In this post in my series “God and Man at Yale Divinity,” I discuss my eleventh week at YDS and celebrating my first Veterans Day at Yale.
Estimated Reading Time: 11 minutes
This week, we celebrated Veterans Day at Yale, a time of the year where the elites unintentionally allow the thin veil hiding their simmering contempt for military service to slip.
Don’t get me wrong. Yale leadership makes an institutional effort to express appreciation toward the veteran community. Still, I think it would take an extreme level of naiveté to believe that the Yale community at large holds anything better than soft contempt toward the military.
My first Veterans Day at Yale, however, was not the only event of the week. Overall, it was another great week at Yale Divinity School. Like someone working his way into a hot bath, however, I still find myself getting used to the cultural change of coming here.
It will take a bit of time, I think.
Still Grinding Away at Papers
I’m finally making some progress on my New Testament paper. I’m hoping to complete the research part and begin a draft by Monday, but we’ll see. That may be unrealistic.
I am, nonetheless, anxious to complete this paper, so I can move onto the next one in my World Christianity class.
Things are starting to pile up, and deadlines are quickly approaching. It’s crazy to think how close the semester is to ending. We just had Veterans Day at Yale. Soon, it will be Thanksgiving and then Christmas break.
Still, I have a lot of work left to do before then.
As I mentioned before, I’m writing my New Testament paper on John 19:26-27. There is a lot to work with in these two verses, but I think I’m going to argue that John uses this passage to bolster the authority of the Gospel by suggesting that Mary is a primary source from whom he drew.
I think I’m going to title the paper, “Mary as a Cited Source in the Gospel of John,” or something like that.
I haven’t found anyone else who has made a similar point, which is both exciting and nerve-wracking. I could end up making a pretty absurd argument. I guess we’ll see.
I have enjoyed my Intermediate Greek class, but it is a steady drip of work. The vocabulary, in particular, is getting quite extensive.
It looks like we’re going to get down to memorizing all words that occur at least ten times in the New Testament, which amounts to about 1,100 words. It does, however, obviously make getting around the Bible without a concordance a lot easier.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that Yale is offering any Greek exegesis classes next semester, which I find disappointing, particularly in light of the other courses they are offering.
For example, I got an email about a class Yale Divinity School is offering next semester on the art depicting resistance to American imperialism in the Philippines. That this course would be offered but not a Greek exegesis course seems to demonstrate a backward set of priorities at a prominent Divinity School.
But I guess that’s just my perspective. A lot of people here are really into the social justice milieu, while I’m here for the academics. So, my interests do not always line up with the interests of others here, and everything shouldn’t revolve around what I expect.
Still, I do find it strange that they have an entire class devoted to the resistance of “American imperialism” in the Philippines that took place during a time when the communists in Russia were actually murdering Christians for being Christians.
I would be surprised, however, if I ever saw a class here devoted to the evils of communism.
Regardless, I’m holding out hope that they will add a Greek class at the last minute, but, from speaking with the registrar, that seems unlikely. The New Testament faculty has been depleted due to retirements and sabbaticals, so the offers may be lean next semester.
The Historical Jesus
Our last section in New Testament discussed the quest for the historical Jesus. There have been various movements over the previous two hundred years or so to try to discover the historical Jesus, the man behind the Gospel stories.
The Results of the Search
The pictures of Jesus these efforts have produced have been varied, and, as Albert Schweitzer pointed out, generally reflect the scholars’ idealized versions of themselves.
The Jesus Seminar, which has obtained notoriety because of its hunger for media attention and for its sensationalist means of making determinations—voting on the authenticity of the sayings of Jesus using colored beads, for example—tends to start from the assumption that the miraculous is always impossible. Therefore, everything must comport around that presupposition.
Crossan, for example, explains the resurrection by saying Jesus’ body was eaten by dogs. I’m not sure what the evidence for that is.
I have his book sitting on my bookcase, so I guess I’ll find out when I get around to reading it.
During the last section, the teaching fellow asked us to list things that are said about the historical Jesus.
Some of these answers included the rather uncontroversial: he was a first-century Palestinian Jew living under Roman rule, he was crucified, he was a teacher of some sort, etc.
We also touched on some of the more controversial claims: he did miracles, he was a healer, he was raised from the dead, etc.
