I recently watched a documentary on Channel 4 here in the UK called ‘Gods Next Army.’ The subject of the documentary was Patrick Henry College, an evangelical college that teaches six-day creationism and which aims to train its students in skills that will enable them to get jobs in Washington D.C. with a view to re-christianizing America from the top down, despite that old ‘separation of church and State’ thing.

Of the students who attend the Virginia based college started by Michael Farris, some 80% of them are home-schooled in deeply Christian households that have gone to lengths to keep their children away from mainstream society and the differing views that may present. The college is particularly popular with home-schooling parents because it more or less assures that their children will continue to be develop under strict Christian rules and ideologies. If there was a wild side to the college it certainly wasn’t presented to the maker of this film.

Each student has to sign a covenant of faith before when they enroll, as well as a code of conduct that forbids behavior that would be commonplace in non-Christian colleges.

The Patrick Henry College Institutional Mission, Vision, and Distinctives states the mission of Patrick Henry College is to “prepare Christian men and women who will lead our nation and shape our culture with timeless biblical values and fidelity to the spirit of the American founding.” It continues “The Vision of Patrick Henry College is to aid in the transformation of American society by training Christian students to serve God and mankind with a passion for righteousness, justice and mercy, through careers of public service and cultural influence.”

I found the documentary interesting on several levels but mostly I felt bad for the students. Clearly none of them were about to misbehave while the camera was on them, but it didn’t seem like any of them would misbehave in any case. They came across as inexperienced kids who were collectively about as much fun as a wet Thursday afternoon. As they enthusiastically talked about taking back the nation for Jesus I found myself hoping that they would collide at top speed with reality before they started working in government, not so much because I don’t think the world needs another lunatic at the wheel, but because I feel that as well as the college might prepare them for the day to day life of government it does not prepare them for the harsh day to day realities of life. In essence, these home schooled kids would, in my opinion, be ill equipped to make decisions for the masses when they are so woefully inexperienced at life, even for a college kid.

The College opened in September on 2000 and has since that time attracted more than its fair share of press coverage due to its fundamentalist Christian teachings such as six day creationism. It’s founder Michael Farris also founded the Home School Legal Defense Association and Generation Joshua which aims to Generation Joshua, an organisation for Christians between the ages of 11 and 19 who “want to become a force in the civic and political arenas.” The stated goal of Generation Joshua is to “ignite a vision in young people to help America return to her Judeo-Christian foundations.” With fun like that on the agenda, who needs MTV, movies and fashion huh!

To some extent I applaud Farris’s goal of getting young people involved in political issues, though I tend to agree with Reece when he says “I’m all for extending the innocence of childhood as far as possible.” But political issues very much affect young people so maybe encouraging them to take a little more interest in politics isn’t a bad idea at all.

I find myself wondering, though, what the reaction would be if someone started a fundamentalist Islamic college in the United States with the same goals as Patrick Henry College. Imagine a College not far from Washington D.C. that was training young men and women in fundamentalist Islam with the specific intention that they “aid in the transformation of American society by training Muslim students to serve Allah and mankind with a passion for righteousness, justice and mercy, through careers of public service and cultural influence.” Surely in today’s society under threat from Islamic extremists such a college would that be considered a threat to national security, would it not?

The documentary
Patrick Henry College website
Wiki page about PHC
Interview with Miachael Farris, founder of PHC
The Bible College That Leads to the White House
Educating America’s Christian Right
PHC Xanga blogring