Tag Archives: Christian colleges

Woke Dictionary Entry: “Inclusion” Means “Exclusion

As I pointed out in the earlier essays in this series, one of the most effective strategies employed by change agents is commandeering words with familiar and positive meanings and redefining them so that the same word carries a very different meaning from the one it previously carried. Like a designer virus, its external familiarity and traditional authority disguises its alien nature long enough for it to infect and reprogram the genetic code of the institution. It is the preferred method of hijackers and heretics.

Inclusion as a Feel Good Word

Today I will examine the third member of the Woke trinity. The word “inclusion,” perhaps even more than the other two members of the triad —“diversity” and “equity”— resonates positively with most people. However, set within the context of social justice theory its meaning changes radically. In this essay I will contrast two different understandings of inclusion.

Most people understand the word “inclusion” in contrast to the word “exclusion.” Inclusion resonates with other such positive words as compassionate, generous, kind, caring, accepting, and loving. Exclusion connotes harsh, arrogant, cruel, rejecting, and disparaging attitudes and behaviors. All of us remember disappointing and humiliating experiences of being excluded and rejected from a sports team, a college, a club, or a set of friends. And we have experienced the affirming feeling of being included and recognized by peers and friends. Hence in everyday language and apart from critical analysis, “inclusion” designates a good act and “exclusion” points to a bad one. But critical analysis tells a different story.

Inclusion as Exclusion in Disguise

Don’t They Teach Logic Anymore?

In my experience inclusion is used in social justice talk as if it were an absolute value, an axiomatic foundation to which every subsequent idea must conform. Policy changes become morally imperative as soon as it becomes clear that they facilitate greater inclusion. Acts of exclusion are always wrong and acts of inclusion are always right. In institutions that accept the inclusion axiom, whoever can sustain their claim to the more inclusive position holds the moral high ground in debates over policy, and whoever represents the less inclusive position bears a huge burden of proof. Indeed, since the axiom declares inclusion to be good and exclusion to be evil, the discussant defending the less inclusive position will be pictured as defending immoral policies.

But inclusion is not and can never be an absolute value. It is logically impossible because the categories of insider and outsider mutually define each other. They are correlatives; you cannot have one without the other. You cannot include someone in an institution, school, club, or church unless there are boundaries that distinguish between those inside and those outside. Groups are defined by what they are not as well as what they are. In fact, this is true of every finite thing. Only the Absolute itself escapes the relativity of all other concepts and things.

Inclusion as a Rhetorical Ploy

In actual practice advocates of social justice theory are very exclusive. Five minutes in a faculty meeting in any contemporary university will teach you that. They use the rhetoric of inclusivity when they wish to break through boundaries they do not like and the rhetoric of demonization and the practice of cancelation to exclude those who defend those boundaries. And it is no mystery where those boundaries lie. As I argued in a previous essay, social justice theorists apply “inclusion” only to people who have been rejected, overlooked, condemned, or marginalized by traditional society. It does not apply to political conservatives of any ethnicity, to traditional Christians and Jews male or female, or to anyone religious or non-religious who defends traditional sexual morality. White men are automatically excluded unless they signal that they are among the woke*and confess their original sin of being born into the dominant group in a systemically racist, sexist, homophobic, and transphobic society.

The Bottom Line

The real issue to be decided, then, is not whether to be inclusive or exclusive. Every institution is both. The question that must be answered concerns the identity and mission of the institution being discussed. Clarity about the identity and mission of the college or church or business or club or service organization will settle the question of boundaries and hence of who may be included and who must be excluded.

*One currently popular way to signal your wokeness is placing your “preferred pronouns” in parentheses after your name in your email signature.

Next Time: I have now finished the analytic and logical critique of the DEI philosophy. I can proceed to my Christian response to it.

