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Philosophy Professor James Spiegel of Taylor University and the Little Hitler Song

Taylor University in Indiana, which self-identifies as a Christian college, just fired Professor James Spiegel (Jim), a philosopher who is one of the best-known scholars (the best?) on campus. He has a website where you can find his CV (his resume) and the blog he runs with his wife, Amy. I met him at a philosophy conference where he was the keynote speaker some years ago, and was impressed by how gracious and humble he was, and how kind to me, an economist doing amateur philosophy. Spiegel is mild in manner, but he has long irritated the administration of Taylor University, which is liberal despite Taylor being so conservative traditionally that students– and faculty– must pledge not to drink alcoholic beverages and dancing is strictly regulated (see the Life Together Covenant) . Taylor is not what it was. I know only one recent graduate; she went in a fundamentalist, and came out a bisexual social warrior. Religion News Service writes on Friday, September 4:

He wrote a petition opposing plans to bring Starbucks to campus because of its “stands on the sanctity of life and human sexuality” and signed onto another supporting Vice President Mike Pence’s invitation to speak last year at graduation. Taylor’s president resigned a month after Pence’s visit, which sparked sharp disagreement on campus.

He also was one of the authors of an anonymous conservative newsletter that popped up on campus with complaints that the school had become too liberal.

Spiegel told Taylor’s student newspaper, The Echo, that he was fired after he posted and declined to remove a YouTube video two weeks ago in which he performed an original song titled “Little Hitler.” The professor claimed the school had received a harassment complaint about the video. He also said he previously had performed the song at chapel and at a faculty retreat, according to The Echo.

The song includes the lyrics: “We’re appalled at injustice and oppression and every atrocity that makes the nightly news, but just give it a thought: If you knew you’d never get caught, you’d be thieving and raping and murdering, too.”

Spiegel had posted the video on a YouTube channel called “Picking Your Brain.” Other songs on the site, including “Mr. Government Man” and “Let’s Start Our Own Country,” feature the professor singing songs under the stage name “Philonous” that appear to be political commentary.

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The article with the most detail is in The New York Post, by Justin Lee, September 4, 2020,
“Christian college fires professor for warning against hate with ‘Little Hitler’ song.”

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This blogpost is a bit of a hodgepodge, because I’ve got lots of irons in the fire. I hope to have put lots of material here that journalists, Taylor University people, and others can use.

There is a long history of friction between the Administration and Professor Spiegel, a history worth looking into. He was involved with an anonymous conservative newsletter on campus which the Administration attacked (which clearly had to be anonymous, since Christianity comes under fire at Taylor). He opposed putting a Starbucks on campus because of Starbucks association with homosexuality, and the previous President tried to fire him in 2019 because of that. Spiegel said, “Taylor is pro-life and affirms traditional marriage, while Starbucks is actively pro-choice (a strong supporter of Planned Parenthood) and pro-LGBTQ (endorsing many LGBTQ causes).” But of course Starbucks does not sell beer, and it is not known for endorsing dancing; Taylor may support abortion and sodomy, but it does have some limits to its gracious acceptance of alternative lifestyles. Presumably Provost Hammond does oppose gay bars, especially if they encourage dancing.

Spiegel supported the decision to invite Vice-President Pence to speak at graduation. The faculty voted 61-49 to denounce the invitation to invite the former Governor of Indiana, known for his Christian faith. The 2018 commencement speaker was Norm Miller, chairman of Interstate Batteries (“Since Miller assumed the roles of President and Chairman in 1978, Interstate has become the number one replacement battery in North America,” so having just a Vice-President must have been a bit of a letdown for Taylor.)

