In introducing Billy Graham to a gathering of 1,800 students at the University of Chicago last April, Dean Warner A. Wick remarked, “Dr. Graham brings something to this university which it may not or cannot give to you.”
The founders of American colleges and universities would have considered such a tribute most unusual; to exclude any area of life—the religious especially—from the university would have seemed strange to them. Today, however, either by general consent or neglect, the Saviour is considered out of place on campus. Experiential Christianity is often regarded as out of bounds for the university mind. It is this barricaded territory that evangelical student groups are attempting to open up once more on the American campus.
Statistics that purport to register growing religious interest and engagement among students are misleading. The average student is quite indifferent to the thought currents, religious or otherwise, that ebb and flow in his academic environment. And by and large he tends to ignore those individuals who either seek change or protest it. The liberals who refuse to accept present status symbols pursue their ideals with determination. The new conservatives show equal zeal for their particular goals. It is these students of one extreme or the other, rather than the 95 per cent uncommitted or mildly committed, who have the power to determine the future. The four American students responsible for the now famous Haystack Meeting of 1806 influenced the spread of Christianity far more significantly than did all their remaining fellows.
Last February students at Northwestern University held a three-day conference on “Personal Commitment in an Age of Anxiety.” While it was not what one would call a religious ...1
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