my family, were privileged to hear MacArthur tell God that the graduates’ “lives matter far more than the lives of non-Christians, and that their lives matter even far more than many who profess Christ.”

My wife and brother-in-law immediately looked around in shock, but every other head remained bowed. Nobody else seemed to care.

My life will matter more for the Kingdom than yours, because I went to a private Christian school.  Other alumni contended that the president merely slipped up, that in a three hour, muggy graduation one might expect an honest mistake… but I don’t believe this was a slip-up.  It merely reveals a mindset that steadily permeated all of my college experience.

A Real Education

The problem isn’t asserting the Bible’s authority in education, the problem is down-playing the education of non-believers and dismissing other nuanced understandings of Scripture.  That’s why The MacArthur Study Bible rests on top of other books on the college website.

You can watch the video promoted by this picture here:

“I think the question about a Christian education is as simple as this; if you don’t have a Christian education, are you even educated?”  Not exactly intellectual or spiritual humility.

A Better Way

Let’s be honest and honestly humble; we don’t have all the answers.  We haven’t cornered the market on Biblical interpretation.  Let’s stop telling non-Christians that they aren’t truly educated, that their views (and their lives) don’t matter, and let’s admit that the whole world is full of God’s significance. Truth exists outside of our traditions.

Then let’s invite the world to experience the Christ we have experienced- in a faith that is humble, transparent, and open to reason.

Allen Marshall O'Brien

Allen Marshall O’Brien is the pastor of a UCC church in Northern California and co-host of the Irenicast. He believes in the importance of education, peace, and ecology, throws things to his border collie Sonata, and writes for multiple platforms.

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