Even at Regent

EVEN AT REGENT…. When TV preacher Pat Robertson created Regent University in Virginia Beach 30 years ago, he had a rather specific idea in mind. He’d show the “elites” a thing or two about education, and offer politically conservative evangelical Christians degrees shaped by a specific worldview — the kind found on his Christian Broadcasting Network. Everyone on the faculty is not only of the same faith, but is required to sign a statement acknowledging the infallibility of the Bible.

For the most part, Robertson has had some success, and his school has trained prominent religious right-style Republicans who served in positions of influence in government, including the Bush White House.

With that in mind, I can’t help but find it fascinating that Robertson’s Regent University will now, believe it or not, be home to Regent Democrats.

It’s not as daring as, say, Pat Robertson’s Republican run for the White House in 1988. But there’s no denying that starting a Democratic student group at Robertson’s Regent University seems a bit audacious.

“Here, it is definitely a startling idea,” said Kalila Hines, a government major and one of the founding members of Regent Democrats.

Regent, where Robertson is president and chancellor, has long had a student Republican group. The university approved Regent Democrats as an official student organization in late January, and the group now counts about 30 members.

Brandon Carr, a law student and vice president of Regent Democrats, described the group as “Democrats and independents who want to be Christian leaders to change the world … explaining to others how you can be a Christian and agree to some Democratic principles as well.”

I never thought I’d see the day.

In the bigger picture, this not only reflects changes at Regent, it also speaks to key shifts among younger evangelicals. For Robertson’s generation and these students’ parents, to be politically active was to be a conservative Republican. To care about “moral issues” was to focus exclusively on gays and abortion.

All of that’s changing, slowly but surely. The GOP lock on evangelicals is loosening. Poverty and global warming are just as serious for many younger evangelicals as whether two consenting adults of the same gender can get married.

And Pat Robertson’s Regent University has an official student organization for Democrats.