In short, English professor Samuel Joeckel’s job is being threatened by the administration of Palm Beach Atlantic University — a place he has taught for over 20 years — because of a lesson he teaches on racial justice and history. The administrators visited his classroom with the message that his contract had been held up (I have had this experience) while his lesson was being evaluated. He had taught this lesson for at least a decade prior to this year. Perhaps not coincidentally, Gov. Ron DeSantis visited PBAU that day.
A sympathetic alum started a petition which now has over 1,300 signatures. I invite readers to go sign it. You don’t need to be affiliated with PBA to sign it; you just need care about academic freedom.
Alums Call on PBAU to Guarantee Academic Freedom
A related letter has been started by the same alum just for the PBAU community. This letter is directed toward the president of the school Debra Schwinn to uphold standards of academic freedom.
The letter also calls on the president and administration to address three demands.
First, to issue a public statement on behalf of PBAU, assuming accountability for the mishandling of these events, and publicly apologizing to Dr. Joeckel for withholding due process.
Second, to publicly commit PBAU to protect academic freedom, the open exchange of ideas, and diversity in political and religious beliefs among its faculty, staff, and students without hostility.
Third, to take actions to pursue protections for faculty members that include assurances for due process in disciplinary matters.
Although more urgent, this effort is similar to an initiative by Grove City College alum Natalie Kahler and recently documented by GCC alum Jessica Wills on the FIRE website.
One action Natalie believes the administration could take to encourage the practice of free speech in the community would be to adopt the Chicago Statement, or a similarly strong commitment to free speech and academic freedom like the one adopted by King University, another Christian liberal arts college. (The Chicago Statement is a model free speech policy statement that over 90 universities have adopted, affirming their commitment to free expression.) She believes this kind of free speech protection would encourage the Grove City community to recognize “the value of having all voices in the conversation, even when it makes us uncomfortable.”
In late July, I wrote here about an anti-critical race theory conference slated for September 24 in my hometown of Grove City, PA. After the CRT controversy at my college (Grove City College), this announcement wasn’t good news. What made it worse was the scheduled participation of Lost Cause advocate Jon Harris. As it turns out, Harris will not be able to speak at the conference due to a memorial service for a family member scheduled on the same weekend.
Another change in the good news category is that the conference is now homeless. Last Friday, I was informed by Andy Frey, pastor of First Baptist Church, Grove City, that their church will not host the conference. Early last week, I reached out to Pastor Frey and informed him of the issues raised in the July post as well as some new ones which have come up. He was unaware of that information and took the matter to his deacons. At their regular deacons meeting last Thursday evening, they voted unanimously to pull out of participation.
As of today, the conference organizers have not removed First Baptist from the conference website. Also, oddly, the organizers added Jon Harris’ pic back to the website with a caption explaining why he is not presenting.
Above, I mentioned new issues relating to Harris. Not only does Harris think highly of the Confederate South, he also has high regard for another white supremacist regime — Ian Smith’s white rule in Rhodesia. In a Gab posting, Harris waxed nostalgic about whites sticking up for their past against “the barbarian hordes.”In any case, the CRT conference is homeless for now. Lord willing, it will stay that way.
UPDATE (7/28) – Jon Harris announced today on his podcast that he will not be able to speak at the CRT conference due to a memorial service for a family member scheduled on the same weekend. I continue to hope that the organizers will reconsider having this conference.
UPDATE (8/12) – I was informed by Andy Frey, pastor of First Baptist Church, Grove City, that their church will not host the CRT conference described in this post. I reached to pastor Frey and informed him of the issues raise in this post as well as some new ones which have come up. He was unaware of what I raised and took the matter to his deacons. At their regular deacons meeting, the vote unanimous to pull out of participation.
…………………… (original post)
In September of this year, Rocky Springs Presbyterian Church (Harrisville, PA) plans to host a conference on critical race theory at the First Baptist Church in Grove City, PA. Given the speaker lineup, I don’t expect a fair treatment of CRT. I once attended First Baptist and hate to see it used as a site for a politicized show like this.
In any event, the main reason I write about the conference isn’t that more anti-CRT is coming to my town. I have yet to write about the fiasco that happened at my college over CRT. I do hope to visit aspects of that issue sometime soon.
The biggest problem I see is the platforming of Lost Cause advocate Jon Harris. Harris and his apparent alter identity “Joseph Jay” are full throated supporters of the Confederacy. According to Harris, the South had the moral high ground in the Civil War (or War Between the States as he calls it). Lost Cause history and theology view the South as the virtuous side which fought for traditional Christian values. The horrors of slavery are minimized and abolitionists are dismissed as liberals and atheists.
