Some Good News About Religion in American Universities

9781481308717We’re a little late getting to this, but last September Baylor University Press released a book that argues religion is not in such dire shape in American academics: The Resilience of Religion in American Higher Education, by John Schmalzbauer (Missouri State) and Kathleen Mahoney (GHR Foundation). At a time when most observers see religiously-affiliated universities altering their missions to appeal to a more secular audience, for example, Schmalzbauer and Mahoney argue that many such institutions are actually embracing their founding faith traditions. Here’s a description of the book from the Baylor website:

A well-worn, often-told tale of woe. American higher education has been secularized. Religion on campus has declined, died, or disappeared. Deemed irrelevant, there is no room for the sacred in American colleges and universities. While the idea that religion is unwelcome in higher education is often discussed, and uncritically affirmed, John Schmalzbauer and Kathleen Mahoney directly challenge this dominant narrative.

The Resilience of Religion in American Higher Education documents a surprising openness to religion in collegiate communities. Schmalzbauer and Mahoney develop this claim in three areas: academic scholarship, church-related higher education, and student life. They highlight growing interest in the study of religion across the disciplines, as well as a willingness to acknowledge the intellectual relevance of religious commitments.  The Resilience of Religion in American Higher Education also reveals how church-related colleges are taking their founding traditions more seriously, even as they embrace religious pluralism. Finally, the volume chronicles the diversification of student religious life, revealing the longevity of campus spirituality.

Far from irrelevant, religion matters in higher education. As Schmalzbauer and Mahoney show, religious initiatives lead institutions to engage with cultural diversity and connect spirituality with academic and student life, heightening attention to the sacred on both secular and church-related campuses.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: