At Princeton, one student’s battle with a mandatory morality makeover has ended.
Just a few years ago, New Yorker Timothy Keiderling had an idea: go to seminary and — in his words — “give my life to work for justice and to live out the values of the Kingdom of God.”
Thus, his journey at Princeton Theological Seminary began.
But eventually, a bump was hit.
As reported by RealClearInvestigations (RCI), the school required him to undergo “antiracism” training.
And what’s antiracism? CNN reminds us:
Being anti-racist means more than ridding yourself of racist attitudes, beliefs and behaviors. It means you’re also actively fighting that reprehensible trinity as it manifests in your life on a daily basis.
Though racism is something of which anyone is capable, it appears antiracism is a whites-only endeavor:
Some white people know that to become antiracist, they must start to listen and brush up on the history of racism in their countries.
Some people are describing obviously racist behavior as the tip of the iceberg — calling people racist names or threatening people on the basis of race.
Then there’s the part of the iceberg that’s not easily visible to people if they’re not looking. This includes a range of subtle but insidious attitudes, behaviors and policies.
Among these are microaggressions. They are brief and commonplace verbal, behavioral or environmental indignities, [psychologist Beverly Tatum] said.
Such aggressions include denying one ever owned slaves, asserting all lives matter, and claiming colorblindness.
The above hadn’t always been of interest to Princeton; but Timothy was attending at a conspicuous time.
The school was performing, per RCI, a “multi-year analysis of its ties to slavery, its ‘ongoing legacy of racism’ since its founding in 1812, and its need for “confession and repentance.’”
After the tragic death of George Floyd, the institution purportedly “became focused on race, gender, and causes including ‘social justice’ and ‘a serious overhaul in the nation’s approach to policing.’”
Hence, the young man and his peers were told to take training last August.
“We were given guided readings and videos and told that there is only one possible response,” he recalls. “In other words, we were told what to think. I considered it indoctrination.”
Young America’s Foundation allegedly obtained materials.
Three separate Zoom groups were established:
- A “white-only space” to ““grapple with our whiteness and how we’ve been socialized, in a way that does not harm our colleagues and co-students of color.”
- A group “only open to students who identify as Black, Indigenous, or a person of color,”
- An integrated group for those “who are uncomfortable with either of these scenarios.”
In the video, a leader waxes on the whites-only space:
“Folks might be curious about, ‘Why would I wanna talk about race with only white folks? So, I can tell you a little bit about my own experience in white caucuses. And that’s that it creates a space where we can really grapple with our whiteness and how we’ve been socialized in a way that does not harm our colleagues and co-students of color”.
The head of the BIPOC-only (Black, Indigenous, People Of Color) space notes it allows nonwhites to “just to be together and talk about what these experiences are with each other.”
Somewhere amid the enlightenment, students and faculty were also sent the “Report From the Antiracism Task Force.”
From the document:
It is imperative to offer white and white-passing constituents opportunities to grow in their understanding of white privilege and white supremacy and their responsibility to dismantle it, both in their individual lives and within the Seminary.
Timothy attended the training’s first session, but he soon refused to take further part.
He petitioned for an exemption via an email to school President Craig Barnes.
Courtesy of the request:
“As fellow followers of Jesus, we have no business treating each other differently based on our race. Don’t we remember that in Christ, these distinctions have no place anymore? Or what else did the Apostle mean when he wrote that ‘in Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free’? The problem of racial injustice cries to heaven. But dividing us from each other is not the way to right the wrongs.”
“[T]hese trainings present a serious threat to freedom of thought, to the point where it seems like we are being indoctrinated. We are only given one possible answer to every question about race, only one race among our student body has to do any learning, growing, or changing, the identity of one group of people is condemned as something that needs to be ‘dismantled’ even ‘in individual lives,’ and [white people] are told in no uncertain terms that their very identity should be something to repent for.”
Initially, he was refused.
With the assistance of pro-First Amendment non-profit Academic Freedom Alliance, Princeton Professor Robert George, and free speech attorney Samantha Harris, however, he appealed:
“[T]he training to which I object violates representations of academic freedom made by PTS on which I relied in accepting admission, and which I believe represent legally enforceable terms of the contractual relationship between PTS and me.”
The school’s handbook makes things clear:
The Seminary encourages frank and candid discussion of matters under debate in society and church…and it deplores efforts to suppress views contrary to one’s own or to subject them to ridicule. Any form of communication that violates these principles will be subject to disciplinary action by the Seminary.
In the end, Timothy was allowed to forego the training.
As part of the deal, he read Ibram Kendi’s How to Be an Anti-Racist and other antiracist works.
Additionally, he explains, he wrote an essay “with an emphasis on how I might apply the lessons … to my own work and ministry while still upholding the values and beliefs I cherish.”
These days, antiracism is all the rage — not just in corporations and universities generally, but even at seminary.
If the trend continues, it’s only reasonable America’s churches will progressively take part.
This year, Princeton released Princeton Seminary and Slavery: a Journey of Confession and Repentance.
From the report:
Whiteness is a form of structural sin that white people are embedded into, a system they did not choose but nevertheless benefit from. … Confession and atonement must be made for participating in and benefiting from structures of whiteness and the moral wounding and pain that whiteness has produced and continues to generate in the Seminary community.
Who knows what the future holds?
Whatever it is, it’s certainly going to be different than the past.
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