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Spiegel writes mainly books, not articles. His most recent is the 2020 reprint of his 1999 book, Hypocrisy: Moral Fraud and Other Vices. His most-cited article is “Open-mindedness and intellectual humility,” James S. Spiegel (2012) Theory and Research in Education, 10: 27-38 (March 2012). The keywords are: belief, fallibility, humility, knowledge, open-minded, virtue. The abstract is


Abstract
Among those who regard open-mindedness as a virtue, there is dispute over whether the trait is essentially an attitude toward particular beliefs or toward oneself as a believer. I defend William Hare’s account of open-mindedness as a first-order attitude toward one’s beliefs and critique Peter Gardner’s view of open-mindedness as a non-commital posture and Jonathan Adler’s claim that open-mindedness is a second-order recognition of one’s fallibility as a knower. While I reject Adler’s account of open-mindedness as a meta-attitude, I affirm his intuition that there is a closely related second-order intellectual virtue pertaining to the attitude we take toward ourselves as knowers. However, this trait is intellectual humility not open-mindedness. I explain why both of these traits are intellectual virtues and how they properly build off one another in the virtuous mind.

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The Little Hitler video is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GTk5eB-ZN7U. Much may be made of that song. It is about the classic doctrine of The Depravity of Man. “There’s a little Hitler inside of you. There’s a little Hitler inside of me.” Very good words, in the style of Tom Lehrer, and, actually, just the kind of rational argument you’d expect of a philosophy professor with a guitar. I think this is actually a huge divide in how people think, an aspect of Thomas Sowell’s Conflict of Visions idea of the Constrained versus the Unconstrained visions. The constrained vision is the calvinistic, economistical, Christian one that all men are sinners, motivated be self-interest, who can be constrained by laws and moral rules but cannot be made truly good, even though respectable people seem good. Instead, we must always watch out for temptation (cf. VP Pence’s much mocked not lunching with ladies other than his wife), we will often give in, and we would murder little children if we were paid enough and weren’t as cowardly as we are. We need to throw ourselves on God’s mercy, and Jesus needed to die on the cross to pay for our sins, because we can’t do it. Read Tolstoy’s Father Sergius for a Russian take on that; it isn’t just a Protestant idea, it’s conventional Bible-Augustine-Aquinas-Calvin theology. The unconstrained vision thinks that Man is perfectible, and utopia will arrive if good people just try hard enough. We ourselves are good people, though our enemies are evil and must be destroyed, and we good people do not need to worry about temptation, because we’re not like Hitler at all. He was German, after all, and lived in the benighted 1930’s; we are Americans and live in 2020. Anybody who thinks he might be tempted into adultery is obviously a creep, because only creeps get tempted, and any decent man has no reason not to go on business trips with a beautiful young co-worker, and nobody should think anything of it if he does. Many people really do think like that. See Luke Barnett on Twitter: “If I was a new student, looked up my professor to find his song from the basement about “cross me and I’m tempted to do things that would make Jeffrey Dahmer blush”, I’d sure think twice about where my money went.” and “I do not believe that if I didn’t have Jesus I would want to do things that would make Jeffrey Dahmer blush.” Pride before fall.

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Spiegel fired due to controversial videoTenured professor terminated after disagreements with administration The Echo (campus newspaper), by Sam Jones, September 4, 2020.

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The Taylor administrators, Trustees, and other bigwigs, the villains of this piece, are listed at
at https://www.taylor.edu/about/leadership. They need to be named and shamed. The “Interim President” is Paige Comstock Cunningham. The Provost is Michael D. Hammond. The Dean of Arts and Humanities (who also took responsibility for the firing) is Tom Jones.

The Board of Trustees looks rather large. It is probably on the “large donors, meet for lunch once a year, kept in the dark by the President” model, but people who agree to let their names be used need to realize they are morally responsible for the bad actions of the organization. Your reputation is on the line if the President turns out to be a scoundrel. You are his boss, after all– the buck stops with you, not him. If you believe, along with impartial observers, that the President and Provost are engaged in unjust, unchristian, and unlawful behavior, you must speak up or resign. Silence means agreement. The Trustees are (with details on a few where it seemed especially interesting):
Angela Angelovska-Wilson
Jonathan V. Beukelman
Carl L. Chapman, Chairman, President, & CEO, Vectren Corporation
Minda Chow
Mark T. Davis, A member of the Standards Committee of the Evangelical Counsel for Financial Accountability and on the National Commission on Religious Policy and Accountability for ECFA.
Chris Goeglein
Erik Hotmire
Rhonda F. Jeter
Stephen L. Johnson
Heather Larson
Susan McCabe
Gregory A. Poland
Manuel Rosado
Douglas L. Rupp
Tamara Shaya Hoffmann
Mark W. Soderquist, Administrative Pastor of Westlawn Gospel Chapel in Chicago, Illinois,
Kathleen E. Stevens
Mark D. Taylor, President, Tyndale House Publishers
Karen E. Thomas
P. Eric Turner
Nicholas J. Wallace
Shani P. Wilfred
Daniel Wolgemuth

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MATERIAL ADDED MONDAY September 7 and later.

