by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Chris West writes for the Martin Center about the threat of wokeness within a Duke Divinity School education.
My first year at Duke Divinity is, well, not quite what I expected. For one, I was hoping to take classes in Gothic buildings and worship in the beautiful wood-laden chapel. Instead, I have been at a desk in my less-impressive apartment.
The year was also unexpected in another way. When I told friends I would be attending Duke Divinity, I would get negative or cautionary responses. Many well-intentioned people warned that Duke’s faculty would try to turn me into a Methodist or a Marxist.
“At any divinity school, you have to be careful not to lose your soul…but at Duke Divinity, you have to be careful not to lose your mind as well,” an older gentleman told me.
Those sentiments echo Rod Dreher in The American Conservative, who writes about one student’s negative views at Duke Divinity. In his article, Dreher shared a current student’s concerns about the direction of the divinity program. Dreher also points out what seem to be some notable instances of wokeness at Duke from faculty and students on Twitter, suggesting that Duke has become “radically divorced from anything like historically normative Christianity.”
Dreher’s concern is understandable given that Duke Divinity has been the subject of controversy since its firing of Paul Griffiths, a conservative faculty member who spoke out against training offered by the Racial Equity Institute (an organization that also offers diversity training for UNC schools).
I like many of the things Dreher has written and appreciate that he also published a rebuttal by fellow Duke Divinity student Ben Davison. In his defense of Duke Divinity, Davison rightfully identifies Duke as a great place to study theology.
Duke isn’t only a great place to study, however. Duke Divinity, despite its past controversies and some current problems, is an example for other seminaries to follow. “Woke” professors and students have not destroyed the institution; their existence on campus shows its commitment to preparing students for the real world and the university’s commitment to academic freedom.