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College hosts professor who calls for ‘defending democracy from its Christian enemies’

Event meant to foster civil disagreement and critical thinking among students, organizer said

Muskegon Community College in Michigan recently brought popular Christian ethicist Professor David Gushee to campus to discuss his new book “Defending Democracy from its Christian Enemies.”

His book argues Christians have become reactionary and taken anti-democratic stances, and Gushee “analyzes how Christians have discarded their commitment to democracy and bought into authoritarianism,” its online description states.

Gushee, a self-described “broken-hearted patriot,” told The College Fix he has not seen his book, published last fall, be labeled as controversial by most, yet could envision how its arguments and observations could be unwelcome in some contexts.

A news release from the college touting Gushee’s appearance described the book as “controversial.”

During his college guest lecture, while not everyone in the room agreed, or was Christian, “the talk was well-received and the atmosphere was quite respectful,” Gushee told The Fix via email.

A professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University, Gushee has written or co-authored more than 28 books and over 175 academic book chapters and articles, his faculty bio states. He frequently appears on podcasts and news outlets for interviews concerning his work in the religious sphere, it adds.

“In 2014, Gushee sparked controversy within conservative Christian circles by advocating for full LGBTQ inclusion in church, theology, and broader culture. His 2020 publication, ‘After Evangelicalism: A Path to a New Christianity,’ served as a guide for individuals undergoing faith deconstruction,” the college’s news release stated.

Nicholas Budimir, professor of sociology at MCC, said the event was meant to foster civil disagreement and critical thinking among students.

“At an institution of higher education, we must have these conversations about societal values, how to think, and how to model constructive dialogue between folks with different worldviews,” he said in a news release.

The March 14 presentation drew about 125 students and staff on campus and ran for about 40 minutes, with Gushee taking questions from the audience afterward, he told The College Fix in an interview.

Budimir told The College Fix in an email that the students and staff in attendance appeared to enjoy the presentation and their interactions with Gushee and no protests took place.

Gushee, in his book, argues he is concerned that many Christians were at the forefront of the Jan. 6 insurrection riots, claiming to act as God’s agents on earth on behalf of his “representative” on earth, referring to Donald Trump.

He said this prompted him to write the book.

“The book examines right-wing Christian politics focusing on places and times when reactionary Christians, very unhappy with the direction of modern culture, and unsatisfied with the results of the democratic process, tip over into authoritarian politics,” he told The Fix.

Gushee makes the case for Christians to advocate for and preserve legitimate democracy in the public square. According to one review, he is wary of ways that Christians have supported authoritarianism in the past.

Gushee believes the solution to Christian engagement in politics does not lie in secular liberalism, but instead on the practices of “congregational democracy, dissident Black Christian politics, and covenantal theology,” according to his website.

MORE: Scholars warn ‘democracy’ at stake if Trump elected

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About the Author
College Fix contributor Rafael Oliveira is a fellow at the Falls Church Anglican. A graduate of The King’s College, he studied politics, philosophy and economics. His work has appeared in the Empire State Tribune and Empire State Magazine.