If you’ve ever watched a college football game on television, you’ve undoubtedly seen those commercials by the two competing schools lauding their academic excellence and opportunities. While fans engage in fun and games, the schools work to remind viewers that it is the education that matters more than the sports. While the schools tell audiences that academics are paramount, it seems that others have a different opinion.
SaturdayDownSouth.com (SDS), an organization of Southeastern Conference (SEC) fans, promoted a Washington Post article showing 2014’s top twenty “party schools” as reported by the Princeton Review. Three SEC schools, sadly, made the list: Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi. According to the Princeton Review Syracuse topped the list. As a Texan I was proud that no major Texas schools made the list and that Texas A&M was listed as having the most conservative students” (beating out Mormon BYU).
I went to college and I had fun in college, so I understand that young people often prefer schools with—shall we say—a freer social environment. Furthermore, partying in college does not necessarily preclude future failure. However, just because some overcame too much college partying does not mean that such behavior should be promoted as a virtue.
The Vice is a Virtue, but There is an Upside
Why would Princeton Review research this data? It’s possible that they want to help schools discover problems within their institutions. If a school has behavioral problems amongst its student body, it needs to be aware so it can address it. Donors often don’t want to fund schools who are more party and less academics.
Some such as Jon Cooper of SDS, however, seem to celebrate such debauchery and narcissistic self-gratification as a virtue. He opens his article, “We’re all about some football in the SEC. We know how to win, and we also know how to party, right? This year, however, only three SEC schools made [the list]” (emphasis added). With these sentences he apparently opens with the celebrate-party-schools attitude, and his “only three” seems to indicate that he may have wanted more to make the list.
Condemning Vices, Celebrating Virtues
Not everyone shares Cooper’s opinion. The top five party schools rejected Princeton Review’s report as misleading and misrepresenting their academic standards (see video below). West Virginia University, (fourth on the list) outright condemned the report: “But in the big picture, clearly this list has no real credibility.”
I’m glad to see schools rejecting the party atmosphere and emphasizing high academic standards. However, this list does show that many schools do have a problem among their student bodies that must be addressed. Most rules and regulations, however, will not solve the problem, however, because they do not address the root cause.
Identifying and Solving the Real Problem of Immorality
Sin. Is. The. Problem. A heart that has turned away from God to serve its own desires, own senses, and own views will always engage in immoral behavior. The question is how to address it. The problem is not the action, it’s the sin that leads to the action.
Three solutions are often offered, though only one really works.
Proposed Solution 1: Regulate Morality
Society does this through laws and other measures intended to alter one’s behavior. This, however, does not work. Banning a product or criminalizing a behavior does not fix sin, but only seeks to implement behavior modification. The United States banned alcohol, yet people continued to get drunk. Fully automatic weapons are banned or regulated, yet they are still obtained and used by criminals. Many drugs are illegal, yet people still use them. Speeding is illegal, but almost everyone still does it.
Christians are just as guilty of this flawed and failed approach. In order to make people more Christ-like, or more righteous, we criminalize certain behaviors and reward others. Christians set rules—many of which are arbitrary—in order to force people to conform to some human-based view of holiness. Such rules never create moral people, they only create religious adherents.
The problem is laws and rules do not address the cause, they only try to regulate the effect. Immoral behavior is the symptom; sin is the disease. Using rules to cure unrighteousness is like using Advil to cure ebola.
Proposed Solution 2: Redefine Morality
This is something that people have been doing since Adam and Eve: make immoral moral. What is wrong is first excused, then justified, and finally deemed as right; vices become virtues. In the name of freedom, genetics, youth, or evolving culture, people decide that depravity is suddenly decent, or at the very least excusable.
Changing the definition of morality is not the solution. Wherein rules merely address the symptoms, redefining morality denies the disease.
Proposed Solution 3: Renew the Mission
Sin is not cured by imposing rules or changing definitions any more than cancer is cured with pain killers. The only cure for sin is the blood of Jesus; the only means to a right living is His resurrection. So long as sin rules in the hearts of men, debauchery and immorality will plague society, including churches.
For decades Christians have spent much time and effort trying to cure the world by imposing rules, and for decades sin continued to prosper. Corruption and indecency will flourish so long as Christians continue promote rules rather than redemption. Churches must make evangelism a priority, not merely pay it lip service; Christians must share the gospel, not just seek their own goodness.
It does not surprise me that people celebrate depravity, such as SDS’ article lamenting that “only three” SEC schools made the list of the top party schools. Such lauding of sin is typical of a sin-led heart. There is only one way to fix it: the gospel of Jesus. Regulating or redefining morality might satiate our minds, but they will never save our souls. We must proclaim the cross and empty tomb of Christ, for only he overcomes the sin of the world.
Sin is the problem. Jesus is the cure.