I recently gave a talk about my new book, Sex & God at Yale, at Hillsdale College–a really special institution in rural Michigan that teaches its students to think critically about the truth and avoids the liberal indoctrination so rampant at most other colleges.

Hillsdale publishes a very popular monthly newsletter, Imprimis, which reaches more than two million readers. They were kind enough to publish an article in this month’s edition, based on the talk I gave at the school back in October. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

IN 1951, William F. Buckley, Jr., a graduate of Yale the year before, published his first book, God & Man at Yale. In the preface, he described two ideas that he had brought with him to Yale and that governed his view of the world:

“I had always been taught, and experience had fortified the teachings, that an active faith in God and a rigid adherence to Christian principles are the most powerful influences toward the good life. I also believed, with only a scanty knowledge of economics, that free enterprise and limited government had served this country well and would probably continue to do so in the future.”

The body of the book provided evidence that the academic agenda at Yale was openly antagonistic to those two ideas—that Buckley had encountered a teaching and a culture that were hostile to religious faith and that promoted collectivism over free market individualism. Rather than functioning as an open forum for ideas, his book argued, Yale was waging open war upon the faith and principles of its alumni and parents.

Liberal bias at American colleges and universities is something we hear a lot about today. At the time, however, Buckley’s exposé was something new, and it stirred national controversy. The university counterattacked, and Yale trustee Frank Ashburn lambasted Buckley and his book in the pages of Saturday Review magazine.

Whether God & Man at Yale had any effect on Yale’s curriculum is debatable, but its impact on American political history is indisputable. It argued for a connection between the cause of religious faith on the one hand, and the cause of free market economics on the other. In a passage whose precise wording was later acknowledged to have been the work of Buckley’s mentor Willmoore Kendall—a conservative political scientist who was driven out of Yale a few years later—Buckley wrote:

“I consider this battle of educational theory important and worth time and thought even in the context of a world situation that seems to render totally irrelevant any fight except the power struggle against Communism. I myself believe that the duel between Christianity and atheism is the most important in the world. I further believe that the struggle between individualism and collectivism is the same struggle reproduced on another level.”

This idea, later promoted as “fusionism” in Buckley’s influential magazine National Review, would become the germ of the Reagan coalition that united social conservatives and free market libertarians—a once-winning coalition that has been lately unraveling.

I graduated from Yale in 2009, fifty-nine years after Buckley. I had a chance to meet him a couple of years before his death, at a small gathering at the home of a professor. Little did I know at the time that I would write a book of my own that would serve, in some ways, as a continuation of his famous critique.

My book—which I entitled Sex and God at Yale—shows that Yale’s liberals are still actively working to refashion American politics and culture. But the devil is in the details, and it’s safe to say that there are things happening at Yale today that Buckley could scarcely have even imagined in 1951. While the Yale of Buckley’s book marginalized or undermined religious faith in the classroom, my book tells of a classmate who was given approval to create an art object out of what she claimed was blood and tissue from self-induced abortions. And while the Yale of Buckley’s book was promoting socialist ideas in its economics department, my book chronicles Yale’s recent employment of a professor who publicly praised terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah.

My, how times have changed!

There is clearly a radical sexual agenda at work at Yale today. Professors and administrators who came of age during the sexual revolution are busily indoctrinating students into a culture of promiscuity. In fact, Yale pioneered the hosting of a campus “Sex Week”—a festival of sleaze, porn, and debauchery, dressed up as sex education. I encountered this tawdry tradition as an undergrad, and my book documents the events of Sex Week, including the screening in classrooms of hard-core pornography and the giving of permission to sex toy manufacturers and porn production companies to market their products to students.

In one classroom, a porn star stripped down to bare breasts, attached pinching and binding devices to herself as a lesson in sadomasochism, and led a student around the room in handcuffs. On other occasions, female students competed in a porn star look-alike contest judged by a male porn producer, and a porn film showing a woman bound and beaten was screened in the context of “instruction” on how students might engage in relationships of their own…

For the full article and to check out Imprimis, visit this link.

Or, better yet, buy the book!


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Was Martin Luther King, Jr a conservative? The answer, I think, yes and no. As the face of the 1960’s civil rights movement King argued to advance the causes of organized labor and advocated civil disobedience as a means of resisting racial injustice. Those aren’t things we typically associate with conservatives.