Blogger Bradly Mason did a thorough run down of Harris’ support for the Confederacy and the Lost Cause version of history in this Twitter thread. I will pick out a few items here, but if interested, you can get the full effect by consulting Mason’s thread and following the links he provides. A curious aspect to Harris’ support for the Confederacy is an apparent double life as a “Professor Joseph Jay.” Mason documents the details in the thread, but here is a summary.
In 2011, Harris wrote a paper for The Master’s Seminary titled: “Sacred Conviction: Biblical Authority and the Road to War in Antebellum America.” This paper is a thorough defense of the South as defender of Christianity and a rejection of what Harris casts as the ungodly North. The title of the first chapter is: “All [Northern] Ground is Sinking Sand.” On the first page, Harris lets Presbyterian minister and staunch defender of slavery James Henry Thornwell speak for him with this quote about the North and South in the Civil War:
In one word, the world is the battle-ground – Christianity and Atheism the combatants; and the progress of humanity the stake.
Harris initially denied it, but according to Mason, he later admitted that he wrote the paper. The Master’s Seminary professor Nathan Busenitz acknowledged that Harris attended the seminary briefly at the time the paper was written. Busenitz added that he was prohibited from disclosing Harris’ grade due to privacy laws. This same paper was then later published by Lost Cause publisher Shotwell Publishing in 2018 under the name of Joseph Jay. When the two documents are compared, they are indeed the same paper. Chapter headings are the same and the content is the same, word for word.
Either Joseph Jay plagiarized Harris’ work, or Harris published the paper under the pseudonym Joseph Jay. The latter seems likely since Harris recommends the book on his website. It gets more bizarre. On a Lost Cause radio show hosted by Confederate sympathizer Ed DeVries, Harris was interviewed as Professor Joseph Jay. So a lame pseudonym wasn’t enough, he had to impersonate a professor and move on to academic fraud.
The paper is revisionist history of slavery and the Civil War. According to Harris, a few quotes from Lost Cause historians telling us that the war wasn’t about slavery is supposed to prove his point. Harris fails to mention the statements of the slave states about why they seceded. He also fails to mention the Cornerstone speech of Alexander Stephens, Vice President of the Confederate States of America.
Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. This truth has been slow in the process of its development, like all other truths in the various departments of science. It has been so even amongst us. Many who hear me, perhaps, can recollect well, that this truth was not generally admitted, even within their day. The errors of the past generation still clung to many as late as twenty years ago. Those at the North, who still cling to these errors, with a zeal above knowledge, we justly denominate fanatics. All fanaticism springs from an aberration of the mind from a defect in reasoning. It is a species of insanity. One of the most striking characteristics of insanity, in many instances, is forming correct conclusions from fancied or erroneous premises; so with the anti-slavery fanatics.
Harris/Jay also tells us that slavery wasn’t so bad. He/They side with Southern Presbyterian and slavery defender Robert Lewis Dabney (Note below that the paper and the book are almost identical).
Throughout the paper and book, Harris tells us the Confederacy was the noble cause and slavery was not that bad. Perhaps, he advises, it was even beneficial if you consider the spread of Christianity among the slaves.
At heart, the Lost Cause position is a denial of history and appears to be a denial of racism. This is a powerful deception for many White people. In my opinion, CRT hysteria among White evangelicals is a current symptom of this problem. In the face of the horror that is America’s racial history, I suppose it is natural to want to raise up psychological defenses. However, we cannot live in denial and walk in the light.
I certainly hope the two churches will consider canceling the workshop. If ever there was a town where CRT is not being taught in the schools, it would be Grove City. All a workshop like this will do is spread misinformation and create suspicion and division in the community. And certainly, we do not need any Lost Cause nonsense here or anywhere.
In Getting Jefferson Right, Michael Coulter and I include a chapter on Jefferson and slavery. Although Jefferson wasn’t the worst master, he allowed his task masters to treat slaves cruelly. He paid slave catchers to pursue runaway slaves, and he refused to provide freedom for his slaves when Virginia slave laws allowed it.
UPDATE (7/26): Despite being defended in an email by the conference organizer, Harris is now missing from the trio of speakers on the conference website.
I still hope the whole conference is scratched. Grove City is a small, mostly White town. My impression, based mostly on the reports of my children over the years, is that there is notable racism in the schools among students. Bringing in people who associate any efforts at racial equality with CRT and Marxism will only heighten negative stereotypes and prejudices. If anything, Rocky Springs and First Baptist should offer an anti-racism conference.
What a difference it would make if the PCA and Baptist churches would team up to repent of racism in the history of both denominations. Specifically, the PCA exists due to slavery and segregation. Tobin Grant lays it out in a 2016 article:
The PCA was primarily made up of churches who had opposed integration and civil rights. Its leaders openly stated that they were continuing the legacy of confederate churches. As in 1861, the PCA was going to keep the faith pure and free from liberalism.
Most of the PCA was in the deep south. A majority of Mississippi’s churches joined the PCA, giving it the greatest share of PCA’s congregations.
