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Odd man in

Mike Adams is a rarity at a secular university—an outspoken Christian and conservative with tenure

Odd man in

Mike Adams (Bowen Rodkey for WORLD)

The formal introduction: Mike Adams is a professor at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington and a syndicated columnist. The informal: He is probably the most outspoken Christian conservative professor in the United States now teaching at a state university. He's gone from passive writing to fiery prose, and from an incendiary lifestyle to one centered on true ideas.

Q: Tell us about your 1.8 GPA in high school. I can't believe you brought that up! That was off limits!

Q: How hard did you have to work to get a 1.8? My goal was to graduate with a 1.0, the lowest passing grade possible, but I had accidents along the way and ended up with a few C's. I was a soccer player pursuing a professional career, then I was injured. I went to junior college and had to recover for a few years.

Q: But you made it to graduate school. To fund my education I played in duos and trios: All I would ask for was an unlimited bar tab and a $100 bill. My last month in grad school, April of '93, we played 22 nights. I ended up making a little too much money doing it, and that's when I ran into some trouble with alcohol and drugs and all that. I'm surprised I'm here and alive. I didn't think I'd make it to 30, and I'll be 45 next month.

Q: Were you an intellectual atheist? I was not an intellectual atheist at all. Musicians get a lot of attention from women. If there is no god, I can have sex with as many women as I would like. Hurt them? Eh, we'll all be dead soon and we won't know it. There's nothing on the other side. There was nothing intellectual about it at all. It was an excuse to engage in selfish conduct. I didn't give a penny to a single charity when I was an atheist.

Q: You studied criminology and saw some things in Central America . . . In 1996 I was a leftist, an atheist, and a card-carrying member of the ACLU. In a prison in Ecuador I witnessed the torture of a young man who appeared to be in his teens. He was being beaten with a bat so badly you could almost hear his bones crunching. I was seeing all this brutal stuff firsthand, 45 people in a 36-square-meter cell, the smell of the rotten food they would give them, fecal matter and urine all over the floor, people walking around with cut marks from knife fights, and people shot in the back. I came walking out of that prison on March 7, 1996, thinking that there is an absolute right and wrong, a moral code that does not depend on my feelings or reactions.

Q: Others see the same things in prison and remain atheists. What happened in your case? There was a foundation. I grew up with a fundamentalist Baptist mother and an atheist father, so when I went to college I was inclined to fall away, but I had that core foundation to lean on. A lot of the things I heard when I was growing up came alive in me. I was really shaken to the core. That should have been the point when I became a Christian, but I went floating for about 3½ years. I wouldn't go back into a church because I felt that people could see my past written upon me.

Q: Sex, drugs, and alcohol? It was bad, to the point that I almost died in 1991. My heart almost stopped from consumption of amphetamines one night playing-I just ate too many of them and went to an emergency room. I felt like I couldn't go into a church. Then came an experience on death row in Texas: I met a mentally retarded rapist and murderer who was 13 days away from execution. I called myself an educated man, had a Ph.D., was a professor, but had never read the Bible. So I sat down and read it, and right around the time I finished I met a woman who said to me, "You're going to church with me." I became actively involved and haven't looked back.

Q: So you were a professor in North Carolina, fitting right in as an atheist and leftist, and then you did this disreputable thing, becoming a Christian? I didn't come out vocally until 2000, but they had granted me this thing called tenure in 1997. When it became known that I was a registered Republican and conservative Christian, they didn't like me much for a few years. Now, it's ratcheted up.

Q: How did they show that dislike, and how is it getting to be more than dislike? Just funny things. When I was a Democrat I'd put a sign on my door that said, "Clinton/Gore '96," or something like that. I decided just for the fun of it to put up a "Bush/Cheney 2000" poster on my door. Some of the professors got together to raise a charge against me. I sent an email to every professor in the department saying, "You have been involved in an experiment on tolerance and diversity, which unfortunately you have failed. For several years the Clinton sign has been up there and you didn't say anything about it, but now that the Republican poster is up, you are offended." It was funny.

Q: Many of your columns report political correctness at universities. Where do you get your information? I just got off the phone with a professor calling me from California. He teaches psychology and said that women are more prone to depression than are men, and there's a biological reason for that. The women's studies department found out about it and started demanding that he be removed from teaching the class. We have feminists on college campuses these days who believe that there are no inherent differences whatsoever between men and women: There are no differences at all except those that come from culture and patriarchal oppression.