Rod Dreher,Defending ‘Little Hitler’, American Conservative, Sept 7, 2020 has a great idea for student protest:

Last year, I visited Rudolf Dobias, an 84-year-old Slovak former political prisoner, sentenced to 18 years of hard labor in a uranium mine on a false accusation that he had drawn a cartoon making fun of Stalin and Czechoslovak communist leader Klement Gottwald. After release from prison, Dobias and his family lived a life of internal exile; he couldn’t get a decent job, his kids suffered from their father’s punishment, and so forth. All because of a single joke, one that he didn’t even tell! After our interview, Dobias mentioned to my Slovak translator that he was in constant pain now, the result of all the beatings he took in prison as a young man.

Obviously — obviously — Jim Spiegel is not Rudolf Dobias. As more than a few Rudolf Dobiases told me for Live Not By Lies, free people have to resist this stuff the moment it starts. Jim Spiegel was absolutely right to refuse to take down his satirical song. The prissy authoritarians at Taylor University ought to apologize to him and hire him back. And they had better make it clear that they have done so, because this is a black mark on the school’s reputation, and a warning to students about an emerging climate of censorship, at a time when liberal arts colleges cannot afford them.

If I were a Taylor student — presuming that they are back on campus this fall — I would gather with a group every day outside Provost Michael Hammond’s office, and sing “Little Hitler” cheerfully, to cause Hammond and the university’s leadership to reflect on the nature of what they have done to a professor who has wronged no one.

Christian University Fires Professor Over ‘Little Hitler’ Song
byPenka Arsova, LaCorte News, September 7, 2020:

“Just as we as individuals are all called to seek restoration of damaged relationships, the biblical principles embodied in Taylor’s Life Together Covenant compel us to do the same corporately within the University,” Taylor administration officials wrote in a letter to faculty members. “That process was followed, engaging faculty leadership, the academic department, and the administration seeking to restore what was damaged. In this case restoration was not possible.”

Some may see this through a political or ideological ‘left-right/liberal-conservative’ lens. In the world today that is an ever more common… way to view a decision-making process. Taylor is not a political enterprise, nor was this an effort to silence disagreements with the University and/or its leadership.”

Report: Tenured Professor Fired From Christian University Over ‘Little Hitler’ Song Warning Of Hatred, Sin
By Eric Quintanar Sep 6, 2020 DailyWire.com.

Spiegel explained his reasoning for writing the song when he uploaded it on Youtube back in mid-August: “Many years ago, while hiking in Colorado Springs, I came across a group of campers where a folk singer was singing song after song which exalted human nature in the most grandiose terms. I was struck by how the singer and his songs did not recognize that humans have a fundamental moral problem, what theologians call a ‘sin nature.’ It was in response to this that I wrote ‘Little Hitler’ — as a theological corrective to such unabashed (and dangerous) humanism. In this video I perform the song with the same corny exuberance that that folk singer displayed.”

An excerpt of the lyrics includes:


There’s a little Hitler inside of you
There’s a little Hitler inside of me
There’s a brutal killer within everyone
The hatred grows inside us naturally
We’re appalled at injustice and oppression,
And every atrocity that makes the nightly news,
But just give it a thought, if you knew you’d never get caught,
You’d be thieving and raping and murdering too

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Longtime Professor Jim Spiegel Out at Taylor University After ‘Little Hitler’ Video, Emily McFarlan Miller, September 8, 2020. Ministry Watch.

