Divinity and Diversity Part II

Dear Professor Griffiths (pgriffiths@div.duke.edu):

I have written your colleague Thea Portier-Young to ask some questions about her recent interest in promoting racial equity training for faculty at Duke Divinity School (DDS). It struck me as odd that this would be a priority at DDS. So far, she has not given me the courtesy of a response. While I was waiting on her to respond, I decided to write to you to express my strong agreement with some comments you made in response to Thea’s request for members of the DDS community to attend such a time-consuming and obviously politically one-sided exercise in self-flatulation. In my view, your comments were right on target. I have reproduced your three-paragraph response below with some of my own observations included between paragraphs:

I’m responding to Thea’s exhortation that we should attend the Racial Equity Institute Phase 1 Training scheduled for 4-5 March. In her message she made her ideological commitments clear. I’ll do the same, in the interests of free exchange.

I simply want to comment that you have distinguished yourself as among a minority in higher education in 21st Century America – simply by calling for the free exchange of ideas on a university campus. I suspect that your decision to include a specific reminder that your comments were “in the interests of free exchange” was motivated by an expectation that you would be ostracized for expressing an unpopular opinion. Yet you spoke your mind anyway. Accordingly, I applaud your courage.

I exhort you not to attend this training. Don’t lay waste your time by doing so. It’ll be, I predict with confidence, intellectually flaccid: there’ll be bromides, clichés, and amen-corner rah-rahs in plenty. When (if) it gets beyond that, its illiberal roots and totalitarian tendencies will show. Events of this sort are definitively anti-intellectual. (Re)trainings of intellectuals by bureaucrats and apparatchiks have a long and ignoble history; I hope you’ll keep that history in mind as you think about this instance.

Your one sentence stating the incontestable truth that, “Re-trainings of intellectuals by bureaucrats and apparatchiks have a long and ignoble history,” is sheer poetry. At universities all across the nation, academics from well-established disciplines such as English, history, sociology, and psychology have shown a willingness to sit through these lectures, which are almost invariably initiated and taught by career administrators.

Almost without exception, such administrators possess illegitimate degrees – either in “educational administration” or in some recently established pseudo-discipline ending in the word “studies.” To make matters worse, the administrators teach faculty about things such as proper English usage, racial history, sociological dynamics, and their psychological ramifications. In other words, these professors relinquish their own claim to authority within their own areas of expertise to ideologically driven bureaucrats.

There can be no other explanation for the concession than that they fear the reprisals of refusing to concede legitimate academic authority in their designated areas of expertise. This is the height of anti-intellectualism – not to mention individual cowardice. Again, you have shown courage in your resistance.

We here at Duke Divinity have a mission. Such things as this training are at best a distraction from it and at worst inimical to it. Our mission is to think, read, write, and teach about the triune Lord of Christian confession. This is a hard thing. Each of us should be tense with the effort of it, thrumming like a tautly triple-woven steel thread with the work of it, consumed by the fire of it, ever eager for more of it. We have neither time nor resources to waste. This training is a waste. Please, ignore it. Keep your eyes on the prize.

The Apostle Paul wrote in the Book of Galatians that, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” In other words, there is no room for identity politics in Christianity. Apparently, you are among the few people in DDS who gets that. Again, I applaud you – this time for your discernment.

In closing, I just wanted to thank you for standing up to the rigid ideological conformity that has overtaken DDS – as well as the larger campus of Duke University. The fact that Duke has become an ideological echo chamber helps explain the poor decisions made in the course of the Duke lacrosse meltdown of 2006. If more professors had the courage to resist ideological conformity then Duke would have been spared the public relations disaster that followed the decision of over 100 professors and administrators to defame innocent Duke students in the name of “social justice.”

That single incident was a sufficient testament to just how divisive and unproductive racial politics can be. Thus, it stands alone as sufficient justification for ignoring the victim industry that has been fueling division in academia for far too long.

Best wishes in your future endeavors,

Mike S. Adams

Columnist, TownHall.com
Professor, UNC-Wilmington

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