By Robert Bridge
Another liberal institution is challenging an age-old dogma – this time on hallowed religious ground – with radical new ideas. This would not be worrisome if dissenting voices were invited, but that is not the case.
Hell hath no fury than a liberal scorned, and if Swarthmore College, situated on a lush, tree-lined campus in the state of Pennsylvania, teaches that God might be experiencing some doubt over his (her?) sexual identity then who are we mere mortals to doubt it? Perhaps the liberal college might even consider extending an invitation to God the Almighty, who micromanaged the Creation in just seven days, to enroll in this course, which promises to “stretch the limits of gendering, and sexing, the divine.”
Yes, sexing the divine. Questioning whether God might be male or female, however, is not a very radical concept. It is a harmless game of intellectual pursuit, a bit like pondering the existence of angels or whether that eternal hot spot for sinners known by the Italians as ‘Inferno’ is real. Then, along came Pope John Paul II with his 1992 hit release ‘Catechism of the Catholic Church,’ which had the last word on the debate by stating unequivocally that “God is neither man nor woman: he is God.” That blast of papal certitude worked to placate everyone, at least for a while anyways.
Today, with ultra-liberal classes like the one being offered by Professor Gwynn Kessler, entitled ‘Queering God: Feminist and Queer Theology,’ religious doctrine threatens to be turned on its head to such a degree that what is left bears no resemblance to Christian teachings. That could eventually have long-term consequences for society at large, which has depended on religious teaching as a moral anchor in various ways, including in the rite of marriage, raising children and even punishing criminals, for example.
Without delving into specific Biblical passages, it goes without saying that introducing “feminist, queer and transgender” interpretations of God and the Holy Book is guaranteed, at the very least, to spark some heated controversy. And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, robust debate between dueling parties has been part of the Western world’s experiment with democracy since its inception, and is even enshrined in the First Amendment.
If a controversial idea is presented by some authority figure – in this case, a Swarthmore college professor – then people have the right to offer opposing viewpoints. There is a remedial purpose for this function. If bad ideas are permitted to take root, a bit like an invasive weed, they could literally breed to such an extent that they destroy society from lack of ‘sunlight’ or opposing ideas.
It needs to be emphasized that the course being offered at Swarthmore is not an isolated case. Last year, for example, Pomona College in California hosted a course entitled ‘Queering Childhood,’ which examined “the figure of the child and how this figuration is used… to justify continued cultural investment in reproductive heteronormativity and productive able bodiedness.”
Try wrapping your brain around that idea. Or better yet, try to criticize the college for entertaining such an idea in the first place. Regardless of one’s opinion on the matter, it is only natural to expect that a large number of people will find it controversial and objectionable. And there are many other equally provocative ideas – from teachingelementary school students about transgender lifestyles, to allowing biological males who ‘identify’ as females to compete in women’s sports – which demand careful consideration.
But here is where the relationship with free speech in the United States is getting very complicated. While the so-called progressives enjoy the freedom to challenge every traditional aspect of society and culture, the same freedoms are being denied to those people – mostly conservatives – who are skeptical of their latest pet projects. The fact that this censorship is happening on university campuses, the very birthplace of intellectual discovery, is beyond comprehension. Yet, many students seem oddly oblivious to the problem.
For example, Campus Reform, the publication that reported on Swarthmore’s ‘Queering God’ course, quoted a student who said her college embraces “normalized progressivism, unfazed by even the most controversial topics.”Well isn’t that awesome? Swarthmore College, like many other high-security fortresses of ‘free’ thinking, are totally “unfazed” by the most radical new concepts. However, the remark failed to include a much-needed caveat. The student failed to mention that many institutions of ‘higher learning’ – or ‘hire learning,’ as a wit once called it – are not so accommodating when it comes to tolerating the ideas of those whom they disagree with. In fact, they can get downright testy.
In 2017, for example, UC Berkeley erupted in violent protests ahead of a planned talk by right-wing commentator Milo Yiannopoulos, who has spoken out in the past against feminism and the transgender movement. The protests caused $100,000 worth of damage to the campus.
Today, the typical (il)liberal university, instead of serving as an open, tolerant and receptive setting for healthy and diverse opinion, resembles instead a Trojan horse that is loaded up with controversial ideas – up to and including the ‘queering’ of God and the Bible – and delivered under the cover of darkness into society before any serious debate is allowed. In many cases, these academic courses serve a political agenda, as the Democrats overwhelmingly embrace these liberal experiments, even encode them into law.
In 2016, for example, Barack Obama passed his fiercely controversial ‘transgender bathroom’ law, that allowed biological males who ‘identify’ as females to use the women’s toilet and changing-room facilities. That’s not, of course, how education was designed to work. In fact, the situation has gotten so out of control that Donald Trump signed an executive order this year that cuts funding to any publicly funded university that is “hostile to free speech.”But like a game of tennis, the legislation is guaranteed to swing left once the Democrats are back in the White House.
Although it may seem natural for liberals to challenge tradition, not least of all religious teachings, there could come a point when the modifications are so great that the original product is no longer recognizable. That’s when society could experience a crash of Babel-esque proportions, which might have been avoided had the proper amount of public debate been allowed.
The Western university must once again throw open its windows to the light and allow a diversity of opinion and debate. Nothing less than democracy is at stake.
Note: Campus Reform, a project of the Leadership Institute, is a team of professional journalists that works alongside student activists and student journalists to report on the conduct and misconduct of university professors, whom it accuses of indoctrinating students with their agendas and silencing conservative students.