Trinity University Threatens to Suspend Students Who Don’t Social Distance

On Thursday, the 13th, at approximately 4 in the afternoon, Dean of Students, David Tuttle, sent out an email that caused concern amongst many in the student body. Dean Tuttle informed the student population, especially those living on/near campus, how some of Trinity’s new health guidelines will affect the student body.

    The email starts innocently enough with Tuttle reiterating some of the general guidelines such as the TU Health Pledge, who is responsible for enforcing these guidelines, and where to find general procedures and policies. But in this first section, Tuttle also mentions a new way for students to report each other if they are violating the guidelines. The COVID Violation Report will allow students to report other students to the administration anonymously about any “persistent or egregious violations of the policy.” A system that will enable students to snitch on their fellow students, whether genuine or not, would be bad enough, but the system would also make it so the accused would not even be able to know who their accuser is. In an environment of rampant cancel culture, it is more important than ever to allow students not only to know who their accuser is but also to be innocent until proven guilty. The email only gets worse for students and organizations from here. 

    For those in the residence halls and in City Vista, Trinity is installing draconian policies in an effort “to limit exposure.” Students will only be able to “have one guest at a time per room… [and] only guests from the same residence hall are permitted.” In City Vista, it is one guest per apartment unit, and “only guests from within City Vista are permitted.” Trinity is actively telling its students that they are not allowed to hang out with the friends they make outside of their residence halls (where most of their friends would typically come from), and they must have minimal interaction with other students, whom Trinity is inviting back onto campus. 

    Trinity is also applying these very same rules to those having to lease an apartment off-campus, telling them that they must “avoid gatherings that pose a risk” and that the only gatherings permitted are those with the “same guests or house/apartment residents.” This isolation will only make the rates of depression and anxiety plaguing college-age students worse. Depression and anxiety rates in the US have already increased with people being near family, but once students go to Trinity, they will have even less social and physical interaction with those around them. First-year students who have known nothing except living with their family will now be thrust into a world where they will feel the most alone and during one of the most vulnerable periods of their lives. 

    But to make it even worse, Tuttle also states what kind of sanctions there will be for those found in violation of these policies. Students can expect 1 of 3 general punishments: “removal from the residence halls… barring from campus… [and/or] immediate suspension from the university for a minimum for one semester.” A system that will end up punishing students (possibly kicking them off campus) for the egregious crime of wanting to be with their friends. 

    When pressed as to how these new guidelines will affect struggling student organizations on campus, Trinity provided no comment. With this in mind, only the worst can be assumed with the nature of this email. Such an email has sent a message to the students and the student organizations that there will be no social life on campus. Clubs that rely on human interaction to keep members engaged will no longer be able to provide the services they offered to the campus community. These guidelines are telling the Trinity community that they are sacrificing the reason students feel happy and loved at Trinity in order for them to “learn” at Trinity.

    But the worst offense of all would have to be against those living off-campus. With school only a few days away, many students already have leases and are preparing to move or have already moved into their new apartments. With these rule changes, students who would have usually stayed home under the current guidelines are now stuck with having to live with them. Trinity could have announced guidelines such as these months ago and possibly loosened them as time went on, but no, they wanted until the very last minute when many had no other choice but to live with it. Trinity University created stricter guidelines even though San Antonio is no longer the hot spot it once was back in the spring and has flattened the curve enough so that daily new case averages continue to go down.

When pressed for comment and clarification on how these policies will be applied in specific scenarios, Trinity University also provided no comment. Examples included: attending off-campus religious services, attending off-campus social events, giving another student a ride, how will these guidelines affect Greek Life, etc.

It appears to the Trinity University administration, the only way to ensure a “successful” semester is to kill the social life on and around campus and to enforce this through highly authoritarian means. Even going so far as to encourage students to report those they ordinarily would have become friends with. There is still no mention of what will happen if students refuse to report each other, but one thing is for certain, Orwell must be rolling over in his grave.

New Worship Group Joins Campus

Author: H. Lon Rubbard

If you’re looking to increase your faith through community, I would recommend looking into a variety of spiritual organizations offered at Trinity such as the Catholic Student Group, RUF, and the Secular Student Alliance. I would like to say, as a Scientologist, I am very impressed with the infrastructure of the Secular Student Alliance which holds high their creed to “build welcoming communities to promote secular values, and set a course of lifelong activism”. But one who is more evangelical in nature and wishes to spread their dogma might ask, 

“Is atheist activism really for me?”

