It's possible that, by the next presidential election, graduates
of America's more than 700 religious colleges will have begun to
blur the much-ballyhooed demarcation between red states and blue.
She calls them "the missionary generation." And "God on the Quad"
author Naomi Schaefer Riley believes that as these 1.3 million young
people move into the secular world, many will gravitate toward big
cities in blue states - New York, Boston, Los Angeles - where their
influence may exceed their number.
In 2001 and 2002, while researching her book, Ms. Riley visited
20 schools, including the University of Notre Dame (Catholic) in
Indiana, Yeshiva University (Jewish) in New York, and Soka
University (Buddhist) in California.
She was shocked that of all the people she met, only two tried to
"You get this idea that if you ... deal with seriously religious
communities, they're going to look at you - a nice Jewish girl - as
a sitting duck," Riley says over a bagel at the Tatnuck Bookseller
here in her hometown.
One student at Brigham Young University in Utah quietly handed
her an inscribed copy of the Book of Mormon.
At Bob Jones University, the fundamental Christian school in
South Carolina, where Republican presidential nominees, including
George W. Bush, have for years stopped to stump, the sell was a bit
harder. Still, she says, it was a far cry from "hellfire and
This movement, away from overt proselytizing and toward "leading
by example," is one of the ways in which the new missionary
generation stand apart from their parents. It's a savvy shift that
Riley believes will serve them well in secular society.
Back in her hometown to speak at Holy Cross College, where her
father is a political science professor, the author was also
scheduled to read at the Tatnuck Bookseller later in the week.
At the entrance to Tatnuck Bookseller, housed in a former factory
and now the largest independent bookstore in New England, pyramids
of books crowd pieces of ancient machinery. "God on the Quad: How
Religious Colleges and the Missionary Generation Are Changing
America" is stacked off to the left. Riley seems at ease here, in a
spot that was once one of her high school haunts.
She says the students she encountered in her reporting were, for
the most part, thoughtful and motivated, immersed in a rigorous and
demanding education. Their teachers were qualified. And learning and
faith were elevated in equal measure.
"There's a common idea that religion waters down the curriculum,"
says Riley, who admits she herself must have set out with this
But that's not what she found at schools such as Wheaton College
(Christian Evangelical) in Illinois or at California's Roman
Catholic Thomas Aquinas College. …