Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Creating a “Rift”, WAPO Style

The chapel at the Wren BuildingThose clever fellows in the MSM never miss an opportunity to put a little kink in their news analysis reporting. An example from a headline in today’s Washington Post reaches NPR levels of dissembling.

The story concerns the continuing saga of the cross in Wren Chapel at William and Mary. Here’s how WAPO headlines the article:

School’s Move Toward Inclusion Creates a Rift

The article goes on to discuss the continuing controversy regarding the use of the cross at Wren Chapel, a story that has been going on since October, with no sign of abating. Back then, Gates of Vienna called it “Away in a Closet”, since that was what the King President of the college decided to do with the cross — which, until his dictat, had sat on the altar of the Chapel for more than seventy years. Many other blogs covered — and continue to cover — the story in all its grisly detail.

The Post does give the URL for Save The Wren Cross, which has become the clearinghouse for this contretemps, one which will not go away, despite the college administration’s efforts to make it disappear.

[By the way, the author of the original outrage and energy to make President Nichol take back his command of removal was the future Baron’s roommate, Will Coggins. It was he who raised the alarm and started the backlash. World Net Daily gave him a mention in a recent story but I don’t think anyone realizes that this is really his doing. Fortunately, others, like Vince Haley of the American Enterprise Institute, took the ball and ran with it. But Will, one of the few libertarians at William and Mary with the courage to come out of the closet, deserves recognition for what he initiated.]

Just to bring you up to date:

In October, President Nichol, without any prior announcement to the college community, ordered the removal of the cross from its accustomed place on the altar. It was to be stored in a closet and left there except for those times when it was specifically requested. YouTube ran a widely viewed video of the removal.

As people noticed the bare altar and the news trickled out into the college community, there was a backlash of protest, not only about Nichol’s order but also about the way in which it was accomplished. Perhaps he thought no one would notice? Or that the passive student body would simply shrug and move on? Or that the alumni, far removed, would be indifferent?
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Wrong. First the students reacted, and then the word spread. President Nichol stood his ground, claiming that some of those who used the Chapel found the cross offensive. I believe he’s been able to produce only one complaint so far. There are now over seven thousand registered complaints about his sudden and secretive decision to remove this offensive religious icon.

Now the president has decided, in yet another fiat — which he labels a compromise — that the Cross will be returned to its place on Sundays, and that a plaque will be put up explaining the history of the cross. A very Anglican move, I should say. Anglican churches are full of plaques, and Wren Chapel began life as an Anglican church.

Note that the “compromise” is designed and carried out by Nichol, without input from the college community. Poor Nichol. He doesn’t seem to have grasped the ideas behind discussion, collegial decision-making, or compromise. Obviously, he just wants the whole thing to go away, and the only trick in his repertoire is giving orders.

In any other state school he might have succeeded. But William and Mary is so steeped in tradition they probably have Thomas Jefferson’s fingernail clippings in a reliquary somewhere. And the center and soul of that tradition is Wren Chapel: everything of any importance happens there. In fact, the Baron was initiated into Phi Beta Kappa in Wren Chapel, as was his mother before him. Phi Beta Kappa itself began there. As more than one person has said, William and Mary is the only state school that seems like a private university. Oh, and that’s another thing: it will never deign to use the term “university.” It began as The College of William and Mary, and thus will it remain.

It was a state school begun by the Anglican Church to train clergy and scholars back when the Anglican religion was the state religion of Virginia, back when the Episcopal church was called the Church of Virginia. So William and Mary began life as a Christian institution and gradually transformed as the Commonwealth did. Eventually it became what it is today: a state-supported secular institution with a history and tradition of Christian parentage.

Much of our common public life is being eaten away by a malign “tolerance” for “diversity” that is so ignorantly narrow-minded that it manages to cancel the average American out of its equation. It is not diverse in the least, it is in fact meanly perverse in its calculus.

Larry Summers learned that at Harvard, didn’t he? That’s one place where the truth of biology does not, and will not, trump ideology. However, as some dedicated William and Mary students and alumni and Virginia citizens have proved, a passion for history and tradition can trump propaganda if we band together and demand that truth prevail and that tradition be maintained.

The students aren’t finished yet, though. There is still the Board of Visitors meeting in February, when the matter of the Wren Chapel cross will actually be discussed instead of dictated — as should have happened in the first place.

Meanwhile, returning to the WAPO headline, “School’s Move Toward Inclusion Creates a Rift,” I ask you: how accurate is that clever semantic twist? Reading it, can you guess which side the WAPO supports?


freecyprus said...

In my view, this is 100% related to the Islamic threat.

There was a debate between liberals and conservatives that predated 9/11 over the liberal ideal of rational value-judgment free and totally secularized democracy. The argument from the conservatives was that Christianity was the only institution in the west that was able to instill the civic virtues (such as honesty, and industriousness) necessary for a functioning democracy on a large enough scale that made democracy possible. Conservatives argued that by working to undermine Christianity in the public sphere and by rejecting even the traditional concept of an absolute ideal moral code, justice (from which idea the civic virtues are ultimately derived), liberals are unwittingly working to eliminate the necessary civic virtues from the body politic and thereby bring western democracy to an end. The specific charge was made that in the liberal ideal of a Christianity-free, rational value-judgment free public sphere, where all ideas have equal merit, and the concept of right and wrong is personal (and culturally and chronologically dependant) - not subject to outside rational criticism - there is no grounds for favoring democratic ideas over undemocratic ideas. The conservative view was that in the absence of ideas being subjected to skeptical rational scrutiny for value and comparison to the traditional moral code for morality, undemocratic violent ideas come to dominate based on their willingness to use force. The conservative belief was that if the liberals are successful in eliminating Christianity and undermining belief in the idea of right and wrong in the public sphere to a significant degree, western democracy will collapse as the defenseless body politic would quickly be subjugated by an outside or inside despot.

Oliver O’Donovan (Desire of Nations), Stanley Hauerwas (A Better Hope), John C. Murray (We Hold These Truths) are examples of the ideas on the conservative side of debate, and Jeffery Stout (Democracy and Tradition) is an example of (in my view) failed liberal counterargument. With the latest Islamic bid for world domination, this is no longer an academic debate.

This is an attempted one-two punch (the liberals are working to deprive the US of the values necessary to defend itself, while the Islamists hope to deliver the finishing blow to what would become a defenseless America) that needs to be forestalled.