I just spent two days on the campus of Messiah College. Messiah is a small, 2800 undergraduate students, college in central Pennslvania near the capitol. This time of year, and I suspect, at all times it is a lovely venue. It is a college founded by the Brethren in Christ, an Anabaptist church related to the Mennonites by history if not by organization. i was there to celebrate with the editors, Rhonda and Douglas Jacobsen, their new book The American University in a Postsecular Age (Oxford, 2008). The event was held in the Boyer Center named for Ernest Boyer famed for his many thoughtful inquiries into the educational process. Boyer was a graduate of Messiah College.
With its religious roots, Messiah is awash with Christian language and focus, but witnessing to the broadening of the evangelical movement in America, Barack Obama signs were ubiquitous. On the day I visited, representatives from the Obama campaign were on campus meeting with Falcons for Obama, or to be more precise, there met with students who were supporting Obama.
I was pleased to tell the folks at Messiah that the community at MIT is wider than theirs is, but that it is also no less religious. There are more communities here and some wear "we haven't figured it all out yet" signs. That is what the Jacobsen's have written about in several volumes. It is good for us to be reminded that out in the heartland of Pennsylvania there are those who are grappling with the place of education in formal religion and vice versa. The conversation is lively at Messiah just as it is here at MIT. We live in a new time! I think Ernest Boyer would be pleased.