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The You-Tube page where the Little Hitler song is played has lots of comments. Xavier Carr says:

I’m an atheist, but I don’t have issues with most believers. I’m saddened to hear you were fired for this 🙁 I’m probably not the first to point this out, but I’m reminded quite a bit of “People II: The Reckoning” by Andrew Jackson Jihad. There’s a lyric in that song that goes,

“But there’s a bad man in everyone
No matter who we are
There’s a rapist and a Nazi living in our tiny hearts
Child pornographers and cannibals and politicians too”

Of course, they weren’t cancelled! Probably because they’re not conservative, but that shouldn’t matter given that both songs share the same message: everyone has the potential to do terrible things. Either way, I’m stunned and horrified they’d let someone go after two and a half decades for THIS! Wishing you all the best.

Anonymous people say:

So a Prof. sends out a warning that each human being is capable of the worst of sin, which is biblical, and a Christian University fires him for it…. Unless there is some relevant detail(s) that I do not know, then this is beyond absurd.

They’d really dislike Paul’s “tirade” in Romans 3:

““None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good,
not even one. “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

and

As an alum, I can attest to the fact that Administration and Student Development have both succumbed to the leftist agenda to a certain extent. However, most of the professors and students retain orthodox beliefs. If we were able to clean out admin and student development, we would be in a much better place.

and

I’m not even religious, in fact I’m as fierce an atheist as it gets, and I find this song an extremely important reminder on human nature, delivered with style. You have another random stranger’s support from the other side of the globe.

and

Well, the university just proved this song right. Now you can add new verses.

There’s even a little Hitler inside of a Christian university. Who fires a professor for no reason cant you see. Their on their way to hell as everyone can tell, there’s a little Hitler inside the Christian university.

and


John 7:7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me, because I am testifying about it that its deeds are evil. &
2 Corinthians 2:15 For we are a sweet aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing– 16 to the latter an odor from death to death, but to the former a fragrance from life to life. //
The fact that the school fired this professor on account of this song tells us all we need know about which side of the fence these “Christian University” leaders stand. The “Cancel Culture”, MSM lies and smears, etc. is driven by the desire to silence the truth that, indeed, we are evil and are in desperate need of a savior.

Ryan Pflum says:

Honestly, I regularly read Flannery O’Connor. So, the idea that intense language can jolt us into spiritual recognition is familiar–and crucial–for me. Oh, and also reading Jesus.

Mark Mohrlang says:


And in my best behavior
I am really just like him
Look beneath the floor boards
For the secrets I have hid”

Sufjan Stevens – in a song about mass murderer John Wayne Gacy

Peter Grice says:

“Ordinary Men” by Christopher Browning. ’nuff said.

John Schober says:

Bravo my brother in Christ. Keep up the good fight. While I agree with others that maybe some gospel in the song would have helped. But that really wasn’t the point. This is a conversation starter and should be discussed as so, especially in academia… Alas modern academia has been over run with leftist who refuse to talk.

Eric Johnson says:

I’m utterly dumbfounded as to how a Christian could be offended at this admittedly shocking, but soundly Christian, truth-bearing song, expressing with dark humor (how appropriate!) the dark side of human life referred to in Matthew 5:11, 15:19; Romans 3:1-10; Romans 7; and the like. I understand how secular humanists, pop psychologists, hypocrites, and Pharisees wouldn’t like it, but we Christians are supposed to be more aware of our remaining sin than the typical humanist or Pharisee, right? God, have mercy on your people and your higher education institutions! Come and bring us renewal, or we will perish! God bless you, my friend, We have proven ourselves unworthy of your gifts.

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What is happening (once again) at Taylor University? (September 4) and
Rod Dreher defends the “Little Hitler” philosophy professor at Taylor University
(SEPTEMBER 8, 2020) Professor John Fea:

Should he be fired for “Little Hitler”? I can’t answer that question. I would need to know more about the local culture on campus at Taylor and the way Spiegel and his song fit into that culture. Perhaps there is a larger story here. Maybe this is more than just an academic freedom issue.

I do know, however, that Taylor University Provost Michael Hammond, a historian of American evangelicalism during the civil rights movement, is a good man with the best interest of Taylor in mind.