The teaching fellow then asked which of these things had to be historically accurate for us as individuals to maintain our faith or for the gospel to maintain some kind of meaning for us.
(Not everyone, including the teaching fellow, was a Christian, so this question was geared more toward the Christians in the course.)
I said the resurrection was indispensable. Like Joseph Ratzinger, I believe that the Gospels present an overall accurate portrayal of Jesus, even allowing for first-century storytelling techniques and license for the making of theological points.
Still, if Jesus didn’t really walk on water, as one example, that doesn’t threaten my faith. I can accept the Gospel writers’ telling a story to prove a theological point, even if that story didn’t “actually” happen.
Indeed, I could accept this about most everything else I affirm: the virgin birth, the feeding of the five thousand, etc. If those aren’t historical facts, I could still have faith.
If Jesus was not raised from the dead, however, that’s it for me. If we found Jesus’ body tomorrow, I would immediately cease to be a Christian.
In this, I echo the words of the apostle Paul. Without the resurrection, the Christian faith has no value and amounts to little more than a self-help program.
The reality is that Christianity is a historical faith. It is based in history, and it only exists because people believed that Jesus rose from the dead.
Without the resurrection, our faith is worthless, and it is on that that all other things hang.
Veterans Day at Yale
Veterans Day at Yale was interesting, to say the least. Big Yale’s leadership sent out email blasts to the entire student body celebrating veterans and veterans on campus.
At the Divinity School itself, they had a veteran lead the Marquand Chapel service, and there was a veterans’ breakfast held in one of the classrooms.
(The community is not large. Three veterans and two members of the administration showed up to the breakfast.)
The people involved were quite kind and sincere, and I really appreciate what they put together for us. The attitude of the larger Yale community toward veterans, however, is generally apathetic at best.
Veterans are the one protected class for which progressives care little. And whatever the institution says, its behavior toward the military in the not so distant past has demonstrated an overt hostility. (See below.)
On Veterans Day at Yale, the YDS administration provided a nice breakfast and demonstrated a kindness toward us that is frankly more than I expected when I came here.
It was not, however, advertised to anyone beyond the veterans.
I did not attend the Marquand service. So, the only mention of Veterans Day at Yale I heard outside the breakfast was a jab at the practice of thanking people for their service and a proclamation of the incompatibility of the Christian faith with military service during the homily at Berkeley morning prayer.
(Apparently, the Christian thing to do in the 40s would have been to allow the Nazis to overrun Europe.)
Yale and the Military
Yale’s past animosity toward the military is no secret. ROTC was removed from campus during the Vietnam War because, you know, it was the military’s fault we were in Vietnam. (Though, to be fair, the Yale Daily News claims it’s more complicated than that.)
ROTC was not allowed to return to campus until just a few years ago. The ostensive reason up to that point was that the military discriminated against homosexuals through the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
Again, as if the military made that decision. Congress made that law.
So, the school was unwilling to host ROTC—or allow recruiters on campus—because of military policy set, not by the military, but by the civilian leadership and the Congress.
Yet, the school had no problem taking money from that same government that imposed the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy on the military.
(The threat of losing federal funding is what finally forced Yale to allow military recruiters into the law school, for example. When I would do recruiting trips at various law schools during my time in the Air Force, because of activists at places like Yale, I had to complete a form after each visit detailing any hostility I received while I was there.)
When Congress repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the school ran out of pretenses and allowed ROTC back on campus.
Lonely Veterans at Yale
I am not naïve. I know that the elites generally disdain the military, and I know that Yale, whatever lip service senior administrators give to avoid public backlash, cares little for veterans.
A Forgotten Class
The administration broadcasts announcements celebrating other protected classes and puts on large, public events to honor them. That does not happen to the same extent for veterans, at least not that I have seen.
(Again, however, to be fair, an effort is being made. I have posted a video of the service Yale hosted honoring veterans.)
In addition, protests aimed at the military are (rightly) tolerated to a much greater extent than similar protests against other protected classes would be.
Don’t get me wrong, however. I am okay with that. That doesn’t bother me, and I doubt it bothers any other veterans.
I was never comfortable with people thanking me for my service when they would see me in uniform, and I always hated it when military personnel or veterans acted like they deserved some kind of recognition.
