German Reporter Goes Undercover at Fundamentalist Christian College

A few years ago, writer Kevin Roose (now a reporter for the New York Times) wrote a fantastic book called The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University. It was about a semester he spent undercover at Jerry Falwell‘s super-Christian Liberty University.

Recently, German reporter Amrai Coen wanted to do something similar — go undercover at also-super-Christian Patrick Henry College. But because the administrators had “bad experiences with foreign journalists,” they told her no. So instead, Coen went to the school on Visitor’s Day pretending to be a prospective student, “Elisha Schaefer.” Her report can be found at the German newspaper Die Zeit. There’s also a good English-language summary at Daily Kos.

Amrai Coen

The most damning part of the article, which should come as no surprise to anyone who knows anything about the school, may be this:

Could these students really govern America some day? I ask myself after a few hours and many conversations on campus. Most of them have only experienced their own living rooms as their classroom and their siblings as classmates. And these are the students who want to into politics, to pursue a career that is involved in social responsibility, to make decisions that impact the lives of millions of people.

The most interesting part of the article? Coen’s encounter with a former Miss America, now studying at the school (my own rough translation below):

Teresa Scanlan wants to have as many children as God will give her, she says. “And I want to adopt at least ten.” She believes children should be taught at home. By whom? “By her mother, of course” says Scanlan. How she intends to combine motherhood with her career, she has no answer. “But God will have a plan for me.” When asked about her role models, she responds, “Mother Teresa and Sarah Palin.” Mother Teresa, because it is the proof that a single person can move the society. Sarah Palin, because she is a woman who combines politics and faith.

In case you never read it, Hanna Rosin wrote an excellent piece (#longreads) on the school for the New Yorker in 2005. It’s required reading for any atheist wondering what goes on in the minds of the Christians so far to the right, they’re no longer even on the spectrum.

(Thanks to Deanna for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.


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