While I probably wouldn’t call early Harvard, Princeton, and Yale “seminaries,” I take Ben Sasse‘s point. As some of you recall, Sasse left the United States Senate earlier this year and became president of the University of Florida. Here is a taste of his piece at The Atlantic: “The Moral Decline of Elite Universities“:
Harvard, Princeton, and Yale were originally founded as seminaries. They are seminaries once again. The doctrine they embrace is both insecure and oppressive in its prohibition of insiders and outsiders from pursuing free inquiry. Rather than wrestle with hard questions about human dignity, individual agency, and speech, many in the Ivy League seem poised to double down on fanaticism.
Cults tend to excuse their failures: The world is ending, but our mystic math was a little off. As this crisis unfolds, America’s elite academics are tinkering with their doctrinal formulas. Rather than abandon their theology, they’re attempting to rejigger the charts and reweight the numerology.
We cannot heal these declining institutions simply by recalculating the grid so that Jewish people are moved from the “powerful” square to a “powerless” slot. The problem is the tyranny of the power grid itself, and its disinterest in both ideas and universal human dignity.
Changing one president here or there isn’t enough. Intersectionality is a religious cult that’s dominated higher education for nearly a decade with the shallow but certain idea that power structures are everything, the Neanderthal view that blunt force trumps human dignity.
The nonsense we’ve seen seeping off campuses this fall is jarring but not surprising, given that the absurdities inside this worldview have not been pressure-tested. This is because its adherents, those who wield the power of some of our society’s most prominent institutions, have prohibited anyone from asking questions, demanding that their religion remain immune to challenge.
Read the entire piece here.
Seminaries train men and women in particular theological and religious doctrine (or at least the confessional seminaries still do). They teach students to discern the differences between orthodoxy and unorthodoxy, doctrinal soundness and heresy (to put it crudely).
Remember when I asked if it is “possible for a young historian to land a job at a history department in an American university if they are vocal about the many problems with the 1619 Project?” The blowback was strong. I also got some blowback after I published this piece about a decade ago at Aeon. What I said in those pieces was apparently unorthodox and heretical. Some folks tried to burn me at the proverbial stake. 🙂
I would encourage you to read Sasse’s piece alongside Jon Schaff’s post today at The Arena blog.