Dysphoria is another word for “restlessness.” It doesn’t mean being fidgety or ill at ease; it means being depressed, disquieted, overcome by Angst. Much like the term euphoria at the other end of the emotional spectrum, dysphoria connotes being under the influence. My Concordia university is experiencing dysphoria because it is coming under the influence of Woke-ism (that is, a potent cocktail of Progressivism, Neo-Pragmatism, and Marxism).
We are under the influence of the Woke-ness in our nation and our Western culture, of course, but Wokeness appears to be developing into a pathology at my “institution of Lutheran higher education” as it says in our mission statement. Our institutional dysphoria at Concordia University Wisconsin (CUW) has come to light – and has been exacerbated by the search for a new university president and the manner in which our Board of Regents and, in particular, its Executive Board and its Search Committee who have been pushing for a president who will be, in their own words, “disruptive” and “transformational.”
It turns out that they mean disruption and transformation in the sense of installing a president who would disrupt the expectation of a pastor-president as described in the written By-laws of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, and who would thus be radically different from spiritual and educational leadership as authoritatively described in the Scriptures. For example, as laid out for us in the pastoral epistles such as the apostle Paul’s letters to Timothy. They mean to transform the ways and means of being Concordia.
So begins a February 15, 2022 editorial published by Gregory Schulz, Professor of Philosophy at Concordia University of Wisconsin (CUW), an institution of the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod (LCMS). He attended seminary at Concordia Seminary in Ft Wayne then served the LCMS as a minister. He earned his PhD at Marquette University (2007). He has taught at CUW since 1996. He is also a retired colonel in United States Air Force.
According to local news coverage. The day after Schulz’s op/ed appeared the administration scheduled a disciplinary hearing during the middle of one of his lectures. After class he found that he was unable to communicate with the administration because they had already locked him out of his email account. According to Dan O’Donnell, Schulz is being represented by the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty. According to a letter to CUW president from the Academic Freedom Alliance,
On February 19, Professor Schulz was notified by his department chair that he had been suspended. He was subsequently prohibited from entering campus. He has now received notice from your office that he has been suspended pending an investigation into violations of university policy, notably for conduct unbecoming of a Christian and for not acting as a responsible colleague.</p[> The core of Schulz’ critique of “wokeness” at CUW is its inherent contradiction of the school’s confessional commitments. He argues,
This Wokeness – with its dismissal and replacement of sacrosanct texts – is also anti-Lutheran inasmuch as it defies what I have been teaching and publishing as “the first principle of Lutheran thought:” “But God cannot be treated with, God cannot be apprehended, nisi per Verbum, except through the Word” (Apology, Article 4, On Justification). Woke-ism is in point of fact a renunciation of the very means by which we “do ministry” and thus a renunciation of the means by which we “do Concordia.”
He turns to Augustine’s Confessions for his alternative to the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion ethos that has taken root in so many schools in the West. Augustine said, “You have made us for Yourself, Lord, and we are restless…until we find our rest in You” (Confessions 1.1).
Augustine’s master class of a sentence is a decisive indictment of every philosophy of education that refuses to form its curriculum by means of the ultimate sacrosanct text, the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures – an indictment of every educational institutional culture that neglects to re-form itself according to God’s Word, that is, according to the incarnate, rest-giving Word of God Himself and according to His verbatim words to us. That is, according to the divinely instituted means of grace.
He traces the institution’s turn to DEI (he characterizes it as DIE) to its quest for a particular sort of accreditation and the funding that follows.
His article is not strident but it is pointed. It appears that he has grounds for concern. CUW, however, is not responding substantively to his critique. It is responding administratively and punitively. To forbid a tenured professor to return to campus, to remove him from teaching, and to lock him out of the campus email system without a hearing is extraordinary. If Schulz is correct, that CUW has turned to DEI in pursuit of accreditation, the accreditors will surely be interested in their approach to academic freedom and due process.
