At DeSales University, a black student who goes by the Twitter handle L*sbian Satan found some old Twitter posts from a white fellow student, whose name I will withhold here, that were foully racist. She doxxed him, meaning that she put his personal information online in an effort to destroy him. The kid — I’ll call him N. — posted the racist stuff to Twitter when he was in high school. Here is what the university’s president, Father Jim Greenfield, sent to the university community on Friday:
Dear University Community,
Early this week, I learned that [N.], a rising junior here at DeSales University, engaged in extremely hateful racist and homophobic speech as a sophomore in high school. His exchanges with another high school student at that time were posted to social media. During this current tide of racial turmoil in our nation, these vile remarks were resurrected and reposted this past weekend, not by [name]. He apologized four years ago and completed counseling. In light of his transgressions resurfacing, [name] has issued a recent apology to our DeSales community, included at the end of this communication.
A number of students brought [name]’s posts to my attention via email, and I acknowledged his remarks for their “meanness and hatred” and called his actions an “egregious wrongdoing.”
Yes, these racists and homophobic posts were immoral and evil. Impelled by the example and call of Jesus in the Gospel, the foundation of our University, I offered my forgiveness. As I referenced in my Tuesday reflection to the University, I am inspired by the writings of South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu who believed there is no path to end racism without reconciliation. He understood that forgiveness was not automatic and required admission of racist acts; moreover, those offended needed to believe others could change.
In no way do I intend for my forgiveness of [name] to erase how mean, hate-filled, immoral, and evil his comments were and continue to be. In fact, my description of [name]’s comments was my affirmation that Black lives matter, but my forgiveness has suggested otherwise to some. I believe someone can grow into new understandings between sophomore year in high school and junior year of college. And, I also recognize that no one can be required to forgive, and no one will be disrespected for not forgiving.
[Name]’s misconduct was presented to the Office of Student Conduct in accordance with the Student Handbook. If he had committed these offenses while he was a member of the DeSales community, he would have been expelled. Since this is not an option available to us, we will apply appropriate consequences after consultation with the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force, which I have asked to convene as soon as possible.
In an effort to help us to heal of the pain and suffering caused by racism in our nation, I invite you to a virtual Town Hall meeting this Wednesday, June 10 at 7 PM. The Office of Mission will communicate details for this event.
Please join me in praying for peace and healing in our nation and University community.
James J. Greenfield, OSFS, ‘84
The student’s public letter of apology:
To my DSU community,
I am writing to apologize in the deepest way that I can for the hurtful and demeaning words that have surfaced recently in light of all the unrest going on in this country. These hurtful words were resurrected from over four years ago from when I was a kid in high school. I know it may be hard for people to accept this apology, but I assure you that it is heartfelt, and I am not the immature 15-year-old person I was then. Although I am aware that my age at the time does not diminish the power or impact of these awful words, I really am sorry for the hurt they have caused. These statements have never been personally posted on any social media platform by me. I do not now believe these words, nor do I live by them. Those words do not represent the person I have come to be today. I have done a lot of deep reflection over this, and I am no longer the ignorant teenager I was then.
I could only hope that those who read this can forgive me and know that I have grown up in these past few years. I would like to continue to better myself through education which is imperative in understanding today’s society. I have apologized then, and I apologize now for the pain caused to so many, near and far. Even my family has suffered deeply as I hurt and endangered them, and I am sorry. I understand words have consequences and that they are not easily forgiven, but please accept my deepest apologies. I have had a wonderful two years at DeSales University and have learned greatly about friendships and cohesiveness, regardless of one’s race, gender, or sexual orientation. I promise to make extreme efforts to be understanding, respectful, and empathetic to my fellow student body and faculty. In my time reflecting and growing as a person, I do not support the racial injustices that continue to plague our society today, and I would like to help initiate change in our world by participating in corrective workshops and diversity classes.
I realize that there is a great deal that I have to learn about racial and sexual diversity, and I am committed to learning, listening, and being taught by those who have experiences that can teach me.
In closing, I repeat my apology: I am sorry.
