Revolutions, Quiet and Otherwise: Protestants and Higher Education During the 1960s.

Bass, Dorothy C. “Revolutions, Quiet and Otherwise: Protestants and Higher Education During the 1960s.” In Caring for the Commonweal: Education for Religious and Public Life. Parker J. Palmer, Barbara G. Wheeler, and James W. Fowler, eds. Pp. 207-226. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1990.

In her essay on Protestants and American higher education during the 1960s, Dorothy Bass examines the period’s three major developments in the story of mainstream Protestantism’s relationship with higher education which she finds to be reflective of the larger shift of cultural influence taking place at the time from the churches to the university. She describes these developments as campus ministry, the student Christian movement, and the academic study of religion. Bass determines that many campus ministries—in responding to political and social issues of the day and frustrated by traditional denominational programs—lost touch with the distinctive Christian tradition and failed to speak meaningfully to their generation. She finds that the death of the University Christian Movement (UCM) in 1969 seriously weakened the Protestant presence in American higher education. Her essay further reports that, in contrast to the difficulties of campus ministry and the demise of the UCM, religion in general gained greater acceptance than ever before as a legitimate field of academic pursuit in the university. Bass maintains that, while mainstream Protestantism’s love of justice and freedom from ecclesiastical constraint sought to confront the ills of contemporary society of the 1960s, it also lost touch with the resources only historic expressions of the faith could provide to meet the challenges meaningfully. As Bass says, “Honest Christian witness takes place when a hearty, unapologetic contemporaneity is nourished and corrected by the authentic, vital traditions of the church.”