John Brown’s Student Body
New attitudes toward social change and the Viet Nam war may be stirring in conservative corners of the nation, if recent events at John Brown University—a prototype of Southern religious-political conservatism—are any example.
In the backwoods northwest Arkansas town of Siloam Springs, which still has a law that Negroes must leave town by 5 P.M. and has no blacks living within thirty miles, the JBU community heard Senator Mark Hatfield speak at the climax of its weeklong annual Christian American Heritage Seminar in October.
One JBU administrator expressed trepidation that Hatfield, noted Oregon Republican liberal, “might not go over too well,” being “a little too liberal for our campus.”
But Hatfield went over big. He received a standing ovation for his talk, in which he called for recovery of a positive attitude toward social change basic to the American heritage. Although “religious inspiration” produced “revolutionary fervor,” it also gave “stability and direction” to change in America’s early days, he said. But Americans began to seek answers more from the political and economic realm than from God. “Our concept of limited government faded as our religious sense faded,” and religion has come to be used as “a rationalization for the self-interests of those … comfortable under the existing system.”
Some student disagreement with Hatfield’s opposition to the Viet Nam war came out in the question-and-answer period; on the whole he scored high.
“A quiet revolution in thinking is going on here,” said economics professor John Terry. “Our students would never be unpeaceful, ...1
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