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At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

The Creed: The Worldview of the Contemporary University

On June 6, Richard Cravatts’ article, “No Free Speech for Exposers of Campus Anti-Semitism” was published at Front Page Magazine.

Cravatts relays the challenges of Tammi Rossman-Benjamin.  The latter is “a lecturer at UC [University of California] Santa Cruz and co-founder of the AMCHA Initiative, an organization that investigates, documents, educates about, and combats anti-Semitism at institutions of higher education in the U.S.”  More specifically, Rossman-Benjamin has been waging a campaign against what she describes as “an advanced anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian discourse” that has managed to exclude all alternative narratives.  As a result, untold numbers of California college students have been brainwashed into believing the worst about Israel while her defenders, particularly her Jewish defenders, have been forced to endure a hostile environment.

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The university should be a hostile environment for neither students nor their instructors—regardless of whether they are Jewish or non-Jewish, and regardless of the issue.  But it will surprise none of its observers, and surprise even less those of us who inhabit it, that Israel is not well regarded in the contemporary university.  In fact, whether or not Israel is ever mentioned is neither here nor there: to know the university is to know that she promises to be despised.

That there is “an advanced anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian discourse” that has “dominated” the University of California is due to the fact that it is but another variation of a much larger but equally advanced anti-Western discourse that has dominated institutions of higher learning everywhere for decades.

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Interestingly, for as sophisticated as the members of the professorial class are thought to be, the framework within which they ply their respective disciplines in the liberal arts and humanities is simple to the point of being simplistic.

Actually, it is grossly simplistic.

From the standpoint of this framework, the cosmos consists of two, and only two, types of beings: Oppressors and the Oppressed.  Moreover, there are no individuals, but only collectives, abstract categories defined in terms of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, socio-economic class, and region.

This worldview I have elsewhere referred to as “the Creed.”  Anyone who spends any amount of time, whether as a student or an instructor, will soon come to know the Creed well enough.

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According to the Creed, the white, Western, Christian, heterosexual man (or “male”) is the universe’s villain extraordinaire.  All others are the victims of his predatory machinations.

Of course, within this scheme there are further gradations.  The medieval thinkers subscribed to what has been called “the Great Chain of Being.”  At the apex of the chain is the greatest of beings, God.  Angels and, then, humans, rank lower. Beneath them are animals, then plants.  But at the bottom of the scale is the worst of beings: Satan.

The idea here is that the greater the being, the morally better it is. Conversely, the less being something has, the worse it is.

The Creed involves something similar. Only here it is the white, Western, Christian, heterosexual male that occupies something like the position that Satan occupies in the Great Chain of Being.  At the same time, women and non-whites rank higher along the scale.  Still, while white women and white homosexual men are perennial victims of sexism and homophobia, respectively, they are nevertheless morally inferior to non-whites of both genders and all sexual orientations, for in addition to being subjected to these evils, non-whites are also prey to racism—and there is nothing more egregious than racism.

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The anti-Israel/pro-Palestinian narrative against which Rossman-Benjamin rails fits seamlessly into the Creed.  Judaism, though having originated in the East, has been integral to Western civilization.  And Israel, with its economic, cultural, and military might, is the outpost of Western civilization in the Islamic world.  Palestinians, in stark contrast, have none of the affluence or power of their Israeli rivals.  They are also non-Western, Muslim, and, for the most part, non-white.  Their conflict with Israelis emblematizes for guardians of the Creed the perpetual contest that it identifies as the essence of life, the struggle between Oppressor and Oppressed.

The Creed is the orthodoxy of the contemporary academy.  Unfortunately for Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, she is not likely to succeed in undermining the “anti-Israel and pro-Palestine discourse” that has “dominated” the university until she first defeats the Creed that it expresses.

 

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