These Christian Colleges Are Taking On Today’s Hot-Button Social Issues (2023)

A group of Christian colleges is pursuing an agenda of pressing social issues, including immigration, criminal justice, and racial/ethnic diversity. It’s an ambitious set of policies, and it’s noteworthy because the stance of these colleges is in marked contrast to the ultra-conservative narrative associated with the evangelical church’s recent embrace of the right-wing, nationalist politics of Donald Trump.

The colleges are members of the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU), an organization comprised of about 180 institutions worldwide, with approximately 140 in the U.S. Representing 37 different Protestant denominations, CCCU schools enroll more than 500,000 students. You can view the full member list here.

All CCCU schools have missions defined as Christ-centered, rooted in the historic Christian faith. Although many self-identify as evangelical, the defining doctrines for member institutions are that they:

  • Integrate what they regard as biblical truth not just into the “spiritual” aspects of the institution but throughout the academic enterprise. Their faculty accept that God is the author of truth, a belief with implications for every academic discipline.
  • Commit to the moral and spiritual formation of students. They seek to form students who practice Christian virtues such as love, courage, and humility.
  • Seek to graduate students “who make a difference for the common good as redemptive voices in the world.” They regard their graduates as “hopeful realists” who can “play a redemptive and restorative role in the world as doctors, teachers, marketers, engineers, parents, soccer coaches, and in a host of other ways.”

Many of the nation’s leading private colleges and universities originated as religious institutions affiliated with a specific denomination within the broad Christian tradition. Duke is an example, as are Emory, Yale, and Wesleyan University. And while some private schools still accept funding from the church of their founding, many no longer hold any religious expectations for students, nor do they align their curriculum or extra-curricular offerings with particular religious beliefs or practices.


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In contrast, CCCU colleges are devoted to fostering Christian commitments in their graduates. They develop curricula, expectations for student behavior, hiring of faculty and staff and co-curricular programs with that goal in mind. Most do so within a liberal arts structure.

"We believe Christian higher education produces committed, compassionate, convicted citizens who want to engage deeply in this world, not in spite of their faith, but because of their faith,” said CCCU president Shirley V. Hoogstra.“We know that education isn’t just about what students learn, it’s about transforming them into the ethical, values-driven leaders God has called them to be. Christian colleges & universities shape students who act for the public good—often at a cost to themselves—out of a love for Jesus Christ and for the world around them."

CCCU colleges are also tackling some of the major social issues of our times, ones that often lead to sharp policy differences between political progressives and conservatives, especially those associated with more fundamentalist churches and leaders. So it’s newsworthy when CCCU colleges adopt policies that go against the grain staked out by many vocal evangelicals, as well as when they join secular institutions and Catholic colleges and universities in official advocacy.


Take immigration for example. The Christian Broadcast Network, founded by televangelist Pat Robertson, has frequently stoked fears about the dangers of immigrants pouring across the southern border of the U.S. A2018 Washington Post/ABC pollfound that 75% of white U.S. evangelicals described “the federal crackdown on undocumented immigrants” as a positive policy, compared to just 46% of Americans overall. And a Pew Research Center poll that same year found that 68%of white evangelicals believed America had no responsibility to house refugees, 25 percentage points higher than the national average.

What’s the CCCU position? Through its work with theEvangelical Immigration Table, it supports bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform. It’s also advocated for Dreamers and DACA recipients and supports a permanent solution for these young people and their communities. It praised last year’s Supreme Court ruling that allowed DACA to continue. Here's its recent statement supporting the Dream Act:

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“We believe a bipartisan, permanent legislative solution for Dreamers from Congress is the best means to provide a long-term solution for these young people and their communities.

Many of these young people in our country who were brought to the United States as children are now students on college and university campuses, and we feel the urgency of this issue for our students, along with their families, employers, churches, and communities. We also feel a moral imperative to support stability over insecurity for these vulnerable young people.

As Christians, we are called to care for those who are most vulnerable. Jesus says in Matthew 25:40, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” There is hardly a population who better fits this description than young people without a legal home who face an uncertain future.”

Prison Reform

Many evangelicals express support for various prison reforms, grounded in a belief that spiritual redemption is possible for anyone. However, in terms of specific practices, their strongest support has been for faith-based prison ministries that emphasize evangelical proselytizing and conversion.

