The Office of Student Life has placed religious group Harvard College Faith and Action on “administrative probation” for a year after the organization pressured a female member of its student leadership to resign in September following her decision to date a woman.
College spokesperson Aaron M. Goldman announced the move to put HCFA on probation in an emailed statement sent to The Crimson Wednesday afternoon.
“After a thorough review and finding that HCFA had conducted itself in a manner grossly inconsistent with the expectations clearly outlined in [the Office of Student Life’s] Student Organization Resource and Policy Guide, OSL has placed HCFA on a one year administrative probation,” Goldman wrote in the statement.
Goldman did not specify how HCFA, the largest Christian fellowship on campus, had violated Office of Student Life “expectations.” In an emailed statement Wednesday, HCFA co-presidents Scott Ely ’18 and Molly L. Richmond ’18 were slightly more specific.
“Earlier today, we met with an administrator who informed us that the College would place HCFA on probation, citing our relationship with Christian Union as well as our standards for leaders,” Richmond and Ely wrote Wednesday. Christian Union—a national umbrella group with outposts at all eight Ivy League schools and Stanford—helps fund and support HCFA.
The decision to suspend HCFA, though, is almost certainly tied to the Sept. 2017 resignation of a female bisexual former assistant Bible course leader. HCFA leadership asked the woman to step down from her position after they learned she was dating another female student—violating guidelines laid out in the Harvard College Student Handbook, which stipulates recognized campus student groups cannot discriminate on the basis of “sexual orientation.”
What does this mean for the group?
Goldman, the University spokesperson who announced HCFA’s probation, did not immediately respond to a question asking whether probation means the group will be stripped of all rights and privileges granted to recognized student organizations.
Recognized student groups enjoy several benefits courtesy of the Office of Student Life, including the ability to reserve Harvard rooms and venues as well as access to a bank account.
Traditionally, HCFA has often held its weekly Doxa events—gatherings during which members worship together—in Yenching Auditorium, a Harvard space.
Other privileges granted to recognized student organizations include the right to poster on campus and permission to participate in activity fairs, both key ways campus groups recruit undergraduates. HCFA, founded in 2008, currently boasts roughly 200 members.
Earlier this month, Jackie Hill-Perry, a Christian woman who repented from her lesbian sexual activity caused a big stir on campus when the Christian group brought her in to speak. Hill-Perry rejected “conversion therapy,” but called on same-sex attracted students to live chastely — a position that is entirely Biblical, entirely orthodox:
Some professors who joined in the protest Friday night said they disagreed with Hill-Perry’s ideas about sexuality.
“The history of this speaker and the things that she keeps promoting are things that basically alienate and threaten the existence of queer students on campus,” said Ahmed Ragab, a professor at the Divinity School. “I think it is a problem to have a speaker that promotes this kind of discourse.”
Threatens the existence? Jackie Hill-Perry will kill queer students? A Divinity School professor said this? Hysterical. What’s next? Does Jackie Hill-Perry kidnap queer babies and use their blood to make the saltines her church uses in celebrating the Lord’s Supper?
HCFA now has an opportunity to bear witness, through suffering, to the truth of the Christian faith, in the face of spite and rejection. Stay strong, y’all. You are on the front lines. All eyes will be on you, watching to see how you love even those who treat you cruelly. If Harvard will not let you meet in its rooms, then meet on the yard.
As for the rest of us, understand that this is how it’s going to go for all orthodox Christians. Pray for these Harvard believers … and prepare for how you will handle it when it happens to you. Because the LGBT movement and its supporters will tolerate nothing.
This is not just a one-off event. It’s part of a broad strategy. In an article in the present issue of Touchstone magazine (no link to the article is yet available), the
Eastern University Witherspoon Institute professor R.J. Snell describes what’s going on in incidents like this:
Antonio Gramsci (1897-1937), one of the intellectual fathers of anti-culture, rejected what he believed to be the naive economism of Soviet-style Communism, with its belief in the historical necessity of revolution and the advent of socialism. Instead, as explained by Roger Simon, hegemony must be developed and exercised by “persuading the subordinate classes to accept the values and ideas which the dominant class has itself adopted, and by building a network of alliances based on these values.” Overcoming the perceived hegemony of traditional culture was to be accomplished by a “counter-hegemony, requiring a prolonged process of moral and ideological reform.”
This was a “war of position,” as Gramsci termed it, in which coercion and persuasion would be combined, such that the subordinate classes would not be dominated by power alone but would somewhat freely consent to the new values. Their own values would be cajoled and pushed along-nudged-sometimes bullied, sometimes seduced or entertained, until the people desired anti-culture. Hegemony, thus, was “the organization of consent,” the structuring of institutions so that people would view the world through new lenses.
Of course, the mere presence of the older system is incongruous, a sign of contradiction; it shows the people’s consent to be arbitrary, provisional, and reversible. The existence of the Church, for instance, is a mark of difference that calls the new values into question, and so the Church must be eviscerated, or better, be so corrupted as to lose its moral distinctiveness and become part of the consenting anti-culture. (Why, after all, were the Little Sisters of the Poor forced to provide contraception when it would have been so easy for the Affordable Care Act to make accommodations for them?)