The narrative most commonly heard in PCA churches is that it formed to protect and keep the faith and avoid the slide into liberalism. But this is akin to the belief that the south seceded because of states rights: the southern states claimed they had a right to make their own laws, but they made this claim only because they were on the verge of losing slavery Likewise, the PCA formed to avoid liberalism, but this liberalism was defined as support for integration and racial equality.
Rather than host a conference criticizing anti-racism efforts, I think a PCA church might want to spend more time learning than teaching, repenting than condemning.
Sometimes a Twitter thread comes along that possesses a level of nuttiness that requires it be preserved. In addition, these threads capture the spirit of the times in such a way that few other expressions do. Here is such a thread.
The author is Josh Daws, host of the Great Awokening Podcast.
The entire thread can be read below by clicking the tweet. I will pull out a few of the 23 tweets for illustration. In short, Daws says teachers are using Critical Race Theory to make white kids feel guilty, then using Queer Theory to make them want to identify as gay or trans. Thus, teachers are really out to create revolutionaries and take kids away from parents; not to abuse them, but to make them into liberals, or something.
CRT instills in these students a negative self-identity as they're taught to believe they're recipients of enormous privilege that was stolen from others and that they are complicit in historic and ongoing injustice. In child terms, they're taught to believe they're bad. 5/23
And it goes on from there. Read the rest if you want to know what the Frightened Right is sharing with each other these days. It really is sad. I can’t imagine being that distrustful and scared of my fellow citizens who are trying to follow their calling as teachers.
Well, actually, I can imagine it. I never had the vivid imagination of Mr. Daws, but once upon a time in my 20s and 30s, I believed the public school was a temple to secular humanism. However, through a variety of circumstances, I faced facts. In our case, anyway, the public school was the moral and quality alternative to the local Christian school. I found teachers who were incredibly dedicated to helping my children achieve their potential.
Of course, there are a few bad actors. However, the current reformers who are scaring Christians into a frenzy want us to believe there is a conspiracy among public educators to steal our children and grandchildren. This is insanity.
For the most part, teachers are our family, neighbors and friends. They need the support of citizens in a good faith partnership for the good of children.
I am here to sound a warning about James Lindsay and anti-wokeness.
Dr. Lindsay is a mathematician and atheist who has been platformed by numerous evangelical leaders, including Al Mohler, leaders of the Founders Ministry, and Michael O’Fallon because Lindsay shares their opposition to awareness of minority oppression (wokeness). Even though Lindsay has been promoted by these evangelical leaders, his views are antithetical to theism and have the potential to lead many evangelicals astray.
Below, I will share some representative citations from Lindsay’s 2015 book, Everybody Is Wrong About God and then speak plainly to fellow believers.
Lindsay’s goal for society is to become “post-God and post-faith.”
Lindsay declares theism to be “intellectually bankrupt.”Lindsay considers theism to be absurd. All of those Christians platforming Lindsay should know that he publicly believes your views are fallacious and absurd.
Believers platforming Lindsay may think he has respect for your views because he supports anti-wokeness. Believers might want to consider that Lindsay’s rejection of wokeness might stem from his atheism. Anti-wokeness teaches that white people are not sinners and that they have nothing from which to repent. This low view of sin is very consistent with an atheist’s view of human nature.
One formerly evangelical theologian who has been drawn away by this teaching is Owen Strachan. Recently, Strachan told Religion News Network that the gospel is warped by teaching that majority whites are “in the wrong.”
When you embrace a system like critical race theory or intersectionality that teaches you that people who are in the majority basically are in the wrong — so, for example, that white people by virtue of being part of the white power bloc have privilege, have responsibility, honestly, when we’re not speaking politely, have complicity in oppression — that warps the gospel,”
Gospel teaching is that all have sinned — including the majority — and come short of God’s glory. Strachan goes so far as to recommend that those who are aware of racial oppression be excommunicated as heretics, thus adding something to the gospel. Of course, the simple gospel is belief in the substitution of Christ’s sacrifice for our sins and includes nothing more.
Who has bewitched people like Strachan? Could it be someone like James Lindsay who considers theism and especially evangelicalism to be absurd and a myth? Strachan makes use of Lindsay’s work in his book on wokeness. Remember, Lindsay’s goal is for society to become post-God and post-faith.
Believers who platform people like Lindsay may soon find they are preaching another gospel.
(If you have gotten this far with me, you might recognize that this post is intended as satire, particularly of this post by Neil Shenvi. Hopefully, this will provoke thinking about how a focus on issues peripheral to the gospel may lead, not only to perversions of the gospel, but other consequences. Rejection of awareness of the true situation of minorities in the U.S. has caused a significant division between white Christianity and just about everybody else in the church, on average. If you don’t believe me, watch the following presentation by Michael Emerson.)