And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, "Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels." (Mark 8:34-38)
In my post below on the subject of young people who lose their faith in college, I have been struck by many things in the excellent and informative reader responses. The one I will focus on here is the theme that comes up repeatedly of the total atmosphere at a secular college. Here's how commentator Paul put it:
It takes a lot of personal fortitude to hold onto what you believe in when everyone around you operates entirely on the presumption that it doesn't even exist. You have to be able to go home at night and think about it, you have to be able to drag yourself out early in the morning and go to church, you have to be able to say "eh, not this time" when good clean fun goes bad. Not everyone can do that. It's sort of a divide and conquer technique on the part of the devil---cut Catholics off from one another through social contexts that isolate them and leave little room for displays of faith, then pry each one open like a tin can.
The question of immersion seems to me here particularly pertinent. It cannot be claimed that this is just a matter of exposing young people to "real life." One doesn't usually, in the work world, live with the same people one works with all day. Nor do most ordinary apartment buildings or neighborhoods in the real world have residence hall brain-washing sessions which one must attend as a condition of living there. And the whole notion of the "college experience," spoken of with enthusiasm by its exponents, implies that this is quite different from the situation after college precisely in the sense that the residential student is entirely immersed in the atmosphere of the institution.
So I've been led to reflect on the following question: Why do Christian, conservative parents decide to send their children away from home (perhaps far away from home) to be totally immersed in a moral and intellectual atmosphere hostile to everything they have been taught and to everything for which, presumably, both parents and children stand? Various alternatives would include at least some distance learning, sending one's child to a Christian college, sending one's child to a secular school within driving distance and having him live at home, some combination of these, or even looking at alternatives to college altogether.
I thought of several reasons why parents do not do any of these things. 1) The assumption that going away and living in dorms at college is a necessary part of growing up, an absolute rite of passage that it would be cruel to have your kids miss out on. 2) The worry that sending your child to a Christian college will not get him a good enough education and/or will not allow him to get a job. 3) The worry that sending your child to a local college, so that he can live at home, will not get him a good enough name on his transcript to allow him to get a job. 4) (Related to 3.) The assumption that, despite post-modernism and the death of the academy, there is enough objective difference in quality across disciplines between a more "elite" secular school and a secular school that no one has ever heard of that your child really will get a good education at the former and not at the latter and that you therefore have a duty to send your child away from home to go to the former.
I do not mean this to be, necessarily, an advertisement for a Christian college education. For one thing, ostensibly Christian colleges may undermine Christian faith intellectually in a special way, because students and parents trust them initially, leaving the students especially vulnerable. (See Beth Impson's comments here and Thomas Yeutter's here.) The most that one might say is that hopefully the moral atmosphere at an explicitly Christian college with standards of conduct for students and faculty might be better than that of a secular college, which would be especially relevant for on-campus students.
I realize that parents agonize over such decisions, and I'm not implying that there is a one-size-fits-all solution. But at a minimum we can say that considerations like 1-4 are not decisive. For what does it profit a man if he should gain the whole world and lose his own soul?
Cross-posted in a slightly different form, with a fascinating reader comment already up.