I wish he’d tell us why this thinks Provost Michael Hammond is a good man with the best interest of Taylor in mind. Perhaps he knows him personally and has stories he could tell, but for the rest of us, who don’t know either Professor Fea or Hammond, just saying so it isn’t really useful.
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There is a GofundMe campaign to raise money to keep Professor Spiegel going now that he’s lost his salary and health insurance:

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Professor Spiegel’s September 7 song, “Jesus Never Let Me Down”:

Some people have it in for me. They’re setting traps and taking shots.
They don’t have the guts to show their face, but one day my misery will be their lot.
They slander in the name of love and criticize what they don’t understand.
They cry for justice while they try to destroy an innocent man.
But I know my Lord won’t let them put me in the ground.
‘Cuz Jesus never let me down.

Some days I swear it seems like the darkness is my only real friend.
When will the light finally dawn, and when will my trouble ever end?
It seems the wicked prosper with impunity.
But my righteous Judge will set things right. He always does he eventually.
When I cry out to my Lord, I know he hears the sound.
And Jesus never let me down.

The accuser prowls like a hungry lion seeking someone to devour.
He makes trouble now but someday soon will come his final hour.
In his twisted mind what’s bad is good and out of his mouth come only lies.
He makes virtues look absurd and foolish ideas seem wise.
But there is no devilish plot the Lord cannot confound.
Yeah, Jesus never let me down.

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Brian Leiter writes on September 9 in Leiter Reports,
Evangelical university, Taylor U in Indiana, fires tenured philosophy professor…

…for what is clearly lawful, extramural speech that could not be sanctioned at any school with normal tenure and academic freedom standards. (A bit more detail here.) But Taylor’s rules provide that a tenured faculty member can be terminated for “[f]ailure to meet professional, moral, philosophical and/or spiritual standards for faculty.” … The bottom line is that no university with academic freedom or real tenure regulates faculty this way, and the result is the fiasco before us. It’s all the more startling because there was not even a semblance of due process before termination.

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whatyareckonMy blog on religious and secular issues of the day.
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DONALD L. HUGHES says in
Taylor University Fires Professor Over Free Speech Issue

Does a spiritual community exist at Taylor University? I question that.
An authentic spiritual community does not suppress free speech.
A spiritual community does not capitulate to contemporary social or political pressure.
A spiritual community does not purportedly bear false witness (insubordination, and a harassment complaint) against a member of their community.
A spiritual community does not cut off a respected, tenured professor with one week’s pay.
A spiritual community does not deny family health insurance benefits.

Something awful has happened at Taylor University. It appears to be so egregious that it will probably end up in civil court. However, as a Christian educator and journalist, I would encourage the Taylor University Board to restore Professor Spiegel to his position immediately before they further stain their reputation.

Also, I suggest the Board simultaneously institute a “Professor James Spiegel Integrity Award.” It should go to a graduating senior each year, in perpetuity, who does not cower in the face of adversity and steadfastly exercises their right of free speech.

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Philosophy Professor Fired After Posting Song on YouTube
By Justin Weinberg, Daily Nous philosophy blog:
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September 15, 2020
Press is right to ask: Why was that video about ‘Hitler’ offensive at a Christian college?
Julia Duin

One thing I found out after a teaching at two Christian colleges (one as an adjunct and the other as a professor), is that the powers-that-be do not want faculty to stand out. Whereas a secular institution is generally happy if faculty are out there making news, the leaders of many Christian colleges don’t want faculty angering anyone who might withhold donations as a result.

So if you wonder why so many faculty at Christian colleges appear to be a bland lot, that’s why.

Last week, Christianity Today came out with a piece about Christian colleges being “in crisis” because of declining enrollment and the resulting layoffs. It makes a good argument for why Christian educational institutions are undergirding the church by producing literature, scholars, spiritually alive students and keeping the culture of the faith alive.

Sadly, the article doesn’t get at the real monstrosity eating away at Christian colleges: The petty criticism of any professor who stands out; the slavish catering to the wishes of donors and the evisceration –- even by means that go against the very written policies of that institution –- of professors who are just too much trouble.

Some faculty don’t want to work at a place that doesn’t have their backs. At the various newspapers I’ve worked at, the top brass usually had your back as a reporter, so when the mayor –- or whoever –- showed up to complain about your story, that person was politely told off. But in Christian academia today, the attacks will often be inside jobs.

