Namby-Pamby Christianity and Catering to the Secularists: Yale Divinity School Struggles to Justify Its Existence

If you have to invent new lines of work for your graduates to go into, it is time to close up shop as a divinity school. If you have to try to poach students from schools of social work or hope to heaven (not that many people at Yale Divinity School believe there is such a thing) that institutions that have been rendered increasingly hostile to religion (by elite universities like Yale) will create chaplaincies that your graduates can serve in, it is time to close up shop.

When your dean says something as namby-pamby as this about faith:

But they’re going to then look to what we traditionally call God. What I’m going to call God.

It might be time to say: “You know what—maybe Yale Divinity School does not have any purpose anymore and should not be taking tuition money from “spiritual” students (or the government in the form of student loans) or plunging students into debt—students who are heading off to careers at social justice nonprofits where they will be paid meager salaries that will not cover their student loan burdens, whereupon they will demand loan forgiveness that will burden the working and jobless people they claim to be helping.” (Although, come to think of it, many Yale Divinity School graduates will end up being paid enormous salaries thanks to the gullibility and largess of the wealthy woke.)

These thoughts occur to one upon reading the April 27, 2022 Yale Daily News article, Keeping the faith: Divinity School administrators reflect on America’s movement towards secularism.

The article starts off with gloomy statistics about the decline in religiosity in general and church membership or other religious affiliation in particular.

Reflecting on why that might be, Dean Gregory Sterling muses about a general societal malaise and distrust of institutions, such as churches, corporations and universities. Notably, he does not mention the deleterious effects of elite sneering about average religious people and the undermining of the social fabric that results from such attitudes among the powerful. Rather than issue a clarion call for a redoubling of the basic beliefs of Christianity and other faiths, Dean Sterling, in his predictably uninspiring fashion, tries to figure out how to craft careers for progressives who don’t seem to want to “identify” as religious:

To adjust to this climate, the Yale Divinity School has implemented several different offices that allow students more diversity in their future endeavors. The school has created an office that prepares students for non-profit and justice leadership. In addition, they are trying to expand their chaplaincy program. In recent years, the school has added new concentrations within its Masters of Arts program in the hope of appealing to a broader constituency, according to Dean of the Divinity School Gregory Sterling.

“We’ve realized that a lot of people who want to serve will not necessarily go to serve churches, but will still want to serve the not-for-profit world, whether it’s a homeless center, whether it’s some type of a charitable organization,” Sterling said. “There’s a huge range of these opportunities.”

I’m sorry—why would you need a degree from Yale Divinity School to help out at a homeless shelter? If you want to help make and serve meals, you don’t need much more than an eighth-grade education, a friendly face and a kindly heart. If the homeless shelter needed professional-level help with fundraising, an MBA might help. If the homeless shelter provides medical care to its clientele, a nursing degree or an MD would be useful.

Just think of the money that Dean Sterling is slurping up to create new programs at Yale Divinity School. You have to hand it to Mr. Sterling—he certainly is good at instilling a sense, not of religious mission but of utter careerism among the social-justice-focused Divinity School student body:

Currently, the Divinity School’s population can be roughly divided into three categories, according to Sterling. One third of students typically establish a career in Christian church ministry, serving as pastors of churches, hospitals, universities and other places of worship. Another third of students remain in academia and pursue another degree. The final third of students — which Sterling said is steadily increasing — use their Divinity School degree for social justice work and establish themselves in the nonprofit sector.

Yeah, that is what poor neighborhoods need. Not more dentists or physical therapists or people with skills that would help poor people get out of poverty, like accountants and math teachers, but activists at yet more nonprofits.

And if helping people on a personal level is not appealing to the ambitious social justice warrior, she should get a law degree.

But why acquire skills that could improve lives, when Dean Sterling is busily creating programs for you to establish yourself in the nonprofit sector? If you are serious about living parasitically as a denizen of the ever-growing social justice nonprofit sector, a Yale Divinity School degree does have a certain cachet among progressives who do the hiring and who want to lend a veneer of “spirituality” to their anger-based activities.

And it is not just the dean who is trying his mightiest to cater to those who want to live their professional lives in a sector that treats human beings as career fodder. An associate dean is on the case, too:

Bill Goettler, associate dean for ministerial and social leadership, helps students figure out what they will do with their Masters of Divinity degree. Goettler said he has noticed an increasing set of students hoping to establish a career in the non-profit sector.

Think of all the soup ingredients that could have been purchased with that all the tuition money. But the hungry will just have to do without while all those degrees in divinity are obtained.

Thank goodness that we have an associate dean to tell us that the best way to help the oppressed is not to equip ourselves to actually help them. No, indeed. Rather, we need to attend an expensive divinity school which is not terribly big on discussing traditional faith:

Goettler said that students at the Divinity School are looking to lead lives with meaning and tackle bigger questions, rather than simply acquiring a set of skills. Through their studies — whether religious or secular — divinity students are discovering what is “good and just” for society and how to build a welcoming community for all.

Whether religious or secular? Isn’t the point of a divinity school to study, you know, the divine?

A student quoted in the article seems to feel that it is perfectly fine to spend time in a divinity school that offers up mishmash of leftist politics and New Age spirituality:

And, of course, there are also many students who come to YDS without any particular religious affiliation who take what they’ve learned here and allow it to inform all different fields of work — from nonprofits and community organizing to law, healthcare.

Again, why not just skip the Divinity School part? After all, if you have a strong religious faith you aren’t going to need the thin gruel on offer at Yale Divinity School and the group that Sterling seems to want to cater to is, again, gauzily “spiritual”

Sterling said that secularism should not be understood as the direct opposite of the sacred or the religious. The issue, he added, is too nuanced to be reduced to a dichotomy.

At the Divinity School, people are expressing their religious affiliations in new ways, Sterling said. The second-largest group of divinity students — after Christians — are called “seekers,” and they are spiritual but not religious. Seekers, Sterling explained, have rejected the institutional forms of religion, rather than religion itself.

Say what? Spiritual but not religious but who have not rejected religion itself? And this guy is the dean of Yale Divinity School.

Probably time to shut Yale Divinity School down and allocate its resources to other departments, like philosophy or social work. Those with authentic religious faith can skip divinity school or go to one where religious is paramount and not contribute to the coffers of a divinity school in name only.

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