Cathedral Round-Up #15: Duke

Duke literally looks like a cathedral
Duke literally looks like a cathedral

For this month’s Cathedral Round-Up, I decided to look beyond the Ivies at Duke University, North Carolina. For my non-American readers unfamiliar with our less famous institutions, Wikipedia states:

Duke is the seventh-wealthiest private university in America with $11.4 billion in cash and investments in fiscal year 2014.[9]

Duke is consistently included among the best universities in the world by numerous university rankings,[10][11] and among the most innovative universities in the world.[12] According to a Forbes study, Duke is ranked 11th among universities that have produced billionaires.[13][14] In a New York Times corporate study, Duke’s graduates were shown to be among the most sought-after and valued in the world,[15] and Forbes magazine ranked Duke seventh in the world on its list of ‘power factories’ in 2012.[16]

Duke’s research expenditures in the 2014 fiscal year were $1.037 billion, the seventh largest in the nation.[17] In 2014, Thomson Reuters named 32 of Duke’s professors to its list of Highly Cited Researchers, making it fourth globally in terms of primary affiliations.[18] Duke also ranks fifth among national universities to have produced Rhodes, Marshall, Truman, Goldwater, and Udall Scholars.[19]Ten Nobel laureates and three Turing Award winners are affiliated with the university. Duke’s sports teams compete in the Atlantic Coast Conference and the basketball team is renowned for having won five NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championships, most recently in 2015.

It’s always good when your college is good at playing keep-away.

From Duke Magazine’s special all-language-articles edition:
The Power of Pronouns:

This past February I was invited to give a lecture at a Duke seminar called “LGBTQ Activism and History.”

[People declared their preference to be addressed with gender-neutral pronouns]

I’ll admit all this seems newish and complicated to me. It was only a few months ago that a neighbor’s teenage daughter explained to their parents and friends that they were “pan-sexual” (the sexual attraction to a person of any sex—male or female—or gender—masculine, feminine, or somewhere in between). Now the request was for us to use gender-neutral pronouns. We tried but flubbed it, until finally the thirteen-year-old exclaimed, “Please respect my pronouns” —and the light went on. What they were saying was, “Please respect who I am.”

Please stop having deep discussions with your neighbor’s barely pubescent teenage daughter about who she wants to bang. It makes you sound like a creep.

We don’t let 13 yr olds drive cars, work, live alone, vote, sign contracts, or have sex, because 13 yr olds are idiots who are still dependent on their parents to take care of them and keep them alive. Children should be treated with kindness and compassion, but we don’t respect their ideas on adult matters for the same reason we don’t let them live on their own.

The Places Words Go:

Intersectionality, a concept that started in academia and became popular among grassroots activists, recently has exploded in broader culture. … So when Hillary Clinton, on March 6, 2016, tweeted that: “We face a complex, intersectional set of challenges…” it signaled intersectionality’s full entrance into the mainstream.

Yet, what does it mean for this discourse, which originated in black feminist circles, to now enjoy popularity in a variety of contexts and uses? …

Clinton’s usage of intersectional language, while maybe well-intentioned, displays the slippage and de-radicalization that attends many popular uses. Intersectionality becomes a matter of drawing connections between multiple problems and multiple solutions. Losing sight of larger structural critiques of white supremacy, capitalism, and patriarchy, the problems become about discrimination and about a lack of opportunities or parity for various identities within our economic system. Instead of challenging neoliberal policies that prioritize privatization and investment, the market—by including everyone and improving the stakes of those already within it—becomes the foundation to break all barriers. …

Daniel José Camacho is a master’s of divinity student, pursuing ordination in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

In related news: Can an atheist lead a Protestant Church? A battle over Religion in Canada:

The Rev. Gretta Vosper is a dynamic, activist minister with a loyal following at her Protestant congregation in suburban Toronto. She is also an outspoken atheist.

“We don’t talk about God,” Vosper said in an interview, describing services at her West Hill United Church, adding that it’s time the church gave up on “the idolatry of a theistic god.” …
Ordained in 1993, the 58-year-old Vosper says she began questioning God’s existence 15 years ago and openly came out as an atheist in 2013.

Vosper said that the United Church has a tradition of “pushing the envelope” and pulling down barriers — in accepting the ordination of women, embracing the LGBT community and performing same-sex marriage. She said her views about religion have evolved. After initially rejecting the idea of a supernatural god and the idea of god as “the father,” she moved eventually to rejecting God completely. Instead, she preaches values, including justice, compassion and love. …

Like other mainstream denominations, the United Church of Canada, founded in 1925 as a merger of several denominations, has seen its numbers fall sharply in recent years. It reported having 436,292 members at the end of 2014, less than half the 1,063,951 it had at its peak in 1964.

