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

The Evidence of BDS Anti-Semitism Speaks for Itself

Oct. 18 2019

Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs recently released a lengthy report titled Behind the Mask, documenting the varieties of naked anti-Semitic rhetoric and imagery employed by the movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction the Jewish state (BDS). Drawn largely but not exclusively from Internet sources, its examples range from a tweet by a member of Students for Justice in Palestine (the “world would be soooo much better without jews man”), to an enormous inflated pig bearing a star of David and floating behind the stage as the rock musician Roger Waters performs, to accusations by an influential anti-Israel blogger that Israel is poisoning Palestinian wells. Cary Nelson sums up the report’s conclusions and their implications, all of which give the lie to the disingenuous claim that critics of BDS are trying to brand “legitimate criticism of Israel” as anti-Semitic.

Sign up to read more

You've read all your free articles for this month


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 Fathom

More about: Anti-Semitism, BDS, Roger Waters, Social media