Although CCCU schools embrace faith-based ministries, they also back other secular efforts.

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  • About 20 CCCU schools offer prison education programs for incarcerated individuals who can earn college credits for courses completed.
  • An exemplary program is at Lipscomb University, which enables inmates from the Tennessee Women’s Prison to study side-by-side with traditional undergraduates through the Lipscomb University Initiative for Education (LIFE) program. Founded in 2007, LIFE involves college courses taught inside the prison by Lipscomb professors, leading to the women earning credits for associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degrees.
  • CCCU has partnered with Prison Fellowship to promoteSecond Chance Month, a national effort to reduce barriers keeping formerly incarcerated Americans from reaching their full potential as they reenter society.
  • Following passage of theFIRST STEP Actin December 2018, CCCU implored lawmakers to end the ban on Pell Grants for students behind bars. (When Pell grants began in 1972, inmates were eligible for awards, but that changed in 1994 when Bill Clinton decided to get tough on crime and ended prisoners’ eligibility for Pell support.) CCCU called for removing the ban on Pell grants for prisoners, which Congress did last year, thereby making higher education more accessible for inmates.

Race And Politics

CCCU institutions have taken positions that don’t hew to the conservative line on other hot-button issues dividing today’s America. It recently launched a website featuring a database of more than a hundred racial and ethnic diversity resources for the Christian higher education community.

This weekend the organization is hosting a virtual event, entitled, “Faithful Leadership: Race, Politics and Evangelicalism in America.” It addresses “the deep divides that not only exist in our nation, but also in the Church. Political divisions, racial strife, and deep polarization mark both the Church within the United States and the republic in which it exists.” The conference includes a roster of well-known Christian leaders and intellectuals who will speak on “topics like critical race theory, Christian nationalism, systemic racism, and how to move forward in truth and grace.”

No recent example illustrates the willingness of CCCU colleges to speak out about political affairs and challenge the positions espoused by many evangelicals better than the recent statement signed by hundreds of staff and faculty at Wheaton College, rebuking former President Donald Trump for his role in the violent riot at the nation’s capitol on January 6. (Full disclosure: I’m an alum of Wheaton.)

The statement criticized President Trump for what it called “wicked leadership.”

“The January 6 attack on the Capitol was characterized not only by vicious lies, deplorable violence, white supremacy, white nationalism, and wicked leadership—especially by President Trump—but also by idolatrous and blasphemous abuses of Christian symbols. The behaviors that many participants celebrated in Jesus’ name bear absolutely no resemblance to the Christian teachings or ethics that we submit to as faculty and staff of Wheaton College. Furthermore, the differential treatment displayed by those with a duty to protect in their engagement with rioters who trespassed on the Capitol grounds illegally, when compared to recent protests over police brutality in D.C. last summer, illustrates the ongoing reality that systemic racism in our country is tragically and undeniably alive and well. These realities are reprehensible. Our Christian faith demands shining a light on these evils and the simultaneous commitment to take appropriate action.”

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Nor was this the first time Wheaton faculty had sharply objected to Trump and the role of Evangelical leaders who have championed his policies.

Ed Stetzer, Executive Director of Wheaton’s Billy Graham Center, called for a “reckoning” on Trump in arecent NPR interview with Rachel Martin. Responding to one question, Stetzer said, “I've been one for years who was saying we need to see more clearly who Donald Trump is and has often not been listened to. But I would say that for many people, the storming of the Capitol, the desecration of our halls of democracy, has shocked and stunned a lot of people and how President Trump has engaged in riling up crowds to accomplish these things.”

Who speaks for today’s evangelical church? Highly political figures like Jerry Falwell, Jr., Ralph Reed, Robert Jeffress, and Franklin Graham offer one option - what some have called a “radicalized Christian nationalism.” But there’s an alternative, one that does not subordinate basic Christian beliefs to a political ideology or a polarizing leader. The CCCU institutions are lifting a strong voice for that alternative.


What is a liberal church? ›

It emphasizes the importance of reason and experience over doctrinal authority. Liberal Christians view their theology as an alternative to both atheistic rationalism and theologies based on traditional interpretations of external authority, such as the Bible or sacred tradition.