Long story short, the church is struggling to remove her on the grounds that being an open atheist is kind of counter to the basic founding documents of the church:

“It’s tough on the United Church because we’ve created this mantra of inclusiveness and now it’s been tested. It goes against the grain to tell somebody that you have to leave.”

A Way to Protect All Ideas:

I attended two conferences, interviewed ten women, met another fifteen remarkable women, and produced twenty YouTube videos in eight short weeks just to answer one question: How do we address online hate speech while maintaining free speech?

Well, that certainly sounds like a randomized, large-N, unlikely to be biased sample of people.

I would like to think I began my research as an objective bystander. … As much as I hated the dangers women faced online, I also abhorred content-based censorship. I thought my desire to protect both women and speech online would ensure my objectivity.

Then the interviews began and my objectivity faltered. I listened as women told me how their ex-boyfriends non-consensually shared nude photos of them online; …

Conservatives have been telling women for years that it’s a bad idea to send naked pictures of themselves out into the world. Guess they were right.

I noticed a common theme to these stories: men using online hate and violence to silence women. I could barely fathom why hate speech intended to silence women was acceptable, but censorship of same hate speech is unacceptable. So I used my voice to speak against hate speech; I proudly declared myself a feminist in a YouTube video.

Unfortunately (and unsurprisingly), my declaration didn’t end the misogynistic speech. While the First Amendment guarantees protection from Congress silencing my feminist speech, there would be no guaranteed protection against a cyber-mob trying to silence me with rape and death threats. …

It’s not enough to protect freedom of speech from a government violation. We must also protect the freedom of speech of the disempowered from the empowered.

That’s not easy, but I realized that it is marginally easier when we speak together. That was the most rewarding part of my summer research: meeting all the women who, supported by their tight-knit community, courageously and collectively speak out against online hate.

Meanwhile in the real world:

Trump Supporter Beaten with a Crowbar:

Police in Northern New Jersey say a 62-year-old man was beaten with a crowbar outside a restaurant for wearing a T-shirt in support of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. …

The victim was treated on the scene for injuries to his forearms, hands and thighs shortly after 6 p.m., the website reported.

“The motorist inquired why [the man] was wearing the shirt, directing profanities at him,” Bloomfield Police spokesman Ralph Marotti said, the New Jersey Star Ledger reported Tuesday. “The [victim] continued to walk away as [the] motorist followed him.”

Trump supporter sucker punched to the ground by Mexican at Trump Rally in San Jose:

I’ve yet to find any articles in Duke Magazine about respecting people’s right to walk in public without being viciously beaten for their political beliefs.

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10 thoughts on “Cathedral Round-Up #15: Duke

  1. I actually found the atheist minister potentially exciting. When she says it’s time the church gave up on “the idolatry of a theistic god” yes that’s really true. Relying on the promise of Heaven, or various other pieces of mythology, really is idolatry and we laugh at it in any other religion. A Christianity that focuses just on the ethical codes of “love everyone” is much stronger for it.
    (This is of course an active philosophical debate, but I’m happy to see at least one minister providing an atheist Christian perspective.)

    However, if she’s gonna say “We don’t talk about God,”and that this is just some sort of multicultural outreach where in addition to having some LGBT ministers you also are inclusive of other minorities like atheists, then yeah this just sounds like really banal identity politics.

    I haven’t talked to her or gone to her church, so I can’t say for sure. The articles about her make it sound more like the latter, but they themselves are part of a very bland diversity ideology that I wouldn’t expect to report accurately on radical religious theological debates.

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    • As an atheist who likes religion, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with atheists liking religion. But a church with a specific doctrine that you have to believe in God to be a member isn’t a good fit for such a person. The Unitarians are a much better fit–they have lots of explicitly atheist members and preachers. (And they publish essays on precisely the philosophical ideas you’re interested in!)

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      • Please don’t take this the wrong way as I’m not trying to get into a fight but isn’t it a bit arrogant to say there’s no God? I mean how do you know? If you are in complete confidence of the fact that there’s no God please explain where all this stuff in the Universe came from as I’d like to know. I myself believe in God, he made all the stuff. All other manifestations of his will I’m kind of fuzzy on. At the same time I’m a bit of a Christian, Yes I know doesn’t make sense but there it is.

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      • I’ve gotten to the age where I don’t say “there is no god.” I just don’t believe in god. The part of me that, when I was young, looked up at the stars and felt something is empty and gone.

        I can still appreciate that religious people like their religions, most people are at least a little religious, and that religion has been a positive force in most people’s lives.

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