Sunday, February 7, 2016

Sunday---The Line of Good and Evil Going Through Every Human Heart: Should Princeton Strip Honor From President Woodrow Wilson?

THIS IS A BALANCED, THOUGHTFUL PIECE BY TREVIN WAX AT THE GOSPEL COALITION ON WHETHER PRINCETON SHOULD 'DEMOTE' ITS ALUM, THE FORMER PRESIDENT, DUE TO HIS VIEWS ON RACE.  As is often the case in life, the over-simplified answer is not in touch with reality and the Biblical response to human nature---we all are 'deeply flawed':

“We owe nothing to people who are ‘deeply flawed’.”

So says Wilglory Tanjong, writing for the Black Justice League, to explain why Princeton University should strip its buildings and titles of any reference to one of the school’s most notable alumni, former president Woodrow Wilson. The Black Justice League believes Wilson’s achievements as president a century ago are overshadowed by atrocious views on race and segregation.

How has Princeton responded to the demands to demote Wilson?

According to Tanjong, the administration claims “we owe a great deal to people who are deeply flawed, and not many people can transcend the prejudices of the times they lived in.” Instead of sitting in judgment, the administration recommends we “assess ourselves with great humility because we, too, are flawed, and it’s likely that we will also be guilty of sins and prejudices that to future generations who look back on our own legacies will be very obvious.”

We could sum up Princeton’s position as an application of the Golden Rule in temporal terms: Do unto others (in the past) what you would have others (in the future) do unto you.

Tanjong’s response rejects that possibility out of hand: “We owe nothing to people who are ‘deeply flawed.’” Wilson’s sin in one area outweighs anything good he may have done in another. He is due no honor.

Who is right here?

Wax goes on to elaborate on the conservative as well as the progressive errors in reviewing history and complex human nature. He moves on with how we can best assess our forebearers in light of taking stock in our own human flaws.  It's a thoughtful read and quotes one of my favorite figures from the past:

Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn endured years of abuse in the Gulag for opposing the Communist regime. Solzhenitsyn recognized that most people cannot be easily categorized “good” and “bad.” Life is simply too complex. “The line of good and evil runs through every human heart,” he wrote. That insight comes not from a man of privilege, cloistered in an ivory tower, sheltered from suffering. It comes from someone who looked evil squarely in the eye, and yet was incisive enough to see evil lurking in his own heart. Well worth a thoughtful read.

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