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Taylor University Fires Beloved Conservative Christian Professor
Todd Starnes Show.
Sep 9, 2020

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Fired Taylor Professor Tells His Story, Roys Report podcast interview with transcript.


SPIEGEL: I did a 2010 chapel service. I played it to over 1000 people. It was very well received, including by administrators, and faculty. And then there was another occasion when I played it to about 120 Taylor faculty at a faculty retreat, and again, it was warmly received and no complaints.

SPIEGEL: I always knew that that was a at least a theoretical possibility. I was never told that you know that that was on the table. But when you disobey a direct order from your superiors, that has to come to mind. So we agreed that I would make a final decision by that evening, which I did. And it might be the hardest decision I’ve ever made in my life, but in, in consultation with my wife, who was firmly opposed to my taking it down, probably even more so than I was. We had a united front there and, you know, concluded and also consulting four different pastors, a number of colleagues, got a lot of input from the wisest people we know. Everyone agreed that this was an inappropriate mandate to place on me. Either way, whether I decided to take it down or not, I would not be sinning. It was basically up to me whether I wanted to face whatever consequences might come. We thought that the worst that might happen is that I would be disqualified to take my next sabbatical, which was due next year.

ROYS: You write, “Several Taylor faculty have made posts on social media expressing their support for Black Lives Matter for defunding police and other leftist stances. And several faculty and staff attend a gay affirming church and encourage students to do the same. But the Taylor administrators permit these things.”We talked a little bit earlier, I asked you well, “Who are these Taylor, faculty or administrators that attended a gay affirming church?” You didn’t want to tell me, which I understand. But I did a little digging. And I did find out for example, Drew Moser, who’s the Dean of Student Engagement and Professor of Higher Education there at Taylor–pretty high up position. He attends Gethsemane Episcopal Church. I found a picture of him and his family posted at the Gethsemane’s website. I even reached out to them and asked about that. But it is a gay affirming church. In fact, it says right at its website. “When it comes to marriage, we practice Marriage Equality at Gethsemane, meaning we marry straight and gay couples so long as the couple meets the requirements of the Book of Common Prayer. This is a church that is in direct opposition, as I understand, I mean, it’s one thing if you go to UW Madison, and you happen to go to a gay affirming church. It’s another thing when you’re actually Dean. And you’re attending a gay affirming church, and you’re at a school, where ostensibly, Taylor has a statement saying that they do not affirm marriage other than one woman, one man forever. Right? I mean, that’s the statement on marriage. So how can this be that he’s allowed to go to this gay affirming church? You’re not allowed to put a video up about Little Hitler, which is bringing attention to a doctrine that as Christians we all affirm, as original sin. Did you talk about that in that meeting?

SPIEGEL: It was not until the termination meeting that I learned that there was a formal harassment complaint.

SPIEGEL: I still do not know who the complainant is–who has accused me of harassing them–to create a justification for my termination based on that without following the Matthew 18 model that is prescribed in the Life Together covenant does.

ROYS: I did reach out to Taylor and ask for their response and comment on your firing. They don’t like to talk specifically about personnel matters. I figured I would get a statement like that, but they did address the specific issue of the Life Together Covenant. They said, “It is important that we address the process by which this separation occurred. Just as we as individuals are all called to seek restoration of damaged rela, the biblical principles embodied in Taylor’s Life Together Covenant compel us to do the same corporately within the university. That process was followed: engaging faculty leadership, the academic department and the administration, seeking to restore what was damaged. In this case restoration was not possible.” How do you think they reconciled that statement with what you see to be the facts of the situation?

SPIEGEL: That’s a tough one. I make a living as a philosopher trying to make the most charitable interpretation of truth claims. And that is about as challenging a one to render as I’ve encountered.

SPIEGEL: It’s my understanding that a number of faculty have written a letter protesting my termination on multiple grounds. And also that I’ve heard a formal grievance is being filed. And then there have been a number of faculty, and staff and alumni, scads of alumni and students who’ve written letters, I’ve just received word of this. I have not acted so as to generate, promote, or coordinate anything along those lines. I’ve just been informed. And that’s been very heartening and encouraging, you know, to know that there’s that much support for us.