How many Christian colleges are there in the United States? ›

According to the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU), there are approximately 900 religiously affiliated colleges and universities in the U.S.

What do progressive Christians believe? ›

Progressive Christianity, as described by its adherents, is characterized by a willingness to question tradition, acceptance of human diversity, a strong emphasis on social justice and care for the poor and the oppressed, and environmental stewardship of the earth.

Are Lutheran churches liberal? ›

Most ELCA Lutherans are theologically moderate-to-liberal, although has a sizable conservative minority. Other Lutheran bodies in the U.S. tend to hold more strictly to Confessional Lutheranism.

What colleges are not religious? ›

Indiana University strives for full diversity as well as academic freedom.
  • #17 – University of West Florida. ...
  • #16 – New Mexico State University. ...
  • #15 – University of La Verne. ...
  • #14 – Ripon College. ...
  • #12 –University of Nebraska- Lincoln. ...
  • #11 – Southern Oregon University. ...
  • #6 – University of Connecticut. ...
  • #4 – Boise State University.

What percentage of Christians are college educated? ›

There were 267 million Christians in the United States when the data was collected, but only 36 percent of them had a postsecondary education, including college or a vocational school, the researchers said. That made them the least-educated religious group in the country.

Do colleges care about religion? ›

Generally it won't affect admissions at all; though schools with strong religious affiliations (especially Jesuit schools like Boston College, Santa Clara, the Loyolas, etc.) will look for certain values like service and volunteer work that align with their missions.

Do Christians believe Jesus is God? ›

Christians believe that there is only one God, whom they call Father as Jesus Christ taught them. They recognise Jesus as the son of God and believe God functions as a Trinity.

What is deconstruction in Christianity? ›

Faith deconstruction, also known as deconstructing faith, evangelical deconstruction, the deconstruction movement, or simply deconstruction, is a phenomenon within American evangelicalism in which Christians rethink their faith and jettison previously held beliefs, sometimes to the point of no longer identifying as ...

What are 5 major beliefs of Christianity? ›

The 5 are: 1) Uniqueness of Jesus (Virgin Birth) --Oct 7; 2) One God (The Trinity) Oct 14; 3) Necessity of the Cross (Salvation) and 4) Resurrection and Second Coming are combinded on Oct 21; 5) Inspiration of Scripture Oct 28.

What religion is similar to Lutheran? ›

Along with Anglicanism, the Reformed and Presbyterian (Calvinist) churches, Methodism, and the Baptist churches, Lutheranism is one of the five major branches of Protestantism.

Do Lutherans believe Jesus is God? ›

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod believes Jesus is exactly who He said He is. Along with the ancient Church, we confess that Jesus is true God and true man in one person. He is the Son of God who was crucified and raised from the dead for the salvation of all who trust in Him.

What country has the most Lutherans? ›


Can a college force you to go to church? ›

You don't have to participate in religious services.

However, this does not mean that the school can force beliefs on you.

What is the least accepted college? ›

10 Colleges With the Lowest Acceptance Rates
  • California Institute of Technology: 4%
  • Harvard University: 4%
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology: 4%
  • Princeton University: 4%
  • Stanford University: 4%
  • Yale University: 5%
  • Brown University: 6%
  • Dartmouth College: 6%
2 Sept 2022

What is the largest religious University in the US? ›

Liberty University

Which religion is most educated? ›

A Pew Center study about religion and education around the world in 2016, found that Jews are most educated religious group around in the world with an average of 13.4 years of schooling; Jews also have the highest number of post-secondary degrees per capita (61%).

Which religion is highly educated? ›

Hindus are the most educated — based on college degrees — among US religious groups, followed by Unitarians Universalists, Jews, Anglicans and congregants of the Episcopal Church, according to a new study. They are ahead also of atheists and agnostics.

What percentage of Christians lose their faith in college? ›

According to the Barna Group, roughly 70% of high school students who enter college as professing Christians, will leave with little to no faith. These students usually don't return to faith, even after graduation.

