The XX Factor

The “Academic Exercise” that Changed the World

Hanna , I too have been fascinated by the dustup over recent news reports of Virginia’s gubernatorial hopeful, Bob McDonnell, and his 20-year-old graduate thesis from Regent University. Here’s the thesis . Like you, I agree that it’s hard to think of the document as some sort of abstract political thought experiment, when it’s so obviously a blueprint for what became much of his subsequent political career (including opposition to working women, abortion, homosexuals, and legalized contraception for unmarried couples, and support for spanking, religious education in public schools, and covenant marriages). This also goes back to a longstanding question I have had about Regent University and other religious law schools that explicitly seek to use the legal system to promote their own values: They are nothing if not honest that this is the goal. So why are we ineviatably astonished by it?

Don’t forget that the uber-loyal Bushie, Monica Goodling, also graduated from Regent law school, and then used her position in the Bush Administration to develop “a very positive reputation for people coming from Christian schools into Washington looking for employment in government.” At the height of Goodling’s reign, Regent estimated that “approximately one out of every six Regent alumni is employed in some form of government work.” The school’s motto is “Christian Leadership To Change the World.” Seen in that light not one little bit of McDonnell’s thesis is surprising. The surprise is that we are all so surprised by it.

Photograph by Getty Images.