 “Oh absolutely,” I respond, and, if you don’t believe me, attend one of their conversion sessions and receive their holy condom communion.  

Now I should say, I’m not particularly religious, I do not have any personal issues with the atheist ideology, my issue runs strictly with the ideas of anti-Christianity and communities built around these concepts. Nonetheless, I digress. 

I have overheard from P.L. Hovecraft and Fody Joster that they wish to draft a book to promote these secular values, outlined in separate books as a part of the whole. 

“Fascinating,” I remark, sipping my scotch and soda in Hovecraft’s study. “Well,” he said, very much enthused, “We shall call it the ‘Abible’, we will make copies and hand them out whenever we get the chance. Much of our atheist army will go door to door spreading the Good Word”. 

In continuation of our conversation, I discovered that in order to foster their community, they will be holding an Atheist Secular Service (ASS) every Wednesday at 7, but seating is limited so feel free to kneel. I have reason to believe that in lieu of COVID-19, their ASS will also be available for viewing over Zoom. Promotion of their ASS will be announced in the Leeroy emails. I do not doubt that the Secular Student Alliance will be tabling nightly for the ASS and helping it grow at Trinity University. Important holidays such as Zombie Jesus Day will be celebrated with a service as they attempt to relieve themselves of the impairment of being part of a religiously affiliated institution. Their ASS is open to all who wish to partake and never runs out of necessary contraceptives to ensure safe habits of the flock. I understand now, more than before, how important their services really are in promoting their values and lifelong activism.

 Now, if you’re not really an ASS man, you do have the opportunity to tithe for the Secular Student Alliance via their website donation page. In addition to providing an easy to access religious group on campus, it also provides financial assistance by way of scholarships for “like-minded” students who share in the beliefs of their fellowship. Altogether, the Secular Student Alliance’s attempts to branch out and promote their values and holidays have been met exceedingly well. In yet another instance, the Secular Student Alliance’s mantra to “bring welcoming communities” into their ASS will be exemplified in the upcoming event Zombie Jesus Day, held on Easter Sunday. 

The Secular Student Alliance is currently looking for individuals to become ASS worshippers for the fall semester. If you have an interest in filling this large opening, please contact me personally by carrier pigeon. 

With Grace and Devotion, 

H. Lon Rubbard

Return of The Wendt

Author: Richard Newsy

Late last night (so late that it became this morning), the Editor-in-Chief of The Tower called an emergency meeting with the section editors of this fine publication. In a move backed by tradition, a truly conservative decision to keep the past alive, The Tower will no longer be known as The Tower. From this day forward, we shall be known once more as The Wendt.

The Wendt has an illustrious history at Trinity University as a publication entirely unknown by the student body and filled only with articles written while half-drunk at 2 in the morning by its hardworking student writers. The Tower—pardon, The Wendt—looks forward to returning to its humble beginnings to truly set itself apart in the world of student journalism. 

The Tower’s Editor-in-Chief has also resigned and named Rebekah Wendt, Class of 2023, as his successor. News Editor Leonard Lizardboy, Class of 2022, said this when asked about the sudden change: “We’re all very excited to have [Wendt] take charge. She’s the best photographer this publication has ever had, and everyone agrees she’s the best Wendt for the job. It’s natural, really, that she continues the dynasty her brothers created.” 

I have to agree with Lizardboy. Wendt (not to be confused with her brothers, Wendt and Wendt, both Class of 2018) seems to be not only the most qualified of the freshman writers for The Tower, but she’s also the most charismatic. “People really look up to her,” said Merlot Barnworker, Class of 2021. “Rebekah’s the future of The Tower, and we’re all thrilled that she’ll be leading us from now on.”

Lifestyle Editor Misogyny Carpenter, Class of 2022, had a different, more controversial take. “I wish [Wendt] the best, but I don’t know if she can succeed. There’s a lot of men on the team, and most of them don’t like taking orders from women. But if she can get past their internalized misogyny, she may be able to make [The Wendt] great again.” Misogyny had some other things to say about women’s place in the workforce, but that’s a bit irrelevant to today’s article. 

