There’s a new evangelical Christian college in New York, the King’s College. You can read a somewhat quizzical article in The New York Times about it. This part caught my attention:
Clues about the college’s philosophical underpinnings reveal themselves here and there. One bulletin board recently listed the activities of the various houses, the King’s College version of sororities and fraternities. The houses are named after Christian and conservative heroes (Ronald Reagan, C. S. Lewis and Margaret Thatcher) and historical activists (Susan B. Anthony, Clara Barton and Sojourner Truth).
Anthony and Barton seem strange choices to me, both were single throughout their lives, and religiously they were at most liberals (Unitarian and Universalist), and more honestly simply Freethinkers. The same peculiarity exists within the Susan B. Anthony List. Like many early feminists Anthony was anti-abortion, ergo, the connection to the List which sponsors the political candidacies of anti-abortion women. But Anthony was arguably a moderate radical in her own time. Last year Mr. Bradlaugh mentioned prayers at the meeting of the H. L. Mencken Club, a peculiar juxtaposition indeed! But I’m not one to throw stones on these points, though this weblog attaches to itself as a mascot the skeptical Tory-inclined David Hume, there is no expectation that any of us take Hume’s position necessarily on any given issue. Sometimes it is the spirit which counts.
Rather, I’m curious as to instances of the co-option of figures from the past on the Left which exhibit the disjunctions noted above. Does it occur? It seems to me that over the past generation the Left has purged all sinners from its pantheon. Abraham Lincoln may have freed the slaves, but he was a heterosexist racist, so purged. The Founding Fathers who revolted against British tyranny? Slavers and sexists all! Further back in time, how about Martin Luther who rebelled against the Church? An anti-Semitic polemicist who later gave comfort to the princes of Germany as they crushed the uprisings of the peasants. Voltaire? Manifestly racist.
Of course the above only applies to the radical and academic Left. The mainstream cultural Left and center white-washes exquisitely. Charles Darwin was a political liberal of humanitarian inclination, but what does it mean to a be “liberal” in 19th century England? It certainly does not mean that one condemn on moralistic grounds the eugenical projects of one’s cousin, Francis Galton (though Darwin was skeptical as to its practicality). Leftists like Michael Eric Dyson have pointed out that the mainstream has constructed an image of Martin Luther King Jr. which expurgates all his radical sentiments and sympathies.