Same-Sex Attraction: What the Fall of Harvard Can Teach Us

A change in mood, leads to a change in morals, which leads to a change in message.

A change in the mood of the American populace had to take place. So Marshal Kirk and Hunter Madison (pen name Erastes Pill) in 1987 wrote an essay “The Overhauling of Straight America”[4] They laid out the six steps to the “desensitization of the American public concerning gays and gay rights. To desensitize the public is to help it view homosexuality with indifference instead of with keen emotion.”[5]

 

In 1636, only six years after the settlement of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, by a charter from the King of England, Harvard was begun as a means of training men for the gospel ministry. The first great benefactor of the college, John Harvard, left half of his estate and his library of four hundred books to establish the college across the Charles River in Cambridge. From almost the beginning (1692) the Latin motto of Harvard was Veritas pro Christo et Ecclesia, Truth for Christ and Church.

Things progressed well for the first sixty years or so but a change in mood slowly became noticeable on campus. Students, faculty, and the general public clamored for a more open, tolerant, and catholic (universal or inclusive) spirit, one not so narrowly defined by the Puritan or Calvinistic theology on which Harvard so clearly was founded.   Students and faculty alike were growing tired of the old theology.

This change in mood slowly brought a change in morals. In 1707 John Leverett was elected President of Harvard, the first layman, and theological liberal to hold that position. Although Leverett did not alter the curriculum, nonetheless, a noticeable change in morals infected the college. In fact Leverett wrote in his diary in 1717 that the faculty was having trouble with students concerning “profane swearing, riotous actions, and bringing cards into the college.” By 1725 the downward slide of morality in the lives of the students had continued. Some complained that the students were given “to drinking frolics, poultry stealing, profane cursing, bringing live snakes and rum into their residences, and given to scandalous and shameful behavior.” In 1776 Harvard students wrote President Samuel Langdon, demanding his resignation, saying, “Sir, as a man of piety we venerate you, but as President, we despise you.”

The change in mood, which gave way to change in morals, eventually brought a change in message. By this I mean a change in the way education is done. Until the mid Nineteenth century the assumption remained that the acquisition of knowledge for its own sake, without “laying Christ in the bottom, as the only foundation” was futile and sinful.[1] The founders of Harvard and the succeeding leaders of the college knew that without “religious” education their children would become barbarous. Harvard’s “Rules and Precepts” of 1646 held that the main end of a student’s life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life . . . the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning. In fact the early seal of Harvard with its motto Veritas pro Christo et Ecclesia also had three books on the seal. The two on the top (the Old and New Testament) were facing upward while the one on the bottom, in a subservient position (reason, science) was facing downward.[2] Harvard Professor of Christian Morals, Peter J. Gomes, says that for the Puritans who founded Harvard to separate God from academia was unthinkable. Science and reason were always to be subservient to the Scriptures.

However the 1869 inauguration of University President Charles W. Eliot began a change in the educational message of Harvard, which also included a change in Harvard’s motto. Somewhere around this time the motto was reduced from Veritas pro Christos et Ecclesia to Veritas. Eliot drew on Unitarian and Emersonian ideals. In mimicking other contemporary free thinkers of the day (including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Ward Beecher, and Henry David Thoreau), Eliot said, “The worthy fruit of academic culture is an open mind, trained to careful thinking, instructed in the methods of philosophic investigation, acquainted in a general way with the accumulated thought of past generations, and penetrated with humility. It is thus that the University in our day serves Christ and the Church.”[3] Biblical revelation was kicked to the curb.

A change in mood, leads to a change in morals, which leads to a change in message.And this, my friends, is what the fall of Harvard can teach us about so-called same-sex attraction and the homosexual agenda in the evangelical church.

First, a change in the mood of the American populace had to take place. So Marshal Kirk and Hunter Madison (pen name Erastes Pill) in 1987 wrote an essay “The Overhauling of Straight America”[4] They laid out the six steps to the “desensitization of the American public concerning gays and gay rights. To desensitize the public is to help it view homosexuality with indifference instead of with keen emotion.”[5]

The six steps are:

  1. “Talk about gays and gayness as loudly and as often as possible” to desensitize the public.
  2. “Portray gays as victims, not as aggressive challengers,” leading society to assume the role of protector.
  3. “Give protectors a just cause,” such as anti-discrimination and civil rights.
  4. “Make gays look good” by elevating prominent homosexuals and celebrities who endorse them.
  5. “Make the victimizers look bad” by associating them with Nazis, KKK members, etc.
  6. “Solicit funds” for a massive media campaign.

Clearly Kirk and Madison have instigated a highly successful change in the mood of our culture concerning homosexuality. And because believers are often affected by our culture (most believers tend to read the same blogs, watch the same movies, listen to the same music, etc.) there is no surprise at all that the mood concerning homosexuality has also changed in the evangelical church.

The change in mood has led to a change in morals. Ten years ago the very idea of a PCA Teaching Elder “coming out” as a homosexual was incomprehensible. Many of our PCA leaders have recently championed this Teaching Elder as courageous since he has admitted his homosexuality. The caveat which is meant to give us comfort is that he is celibate. A Pew Research poll a few years ago showed that 49 percent of PCA members thought homosexuality should be accepted in our society. No doubt that percentage today is higher.

And the change in mood which leads to a change in morals is also now giving way to a change in message. The new message is that same-sex attraction is not sin, though it may be “of sin”, that it is due to Adam’s fall into sin, much like the man born blind in John 9. The new message is that homosexuals rarely, if ever, truly change. Therefore the message to us is that we are to applaud them for their willingness to remain celibate in their homosexuality. We may even wish, they suggest, to lament with them as they deny their own natural desires for the good of the Biblical, sexual ethic.

Indeed, my friends we should lament. We should grieve and lament like Jeremiah after the fall of Jerusalem and the beginning of the Babylonian captivity. As Jeremiah looked back over the once great Kingdom of David, he wrote, “How dark the gold has become. How the pure gold has changed! The sacred stones are poured out at the corner of every street.” We are losing our way, my friends. The mood has changed. The morals have changed. The message is changing. What shall we do?

Dr. Al Baker is a Minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is an Evangelistic and Revival Preacher with Reformed Evangelistic Fellowship.

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