This was not good enough for L*sbian Satan, who posted:
IF ANYONE WANTS AN UPDATE. THE PRESIDENT OF DESALES UNIVERSITY, A WHITE MAN, BELEIVES HE IS IN THE POSITION TO FORGIVE A WHITE STUDENT’S ANTI-BLACK BEHAVIOR. RIOT. pic.twitter.com/OPOEj5Chau
— L*sbian Satan (@noseniaa) June 1, 2020
Riot. This is a Christian university. L*sbian Satan does not wish to abide by Christian principles of repentance, mercy, and forgiveness, and instead is choosing to incite a mob to violence. She should be expelled, at once. Why would Father Jim tolerate her one more day on the campus of a Christian university? It is interesting to observe that Father Jim would have expelled this kid N. if he had made those racist social media posts as a DeSales student, presumably even if he publicly and privately confessed his sin and repented. But another student identifies herself as a lesbian Satan on social media, and she’s just fine at DeSales.
What an evil country we are becoming. I read the posts that N. put on social media when he was 15. They really were terrible. But he was a stupid teenager then, and has repented of his sins. But this student who identifies with Satan is merciless, and wants destruction of both the penitent young man, and the university. That young man will never be able to return to DeSales now. The mob is against him, and will make his life hell — which is what L*sbian Satan wants.
We are playing with nuclear fire here. Georgetown professor Joshua Mitchell reflects on the differences between this present moment of racial conflict in post-Christian America, and the Civil Rights Movement, which was led by Christian pastors. Excerpts:
Most of human history is pagan. The advent of Christianity is a relatively recent affair. Some say Christianity is now receding. Some say Christianity has not yet fully taken hold. Is secularism taking hold? Is paganism reemerging? Do we live in a strange time characterized by a return to paganism, though with Christian characteristics? Whichever account is correct has implications for America in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death.
The pagan world was the world of many gods, each associated with a people who made payments and sacrifices to their gods. Rousseau wrote in The Social Contract that when pagan nations battled other pagan nations, soldiers did not battle soldiers; rather, gods battled gods. Hence, the cathartic rage of pagan wars.
Christianity toppled the pagan world. The cathartic rage of war, Christians argued, in which one nation purged another, could not solve the problem of man’s stain, which was original, a term we no longer really understand. Original sin means that sin is always already there, prior to a person being born into membership of this nation or that nation. What this means is that blood rage cannot expiate stain; the sins of my people can no longer be purged by cathartic rage toward your people, and vice versa. That is why Rousseau concluded that Christianity had ruined politics, and had produced a civilization of pacifists, whose rage toward other nations could not be enkindled for the purpose of war. If you doubt this, ponder the fact that Christianity developed a “doctrine of just war,” according to which cathartic rage could not be reason enough to go to war.
Against the backdrop of pagan history, Christianity is revolutionary, not evolutionary. The evolution of paganism, had it occurred, would have brought about novel forms of cathartic rage toward other peoples. Christianity declared that no matter what evolutionary “advance” paganism might bring, it could never adequately address the problem of man’s stain. Christianity was revolutionary because it declared that we must look elsewhere than toward others, with cathartic rage, to expiate our stains. That “elsewhere” is divine, not mortal. Only through Christ, the divine scapegoat, who “takes upon himself the sins of the world” (John 1:29), can man be cleansed.
If Christianity is receding, then we will likely see the return to the pagan understanding that peoples are the proper objects of cathartic rage. That is a sobering truth, which defenders of secularism deny. The real alternatives might not be Christianity or secularism, but rather revelation or paganism. Should we return to paganism, one people will seek to cleanse themselves of stain by venting their cathartic rage on another people. The war between the gods of the nations would resume in full. The “blood and soil” nationalism that is straining to emerge on the Alt-Right is a witness to the reemergence of this pagan view, which is contemptuous of Christianity’s counter-claim, and always will be. What counts in the pagan world of blood is not me, the “person,” but the people of which I am but a representative. What counts in Christianity is the Adam, whose stain I present; and Christ’s sacrifice, through which I am represented to God as righteous. The distance between these two understandings is infinite and unbridgeable.
George Floyd’s death and the violent aftermath has prompted questions about what sort of world we live in. If we live in a liberal world that Christianity makes possible, George Floyd’s death is a singular transgression, which law can and will punish. George Floyd was a person. So, too, was the policeman who killed him. Persons are protected by the law; and those persons granted policing authority by the liberal state have a somber responsibility to use their vested authority to protect persons rather than to harm them. That is why the death of a civilian by police hands will always attract attention. The same original sin that is the basis for establishing the category of persons is also the reason why a policing force must be vigilantly watched.
