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SPOKANE, Wash. (RNS) The Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union speech introduced many Americans to Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers. While those of us in Spokane are already familiar with our congresswoman, little is known about her alma mater, Pensacola Christian College.

Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md. Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore via Flickr


This image is available for Web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

A brief introduction to PCC might help illuminate some of the formative ideas that have shaped the faith and religious views of this rising star within the GOP.

Study of the Bible is a major concern at PCC, and every student is required to take Bible courses. The treatment of the Bible at PCC is somewhat extreme. The Florida school has a particular (and peculiar) attachment to the King James Version (published in 1611), noting on its website, “it is our practice to use only the Authorized Version (KJV) in the pulpit and in classroom instruction.” Their obsession with the KJV is at odds with scholars who consider dozens of alternative English versions (the New Revised Standard Version, for example) to be more faithful translations since they, unlike the KJV, are based on more ancient (and reliable) biblical manuscripts.

Academic or scholarly approaches to the Bible seem to be shunned at PCC. The seminary associated with the college seems to relish this lack of an academic approach: “Pensacola Theological Seminary has a biblicist approach in its graduate Bible program in contrast to the pseudointellectual approaches of our day. In an attempt to be academic, many focus on teaching erroneous views of liberal theologians. The goal of our Bible program is not to fill our students’ minds with doubts and questions raised by liberals, but rather to fill our students’ souls with the Word of God itself.”

So it’s not surprising that not one of the faculty who teaches the Bible at PCC is a trained scholar in biblical studies. None of the “Bible” faculty are members of the world’s largest and most established academic guild of biblical scholars, the Society of Biblical Literature. Dan Rushing, dean of the Division of Biblical Studies at PCC, does not have a Ph.D. in biblical studies, and he received all four of his degrees from PCC and Pensacola Theological Seminary.

Throughout the college there seems to be a lack of academic rigor. Of the 117 full-time faculty at PCC, only 13 (11.1 percent) have Ph.D.s. Perhaps even more noteworthy is that 89 of their faculty received at least one of their degrees from PCC. Far from welcoming or valuing external perspectives, PCC embraces its exclusionary mindset: “Without meaning to be unfriendly or unkind, we feel it only fair to say that Pensacola Christian is not a part of the ‘tongues movement’ and does not allow students to participate in or promote any charismatic activities, nor do we permit students to promote hyper-Calvinism.”

Although McMorris Rodgers graduated with a B.A. from PCC in 1990, the school itself was not accredited until last year. Its accrediting body, the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, itself had difficulty receiving federal recognition. Its first such attempt (in 1987) was denied, and its successful effort in 1991 followed a federal advisory panel’s repeated recommendations to the contrary. In the mid-1990s TRACS was placed on probation for 18 months.

TRACS currently accredits 55 schools, including Bob Jones University, Epic Bible College, Hillsdale Free Will Baptist College, Shorter College, Visible Music College, and the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology (formerly Mars Hill Graduate School). Schools seeking to be accredited must supply “a biblical foundation statement,” “a mission statement,” and a “Christian Philosophy of Education” statement.

In its accreditation manual, TRACS offers schools a series of suggestions to include in their biblical statements: “The unique divine, plenary, verbal inspiration and absolute authority of all sixty-six canonical books of the Old and New Testaments as originally given. The Bible is the only infallible, authoritative Word of God and is free from error of any sort, in all matters with which it deals, scientific, historical, moral, and theological.”

In its 14 articles of faith, Pensacola Christian College echoes many of these same sentiments. It states, for example, “Eternal hell was created for Satan, his demons, and people who do not believe in God.”

Religion is the only subject in which some people are proud of believing the same thing at age 40 that they believed when they were 6. It is the only field in which development in critical thinking is seen by some as regression. With religion, people think their opinion is as legitimate as a trained professional. And the consequences are not merely academic: People unwilling to engage in a critical study of religion or the Bible are destined to worship a God and Jesus of their own making.

This peculiar brand of nonthinking religion might help explain how a person of “faith” might vote against giving women equal pay to men (Lilly Ledbetter Act), or vote against including gays, lesbians, Native Americans, and immigrants as people that should be protected against domestic violence (Violence Against Women Act), or vote to cut food to hungry children and the elderly.

