Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Patrick Henry College update

It turns out that one of the protagonists at Patrick Henry College describes himself as a loyal NLT reader. Erik Root, whose essay on St. Augustine was no longer available at its original location, provided a copy to me. You can read it for yourself here, thanks to the efforts of Ashbrook’s Ben Kunkel.

If you haven’t had your fill of PHC-related material, you can work your way through this spirited exchange of posts or engage in some Schadenfreude with this columnist and his commenters.

For those of you not up on your 17th century theology, some of what’s going on here is a debate between Calvinists and Arminians, not to be confused with Armenians. The incoming president of PHC, Graham Walker, sounds kinda Arminian to me. The college’s statement of faith would seem to encompass both contending points of view, but it remains to be seen how big the tent really is.

Right now, PHC looks a little more like an enclave and a little less like an instrument for engaging the culture.

Update: My further and somewhat more formally stated thoughts are in an op-ed here.

Update #2: A WaPo article here.

Discussions - 2 Comments

Very well said, Joe, in your op ed. I was surprised and pleased to see the late Fr. Fortin cited in one of the writings you cited.

Well, I agree that PHC has done some mighty dumb things. Erik is certainly a faculty member who could have have served them well in managing the tensions in their mission and in producing politically minded, liberally educated and theologically sound graduates. Joe is right on things they would have to do differently if they want to be either influential politically or a first-rate academic institution.

But we should leave this issue with something positive: Graham Walker may well be an excellent choice to lead that school:
1. He is an excellent scholar in political thoery.
2. He showed guts and class when his denial of tenure by the University of Pennsylvania was big news. He’s, I hope, very, very unlikely to treat faculty members the way he was treated...
3. He wrote a genuinely original and deep Augustinian defense of our Founding and virtue in VTIAL REMNANTS. We regularly used that chapter in classes at Berry. It is in substantial agreement with Erik’s now famous little article. Graham gave a talk based on that chapter at Berry and it went over very well.
4. As far as I know, he’s not a political activist, while having unimpeachable conservative credentials. He is too Augustinian to be ham-fisted in right-wing politics or in any of the intramural theological controversies that will inenvitably continue to break out at PHC. (They should remember, of course, that the great Patrick Henry was himself a Calvinist.)
5. Based on my limited experience with him, I would say he’s an exceedingly gendle man who listens well. (Let me add the caveat that I haven’t seen him in several years and I don’t know about his record as an administrator--I will say that the piece linked in the OK WES publication was probably written with the constituent sensitivity of an administrator.)
6. The thing he said to me that I remember best (when he was teaching at Catholic U.) is that he and his family were the only white members aof some Wesleyan church in DC. (I really hope I have those details right, it was a good while ago and my memory ain’t what it used to be.)

So let’s wish Graham the best in turning things around at a school that showed and might show again real promise. Maybe all this criticism and advice will help him out.

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