Evangelical colleges and Bible schools have yet to be affected by consumerism in the way the above mock headline suggests. However, Christian higher education will probably soon feel the impact of consumerism in other ways. The constituents of evangelical colleges may ask some pointed questions about what kind of product such schools are releasing. And they have a right to know.

Earlier this year Jonathan Kaufman wrote a guest column for the New York Times, “Yale Cheated Me out of Truly Liberal Education.” Are some of our alumni ready to write a similar piece? Can the glowing claims of school catalogues and promotional literature be documented in the lives of graduates? Socrates reminds us that the “life that is unexamined is not worth living.” Have we been giving the graduates of our evangelical colleges the opportunities and the instruments that will help them examine their lives five, ten, fifteen, twenty, or thirty years after the commencement service?

A 1974 survey on doctrine and Christian conduct of Moody Bible Institute alumni revealed that these graduates wanted to talk to their school. After completing a twenty-one-page questionnaire, more than half of the 1,332 respondents took time to write some personal comments. (A few of them wrote two or three typed pages.) They seemed to be saying, “Why hasn’t anyone asked us these questions before?” At most Christian schools, no one has ever taken the time to ask graduates how their Christian liberal arts education has affected their lives.

Also in 1974, a survey was made of 311 Christian colleges, Bible colleges, and seminaries, from Appalachian Bible Institute to Yale Divinity School. The returns revealed that only seven schools had ever polled their graduates about doctrine and Christian conduct, and then only as incidental items appended to general demographic surveys. Not one school had devoted an entire survey to the doctrine, the conduct, or the values of their graduates. The situation probably hasn’t changed much during the last four years.

What do Christian educators really know about their final product? Do the trustees have a clear picture? Do they talk frequently with graduates? What questions are these boards asking about their alumni?

What about the administration? Why has so little effort been made to find out who the graduates are? How can school administrations lead students if they don’t know what the students are like? (A sad footnote. Even when educators have conducted surveys, they don’t tell people the results. Are the followers of the one who called himself truth afraid of it?)

Article continues below

What about the faculty? In some Christian schools, individual departments have done a superior job of keeping in touch with their graduates. Updating a curriculum would not be the only benefit. Opinions of alumni could help deans form more realistic codes of conduct, ones that are more biblically based and that would lay the foundation for a Christian life style. The code of conduct in Christian colleges has often been viewed by students as a wooden weight they grudgingly dragged for four years and then dropped with a crash at commencement.

Today we have the tools, the methods, and the personnel to find out what graduates think. It’s easy to get books on how to design a questionnaire and judge the responses. (See, for example, James Engel, How Can I Get Them to Listen?, Zondervan, 1977). Failure to know our alumni and reckon with their views could even result in the closing of some of our schools in the next decade.

Christian educators need to know how to serve students. Responses to questionnaires could give us clues as to why some of our graduates leave evangelicalism after graduation to adopt non-Christian life styles. Surely a Christian college has a responsibility to its graduates even after the last tuition check has cleared the bank or the last chord of the commencement recessional hymn has sounded. Let’s not wait until consumerism catches up with us.—GLENN F. ARNOLD, associate professor of journalism, Wheaton Graduate School, Wheaton, Illinois.

Who Is Really Doing Satan’S Work?

Guerrilla wars. Terrorist attacks. Political assassinations. Recent international violence has caused the deaths of many innocent people. Christians are appalled by these senseless killings. Unfortunately, less attention within the church is focused on a different kind of violence. It involves little bloodshed and is rarely punishable by death or imprisonment. Most of us must plead guilty to this crime: violence of the tongue—the gossip that can destroy a person or a group’s reputation.

Ray Kroc, founder and head of the McDonald’s fast food chain, was recently a victim of such verbal violence. Somewhere the rumor started that he contributes large sums of money to the Church of Satan.

Without checking the facts, certain church groups and individuals risked a man’s reputation in order to warn their constituents not to buy hamburgers from a possible Satanist. Informal boycotts against the company began, and one McDonald’s official says, “Some loss of business can be attributed to this rumor.” Worse than any financial damage that Kroc may have suffered, however, is the damage levied to his reputation.

Article continues below

When the rumor started, Kroc called it “utterly ridiculous.” Kroc has been a Congregational church member since childhood and has given money to many religious and humanitarian groups. But he denies ever giving a cent to the Satanists. He has made a large contribution for the construction of Robert Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral and was scheduled to share Schuller’s television pulpit one Sunday this month.

Since the rumor was most pervasive within churches, a McDonald’s staff member met with church leaders in the South—the area where the rumor appeared to start—asking them to quell the fears of their parishioners. Fortunately, a major denominational news agency researched the rumor, which had appeared in several of its state level publications, and declared it “unfounded.” An Ohio pastor who printed the rumor in his church bulletin later retracted it after he studied the situation. Despite these refutations, Kroc now must play a game of catch-up to restore his good name. And that is not an easy game to play.

A similar case involves the Federal Communications Commission, which has had to use tax money for several years to handle some eight million letters from church members who thought the commission was going to ban religious broadcasting. The FCC was supposedly responding to a petition from Madalyn Murray O’Hair that she, in fact, never filed. The Milam-Lansman petition, which could have been harmful to religious broadcasting, was denied in August, 1975. (See news stories in issues for June 23, 1978, p. 43, and January 7, 1977, p. 41.)

Of course, McDonald’s is big enough to survive this flutter. Indeed, most hungry people care little about the spiritual purity of a Big Mac.

But if only a portion of the fervor that motivates an uninformed campaign like that against Kroc were channeled into the war against gossip, the church would be well-served.—J.M.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.