Potato McGuinness, Class of 2021, though, sang nothing but Wendt’s praises. “[Wendt] lets us smoke cigars on the job, and she actually knows how to use a cellphone, which is a big improvement from the last guy. Plus she has an eye for design, so maybe our print edition will have a nice cover with her in charge.” McGuinness’ sentiments were shared by many other writers, many of whom declined being mentioned by name in this article. 

When asked about her vision for the future of The Wendt, Wendt was delighted to describe the changes she wants to make. “Only people with history degrees and a solid understanding of the factors leading up to WWII will be allowed to write articles, of course. And no more of this Catholic nonsense that some of the previous editors allowed. From now on, we are a Lutheran dictatorship—I mean, a Conservative publication for San Antonio.”

The Tower plans to officially change its name back to the Wendt no later than 10 pm on April 1, 2020. Stay tuned for more updates about the changes of leadership, but rest assured that the quality of our articles will never decrease and that we will continue to strive to be the right voice for the Alamo City.

Socialist Club Founded at Trinity

The Young Democratic Socialists of America chapter wants to build a “socialist world and a democratic socialist future.”

Last year, Gallup poll released a survey showing that “43% of Americans say socialism would be a good thing for the country.” Now, that figure has spread to Trinity University. 

On Monday, Jan 27, the Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) club held their first meeting in the Storch Memorial building. In total, about 33 students—some who openly claimed to be communists—attended the meeting.

In flyers handed out during spring Club Rush, YDSA Trinity states that they are “training a new generation of socialist leaders” to build a “better, socialist world… [and] a democratic socialist future.”

Victoria Henretty, co-chair of YDSA Trinity, said she wanted to start the club after going to meetings for YDSA at UTSA. “I became super interested… [and heard] that people at Trinity were trying to start it but were graduating or had lack of motivation,” Henretty said. “I wanted to see more action on campus. I thought TProg (Trinity Progressives) wasn’t as involved as I wanted them to be and too broad to my taste.”

However, Henretty also stated that YDSA Trinity “is very open to working with a lot with student groups” and allowing TProg to handle electoral activism on campus while they handle more social activism.

In terms of goals and action that YDSA wants to take, Henretty said they want to start a divestment campaign. “We want Trinity to stop taking investment money from oil and gas,” she said. YDSA also plans to focus on activism regarding prison abolishment with respects to Aramark, ecosocialism and pushing for more health and mental care resources on campus.

At the moment, it’s unknown how the introduction of YDSA will impact political culture and activism at Trinity University but it does look like leftism is here to stay at Trinity with a newly found voice.

My Last Vespers

Rohan—an old friend, raised Hindu, now not-so-much—leaned over to me at our sophomore year Vespers and said, “This is aggressively Christian.” 

“It’s a Christian ceremony, bro,” said Lutfi, older friend, former roommate, raised Muslim, still Muslim.

Chappy, my roommate, a Hebrew glyph on his necklace, deflected to a lesser conflict: “Ecclesiastical and jazz are the only two acceptable types of Christmas music.” He cut himself off once the next hymn began and resumed once the echo of the organ faded.

Vespers, the oldest Trinity tradition, it is also one of the few traditions here whose history doesn’t disappoint. Unlike the curse of stepping on the seal, for example, the student government didn’t invent Vespers in 2004. Because it’s the only religious tradition Trinity has kept, it doesn’t take much digging to understand that Vespers has been around a long time. 

The challenge for Trinity of late (the past few decades) has been keeping Vespers in a time when our world doesn’t want faith to grow beyond culture. Instead of treating religion as a search for our Creator and His purpose for us, it’s tidier and easier for us to see faith as a cultural expression of identity, a subject of anthropological dissection.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not hearkening back to some supposed better time when everybody who attended Vespers believed the same thing. It’s a safe bet that such a time doesn’t exist, even when Trinity’s student body was all Presbyterian; every Vespers has probably heard at least one choir singer who doesn’t believe the lyrics.

Chappy’s phone vibrated. It was Rohan, group-texting us: “We going to Oakmont after this?” Was it even a matter of debate? Hot cider and President Anderson’s piano. Of course we were.

“So let’s skip this last song,” he suggested.

None of us stood.

The difference today is one of attitude toward faith. Even to an atheist, faith can be real, even if only as a concept. It stops seeming real once we treat it as a collection of cultural customs instead of a mysterious journey heavenward.