What are the disadvantages of faith schools? ›

However, there are, of course, some arguments against faith schools alongside their many advantages.
  • Some faith schools are too selective. ...
  • Children may have a closed viewpoint. ...
  • Faith school pupils have less of an opportunity to discover their own beliefs.
25 Aug 2022

What percentage of college professors believe in God? ›

About 35% of professors are absolutely certain that God exists, while 21% believe, but are not absolutely sure. Only 10% of professors are athiests and another 13 percent are agnostic. So, is 23 percent many or only a few non-believers?

What percentage of college students believe in God? ›

Belief in God among college graduates
Survey yearBelieve in God; absolutely certainBelieve in God; not too/not at all certain

What does liberal mean in religion? ›

Religious liberalism is a conception of religion (or of a particular religion) which emphasizes personal and group liberty and rationality.

What beliefs does a liberal hold? ›

Major themes
  • believing in equality and individual liberty.
  • supporting private property and individual rights.
  • supporting the idea of limited constitutional government.
  • recognising the importance of related values such as pluralism, toleration, autonomy, bodily integrity and consent.

What does a liberal Catholic believe? ›

Liberal Catholicism has been defined as "in essence a trend among sincere Catholics to exalt freedom as a primary value and to draw from this consequences in social, political, and religious life, seeking to reconcile the principles on which Christian France was founded with those that derived from the French ...

Is the United Methodist church considered liberal? ›

Comparatively, the UMC stands to the right of liberal and progressive Protestant groups such as the United Church of Christ and the Episcopal Church on certain issues (especially regarding sexuality), but to the left of historically conservative evangelical traditions such as the Southern Baptists and Pentecostalism, ...

What is pluralism in Christianity? ›

Religious pluralism is the state of being where every individual in a religiously diverse society has the rights, freedoms, and safety to worship, or not, according to their conscience.

How do Christians worship? ›

Christian worship involves praising God in music and speech, readings from scripture, prayers of various sorts, a sermon, and various holy ceremonies (often called sacraments) such as the Eucharist.

What is the opposite of liberal? ›

Conservatives tend to reject behavior that does not conform to some social norm. Modern conservative parties often define themselves by their opposition to liberal or labor parties. The United States usage of the term "conservative" is unique to that country.

What is a liberal attitude? ›

adjective [usually ADJECTIVE noun] Someone who has liberal views believes people should have a lot of freedom in deciding how to behave and think.

What's the difference between right wing and left wing? ›

Generally, the left-wing is characterized by an emphasis on "ideas such as freedom, equality, fraternity, rights, progress, reform and internationalism" while the right-wing is characterized by an emphasis on "notions such as authority, hierarchy, order, duty, tradition, reaction and nationalism".

Can a Catholic be a socialist? ›

In Can a Catholic Be a Socialist?, Catherine R. Pakaluk and Trent Horn refute this tempting but false notion. Drawing on Scripture, history, Catholic social teaching, and basic economic reality, they show that Catholicism and socialism are incompatible.

Are Catholics literal or liberal? ›

This means that the biblical accounts are to be taken as fact, ie that God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh, and that no alternative or scientific theory is considered.
Literal and non-literal understanding of the Bible.
Who?Key Belief
Non-LiteralCatholic ChurchThe Biblical accounts are to be understood alongside reason and science
1 more row

Is Bono Catholic? ›

Bono was raised in the Northside suburb of Finglas. The Hewson household was an interdenominational Christian one; Bono's mother was a member of the Church of Ireland, and his father was a Roman Catholic. His parents initially agreed that the first child would be raised Anglican and the second Catholic.

What religion is Methodist closest to? ›

Methodism, also called the Methodist movement, is a group of historically related denominations of Protestant Christianity whose origins, doctrine and practice derive from the life and teachings of John Wesley.

Why is the United Methodist Church splitting? ›

The flashpoints are the denomination's bans on same-sex marriages and ordaining openly LGBTQ clergy — though many see these as symptoms for deeper differences in views on justice, theology and scriptural authority.

Can Methodists drink alcohol? ›

Yes. We do not prohibit our members from doing so responsibly “with deliberate and intentional restraint.” However, The United Methodist Church has long believed that abstinence from alcohol and other drugs witnesses to “God's liberating and redeeming love” and is part of living into the life God has prepared for us.


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