(I used to despise it when I would do legal assistance as a JAG officer and members would come in and act like they were entitled to special treatment because they were in the military—e.g., get out of their contracts, not pay rent, etc.)
My complaint, however, is the pretense. Better not to mention veterans at all than to provide disingenuous lip service. I would be much more comfortable in an environment where the disdain was out in the open than one in which the message doesn’t match the actual culture.
Society and the Military
The truth is, the wider society’s relationship with the military is a strange one. Conservatives tend to hold the military in too high esteem.
Having actually been in the military, I believe it is full of frequently inept individuals led by incompetent and self-absorbed leaders. (The heroism and self-sacrifice that is often celebrated is real but tends to exist at the lower levels.)
Deference to the military, therefore, is generally not genuine. “Support our Troops” becomes just another talking point to conservative—and sometimes liberal—politicians.
Progressives, however, seem to look upon the military with an almost paranoid level of suspicion.
I must say, however, that time in the military would do a lot of these progressives well. Many of them take every bump in the road as a great hardship and every “microaggression” as the highest insult.
Even after hearing about them beforehand, the narcissism and sanctimony that plagues the student population at Yale are a bit surprising. (Fortunately, however, I have found this to be less of an issue at the Divinity School.)
Isolating Nature of Service
Military service is isolating in a way. The number of veterans is rather small, and the attempts to pull veterans together or otherwise integrate them into the broader community seems to be lacking. (To be fair, though, some in the administration seem to be making a real effort.)
But veterans don’t need that. We are different in that way. We push forward and—this blog post notwithstanding—generally don’t complain about it.
We don’t need anyone else’s approval. We don’t need any deference or respect. We don’t need anyone else to understand.
It would be nice, however, to be left alone and not be subject to prodding and skepticism.
I’m grateful for the kind people at Yale Divinity School who have shown such consideration to me as I have made this transition.
Swimming the Tiber
In other news, my time here thus far has pushed me back to where I once found myself several years ago: in a place of being drawn toward Catholicism.
This week, I emailed the Catholic chapel here at Yale expressing my interest in beginning RCIA.
The tradition in Catholicism provides a bulwark against the faddish theological and social perspectives that have taken root in mainline Protestantism—and the parochial interests that have taken over evangelicalism.
Catholicism has a tradition to back itself up. It draws upon millennia of teaching, meaning changes would have to be in effect for centuries to take hold.
There’s something significant about that, something about the ability to resist fads, that I find particularly attractive.
It does, however, require a letting go, an acknowledgment that you can only contribute to the discussion because you will be dead long before it is resolved.
I’d Appreciate Your Support
I appreciate your taking the time to read my latest entry in my “God and Man at Yale Divinity” series.
If you have enjoyed my blog and would like to help me keep it going, I would really appreciate your support. I have set up a Patreon page for those who may be interested in supporting the work I’m doing here.
I make most of my work available for free. So, don’t feel pressured to provide support if you would simply like to keep reading my content for free. If you’d like to keep up with my latest free work, you can sign up for my newsletter. I won’t spam you and generally only send out updates three or four times per month, if not less.
If, however, you’d like to become a supporter, please visit my Patreon page. For $3.99 per month, you’ll receive posts in my “God and Man at Yale Divinity” series a week before they go public. You’ll also receive access to my academic papers that I am currently unable to make public.
In addition, during the academic year, you’ll receive weekly updates on the goings-on at Yale Divinity School. Since I don’t post the weekly blogs about the semester until after the semester ends, this will give you access to contemporaneous updates several months in advance.
If you’d like to be a supporter, just click here to head over to my Patreon page. If you sign up, you can cancel anytime.
If you would like to support me but don’t want to give through Patreon, I also accept donations to help me cover the overhead costs of running this site. If you feel like donating a little bit, I would appreciate it. Click here to make a one-time donation.
Thank you again for all your help and support.
While I was somewhat disappointed with my first experience of Veterans Day at Yale, I adamantly affirm that Yale Divinity School is a wonderful place. I encourage anyone—particularly veterans—interested in pursuing further theological education to apply.
If you’re interested in applying to Yale Divinity School, I encourage you to begin your application here. You can also request additional information from the YDS website.
If you would like to support the work of Yale Divinity School, please consider making a donation.
If you have any questions about Yale Divinity School, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I speak for myself, not for Yale, but I’m happy to answer questions from interested students the best that I can.