In his letter to CUW Keith Whittington, who has been critical of his own university’s approach to academic freedom, writes:
If robust criticism of university governance and policies is understood in itself to be a hindrance to the mission of the university or that participating in an ongoing public debate over the social commitments of the Lutheran church and Lutheran educational institutions is inconsistent with responsibilities of members of the faculty, then the university will have dramatically departed from ordinary understandings of the duties and responsibilities of professors in American universities, including American universities dedicated to a Christian mission. Of course, Professor Schulz has a responsibility not to “advocate a position contrary to that of the Synod,” but here he is participating in a public debate on what the implications of the Synod’s positions might be for the university. If faculty at the university must refrain from speaking in public about the future of the university and the fidelity of the university’s activities to the positions of the Synod, then the university’s commitment to the faculty to value their individuality and to engage in intellectual inquiry will be an empty promise.
This episode caught my eye because it is occurring within the context of a confessional Protestant institution. It is a reminder that no institution is immune from the influence of critical theory and praxis and that, under that movement, classical liberal values of free speech and academic freedom are bound to suffer. Schulz is arguing against DEI on the basis of his confessional commitments. If one cannot do that at a LCMS school, where can one do it?
©R. Scott Clark. All Rights Reserved.
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The LCMS sponsors, and has done so for many decades, its own “feeder” institutions – colleges and junior colleges – that provide students with an education in keeping with the synod’s confessional and doctrinal statements. Those bound to be teachers or similar graduate from one of those and seek employment in one of the synod’s districts; those headed into pastoral ministry go on to attend one of the synod’s two seminaries at St. Louis and Fort Wayne.
This paradigm has been gradually collapsing over the past several decades due to lack of interest by students in the synod’s traditional model for educating the future staff in its schools and congregations. Under self imposed pressure to attract students to a liberal education curriculum, these colleges have drifted so blatantly far away from what they used to be that several years ago one of the colleges, located in and upper midwestern state, hired a president who was not only was un-Lutheran, but was an atheist. Another one of its schools invited one the Chicago seven terrorists of the 60’s, Bill Ayers, to be a guest speaker at one of its student convocations. And it goes on and on.
How could these things happen in a “confessional Protestant institution” you muse? Well, that synod holds regularly scheduled conventions (what the P/R would call an assembly or synod) to review up and coming issues it faces so various congregation’s representatives can vote accordingly. Believe it or not, the LCMS is strongly divided between those faithful to its history and confessional standards vs. those against almost anything “status quo” within the the synod and push for a modernist, or probably even post-modernist nowadays revision. What the liberals have done over the years is infuse so many bylaws into their convention’s flow and process that nothing notable can be accomplished. Hence, these wacky deviations occur now on a regular basis.
This is the reason that I’m keeping a keen eye on the goings-on within the PCA. I was raised an LCMS Lutheran and belonged to congregations associated with that synod nearly my entire life until about 18 years ago when I plunged into a deep self-study process of trying to sort through various confessional and doctrinal issues. I now consider myself Reformed even though I belong to an independent congregation that rides the fence on many issues. I would like to leave and join one of the PCA congregations in the area, but the issues being bantered back and forth on this blog are making me nervous.
Wow! What’s going on with the LCMS? Walther must be turning in his grave!!! This “woke” stuff is getting old. Great post Dr Clark. Love our discussions at the Puritanboard too, I’m jwright82 there. Always love this site.
I work with a bunch of teenagers but none of this stuff ever comes up. It seems to me that the “woke” loudmouths are all making fools of themselves on YouTube, I love those videos, but I don’t experience it in my job.
I’ve been in retail for about 4 to 5 years and I work with younger people (I’m 39 and they could all be my children). I made the mistake of thinking years ago that this popculture stuff was what the “kids” are into. So I started paying attention to it because no one wants to be that old guy at work who doesn’t know what everyone is talking about. Very shortly I realized they’re not even aware of it or are to professional to talk about it.
Is this just an historical or geographic thing, I’m a southerner, Dr. Clark? It pains me to see a confessional Protestant institution buy into this stuff. As you know Dr. Clark I’m very much into philosophy and I understand Postmodernism and all that but it seems to be hyper-PM gone off the rails. I don’t know, what are your thoughts Dr. Clark?