Attaining consent, and the legitimizing power that goes with it, is quite an accomplishment, but maintaining hegemony after power is attained is equally important. It is not enough to have dominance; that dominance must be continually re-entrenched and strengthened. This explains, in part, the relentlessness of the sexual revolution — it was not enough to have secured same-sex “marriage,” for example, and so the turn to “transgender rights” ensued with remarkable speed and ferocity.
This is why you should not believe the power-holders when they talk about “tolerance” and “dialogue” on these matters. They will satisfy themselves with nothing short of the obliteration of dissent. It’s not a bug; it’s a feature. Simply to continue to exist — to pray, to worship, to refuse to capitulate — is an act of courageous resistance. At this point in the long war, refusing to surrender is a victory.
The Harvard debacle is an illustration the necessity of the Benedict Option. I hope and expect that Harvard College Faith and Action will use all means open to it to fight for its right to be on campus, and to govern itself in accordance with its religious convictions. It is unlikely to win, it would appear — but that doesn’t mean that the organization should either surrender and accept the imposition of anti-Christian values upon it, or disband. Its members need the deep practices prescribed by the Benedict Option to build within themselves the spiritual and moral resilience necessary to withstand whatever Harvard throws at them, without compromising their testimony. They will need to strengthen the bonds of fellowship, and to root themselves profoundly within the Bible, and the history of the Church.
And they will need help from the orthodox Christian community from outside. The Benedict Option is meant precisely for moments like this. This is a comparatively little thing, but it is a preview of much bigger things to come. Much bigger things. Let this be a sign to you all to prepare.
UPDATE: A reader from Harvard writes:
Speaking from inside the Crimson bubble – I have had the privilege of having some of the student leaders of HCFA in my classes the past few years. They are just about the most faithful and also the nicest kids you could imagine. I cannot say that I am surprised at this point by Harvard’s censure at this point, but I am disturbed by it.
It certainly demonstrates that limits of “winsomeness” as a Christian tactic – you could not imagine more pleasant and friendly folks, and yet the hammer is coming down on them.
One note though Rod – the kerfuffle over Jackie Hill-Perry wasn’t just “earlier this month” – it was less than a week ago, and various LGBT groups across the university have been holding protests and “concerned conversations” in its wake. I find it very hard not to imagine this administrative action was triggered by that event.
UPDATE.2: A reader comments:
Harvard undergraduate and current HCFA member here.
There’s seems to be three distinct things which have happened over this past year that led to HCFA being put on probation.
1) The leadership requirements were actually enforced on a queer student in a relationship. HCFA has had queer students in leadership before, but none were in homosexual relationships. The requirements have always been there.
2) Certain members of HCFA this fall semester started openly complaining about HCFA’s policy on these things on the group email list and some dorm-wide lists. These people likely also alerted the various deans of diversity. I would contrast this with a few years back, when HCFA during a week of programming on Christian sexual ethics, hosted a very respectful debate between a pro-gay marriage member and a pro traditional marriage ministry fellow. There was disagreement but it didn’t seem to boil over into open complaint and criticism, but perhaps I just wasn’t aware of it at the time.
3) HCFA brought in a speaker who was publicly and clearly against the LGBTQ agenda, and caused a ruckus with protesters, police presence, media coverage, and all that jazz. That was Friday night, a little too close for mere coincidence as Ahenobarbus pointed out.
Most Christian fellowships have leadership requirements like HCFA, it takes more than that to get kicked out, but really it was just a matter of time. The Dartmouth equivalent of HCFA (funded by the same parent organization, Christian Union) is already not recognized, but still going strong.
Now I’m not one of the leaders of HCFA or a dean of diversity or student life, so I can’t be certain, but that’s how things look from the ground. Pray for the leadership of HCFA, they’ve had to work really hard on all this on top of their classes.
Reader Isaac Inkeles e-mails to say (I quote him with his permission):
I’m writing to thank you for publicizing the HCFA probation at Harvard. As a recent alumnus of the college (’16), the events have been particularly troubling.
While at Harvard, I spent a year as editor of The Salient–the conservative undergraduate publication–and wrote a right-of-center column for The Crimson. I also wrote my senior thesis (and subsequent MPhil dissertation) on pluralism. The issue of political/ideological/religious tolerance at Harvard is therefore one that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about. (Here’s a column I wrote about anti-religious bias.)
Anyway, I just want to make one quick point: this incident reveals how many on the left critically misunderstand religion. Religion isn’t just an internal experience; it’s about having beliefs and living them out. This is implied in HCFA’s name: faith in action. If you are not allowed to put your beliefs into practice–even in groups explicitly for that purpose–then you’re not free. As a Jew,this point is of the utmost salience, not just because of our history of persecution, but because mine is a religion that emphasize performance of commandments.