What if we do not live in a liberal world that Christianity makes possible? What if, under the pretext of liberalism and Christianity, America is still pagan? That is, what if America has always been a white nation, and still is? This is the position of many on the American left today. It is a position that holds that the black man, George Floyd, and the white police officer responsible for his death, are representatives of blood nations, not singular persons. The murder of one by the other is representative of the collective murder of one people by the other. American law cannot bring about justice, because each blood nation has its own justice, from which marginalized blood nations can never benefit. American law is white law. Street vengeance, therefore, is the only recourse—whether we call them protests or riots. White people must die, as a just exchange for the black people who have died.
How, then, shall we proceed? Onward or backward. A return to paganism would spare us from the embarrassing Christian postulate that all the guilty-before-God descendants of Adam are persons, to be treated equally before the law. Pagan blood vengeance, we would contentedly conclude, is the primordial truth of man—therefore let us unleash the cathartic rage that dwells in every heart. If a man of one race is killed, blood payment is due; the score must be settled; persons must be sacrificed so that the idol of bloodline, of “identity,” can be appeased.
Alternatively, there is the Christian way forward, through which we will recognize the singular person of George Floyd, the transgression that ended his life, and the law through which man does what he can to bring about justice, in a broken world that God alone can heal.
Read it all.Mitchell says that America’s problem is that it is caught between a Christian understanding of justice, and a pagan one. Tocqueville saw the moral dilemma: a purportedly Christian nation also introduced slavery. We are still dealing with the consequences of that. Seriously, before you comment on anything Prof. Mitchell says here, read the whole thing to make sure you understand his argument.
According to Christian teaching, original sin, our ancestral curse, means that none of us — not one — is righteous. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The only way we can restore harmony between ourselves and God is through uniting ourselves to the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who was God incarnate. That cannot be simply a mental assent to propositions. It requires recognizing our own sinfulness, asking God’s mercy, and making a firm resolution to repent … and to keep doing it.
As I wrote in my book about Dante, this was a very hard thing for me to do with regard to my relationship with my Dad. I only pushed through with it because my pastor said I had no choice, as a Christian. The same Jesus Christ to whom I appealed for mercy and forgiveness for my own sins said that we will only be forgiven insofar as we forgive others. There was no hope for healing within me for the wrongs my Dad had done to me if I was not willing to forgive him, even if he didn’t ask to be forgiven. This is not what I wanted to hear at the time, but it was what I needed to hear — and it turned out to be true. If I had not taken that hard road, I would not have been there to hear my father, near the end of his life, ask for forgiveness. I would not have been able to be with him in his last days, and to see him off holding his hand. Christianity, which teaches us that there is no human way to make full restitution for the evil that we do, makes it possible to re-integrate ourselves into society, and to reconcile. As Auden puts is, “You shall love your crooked neighbor, with your crooked heart.”
The aptly self-described L*sbian Satan puts before the DeSales community — and all of us — a stark choice: accepting the Accuser’s claim that there can be no forgiveness and restoration for anybody who was ever guilty of the sin of racism, that there can only be what amounts to a symbolic sacrificial death (in this case, expulsion from the community); or that there is a better way, a Christian way, that allows for people to confess sin and vow repentance, confident that they will be shown mercy not only by God, but by the Christian people, who have been told by their Lord that they must forgive if they themselves want to be forgiven.
What a drama at DeSales University! Is it going to assert itself as a truly Christian institution, or will it surrender to the bloodguiltiness imputed to this penitent young man by the Accuser? Will it put this student on an inquisitorial show trial for sins he committed as a 15-year-old high school boy? The future of the university hangs in the balance. It will either be Catholic, or it will be pagan. The choice put to them by a student called L*sbian Satan makes the moral and spiritual stakes explicit.
And beyond DeSales, what about the rest of us? Do we want to live in a world in which some sins are unforgivable? Because that is the world we are rushing towards at breakneck speed. Riot indeed.
UPDATE: This is not meant ironically. They really do believe that the way to fight evil is by destroying the futures of young people:
When you expose a racist student, you stop them from attending a university that will allow them to become a racist healthcare worker, teacher, lawyer, real estate developer, politicians, etc.
— Black Lives Matter (@agavedelacalle) June 6, 2020