To some extent, all universities that aren’t seminaries have to treat religion that way. We avoid attachment to our subjects of study. During class, Trinity’s attitude toward faith is generous but studious, distant, sometimes sympathetic and sometimes critical, always experimental, always confident that Lakota Shamanism or Judaism or Pentecostalism are small, contained samples on a petri dish, and then it’s onto macro or organic chemistry with a bright blue sky and a smile and the world at rest with reason in charge.

But at Vespers, once the lights dim and the candle flame trickles one by one through the chapel, the sun-washed world of the campus in daytime disappears. Maybe it’s the quietening allure of flame, the same kind of silence that falls around campfires and hearths. Whatever forces are at work, one moment passes each year in Parker Chapel in which the campus rests in the knowledge that something important has happened. It feels real.

Obviously it’s not unanimous. People whisper. Ringtones echo. Somebody makes a joke, somebody else laughs, somebody shushes. But the atmosphere is different. The whispers and ringtones and jokes feel like interruptions instead of expected background noise.

“Come on. Y’all can’t even understand this song without the program. Shit’s in Latin.”

“So? It’s beautiful anyway,” Chappy said.

For students and faculty and all those who live their lives by the Trinity academic calendar, Vespers is like the annual equivalent of the moment between going to bed and falling asleep. It means the end of things for a while. It’s the downbeat in a yearlong rhythm, the start and finish line, when you can’t help but think about all the things that have happened since the last time the lights went down. This year is my last time arriving early but still too late and sitting in the high back rows below the trumpet pipes and spilling candle wax on my boots in the dark and leaning forward to hear the harpist and trying to sing along to the hymns. It makes me think of the last beat, the last time I rounded the starting line, and how much has come and gone since then: sneaking into the sanctuary to play the harpsichord they had left for some concert, kneeling at the stone benches in the chapel garden, leaving the chapel after Vespers to breathe fog in the cold December air and play “Silent Night” on banjo at Dean Tuttle’s house and “O Tannenbaum” on piano at President Anderson’s the next year (both men more patient with me than I deserve), leftover cider and unfrozen taquitos at somebody’s house on Oakmont, string lights and handbells and bundled children tugging elderly hands.

We don’t come to Vespers for the short sermons. The swell of the organ, the choir singing lyrics we don’t understand, the harp trilling soft and almost indiscernible, the candles flickering as night falls–that’s why every seat is taken at Parker Chapel by 6pm. Even to those for whom the good tidings of great joy stir no feeling, the beauty of Vespers can make the coming of Christmas seem real.

Too Much Hot Air at Trinity’s Climate Teach-In

Climate change is likely the most prominent global issue today, and Trinity University tried to play its part by participating in the Global Climate Strike on Friday. In what was meant to be a walkout from classes, students and faculty gathered in the Coates Student Center for a two-hour “teach-in” about the state of the climate. Professors and students presented their perspectives on the issue through lectures, poems, songs, visual art, and yelling.

The event began with physics professor Niescja Turner, who spoke about the greenhouse effect. She emphasized that this effect is a good thing, but the recent introduction of too much CO2 into the atmosphere creates too much of this good thing. The climate takes a long time to change, but the amount of CO2 is increasing too rapidly. Next, geosciences professor Glenn Kroeger spoke on the historical levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. It has been fluctuating for as long as measurement tools can take us, but it has never been above 400 ppm (0.04% of the atmosphere) as it is now. His thesis was similar to Dr Turner’s: we should be wary of how we are treating the atmosphere. 

These professors provided sound, reasonable and convincing evidence for the warming earth. They both condemned climate fear-mongering and extreme solutions. It would be hard for anyone to disagree with their data-based points. But, of course, there are two sides to every issue. In this case, there are those who make arguments that are valid and sound, and they strive for genuine conversation for the other side.

Then, there are the unreasonables, whose yelling only serves to preach to the choir and confirm their insanity to their opponents. These unreasonables proposed no solutions other than sorrow and anger for their situation.

A recent Trinity graduate and representative from the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) followed the science professors. This speaker diverged as far from science as possible, screaming about how climate change was tightly linked to capitalism and other institutions such as racism, sexism, ableism, and “speciesism.” In a perfect caricature moment, she told us in curse-laced language how she was “angry all the time,” then inviting us to feel angry and upset and anxious along with her–because, if you feel okay, you’re part of the problem. She directly called for an end to capitalism, which led to an unsettling swell of cheers throughout the room.

