This week’s scarlet letter scandal is that Harvard College, founded by Puritans in 1636, rescinded an offer they made to Kyle Kashuv, the articulate young man who survived the Parkland Shooting in Florida last year to become an unexpected advocate for gun rights in America.
Opposition campaigns can arise against anybody these days, and the mob can be rallied to penalize anyone whose words even hint at violating the new codes of woke piety. It’s almost become a kind of liturgy whose rite we are starting to learn by heart.
Classmates found an obscure record of Mr Kashuv using offensive racial slurs when he was only 16 years old on a private chat group — yet more evidence of why teens should not be online. His classmates, who clearly disagreed with his views on gun rights, published evidence of him using these slurs, purely to hurt him. Our young people have certainly learned how to play their parts in our apology-on-demand performance culture. Our elite institutions demand it.
Kashuv, whose parents emigrated to the United States from Israel, provided deeply heartfelt apologies for having used racial slurs two years ago, before the Parkland shooting occurred. Admirably, but without an awareness of how little grace would be offered to him, he showed enormous contrition for using a word in a private group chat. He even reached out to Harvard’s “Office of Diversity Education and Support” to assure them that he would be working to fight the legacy of racism as he matures and grows as a Harvard student. When Mr Kashuv read Harvard’s letter rescinding their offer, he begged for an in-person interview to discuss the matter further. The Admissions Office was having none of it.
What Mr Kashuv probably did not realize is that he could have walked barefoot in the snow, walked on all fours down a long hallway of broken glass, and then thrown himself prostrate before the Admissions Committee and they still would have shown him no mercy.
Kyle Kashuv made a mistake in a private chat group at 16. He didn’t defend it or blow it off. He owned it. He confessed it as something morally abhorrent, and pledged to make amends. But there could be no charity, no forgiveness, no grace for the contrite heart.
Alexis de Tocqueville once observed that the instability of Puritanism leads to one of two inevitable ends: Catholicism or Pantheism. But when the post-Puritan breaks pantheist — or rather wokeist — it’s clear that there is absolutely nothing left of Christian charity, or grace. There is only the brutal shaming of the outgroup to preserve the purity of the ingroup.
Despite draping the walls with Margaret Atwood novels, and dissembling over future totalitarian puritan dystopias, places like Harvard increasingly manifest precisely the merciless, illiberal theocracy they so frequently invoke as a bogeyman. The reason why “integralism” has become a topic of some arcane dispute among conservatives, I wager, is partly because there is an actual post-Puritan integralism at work in today’s elite woke culture. And it’s very, very far from the Puritan integralism of John Winthrop’s “A Model of Christian Charity.”
Mr Kashuv is certainly better off without Harvard. The rest of us should also be grateful for the clarifying sign it gives to us. We should be grateful that Harvard shows us what a post-Christian future might look like — and then we should run in the other direction.