Religion returns to college campuses

The influence of religion on college campuses is increasing, according to a new book.

Thanks to a grant from the Lily Endowment, the husband and wife team of Rhonda Hustedt Jacobsen and Douglas Jacobsen finally had resources to get started on the book they always wanted to write. “No Longer Invisible: Religion In University Education” is a comprehensive analysis of religion in higher education. And, as far as the authors are concerned, the results are clear: Religion is back on college campuses.

Culling from four years of research, the co-authors point to intellectual and practical trends leading away from the idea of purely secular education.

“In the ’80s and ’90s most of the educated elite in the U.S. felt that religion was losing significant power and influence in society and might even eventually disappear. They saw the educational task as training people for a world where religion was a nonentity,” says Douglas Jacobsen. “But now we can see that religion is not disappearing. It’s incredibly visible, whether people like it or not, and it has to be taken seriously.”

The Jacobsens are both tenured professors at Messiah College, a Christian college in central Pennsylvania. But they are adamant that this book was written without a partisan agenda.

“We’re scholars. We’re trying to describe the current terrain as fairly and accurately as possible, without bias. Now, of course, nobody ever gets past who they are. People had to correct our natural protestant tendencies over and over. It was a long process,” says Jacobsen. “So, for us, one of the interesting things about this whole question is that it requires everybody to confront the religious or nonreligious orientations that they bring to higher education.”

A little praise for Penn State

Understandably, there is very little praise for Penn State currently swirling around media. But in “No Longer Invisible,” PSU’s Center for Ethics and Religious Affairs is hailed as a positive example of a new approach to religion on public campuses.


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