Political Correctness, Evangelicalism and Student Rebellion at British Universities

Article excerpt

This article will examine Political Correctness at British universities and its effect on and relationship with student evangelical groups. Drawing upon the anthropological method, it will argue that, for many, contemporary student evangelical groups involve a 'student rebellion' in relation to Political Correctness. Thus, it will be demonstrated that the Christian Union is Politically Incorrect and contains a minority from non-evangelical backgrounds for whom its views and lifestyle might be seen as a kind of rebellion. The group has experienced considerable difficulties with the Politically Correct Student Union, as will be demonstrated. The article will further examine the evangelical student group Speak which it will argue - though fundamentally evangelical - is Politically Correct. Following various definitions of Political Correctness, it will be argued that Speak's rise can be seen as a kind of 'student rebellion' amongst conservative evangelicals. Thus, Political Correctness is both a means of student rebellion and an object against which students are rebelling depending on religious background.

Key Words: Political correctness; British student evangelicalism; Evangelism; British universities; Student rebellion.

'Student Rebellion' is often characterised as a rebellion against forms of authority. Stereotypically, the British university student, for example, is understood to 'rebel' by, perhaps, sampling drugs, being sexually promiscuous and even involving himself in left-wing politics. Indeed, as will be demonstrated, there would be a case for arguing that this kind of student rebellion, in many respects, is Politically Correct and it is therefore unsurprising that the many Student Unions (Student Representative Bodies sometimes termed 'Student Guilds') tend also to be Politically Correct in their policies and structure. Drawing upon the anthropological method, this article will examine the notions of 'Political Correctness' and 'Student Rebellion' as they are reflected in student evangelical groups operating at certain British universities. It will argue that the two main student evangelical groups can be understood, in part, to involve a 'student rebellion' in relation to Political Correctness. Thus, it will provide credence for the view that this necessarily leftward driven understanding of student rebellion may be something of an oversimplification. Moreover, in looking at Political Correctness and rebellion, it will assess such groups scientifically in relation to an issue over which there has only previously been speculation.1

The article will demonstrate that the largest student evangelical group - the Christian Union - is generally Politically Incorrect and has, therefore, essentially been persecuted by the Student Union at many universities. It will argue that for a large minority of its members - who have not been raised as conservative evangelicals - this conservatism is a form of rebellion and it will further demonstrate its prevalence at highly liminal (transitional) universities at which one's ideals and parental relations would be likely to change. Concomitantly, it will examine another student evangelical group, at similar universities, which is, superficially, Politically Correct. It will demonstrate that this group appears to be a 'student rebellion' for those who have been raised as conservative evangelicals, it is a rebellion within the confines, at least, of evangelical thought. Again, it will be noted to be prevalent at the same liminal universities. The article will examine the Oxford (University) Inter-Collegiate Christian Union (OICCU), Durham (University) InterCollegiate Christian Union (DICCU) and the Aberdeen University Christian Union (AUCU). It will also examine secondary research into other Christian Unions as well as first hand research into 'Speak,' another evangelical student group. The article will firstly define Political Correctness, drawing upon Ellis' discussion for example. …