ROYS:Yeah, I did reach out to several of your colleagues that I heard had been advocating on your behalf, email back and forth with Dr. Nicholas Kerton-Johnson. He said, “You’re correct that I wrote a letter to the administration. However, I prefer not to send letters to anyone other than the one to whom they are addressed.” So I had asked for the letter to see that myself, but understand that. Dr. Arthur White also said many of the Taylor faculty are trying to follow a biblical model of conflict resolution and are meeting or speaking with the administration at present. He doesn’t want to short circuit that process by sharing any letter, but it’s an internal matter that’s going on. So it sounds like even though you have been terminated by the university, this is in flux right now. And there’s a lot of pushback from faculty. I also spoke with some alumni. One alumnus, Hoback Fischer, he said that he printed up 500 letters and have handed them out to people really encouraging them to fast and pray and to give the letters to other people just trying to inform them about what is going on.

ROYS: Can you explain what happened with Excalibur?

SPIEGEL: Right. Well, running up to that there were probably a year and a half worth of conversations that involve multiple faculty about certain trends that some of us were troubled by on campus related to the influence of critical race theory, to the extent that it was being unquestioned and critically unquestioned, ironically enough. So we believe in social justice–any Christian should, any human being should–we believe in racial justice and gender justice and any form of real justice. But there are different conceptions of this and the critical race theory approach is Marxist inspired. And it uses the lens of oppressor and oppressed in a way that is, we believe, biblically problematic. And that is not the best way to achieve true biblical justice on the race issue or any other. So we wanted to challenge that. We decided to do a anonymous newsletter as a way of kind of paying tribute to a long tradition. And universities and colleges in the West have underground newsletters which have always been leftist. And how ironic and humorous it might be to do this, you know, at a school that at least is ostensibly conservative. And unfortunately, the humor was lost on everyone. And a lot of people were offended. And we did it anonymously so as to you know, take our names out of the conversation. And so it would be just the dialogue would just be about the ideas. And I had a little article in there on the imago dei, that nobody objected to just that all human beings are made in the image of God. And that is the basis for racial and gender equality and all the rest. The other article was written by another colleague called the Shepherd’s Voice where he just asked the question, “Is the critical race theory inspired version of social justice really consistent with the voice of our good Shepherd?” And unfortunately, a lot of people took that as a challenge to social justice period.

ROYS: I know there were two other things that happened on your campus. One was, was it that you launched a petition to thwart Starbucks from coming in because of their stance on sanctity of life issues? Is that correct?

SPIEGEL: So then-president informed me that there was going to be an investigation into me for interfering with Taylor’s negotiations with a third party vendor.

ROYS: Wow. Just for launching a petition? For exercising your first amendment right?

SPIEGEL:Specifically, though, in this part I pled guilty to using using my Taylor email account when I emailed the petition–with the list of signatories–to the owner of the bookstore that was to house the Starbucks. Yeah. Valid. So, yeah. A little bit of a technicality. But yeah, and I said, “I’m sorry for that.” The reason I did that–you know, I thought through it, I thought, “Should I do my Gmail or my Taylor account?” And the reason I did not do my personal non-Taylor account was because I wanted that owner to know really I was who I said I was. Right? That I’m not just some schmo posing as a Taylor professor. And using my Taylor tailor account would make that clear.

