At Harvard, Traditional Christian Beliefs Have Become Anathema

April 10 2018

In February, Harvard University suspended its campus’s largest evangelical organization. The reason? The group had asked a student to resign from a leadership position because she was in a same-sex relationship, thus running afoul of its “character standards.” A month later, the Harvard student council voted to withhold the organization’s funding. Sohrab Ahmari comments:

The move is of a piece with the wider progressive crackdown against liberty on campus. But for orthodox Christians and other people of tradition, the episode has a deeper, and darker, meaning. For several years now, orthodox Christians, Catholics especially, have wondered whether it is still possible to come to peaceable terms with the liberal state. The debate has usually been framed in terms of intellectual history and genealogy, pitting thinkers who believe that today’s politically correct despotism is a perversion of the liberal tradition against those who argue that illiberal liberalism of the kind on display at Harvard is, in fact, the fullest expression of the liberal idea.

The former camp—those who have seen liberal excess as a bug and not a feature—has been the more optimistic. The “compatibilists” (like yours truly) argue that liberalism’s foundational guarantees of freedom of speech, conscience, and association have sufficed to protect Christianity from contemporary liberalism’s censorious, repressive streak. The task of the believer, they contend, is to call liberalism back to its roots in Judeo-Christianity, from which the ideology derives its faith in the special dignity of persons, universal equality, and much else of the kind. Christianity could evangelize liberal modernity in this way. Publicly engaged believers could restore to liberalism the commitment to ultimate truths and the public moral culture without which rights-based self-government ends up looking like mob rule.

The latter camp—those who think today’s aggressive progressivism is the rotten fruit of the original liberal idea—is more pessimistic. They argue that liberal intolerance goes back to liberalism’s origins. . . . Liberalism’s anti-religious inner logic was bound to bring us to today’s repressive model: bake that cake—or else! Say that men can give birth—or else! Let an active bisexual run your college Christian club—or else! . . .

With each fresh instance of liberal despotism, such as the one at Harvard, the compatibilists are likely to adopt a practical non-compatibilist position, even as they continue to revere the American Founding and all the myriad material benefits of liberal order.

Welcome to Mosaic

Register now to get two more stories free

Register Now

Already a subscriber? Sign in now

Read more at Commentary

More about: Catholicism, Evangelical Christianity, Liberalism, Religion & Holidays, University

Is There a Way Out of Israel’s Political Deadlock?

On Tuesday, leaders of the Jewish state’s largest political parties, Blue and White and Likud, met to negotiate the terms of a coalition agreement—and failed to come to an agreement. If none of the parties in the Knesset succeeds in forming a governing coalition, there will be a third election, with no guarantee that it will be more conclusive than those that preceded it. Identifying six moves by key politicians that have created the deadlock, Shmuel Rosner speculates as to whether they can be circumvented or undone:

Sign up to read more

You've read all your free articles for this month

Register

Sign up now for unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Jewish Journal

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Election 2019, Israeli politics