Crowd gathered at the Climate Teach-In in Coates Student Center.

The complete lack of awareness shown by most participants was the sharpest bit of irony at the event. The building was well-lit and air-conditioned. Every person present was handed a freshly printed sheet of paper with the lyrics to a song we sang. After the teach-in, many attendees planned on driving several cars less than three miles downtown for a citywide strike, where they likely generated loads of garbage in discarded signs. They want to limit every aspect of life, yet they refuse to change some of the most basic elements of their lives for their own cause.

Anger isn’t going to solve any problems. If everyone who spoke about climate change would do so with the same tone and reason as the science professors, perhaps more people could get on board with practical steps toward compromise. Sadly, it seems most students believe that the best solution is to become upset about everything and hope someone notices. It is simply not possible to get things done for the climate if you believe the issue of climate change must be solved in conjunction with every other so-called issue that exists.

Kroeger illustrated how seemingly utopian ideas can be impractical. Proponents of the Green New Deal, for example, plan to replace all fossil fuel-burning cars in ten years. He explained that the most fuel-efficient vehicle you could drive is a bicycle, with the second-most fuel efficient being the vehicle you drive now. While electric cars are more fuel efficient once they’re on the road, their production still generates lots of carbon, meaning it would take a long, long time to break even with regular fossil fuel models. On top of that, the earth does not even hold enough of the minerals needed to produce these electric cars.

The left has made climate change too polarizing. The more we hear about how the government plans on limiting the amount of beef we can eat and how much we can water our grass, the more regular people will stubbornly oppose any change. It is not unreasonable to fear the removal of basic rights. During this teach-in, we were told that “fashion kills,” and that as part of curbing climate change, we should never buy new clothes again. We were also told not to have kids, and that “reproductive justice has to be a part of climate justice.” It sounds like people on the left are willing to take away whatever they need in order to solve a problem many cannot even properly define.

As long as we speak practically, we will uncover more middle ground than we think. So many people cannot see past their own noses, refusing to see better ideas before them. People are so rushed to “solve” the climate crisis, but the science professors made it pretty clear that we need to take our time on these things. The idea that the world will end in twelve years is simply untrue—as it has been every decade since alarmists first started spouting it. All reason and sense has gone out the window in favor of outrage and complete absurdity. From the supporting cheers that the speakers received, it seems clear that climate extremism is no longer a strictly far-left issue, and that young people have blindly bought into environmentalist propaganda. It is truly upsetting that Trinity has legitimized this sort of nonsense.

All images by Samantha Farnsworth.

TUFS, TFL host public abortion debate

On Thursday, Sept. 19, the Trinity University Forensic Society (TUFS) and Tigers for Life (TFL) held a public debate on the legality of abortion. TUFS members Lisel Faust and her debate partner, who asked to not be named, argued in favor of keeping abortion legal, while TFL members Alex Jacobs and Jace Woody argued against it. Each debater gave a four to five minute speech, went into a brief cross-examination period, and then opened the floor to questions from the audience. After that, there was a break for Cane’s and Pizza Classics. Following the break, there was a final period of speeches from each debater. 

The main question was whether abortion should be legal or not. TUFS focused on arguing for the woman’s right to choose what they want to do with their bodies, while TFL focused on the immorality of taking an innocent human life.

Some other main arguments that the affirmative side introduced was the differentiation between a fetus and a baby, unsafe abortions occurring if the government makes abortion illegal, and the issue of having an abortion in the case of rape. The negative side refuted these arguments by saying that this is beyond a women’s issue because it involves the taking of a human life, arguing that just because unsafe abortions occur does not make it morally right to take an innocent human life. In cases of rape, the negative side argued that rape is not a reason to kill an innocent human life. 

The issue of abortion was important to the debaters on both sides.

“I believe the right of abortion should be protected because there are so many women out there that should have the decision on how this big, fundamental decision in their life should turn out,” said affirmative debater Lisel Faunt. 

On the other hand, Jace Woody wanted to debate against the legality of abortion because of his human rights-based philosophy. “All lives are important, we are all human, and we all have the right to live. Millions of innocent people are being killed, and I should be there to stop the taking of human life,” he said.

The affirmative side did not focus on when life begins, but instead mainly discussed a women’s right to choose. The negative side continued to argue that abortion takes away innocent human lives. 

