Hey Pastor Fosdick, The Fundamentalists Did Win

First it was smoking. I grew up in a fundamentalist home where smoking was off limits. I have also related the story of how devastated I was when I first saw Richie (later Dick) Allen smoking in the Phillies’ dugout. But now the world has turned into the Hart home (of my parents). Thankfully, the missus tolerates an occasional cigar indoors. But everywhere else in “the worldly world,” I can’t smoke (at least indoors). Not even women, who have absolute sovereignty over their bodies in the pro-choice world, may light up indoors. When will that barrier to human freedom topple?

Now it is language. The worldly worldlings are as worried about speech and its power to hurt as my fundamentalist fellow believers were about four-letter words and references to sex or body parts. The desire to make the world a tolerant and liberated place has now extended to Princeton University where students are objecting both to associations between the institution and its former president, Woodrow Wilson, but also to the word — wait for it — “master.” (Will Princeton stop granting “Masters” degrees?)

The group Black Justice League occupied the office of President Christopher L. Eisgruber at Princeton and offered a series of demands: that the university “acknowledge the racist legacy of Woodrow Wilson and how he impacted campus policy and culture,” and that all buildings and programs named for Wilson have their names changed. The students also demanded that a portrait of Wilson come down from a dining hall. Other demands include having “classes on the history of marginalized peoples” be added to distribution requirements, and that a “cultural space on campus” be “dedicated specifically to black students.”

Also on Wednesday, the masters of Princeton’s residential colleges decided to stop calling themselves masters and instead to use the term “head of the college.”

At protests at Yale University, minority students have said that the word “master” is associated with slavery in ways that make it an inappropriate title for a college official.

Princeton’s announcement of the change noted that the use of “master” in the sense of an academic leader predates American slavery and has nothing to do with it.

“Though we are aware that the term ‘master’ has a long history of use in universities (indeed since medieval times), it seems to me by now to be anachronistic and unfortunate for the positions we hold,” said a statement from Sandra Bermann, head of Whitman College, Cotsen Professor of the Humanities and professor of comparative literature. “We are glad to take on the designation as ‘head of the college’ that describes our role more aptly.”

My forebears would have put “head” in Margaret Gray’s “filth file” because of its phalic associations. But everyone knows that contemporary fundamentalists give a pass to sex.

Perhaps the oddest part of this story was the following comment:

“We owe nothing to people who are deeply flawed,” the essay says. “There is an impulsive reaction to want to ignore uncomfortable or questionable legacies. However, what does it say about our society if we continue to glorify legacies without acknowledging — and at the very least caring about — the continuous promotion of unrectified inequalities and injustices? … By not recognizing the importance of this discourse, the university is telling its marginalized community and the outside world that it values its bleached-clean version of history over the prolonged discomfort and alienation of students of color. This erasure is especially dangerous in the present context of state-sanctioned violence against black people that prolongs this genocide.”

Actually, everyone owes a debt to our deeply flawed first parents, which is what we call original sin. But today’s self-righteous never recognize their own flaws or the possibility that they may have them.

And forget about all that outrage over Islamist attacks on Charlie Hebdo for its iconoclastic and blasphemous covers. The self-righteous, whether believers or tolerantists, cannot abide sin in this world.

Wait, maybe Fosdick won after all.

34 thoughts on “Hey Pastor Fosdick, The Fundamentalists Did Win

  1. So long as the boomers are saddled with being the most self-indulgent, entitled and still in my way, I can own that my own brilliance, performance and expectation of others is sometimes more than they can bear.


  2. I wonder what Anthony Bradley would say. I can imagine what Glenn Loury would:

    Finally, over the course of 10 years of teaching at Brown, I have influenced many graduate students of all colors and from every continent on the planet (excepting Antarctica!) I have found the university to be an extremely warm, welcoming, supportive and open environment to undertake my work. I know well the people who run this institution, and the notion that they are racially insensitive is a shameful slander with no basis in fact. My colleagues, in the economics department and elsewhere at Brown, have shown themselves to be open-minded, decent and on the whole politically progressive scholars. The administration has lavished resources on me, and has enthusiastically supported any number of initiatives that contribute to promoting a just and decent society, both within the United States and throughout the world.

    The notion that Brown needs a revolutionary reshaping in order to become hospitable to “students of color”, that idea that “anti-black pedagogy” at Brown needs to be countered with some mandatory indoctrination of faculty, the proposal that external student committees should review purportedly “racist” departmental appointment processes, the initiative of creating “specialty positions” in academic departments to ensure their openness to hiring “faculty of color” — these are all mischievous intrusions on the academic prerogatives of a distinguished faculty which no self-respecting scholar of any color should welcome. They are a step onto a slippery slope that slides down into intellectual mediocrity, and I will have nothing to do with them.

    Is that clear and explicit enough…?


  3. “Master” is derived from magister, “teacher”. Will orchestras survive with the “maestro” intact? Will sailors now go to the “master” to relieve themselves?


