Between Fundamentalism and Secularization: Secularizing and Sacralizing Currents in the Evangelical Debate on Campus Lifestyle Codes


This article analyzes the changing role of campus rules at evangelical colleges. Although much of the literature on religion and higher education asserts that the weakening of campus rules necessarily leads to secularization and the collapse of orthodoxy, we reject this conclusion as overly deterministic. Through a discourse analysis of more than thirty years of campus newspaper articles and other materials from six evangelical colleges, we demonstrate that evangelical opposition to rules has been rhetorically grounded in both secular and religious styles of moral argumentation. While a considerable proportion of the articles employed arguments resembling the rhetoric of secular in loco parentis debates, the majority of the articles marshaled explicitly religious arguments grounded in the central doctrines of Reformation Protestant orthodoxy. We argue that this continued dramatization of orthodox Protestant identity cannot be captured by a simple unilinear secularization model. Rather, both secularizing and sacralizing dynamics have been at work in the discourse of evangelical college students, faculty, and alumni.

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Sociology of Religion