On the other hand, King had no interest in the identity politics that make up so much of the racial politics of liberals today. He argued, most powerfully, for people to be judged by “the content of their character,” not the color of their skin. This argument meshes well with the modern conservatives’ emphasis on individualism and personal responsibility.

At CNN.com, John Blake posts some thoughts on the issue:

As the nation celebrates King’s national holiday Monday, a new battle has erupted over his legacy. Some conservatives are saying it’s time for them to reclaim the legacy of King, whose message of self-help, patriotism and a colorblind America, they say, was “fundamentally conservative.”

But those who marched with King and studied his work say that notion is absurd. The political class that once opposed King, they argue, is now trying to distort his message.

King’s most famous words are the crux of the disagreement.

“He was against all policies based on race,” says Peter Schramm, a conservative historian. “The basis of his attack on segregation was ‘judge us by the content of our character, not by the color of our skin.’ That’s a profound moral argument.”

I think the answer lies partly in understanding that conservatism itself has changed since the 1960’s. The states-rights conservatism of that day has gone extinct in the mainstream Republican and Democratic parties, insofar as the abolishing of segregation via federal power is now universally celebrated. No major figure in either party today would argue to uphold segregation on the basis of state’s rights.

Yet the left has certainly abandoned King’s vision of a color-blind society, where all would be judged (and indeed all would judge themselves) on the basis of character rather than melanin. And it’s hard to imagine King endorsing the modern left-wing policy of perpetual racial quotas as permanent solution to inequality. And it’s impossible to imagine him doing the kind of blatant race-mongering and profiteering that passes for civil rights leadership among those several men who have sought to fill King’s place as the spiritual and political leader of black America. I don’t need to name names.

I don’t think King would fit perfectly today into either mainstream party when it comes to race issues. The fact is, mainstream liberals have moved away from King’s most enduring principle–that we should assess the individual without regard to skin color. Meanwhile, mainstream conservatives have moved toward him in several important areas–realizing once and for all that states’ rights are secondary to natural rights under the U.S. Constitution.

Was Martin Luther King a conservative?

Maybe that’s the wrong question.

A better one would be this: Are today’s conservatives more like King?

The answer is, yes.

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Image Source: U.S. Library of Congress

Via The American Spectator:

Reagan’s father, Jack… got a job at the big Fair Store on Chicago’s south side, thinking his career would take off there. [The family] rented a cold-water flat in a four-story apartment building at 832 East 57th Street in the Hyde Park neighborhood. Young “Dutch” Reagan (that was his nickname from birth until he moved to Hollywood in 1937) had his first memories in that flat. In a letter years later, he writes about the thrill of seeing horses pulling the fire wagon down the street at a gallop. February 6 that year marked his fourth birthday. While living in Chicago he also nearly died from a serious case of pneumonia.

The building the Reagans lived in is about to be demolished. The land now belongs to the University of Chicago’s Medical Center and the plan is to replace it with a grassy strip bordering what will be a new parking lot.

The Commission on Chicago Landmarks turned down an appeal to give the building landmark status on the grounds that it “does not have sufficient architectural significance” and “is not associated with Mr. Reagan during his active and productive years.” As to the first reason, the building is a good example of vernacular architecture of the era. As to the second, this site, along with all the other places the 40th president lived in as a boy, figured in the development of his character (his political philosophy came later) and thus is important to understanding this very significant president.

If this were the childhood home of Barack Obama, do you think there is any way the University of Chicago would be planning to tear it down?

Read the full story here.

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Presidential elections always seem more consequential than they really are. A loss feels so final, so fatal. A victory feels so much like hope. But, in the end, luckily, presidents aren’t all that powerful.

Don’t get me wrong. Elections have consequences. That seventeen trillion dollar national debt we now have is real. The loss of liberty Americans will suffer under Obama’s healthcare mandate, and the corresponding debt burden our children will carry—it’s real.

The national security threats we face abroad and at home, exacerbated by bad decisions in the White House—very real. Let’s hope Obama can handle a nuclear-armed Iran better than he did the rabble riot in Benghazi. He may get the chance to try before his second term is out.