The lecture room in Northrup was almost full, as students packed in to support their peers and learn more. During the cross-examination period, students asked questions like, “Where can we draw the line for freedom of choice?” and “If abortion was illegal, what should be the punishment for a woman getting an abortion?” 

Tigers for Life has weekly meetings on Thursdays at 6 pm in the Woodlawn room, and the Trinity University Forensic Society will continue to host more public debates in the future on contentious issues such as this.

Bob Fu of ChinaAid Speaks to YCT about Christianity, Communism

Tuesday, March 19, Trinity University’s Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT) hosted Bob Fu. Fu is the founder and president of ChinaAid, a non-profit, Christian-based organization that advocates for human rights and religious freedom in China. ChinaAid gives financial and moral support to Christian Chinese families who have been persecuted by the Chinese government. His main goal is for Chinese Christians and other religious groups to express their religion with ease and without persecution from the Chinese government.

To begin his speech, Fu gave a short backstory about his earlier life and how ChinaAid came to be founded. While attending university in Beijing, he participated in the 1989 Tiananmen Square student and intellectuals demonstrations. During which Fu and his girlfriend at the time, now his wife, Heidi, converted to Christianity. Soon after the Tiananmen Square Massacre, he was imprisoned in China for identifying as a Christian. It was these incidents in his life that highlight his history of fighting for freedom and democracy in China.

Bob Fu is not the only one to have been imprisoned for his religious beliefs. Even today, many Chinese Christians are being imprisoned for their faith. In fact, one who expresses his or her faith is considered a political dissident, which can warrant imprisonment.

“Hearing that from the point of view of someone who grew up under a regime like China was shocking,” said Daniel Mitchell, a junior at Trinity University.

However, it is not only Chinese Christians who are being persecuted for their faith. “One to three million Muslims are being put into concentration camps by the Communist Party,” explained Fu.

The Uyghurs, a majority Muslim ethnic minority from Xinjiang province, are being torn from their homes and sent to concentration camps by the Chinese Communist Party.

Fu further explained that the amount of Christians in China actually grew after the Tiananmen Square Massacre. He predicts that there will be over 200 million Christians in China within the next 20 to 30 years.

“It was interesting to see Fu’s predictions of the numbers regarding the amount of future Chinese Christians,” said Ian Kavanagh, a senior at Trinity University who worked at ChinaAid this past summer.

Fu is optimistic about the growth of the amount of Christians in China, he predicted there will soon be more than 200 million Chinese Christians. “Sooner or later, they [Chinese government] will realize that imprisoning these Christians will not be a sustainable policy,” he said.

Fu believes that imprisoning people for their faith will eventually become unsustainable because Chinese prisons “will not able to hold every single Christian in China.”

Even though religious persecution continues in China, Bob Fu will not give up. Today, he continues as president of ChinaAid to advocate for religious freedom and basic human rights in China. ChinaAid continues to support persecuted families in need and educating those who are not familiar with this issue.

Photo courtesy YCT.

Religion, Noise, and Dr. Seuss

On Tuesday, March 26, Dr. Isaac Weiner gave a lecture “When Religion Becomes Noise” at Trinity University. Dr. Weiner has a Ph.D. in Religious Studies from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and currently serves as a faculty member in the department of Comparative Studies at Ohio State University.

Weiner’s lecture discussed religious pluralism in the U.S. and the way that public religious sounds, such as Christian church bells or the Islamic call to prayer, complicate the issue. He explained that sounds are more invasive than sights, and are more likely to be the cause of complaint.

This begs the questions: Which sounds get classified as merely “noise” and which sounds are tolerated on the basis of religious freedom? Which sounds are “out of place” and which sounds belong in the public sphere? How do religions coexist? How are Americans inclusive without becoming oppressive?

“I want people to think about the relationship between our public culture and our assumptions about the kind of society we want to build,” said Weiner. “What we’re willing to tolerate in public says something about what we aspire to be as a society.”

According to Weiner, only the sounds of the majority typically prevail. The majority has the ability to reclassify their sounds as secular in order to justify their presence. For example, a church’s bells are not a call to the service, but a secular marking of time; Christmas is not a religious celebration, but rather a national holiday.