Where Christian Colleges Go to Die

Faith and Beginnings

Most Christian colleges were founded by people of great faith. The original faculty and administrators believed wholeheartedly in the Christian mission of the college as the decisive reason for its existence. Many colleges founded within the last hundred years began as a protest and an alternative to the dominant culture of academia. Students, faculty, and donors were attracted to these colleges because of their distinctive Christian identity. They unhesitatingly confessed Jesus as Lord and Savior, crucified and risen from the dead. And they expected every teacher and administrator to adhere to this faith and to live consistently with this confession. Students, too, were required to attend worship and to live by the community’s moral code. Beyond this basic evangelical confession, some colleges required adherence to denominational confessions or expanded evangelical confessions, and they expected community members to live according to a strict moral code. Why, then, do so many of these colleges fall away after such a faith-filled beginning?


Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever (1 John 2:15-17).

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matt 4:1-4).

The Logic of Survival

Christian colleges face many of the temptations individual Christians confront. Of course, just as colleges do not have hearts and tongues with which to believe and confess, they do not experience bodily lusts that can lead them astray. However, colleges have a character formed by a combination of its tradition and its current community. It is a kind of collective personality we can call a “soul.” And this soul can be tempted by certain threats and allurements to abandon its founding principles. Holding true may prove costly:

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul” (Mark 8:34-36).

The instinct for survival is basic to every human being. When the Lord bragged about Job’s faithfulness, Satan replied, “Skin for skin! A man will give all he has for his own life. But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face” (Job 2:4-5). Christian colleges, too, want to survive, and that urge can drive them to compromise their Christian mission. Colleges are expensive operations, and the roadside of history is littered with bankrupt colleges. They need tuition paying students and gifts of money and property. In its efforts to attract students and resources, it will be tempted to broaden its base of support to include people whose priorities do not align with the Christian mission. The college survives but at the cost of its soul.

Ambition and Assimilation

Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets (Luke 6:26)

If a Christian college survives, it faces a second temptation. Colleges are driven by ambition to achieve ever greater prominence. They move beyond the narrow circle of their denominations to gain a regional reputation, and then, they set their sights on national prominence. How does a college gain national prominence? Of course, a college can become well known for its winning athletic teams or its beautiful campus. But I am speaking about its academic ranking. Many factors contribute to academic standing, but one stands out as essential: the academic accomplishments of its faculty. Colleges ambitious to climb the rankings ladder must recruit highly trained, talented faculty and provide them with time and resources to conduct research that gets noticed nationally and internationally. Accomplishing this goal requires a change of priorities. (1) Academic potential becomes the number one qualification for faculty recruitment and retention. A college with national ambitions cannot hire and tenure Christian teachers if they are mediocre researchers. (2) It requires lots of money. Nationally ranked colleges and universities must build huge endowments to support reduced teaching loads and research. Seeking grants from government agencies and industry becomes part of faculty job descriptions. (3) The research faculty members produce must be impressive to the national and international community of scholars working the same fields.


If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels (Mark 8:38)

These academic changes will produce a dramatic transformation in college culture. The outstanding faculty will demand the freedoms and privileges enjoyed by their colleagues at “peer” and “aspirational” universities: virtually unlimited academic freedom, near unconditional tenure, and complete control over the curriculum. Having been recruited and tenured for their research prowess, they do not devote their primary loyalty to the Christian mission of the college but to their disciplines and their peers in the academy. Hence they find themselves embarrassed by remnants of the old Christian college culture that still remain, which, when measured by the ethos of the national academic culture, appear quaint and unenlightened.

The Kingdoms of the World

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.  “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only’” (Matt 4:8-10).

The college’s new national profile will expose it to scrutiny by the dominant academic culture. Gradually, social pressure from without and from within will force it step by step to conform to the national culture. What began as a protest and an alternative to secular academia becomes celebration and assimilation to that culture. Politics replaces faith, social activism displaces evangelism, and self-expression crowds out moral conscientiousness. The college has gained the world but lost its soul. A poor bargain indeed!

Series Ends. Although there is more to say, this post concludes the four-part series on “open letters” to higher education. I will probably feel the need to revisit the topic, since I have spent all my adult life studying or teaching in colleges and universities.