Sex and God at Yale
I’m told that books sell based on three things: the author, the cover and the title. Well, if that is true, Sex and God at Yale caught my attention! Without knowing anything about it, I picked it up in a college bookstore (not Lipscomb's) and sought to at least understand the message in the title.
Written by Nathan Harden, Sex and God at Yale: Porn, Political Correctness, and a Good Education Gone Bad is a recent graduate’s observations that things have tragically gone awry at the “cradle of presidents.” If I were reviewing the work, I would conclude that it is repetitious, somewhat alarmist, certainly punchy in some places and probably a better 2,500-word essay than a 300-page book. However, it certainly has content worth examining and a message worth considering.
In essence, the book reflects this student's experience at Yale, specifically, his observations of the Yale community and its drift to being a community without morality or purpose. He offers candid descriptions of the Yale environment, including the bi-annual sex week where porn producers are allowed on campus to give demonstrations on sexual technique; where an art student, with departmental approval, displayed an art project she claimed was created from the blood and tissue of repeated self-induced “miscarriages”; where a professor is allegedly employed who praises Hamas terrorism. Writer Harden’s list is, unfortunately, much longer.
This is not easy stuff to read. Beyond the dismay that most would feel knowing that one of our most respected universities has walked away from their influential role in educating about truth, morality and respect, it is frightening to imagine the generation of young adults that they are creating to lead our businesses, influence our communities and guide the world. Will they be able to build a better world with a complete lack of character building in the years where they tell us the brain is still maturing?
I was most affected by the light the author shed on how the hedonistic culture of Yale, and perhaps hundreds of other colleges, impacts the treatment of women students; to the point the university became the subject of a federal investigation for allegedly creating a hostile environment for women. No wonder. But of more concern, here is an environment where women are treated as no more than sex objects with no concern, no compassion, no relationship and no responsibility for their well being – and it does not make front-page news, or even local action to demand that those in charge create a different environment. Nothing. Just silence as the games continue, and they play their part.
As one who serves an institution that believes there is truth and seeks to find it, as imperfect we may be in that endeavor, I am reminded how profoundly different our environment is. I am not naive when it comes to the statistics of sexual activity among young adults nor do I pretend that, even at a Christian college, we don't have challenges with alcohol abuse, drug addiction, immoral behavior and bad judgment. But, I can proclaim three things:
First, we do believe there is truth. And, in our case, the foundation for that truth is the Bible -- the inspired word of God. We begin there, humbly, to understand the ageless definitions of morality that have guided, and served well, for thousands of years. While a community may seek at any point in time to justify immoral behavior, their seeking to justify it does not make it moral. Just because some cultures have condoned the sacrifice of children does not make it right. Just because a college student handles sexual promiscuity with repeated visits to the abortion clinic does not make that right either. The sanctity of life is an eternal truth whether we choose to honor it or not. At Lipscomb, we seek to understand those truths and hold them up as worthy for college students to learn and accept.
Second, we believe that character in one's life is as important as competency in one's profession. There is no question that Yale graduates competent, bright, talented young people who will have every advantage to succeed and lead our nation as many have ably done. Sadly, with moments like the impeachment of our 42nd president who himself is a Yale graduate, it is grossly apparent that competence can exist without moral character or the respect of women.
Character building is messy, it is risky, and any institution courageous enough to attempt it knows that it will never be fully successful. Perhaps that is why our most academically respected institutions of higher learning -- almost all of which began as faith-based colleges -- simply walk away from the task. As a nation, we will be affected in negative ways because they did.
- Third, we believe that, however grown up our college students appear to be, they still long for guidance, seek answers to the larger questions of life, appreciate moral boundaries and count on the adults in their lives to be responsible adults. Long ago, colleges gave up in loco parentis (in the place of parents) as a description of their relationship to students. And it is completely understandable that college administrators are pleased to pass on that responsibility while students advocate for the perceived freedom of adulthood. It’s easier.
I am not advocating a return to that environment, but neither can I feel that the responsibility to guide successful learning is carried out when administrators cower from the tasks of reflecting what they hope to see in young people and fail to intentionally seek to influence values and behavior. At Lipscomb, we seek to "be there" in the complex process of maturity, sharing at least our perspective of what is right, what is just and what is of lasting significance. Not all will accept our perspective, and we must be humble and compassionate in the sharing of it. Nevertheless, we will do so.
I have published two books -- neither of which had a title as scintillating as Sex and God at Yale. That may be why neither was on the bestseller list. Beyond the title, Sex and God at Yale, is an alarming description of one slice of our nation's slide into a less respectful, less moral and less responsible society. And it is in the very institution that should be molding the next generation of society's leaders.