Weiner referred to a well-known children’s book, Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas, to illustrate his point. The Grinch’s heart grows three sizes after the Whos are unaffected by his attempts to ruin Christmas, and he joins in with the Whoville caroling. Weiner asked attendees to imagine a more sinister reading of the story, in which the Whos’ singing is forced upon the Grinch, a minority, who is then forced to assimilate to their attitudes and join in their sound. As it turns out, this is the reality of religious pluralism in the U.S. today.

Weiner presented several historical examples of regulation or repression of religious sounds, including St. Mark’s church bells in 1870s Philadelphia, Jehovah’s Witness sound cars in 1946, and the Islah Islamic Center’s call to prayer in Hamtramck, MI in 2004.

Each of these case studies is heavily discussed in Weiner’s book, Religion Out Loud: Religious Sound, Public Space, and American Pluralism. In each case, the sound is treated differently depending on the majority opinion and tradition.

For example, in Hamtramck, MI, many claimed the Islamic call to prayer was “out of place” in the historically Polish Catholic city where church bells were practically a part of the landscape. In one sweep, people could suffocate the sounds they didn’t want to hear and replace them with ones they did. In cases like this, the minority finds itself unable to make sound and instead forced to join in with the noise of the majority, as the Grinch does with the Whos’ caroling in Dr. Seuss’s story.

“As we negotiate what it means to live in a religiously diverse society,” said Weiner, “we must continue to work toward the full inclusion of all religious communities in our public and civic life.”

The public sphere should be a place for the freedom of religious expression, including religious sound. Oppression of minority expression is not an option for Americans who wish to build a better and more virtuous society.

The lecture was sponsored by the Trinity University Humanities Collective as part of their current focus on the First Amendment, particularly the freedom of religion clause. On April 8 at 5:30pm in Chapman Auditorium, Trinity University will host another religion scholar, Dr. Nicola Denzey Lewis from Claremont Graduate University, to speak on lost ancient Christian documents from Egypt.

Photo by Kathleen Arbogast.

Presidential Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin Comes to Trinity

This year’s Flora Cameron lecture at Trinity University became commemorative with the unfortunate passing of Flora Cameron Crichton on March 2 of this year. Before her passing, Crichton was able to select Doris Kearns Goodwin as the speaker for the lecture. Goodwin is a presidential historian, political commentator and award-winning author/biographer. She spoke on her book Leadership in Turbulent Times, a New York Times bestseller on March 27 in Laurie Auditorium.

“Little could I have imagined how relevant that title would be today,” joked Goodwin at the beginning of the lecture. However, she switched to a more serious demeanor and contemplated a question that she is often asked: ‘are these the worst of times?’ “The answer history provides is no,” said Goodwin in answer to the question. She pointed to and referenced many American Presidents, but focused on Lyndon B. Johnson, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Theodore Roosevelt. She highlighted the “turbulent times“ that all these men faced, such as the civil war and industrial revolution, and stated that “each one of these situations cried out for leadership, and each of the four men was peculiarly fitted for the time.”

Goodwin shifted her focus to the qualities that make up leaders. She pulled a Teddy Roosevelt quote in which he said, “most success comes when people develop ordinary talents to an extraordinary degree from hard sustained work.” This she acknowledged as being a key to success but not a universal key to leadership. She made a list of qualities that are almost universally applicable, “humility, empathy, resilience, courage, the ability to listen to diverse opinions, controlling of impulses, connect with all manner of people, communicate through stories and keep[ing] one’s word.” Goodwin went into great detail on how her studied presidents portrayed these qualities and acknowledged that there is not just one key to being a successful leader.

Nearing the end of her lecture she recalled a quote from Leo Tolstoy about Lincoln.  “He wasn’t as great a general as Napoleon, he wasn’t as great a statesman as Frederick the great. But his greatness consisted in the integrity of his character and the moral fiber of his being, the ultimate standard for judging our leaders.” She concluded that it wasn’t necessarily the triumphs of a leader that determined their success, but the effect they have as people, on people.

Goodwin closed with a touching and powerful personal anecdote on why history came to interest her and why it is so important. She thanked history for “allowing me to spend a lifetime looking back in the past, allowing me to believe in the pride and people we have lost and love in our families, and the public figures we have respected in history really can live on, so long as we pledge to tell and retell the stories of their lives.”

Photo by “Rhododendrites” on Wikimedia Commons. (CC BY-SA 4.0)