For God, For Country, and For Yale
Etched in stone in one of the most visible places on the campus of Yale University is the slogan—“For God, For Country, and for Yale.” Students walk past these words every day. In a different sense, Yale’s progressive faculty and administrators began to “walk past” the deep meaning of these words many years ago. One wonders if they have now gone so far that they are at the point of no return.
Make no mistake. Yale is considered by many an “elite” university. It is somewhat hard to argue with the claim that it is America’s most influential university. After all, Yale has educated 3 of the last 4 presidents, and 2 of the last 3 justices appointed to the Supreme Court. However, the elitism aside, Yale is in trouble. The trouble at Yale University is a microcosm of the major trouble in America today.
Two significant books have chronicled what has happened at Yale, which has resulted in what one of the books describes as a “moral crisis.” The two books were published more than 60 years apart. The first book, God and Man at Yale, written by the late William F. Buckley, Jr., was published in 1951. The second book, Sex and God at Yale, was published in 2012. The author of the more recent work is Nathan Harden. Both Buckley and Harden graduated from Yale. Mr. Buckley in 1950 and Mr. Harden in 2009. Both, though their writing is separated by some six decades, were addressing what each implied was a “fight” at Yale. Buckley called it “the duel between Christianity and atheism” which he termed “the most important in the world.” He elaborated that it is “Christianity versus agnosticism and atheism, and individualism versus collectivism.” Harden says, “Today, there is a war being waged on the minds of America’s brightest young people . . . [with] implications for the nation as a whole—and the world beyond.”
Buckley arrived at Yale as a 21 year old student in 1946. He wrote, “I brought with me a firm belief in Christianity and a profound respect for American institutions and traditions. . . . [E]xperience had fortified the teachings that an active faith in God and a rigid adherence to Christian principles are the most powerful influences toward the good life.” The foundational chapter in Buckley’s book is Chapter One—“Religion at Yale.” After spending five years (1946-50) at Yale, Buckley concluded, “At Yale . . . the cause of Christianity suffers to a certain degree from a treatment which focuses upon the Bible as a ‘monument over the grave of Christianity.’” The basic premise of God and Man at Yale is: “More than any other one characteristic of [Yale] in the last 25-years . . . secularism of their faculties and students has represented a stumbling block to religion.”
Enter Harden’s book sixty-one years later. In a speech delivered at Hillsdale College in September 2012, Harden said, “My book . . . shows . . . there are things happening at Yale today that Buckley could scarcely have imagined in 1951. While the Yale of Buckley’s book marginalized or undermined religious faith in the classroom, my book tells of a classmate who was given approval to create an art object out of what she claims was blood and tissue from self-induced abortions” (Imprimis January 2013, 2).
Harden’s book is a jaw-dropping description of the iniquity that has turned the hallowed halls of this Ivy League school into a hedonistic garden of pleasure. However, chapter 15 (“Yale Without God”) provides the objective reference point that was eventually lost at Yale, which has turned Yale into “a moral vacuum. Therefore,” Harden writes, “almost anything goes.” He says, “At its most basic level, the moral crisis at Yale is a crisis of lost faith. There is no cohesive moral framework in place to replace the one that was abandoned when God fell out of fashion.”
Skepticism was having influence at Buckley’s Yale in the 1950s. It was to be followed by the sexual revolution of the 1960s which evidences the logical moral implications of skeptical thinking (cf. Romans 1:18-32). It is the picture of what C. S. Lewis meant when he spoke of “a culture that has lost its faith. Moral collapse follows upon spiritual collapse” (God in the Dock 265).
Buckley and Harden are a kind of “prophetic voice” of what has happened in American culture and the ultimate source of it is higher education. Buckley wrote, “. . . [W]hen the menace of Communism is gone, other vital battles, at present subordinated, will emerge to the foreground. And the winner must have help from the classroom.” Nathan Harden concludes, “. . . I was witnessing much more than the decline of a great university. I was witnessing . . . America’s descent into an abyss of moral aimlessness, at the hands of those now charged with educating its future leaders.”
Answering the cause of this cultural decline is what Warren Apologetics Center is about. Will you give us your support?