  4. Back in those days we’d get wasted then decline. Like an intellectually stimulating teenage wasteland.


  5. Some we took from nests under bridges and also bought some fancy pigeons. The one I named pugno (or some form of it) was hand trained but he’d peck the heck out of my hand. The fantails eventually got decimated by a new cat next door. To some I was the Birdman of Yarmouth. I couldn’t tell if they liked listening to Deep Purple.


  6. Stolen, not rescued.

    The fantails were eye catchers but the Swiss Mondaines were more regal and powerful in flight.


  7. Other demands include having “classes on the history of marginalized peoples” be added to distribution requirements…

    I’ll be looking forward to the class on Old School Presbyterianism.


  8. Pigeons regal and powerful in flight…………………………………until the red tail hawk shows up to display what regal and powerful looks like?

    Pigeons with eye catching fantails. What kind of drugs were these?


  9. Also on Wednesday, the masters of Princeton’s residential colleges decided to stop calling themselves masters and instead to use the term head of the college.

    Will no one stand up for the feet?

    And in other news, a reading of Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron was cancelled.


  10. I’ve seen a red tailed hawk tear open a pigeon. That was kind of regal in a tooth and claw way. Or talon and beak fashion.


  11. sean – I actually had a red tailed hawk in high school – trained it for falconry. You know, cuz the ladies love falconry.


  12. So, high school around here was pigeons and falconry. Was this like a rennaisance fair kind of thing? Did y’all wear knee stockings and flat caps and embroidered leather vests? I remember the homeschoolers showing up in knickers and blouses and those were the guys. So, I guess like that but drugs too.


  13. sean -Ha! We were more like hunting, muscle cars, and Rush. Maybe a hint of renaissance fair, but definitely no knee stockings and flat caps. That was for the Baptists – and the cockneys.


  14. This is why some of us would rather not exercise a “vocation” to direct history in the right direction.

    “You’re a Christian – I mean, you can prove you’re a Christian,” Bush said, “If you can’t prove it, then, you know, you err on the side of caution.”

    Rupert Murdoch—supporting refugees who are “proven Christians.”

    Laura Ingraham– welcome some refugees, if we can verifiably say they are Christians.

    Matthew J. Tuininga—As anyone familiar with Darryl Hart’s excellent work on Machen is aware, Machen’s view of the connection between Christianity and politics was profoundly different from that of Wilson. Machen, says Hart, sought to distinguish the gospel from theories of political transformation.



  15. One of the most interesting histories of American evangelicalism I have read is Less Than Conquerors by Douglas Franks. He suggests that dispensationalism and “prosperity positive thinking” were reactions to fundamentalist losses. But in the subtext, there is this fear that maybe the fundamentalists have not lost (yet).

    When we think of Woodrow Wilson, I think the last word should go to Richard Gamble.



  16. Would the League recommend that I write my alma mater and have my “master’s” degree changed to something different? Maybe something along the lines of the old joke?:

    The ridiculous nature of these PC naming convention protests goes back several decades. I recall similar outcry while working in the telecom/electronics field during the 80’s revolving around the use of “master” and “slave” to describe the hierarchy of reference frequency clocks in digital carrier systems.
    Don’t these people have something more important to worry about?


  17. This is why good history majors are needed more than ever. Soon like Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia and Kim’s North Korea, true history will be erased and a fanciful past universe will be erected to replace it.


  18. Turkey is becoming Eastern California:

    One of the significant changes in Turkish social life under the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is the smoking ban in public spaces. The first step of this ban came out in 2009, forcing all restaurants and hotels to ban smoking in all closed spaces. Many people at the time believed the ban would never work as Turkey is a heavily smoking nation. But on the whole it did. Turkey’s closed spaces have gradually become smoke-free.

    This week the government announced that the ban would now be extended to open public spaces as well, such as the open-air gardens of restaurants and public parks. Again, some people think it won’t work. But I think it will. I also hope and pray that it will.

    Personally speaking, I’m a devoted enemy of cigarettes. I really don’t want to have any trace of smoke in the air I breathe. I was therefore fully supportive of the initial smoking bans in 2009 and now I’m fully supportive of the extended bans that are coming. I’m thankful to the AKP for introducing these regulations, which in my view help make Turkey a more livable country.

    But I also have a problem with the changes. To be more precise, I had a problem this week when I heard President Tayyip Erdoğan’s remarks about the smoking bans. On Feb. 9, Erdoğan hosted in Ankara a group of 250 people who had quit smoking. In his speech on the occasion, he defended the smoking bans but framed the issue with a totally different logic than mine.

    “You don’t have freedom to commit suicide, so you don’t have freedom to expose yourselves to terminal diseases … There can be no such freedom as the freedom to smoke … The state must protect its citizens against tobacco, alcohol and drugs, just as it is obliged to protect them against crimes like theft and terrorism,” Erdoğan said.


  19. “Worldly worldlings” are not worried about war. Sure, liberals really would like to include everybody, because before Woodrow Wilson was for the war to keep everybody from ever again needing to die for anything, Woodrow Wilson was also against the war. And if Tim Keller has the serenity of Niebuhr to “take what’s realistic to take”, there is no need for a “warrior antithesis” which says no to the world. As long as wars for liberalism are not engaged in the name of Jesus, why not keep your strong sectarian opinions as private as possible?



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