The consequences of election 2012 are real, but the differences are on the margins. Look at the Bush years. We had a huge increase in entitlement spending with the Medicare prescription drug plan. Republicans hardly batted and eye as they voted for it. A few years later, Obama took things a step closer to a European style healthcare system. Subtly, slowly, but oh so surely, we are trading quality, choice and innovation for the illusions of security. And boy, what a price tag.

Democrats, Republicans—the direction is the same, only the pace of change differs.

In recent decades, even a large Republican-appointed majority on the Supreme Court could not achieve basic protections for the unborn in this country. And our abortion laws remain even more liberal than those in Europe. The court appointments are consequential—yes–but only, it seems, on the margins.

Real Leadership

Except, sometimes, there is something different. Every once in a while someone comes along who actually changes hearts, and changes the course of history. It’s called leadership. Not the leadership of the boardroom variety, not leadership of the committee.

I’m speaking of a different kind of leader—one who speaks to the soul of a nation. A Churchill or a Lincoln comes along, usually when he’s most needed, in a critical hour, in a moment of danger, when everything’s on the line.

That hour, in all likelihood, will come sooner to America than any of us would like. National calamity strikes once every three or four generations. It’s inevitable. Big wars. Viral epidemics. Economic collapse. Nuclear winter. Trials that could make 9/11 or Hurricane Sandy look like the easy times. Our hard days will come.

Cormac McCarthy gave us one possible view of the future in his novel, The Road. It’s a horror story more terrible than anything Hollywood ever dreamed up, mostly because it seems so plausible. Food supply, civilization, law and order—it’s all very fragile. The lesson: We’ve been very lucky so far.

The man from Massachusetts, for all his talents, was never cut out to be a game-changing leader. He’s a talented, decent man. But Romney was never going to do more than manage America’s decline. He is gifted with the ability to manage people, not to change hearts. One never got the feeling that Romney really knew what he wanted to do when he got to the White House.

I get the same feeling about the guy from Chicago. For him too, being president feels like an end unto itself. For all the hyped rhetoric we heard four years ago, all the talk of hope and change, this year Obama articulated no reason for a second term, no vision. Ask a Democrat what they want to see happen in the next four years. All you’ll hear is, “We want Obama.” It was about holding onto power, warming a chair in the oval office for four more years.

Democratic voters didn’t show up at the rallies this year. For them, it was about keeping the other guy out, not keeping their guy in. It was, as Obama said, the year of “revenge.” The president is out of ideas, and his followers feel the difference.

Obama’s Legacy

Obama’s legacy is more about symbolism than politics. He’s the antidote to the poisons of racism and slavery. Obama is the leader of a personality cult that, almost coincidentally, led to political consequences. Letting him ride free on Air Force One for eight years will be the price of washing our hands of the sins of our fathers.

Almost certainly, Obama will accomplish next to nothing for the next four years. Filibusters in the Senate, and the Republican majority in the House, will make sure of it. And even if Obama had super-majorities in Congress, I’m not sure he really knows what he’d do with it. Ultimately, that’s a good thing. His lack of vision limits the damage he’ll do.

Once in my lifetime, I’d like to see a president step down after his first term, to decline to stand for reelection, to admit, openly, that he has nothing left to contribute of any importance.

For now, inconsequence reigns supreme on Pennsylvania Avenue. My plea for Obama is this: enjoy your power, but please, do no more harm. Leave the Marxist platitudes on your bookshelf. I have numerous family members and friends who can’t find jobs and are losing their homes.

My best hope for the next four years is that Obama will play a couple hundred more rounds of golf. Out there on the fairways and greens, he’s done his best work as president.

Before long, the reign of inconsequential men will collide with some dreadful turn in human history. I’m not being pessimistic, just realistic. And when that day comes we won’t be able to afford the kinds of leaders we have now. We’ll have to find another Lincoln.

Nathan Harden’s new book, Sex & God at Yale: Porn, Political Correctness, and a Good Education Gone Bad (St. Martin’s, 2012), was recently named a New York Times Editor’s Choice Pick. He is Editor of The College Fix.

(Cross-posted from the International Business Times)

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(Image: Pete Souza for The Official White House Photostream)