Q: You don't like campus "speech codes" that prohibit criticism of religion, lifestyles, or other matters that might irritate some folks. Speech codes purport to give students a constitutional right to feel comfortable, which makes no sense because the First Amendment guarantees that you will feel uncomfortable, with regularity. If you don't like it, move to Cuba, because this country was founded upon the idea of a very robust exchange of ideas. The very notion that you can somehow create an environment where no one is offended-first of all, that's not a university. But also, that isn't their goal. Their goal is to selectively enforce the speech codes in a way that is unconstitutional.

Q: You wrote about a situation where UNC-the University of North Carolina-officials told a Christian group to remove a part of its constitution saying that members should believe in God, because that requirement is "intolerant." You were supposed to sign a nondiscrimination clause that not only allowed into your Christian organization people of all different religions, but allowed them to run for office: A Christian organization with a Muslim president, a Hindu vice president, a Buddhist secretary-maybe a Christian could be treasurer?

Q: Language about belief in God was labeled "exclusive" and "intolerant"? I went through a public records process and found that many Christian organizations were being told similar things. This is what racists used to do to the NAACP back in the 1950s in Alabama: They used to say, "Because you're tax-exempt, you must allow Klansmen to hold offices, and you must allow people who believe that segregation is a good idea to join the organization." And that went to the U. S. Supreme Court in 1958, which said that relevant beliefs are not arbitrary discrimination (which the 14th Amendment had set about eliminating) but simply a way of bringing about the First Amendment freedom of association.

Q: What happened? In the 1950s the Supreme Court had said, if it's not arbitrary, it doesn't violate the 14th Amendment. In 2003 people at the University of North Carolina who claim to be the czars of tolerance were using old Klan tactics. They should be embarrassed by this. I began to write about it. I honestly hoped they would back down. It took me 18 months of making phone calls and writing letters to Christian organizations for one of them to finally come forward and file a federal lawsuit. Within six months of doing that, via federal court injunction, we had the policy struck down. That was a struggle, and the biggest part of the struggle was getting the Christian organizations to step forward. Unfortunately, that is too often the case.

Q: What is your "Spread the Wealth" grading policy? I wrote a spoof email to my students saying that I was going to come up with a new grading system. I said, "A lot of students make A's, and they really have more points than they need. No one really needs that many points, and there are a lot of poor people out there failing who really need more points. So, after Exam 1 I'm going to take points away from people who have A's and give them to people who have F's so we can have more equality in the classroom. We're going to cut it down to 3 levels: B, C, and D. After the 2nd Exam, we're going to rethink that and look at the average, and I'm sure that some people will have B's and D's, and that's really not fair. So we're going to compress it and give everyone C's."

Q: How did people react to the spoof? When I speak on college campuses socialists always show up and I always ask them this question: "What would be the effect of the grading policy if I actually did it?" If people know what their outcome is in advance, they're not going to put forth an effort. The question I always have for the socialist is this: What's the difference between that and an economic policy that guarantees everyone the same outcome?

Q: Are things getting worse at secular universities? It's open season on Christians and conservatives on campus. I've referred to UNC as the University of No Conscience, and also the University of No Christians. I thank God that I'm there, that I was hired as an atheist and I turned on them, and that they said a lot of very stupid things in front of me before I converted.

Q: So what happens to students? It is chic and it is hip to rebel against your parents. When you're presented with these radical ideas and you parrot them back to your professors, you immediately receive positive reinforcement. They shun you if you adhere to those traditional values and shower you with love and attention and approval if you do otherwise. Most students come back because for a lot of them it's just a temporary experiment in rebellion.

Q: Temporary and soon forgotten? Unfortunately, they do things that hurt them permanently. They come from fairly mainstream religious backgrounds, go off to college, and have enough sex partners to have serious depression issues for the rest of their lives-or they have an abortion and they don't know that it isn't a scab because they've never looked at an ultrasound. They don't realize it until much later. And how many of them pick up sexually transmitted diseases that can't be cured? For many of them it's an experiment that stays with them for the rest of their lives.

Q: As you've challenged rules, have you had defeats? We lose when we don't fight. I remind students: You'll be scared for a while, you'll get beat up for a while, but there is greater glory waiting on the other side.
To hear Marvin Olasky's interview with Mike Adams, click the following links: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Marvin Olasky

Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD and dean of World Journalism Institute. He joined WORLD in 1992 and has also been a university professor and provost. He has written more than 20 books, including Reforming Journalism. Marvin resides with his wife, Susan, in Austin, Texas. Follow him on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.