Matt Rindge photo courtesy of Gonzaga University

Matt Rindge photo courtesy of Gonzaga University


This image is available for Web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

It might also help explain how a person of “faith” might embrace idolatry in viewing Christianity and the American dream as one and the same. As McMorris Rodgers said on Tuesday: “With the guidance of God, we may prove — proves ourselves worthy of His blessings of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

(Matthew S. Rindge is an associate professor of religious studies at Gonzaga University. He is currently writing “Cinematic Parables: Subverting the Religion of the American Dream.” Follow him on Twitter at @mattrindge.)

KRE/AMB END RINDGE

10 Comments

  1. While as a conservative Presbyterian pastor I do not agree with all of the theology taught at PCC, I take issue with your implied position that one has to have advanced degrees from accredited schools in order to be able to be erudite in teaching scripture. If my memory of my New American Standard Bible and my two degrees from Westminister Theological Seminary in CA is correct, Jesus was not trained in any theological school and neither were His disciples. Yet, they taught biblical lessons that have lasted for more than 2000 years and still confound the wisdom of men today. I personally applaud the stance of Ms. McMorris Rodgers and pray God will put many more like her in positions of authority.

    • What the hell is a “conservative Presbyterian pastor?” I don’t seem to remember Jesus ever declaring his “CONservative” bona fides at any point in the New Testament. As a matter of fact, the unbiased reading of anyone’s version of the New Testament, would view Jesus as a revolutionary Liberal Rabbi.

      The point that Mr. Rindge was making is that the PCC, that Rodgers attended, was a very insular and non-accredited institution that was lacking in any intellectual vigor out side of their “belief” that “The Bible is the only infallible, authoritative Word of God and is free from error of any sort, in all matters with which it deals, scientific, historical, moral, and theological.”

      The incestuous nature of this institution coupled with their narrow and biased interpretation of the Bible, written and modified thousands of times by the hand of man, does not prepare anyone to deal with a society with hundreds of different religious institutions and over 200 denominations of Christianity. I guess that we can be thankful that the PCC doesn’t participate in the “tongues movement” but the fact that they don’t instill any “doubts and questions” about their teachings is the epitome of hubris.

      Finally, for someone that is as educated as yourself, it would seem that you would understand that Jesus and his associates never taught “biblical” lessons. The Bible itself didn’t exist until all of them were either dead or “raised,” with both the institution of Christianity and the Bible being flawed creations of man.

      • Thank you for the reality check. The embarrassing state of the Union response, with the Bette from WA story that fell apart, brought McMorris Rodgers into the limelight. The woman that the Republicans use as their “woman” beard is nothing more than a trained zombie.

        • Though I love the “trained zombie” description of Rodgers, I personally prefer defining her by a single word from the Urban Dictionary and that word is “VagHag.” I am of course referencing the number one definition listed and not the more disgusting and misogynist ones that follow.

          http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=vaghag

      • Hmmm…I thought Rindge’s point was to tell us something about Rep. McMorris Rodgers’ faith (see the headline), but I didn’t learn a thing about it here. I learned a lot about the school she attended over 24 years ago though.

        I think a better written article would be to interview the Congresswoman about her faith, or, lacking an interview, look at statements she’s made about her faith, or interview people who know her well or, at the very least, write a blog post about the church she currently attends. Any of these options would give me a better idea about her faith than what was written here.

        The title of this blog post should have been “Understanding PPC.”

    • “Yet, they taught biblical lessons that have lasted for more than 2000 years and still confound the wisdom of men today.”

      They certainly appear to have confounded you.

      “I personally applaud the stance of Ms. McMorris Rodgers and pray God will put many more like her in positions of authority.”

      Yes, I’m sure you do.

  2. Headline: Professor from Mediocre College Attacks Congresswoman’s Mediocre Education

    Professor Rindge, from a university that as recently as 2011 earned 290th place nationwide for average ACT/SAT of entering freshmen, and whose college luminary is Bing Crosby, nevertheless imagines it important for all of us to know that Congresswoman McMorris’ alma mater, Pensacola Christian College, was even worse. Nice to know Professor Rindge. In the course of doing so Rindge provides us with a textbook example of a man fighting his own straw man. At no point in time does he cite anything McMorris Rodgers ever said about her faith with regard to legislation he apparently finds lacking nor does he tie any particular legislation to anything she’s said about her faith or the legislation nor does he discuss her CURRENT church and its positions, nor does he even articulate whether his own church has positions (or not) on the legislation he highlights in his vast exercise in wild speculation. He also, conveniently fails to note anywhere in this hit piece what McMorris Rodgers has noted publically in the past; that her family had no money and this college offered her free tuition.

    Professor, you get an A for polemics and a D for reasoning. Let’s hope your students can survive you.

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