Christianity and Higher Education

Dr. Jonathan P. Hill has recently taken on the claim by Rick Santorum that higher education leads to a loss of faith:

http://chronicle.com/article/Parsing-Santorums-Statistic/131113/

As Dr. Hill noted, that is not really the case and, in fact, there seems to be higher attendance rates among college educated people.

I raise this not just because I think Dr. Hill’s essay is good (and I must admit I appreciate his ending, wherein he noted that railing against the academy is something often done to spur on conservatives, in large part because I consider myself somewhat “conservative”).  I also raise it because one of the interesting aspects of Orthodox Christianity is that many converts to Orthodox Christianity tend to be college educated.  In many cases, even with graduate degrees.  I cannot find the study off hand, but there was a study published back in the 1980s that noted that within the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), of which our parish is a part, there seemed to be a combination of high education but modest financial means.  I don’t know what to make of that. What I can say is my experience accords with what Dr. Hill noted and I think, at least in many Orthodox parishes, college education is the norm.  Certainly, I can say college education has not prevented people from becoming Orthodox.  Rather, in America, where there is a tradition of antitradition, if you will, I think it takes a person with a good historical sense combined with a good set of critical thinking skills to swim upstream and enter the historic Orthodox Church.

Why Do Americans Become Orthodox Christians?

I do not intend to provide full book reviews here at this time, but I do think it is nonetheless appropriate to inform our readers about two new books that discuss American Orthodox converts.  Studying converts was the area of my own dissertation research (which I’m editing in order to get that published some day!) and I hope it will be an area of interest to our readers as well.  First, what spurred this posting was receiving the following announcement:

Mattox & Roeber- March 8 2012

Dn. Gregory Roeber has co-authored a book with Mickey L. Mattox.  Mattox presents why he converted to Roman Catholicism and Roeber why he converted to Orthodoxy.  Both discuss it within the context of what Lutherans see in those churches (as both are former Lutherans) and what the larger theological issues are.  This event will happen March 8th at Marquette University.

Likewise, last fall Amy Slagle published The Eastern Church in the Spiritual Marketplace: American Conversions to Orthodox Christianity which is an ethnographic study of converts from parishes in the Pittsburgh area and Mississippi.  I have read this and would highly recommend it.

I believe they have relevance for those of us looking at this question historically (or from any other vantage point) and hopefully these books will be of interest to many of our readers.