Letter to the Editor: On Marquette President Michael Lovell
Essentially, fundamentalism is a form of fideistic, a priori conviction that one’s sect alone knows the absolute truth about the true and the good. Only in its confines is salvation to be found. The faithful cement their bond by the use of a special terminology: King James Bible only, which alone is inerrant, the Rapture, a literal six day creation and Sabbath rest, a young earth, of perhaps a very few thousand years, a second blessing, etc. Whatever the religious content, they alone know the absolute truth. Doubters and dissenters are purged through excommunication. In an earlier era, they were tortured into recantation or burned at the stake.
Yet Christian fundamentalism is far from being the only variety. It’s the only variety, however, it’s permissible to publicly mock.
The president of Marquette University, Dr. Michael Lovell, is a true believer belonging to a different, more recently developed fundamentalist cult. This is the dogmatic faith known as political correctness. It’s anthem, if it had one, would be, “Gimme That New Time Religion.”
The flock recognizes its members by Shibboleths bleated by its sheep who safely graze the fields of academia: diversity, multiculturalism, inclusion, welcoming, white privilege, hate speech, offensiveness, insensitivity, social justice, etc. Its priests and prophets are the administrators and elitist faculty of most universities. Its revivalist tents and temples are buildings funded by often out of touch alumni.
At Marquette, a prophetic provost presents the new Thou Shalt Not imperatives inscribed in tablets of stone: homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, heterosexism, sexism, classism, logophobia, eurocentrism, speciesism, lookism, oppression (of select self-identified victim groups), hegemony of Western Civilization, and so on. Here, too, doubters and dissenters are not tolerated. They are excluded as dangerous heretics from whom the faithful must protect their prospective converts. Widespread excommunication isn’t just medieval anymore.
The Cheryl Abbate case at Marquette was a morality play in which she was cast as a martyred Joan of Arc by Dr. Lovell. What heroic virtue, one may reasonably ask, is exemplified by one who silenced free speech in an academic setting? What was supererogatory about condemning the Magisterium’s teaching against homosexual acts as “homophobia”? On a questionably Roman Catholic campus, what was excellent in forbidding discussion of the natural law arguments honed by contemporary philosophers? Abbate corrupted by politicizing the Socratic Method. In this she sinned against philosophy, as did the Department Chair and others who supported her.
A well established, respected and tenured professor came under the ban for protesting this on his private blog. For supporting an undergraduate student wrongly oppressed by Abbate, Dr. John McAdams was condemned as a dangerous dissenter and anathematized. He was blamed for apparently hateful communications Abbate received. In other words, the guilt of others unknown to McAdams was imputed to him. Dr. Lovell ought to have been advised that the imputation of sins was only possible in the case of Jesus Christ. Only he was able to take on himself the sins of others, indeed, of the world.
The fundamentalism of Dr. Lovell and his politically correct cult is reminiscent of the religious zeal that led to the burning of heretics at the stake. It’s troublingly easy to visualize him, with grim satisfaction, setting the torch to the stake. These days, he can only torch the reputation of an accomplished professor. And this, of course, while whistling “Gimme That New Time Religion.”
(McCamy is a 1996 Ph.D. graduate of Marquette’s Philosophy Department)