Neither True, Nor Good, Nor Beautiful . . . But Redeemable

I belong to about a dozen “groups” on Facebook, all of which are conservative or Christian in outlook, except for one. This group is for college professors. I won’t mention the name, because the moderator has been generous with me and genuinely open-minded. I’d like to describe what I see there, as it reveals some things about the state of affairs in our schools.

The discussions almost always have to do with current politics. On other sites, people may discuss books they have read or films they have seen, or interesting articles they have come upon that have to do with astrophysics, archaeology, history—especially history. But the college professors seem to be strangely unlikely to be reading things that inspire them by their revelation of what is true, good, and beautiful.

Nor do they seem to be aware of this omission. I have taken note of that throughout my career. In the many decades before the Western Civilization Program at my old school, Providence College, was gutted, the professors who wanted to obliterate it never read the syllabi, attended a class, or got down to the specific merits of the Odyssey or the Oresteia. They did not desire that the Hindu Rig-Veda be taught; for what contemporary political use could you make of that? They desired that Genesis and the Timaeus not be taught. The opponents were characterized by what they wanted the students not to read.

The tenor of the discussions is often disturbing. I do not mean that the professors are vitriolic in their hatred of President Trump. I expect that. Politics is eminently a realm of hatred. I mean that the professors are more likely than anybody in the other groups or among my 5,000 “friends” to use obscenity, and to accuse those who dare to oppose them of having evil motives, or of being just plain stupid.

This is, if anything, truer of the female professors than of the male; they have the fouler mouths. It is the kind of thing that shuts discussion down, and I suppose that is the point. The spirit is not that of a gentlemen’s debating society. It is touchy and aggressive, like a mining crew gone bad, but without the ore. It is low-class, like a dozen men of Appalachia getting plastered in the woods with moonshine, but without the camaraderie and the drunken songs.

The obscenity is, of course, essentially violent, so it should not surprise me that now and then someone there will indulge in daydreams of violence, or will reveal a commitment to violence, to “killing Nazis,” as one has said. They hate racists, or people whom they call racists, more than they love blacks. Otherwise they might notice that if pro-life people were to win the day, we would have far more African Americans born in the United States, not fewer, and their percentage of the general population would rise, not fall.

But the professors are committed to abortion. That, and whatever has to do with sex, will bring out the female professors. They accept all the absurd analogies the Pelvic Left has dreamed up: that the fetus is an invader, a parasite, a wholly unexpected and accidental result of sexual intercourse, someone who kidnaps you and binds you to a dialysis machine, and so forth.

It does not occur to them that the sexual revolution before which they kneel has punched holes in the bucket that the poorest among us must use. They say they are for the poor, but I do not believe for a moment that they would make deeply personal sacrifices for them.

They do not see that they are far more like Donald Trump than unlike. He believes that so long as your business enterprise is legally permitted and it makes money, we need not ask what that business is. They believe that so long as your sexual enterprise is legally permitted and it gives you pleasure, we need not ask what you are doing and what it implies for the social order.

The professors, though, have less excuse than the builder of a casino does. That is because casinos touch only people who gamble, and their families. The sexual revolution has gotten to everybody. It has corrupted the very idea of family.

But their obliviousness is also no surprise, since not one of the professors ever writes about religious faith, except to sneer at it or hold it under suspicion. They do not want “God forced down our throats,” as one of them put it. It does not occur to them, it would not occur to them in 100 years, that religious communities have been a lifeline for the poor; that the blacks whom they champion used to have very strong churches, bastions against destitution, sources of ready and personal help in time of need, and builders of moral virtues in the young.

It does not occur to them, it would never occur to them, that their eagerness to sweep religious faith from the public sphere is an eagerness to rob people of culture itself, the heritage of mankind both rich and poor, but a greater blessing to the poor than to the rich. The rich man can travel the world and slide along the slick of one place after another and think himself cultured for it. The poor man cannot do that, but when he and his fellows sing “O Sacred Head Surrounded” in a church on Good Friday, they are rooted in a reality that transcends the span of their lives; they stand upon the brink of eternity.

But I remain in the group. These people are intelligent and, by their lights, well-intended. If I can now and then induce in them some little doubt about themselves, I’ll have done my job. Maybe when the false god is booted from the throne, they may search for the true God instead.

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About Anthony Esolen

Anthony Esolen is a Distinguished Fellow of the Center for American Greatness, a senior editor for Touchstone Magazine, and a contributing editor for Chronicles. He is the author of well over 1,000 articles and of 28 books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization (Regnery Press, 2008); Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child (ISI Books, 2010) ; Life under Compulsion (ISI 2015). His verse translation of The Divine Comedy (Random House) is considered the standard edition of Dante. Professor Esolen's most recent books are Defending Manhood: Why Civilization Depends on the Strength of Men (Regnery, 2022); In the Beginning Was the Word (Ignatius, 2021); Sex and the Unreal City (Ignatius, 2020); Nostalgia: Going Home in a Homeless World (Regnery, 2018); and his beautiful book-length sacred poem, The Hundredfold (Ignatius, 2018). He is a Distinguished Professor at Thales College. Click here to subscribe to his substack Word and Song.

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