“When asked how they heard about Summit [Christian defense workshops for college students], several students can’t remember. ‘Everyone knows about Summit,’ one of them says.” Everyone. But if that doesn’t include you — and if you care about religion and politics — read Thomas Bartlett’s account of the organization in The Chronicle of Higher Education to find out how a new generation of Christian conservatives are learning to “defend” their faith in elite colleges and universities. Sample: When confronted with environmentalists and advocates of gov’t regulation, zing ’em with these words of wisdom from Summit founder David Noebel: “‘The best way to save the spotted owl is to eat them,’ he says. ‘Charge $25 a plate, and they’ll be millions of them.'”

It takes out of context quotes like that to make Bartlett’s story seem snippy. His is a respectful, if skeptical, account. And yet, Summit still comes off looking dumb. Not for its political positions, but for its cut-rate educational approach and its emphasis on “defending” one’s self from ideas one hasn’t wrestled with.

Christian conservative critics will no doubt complain that Bartlett is biased, that this is just another example of liberal, secular media mocking their faith. It’s not. It’s an example of Christian conservatives making a mockery of their own faith in front of a journalist honest enough to let them be fools for God.