Hoback had just a lot of really great things to say about you. But one of the things he said that I thought was really interesting, because he’s been involved in sort of galvanizing the alumni to speak about this and educating them on what happened. And he said that he talked to many alumni and their feeling was that at some point, you and Taylor would reach an impasse. And when I said, “Well why do you feel that way?” And what he said, and I quote, “Dr. Spiegel, his understanding of Christianity is rooted in the philosophical knowledge of Western Christianity. Taylor’s understanding as it has been expressed in its paradigmatic programs put on by student development is not based on the same historic philosophical tradition. It tends to be motivated from a place of postmodern philosophy combined with American Pietism and American revivalism over the past 200 years, which is distinct from the Church of seven ecumenical councils. It’s distinct from the reformed statements of the faith that came down to us around the 16th and 17th century and therefore also distinct from the Christianity that Dr. Spiegel espouses.” And so I said to him, “So what you’re saying is that Taylor does not conform to traditional understanding of Christianity, but as more rooted in post modernism. And I’m guessing that would mean the hot button issues would be LGBT and critical race theory and identity based more in the group that you belong to, as opposed to your identity in Christ. Is that what you’re saying?” He said, “That is exactly correct.” I know there’s a lot of people watching this from the outside who are wondering, “Is that really what’s going on?” Because we’re seeing a lot of that at lot of schools we’re out of one mouth we’re hearing–and again Taylor’s response when they talked about your firing, they said we will continue the work that we are called to do embracing the core evangelical Christian distinctives that define our community at Taylor University. That’s what most of the parents I’m guessing who are sending their kids to Taylor are banking on, that that’s what they’re doing. And yet I’ve got an alumnus who went there. And he said, most everybody I talked to they say Dr. Spiegel doesn’t fit in with the university anymore, because he’s standing on what Christians have traditionally stood on and believed in, which is ostensibly what Taylor says they believe in. And yet, he’s coming to blows with the administration, because that’s really not where they’re at. Now, I don’t know if you’re willing to speak on that. But I think that’s the question so many of us Christians who care about Christian distinctives at distinctly Christian universities are wondering. So is he on to something?

SPIEGEL:…historically, Taylor has come out of more of a pietistic tradition. And, you know, with higher biblical criticism of the 19th century, there were a few basic responses to that. One was to accept the critiques that were offered that were undermining biblical authority as really devastating the traditional view that scripture is divinely inspired and, and authoritative and reliable. That’s the leftist or liberal kind of response there. Another response was the decision to tackle higher biblical criticism on its own terms–to critique it to show that, “No, these criticisms of Scripture don’t work.” And to do the hard, scholarly trench work, to show that those critiques fail. That’s the side I’m on. And that’s the side that so much of Christian higher education in the 20th century, a lot of schools that were founded, took and have taken. But then the Pietists, they preferred–and this is all very kind of thumbnail sketch–but the Pietists were those who said, you know, if we try to engage those critiques, those arguments, we’re going to get embroiled in discussions that you know, are only going to cause more harm than good. Better to focus on what matters most. And that is personal virtue, spiritual formation, living piously. And let’s focus on the fundamentals of our faith. Okay, and so, fundamentalism is something that, you know, grew out of that or greatly expanded out of the pietistic impulse. Taylor, and this is all very kind of sweeping but I think it can be truly said that Taylor University as an institution, has been heavily influenced by that pietistic approach. And even though in its history, there’s been at least some solid scholarship, not a lot. You’re not gonna find many significant publications coming out of Taylor’s history, more, there’s been more of a focus on quality classroom teaching. And that’s where Taylor is today and has been for a long time, or scholarship is appreciated, but you certainly don’t need to be well published quality or quantity wise to get tenure. And it’s certainly not rewarded like it would be at so many other schools. Classroom teaching is valued above all else. And that is consistent with the pietistic impulse. One of the problems though with taking the more pietistic route, is because you kind of remove yourself or sideline yourself as an institution from the thicket of scholarly debate and conversation is you can be blindsided or undermined by cultural currents that really need rigorous cultural critique in order to immunize your community against those dangerous values and ideas. And so my analysis would be that Taylor, like any other pietistic school, is especially vulnerable to some of the current thought forms that are sweeping the nation. There’s not enough of a critical eye, or tradition within the school to rigorously engage those thought forms–ideologies–which threaten to undermine the most foundational values and beliefs of the school.

ROYS: I was able to interview someone that you spoke with, a colleague of yours who happens to be at another school, Chris Date. He’s the adjunct professor of Bible and Theology at Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary. And he spoke very highly of you. He said the one thing about you that’s unique is that you’re not just respected in Christian academic circles, but you’re one of the few that are actually invited to speak at secular venues because of the publishing you’ve done. And because of, you know, how well spoken you are about philosophy and ethics and those kind of topics. And he said, and again, I quote, “When you can get fired at the administration’s whim because one other faculty complains about it, and you haven’t done anything immoral or unethical, or arguably even unwise, you’re simply helping people to understand what the biblical view of human nature is. That’s an environment in which it’s really no better than a secular institution. We conservative evangelicals have been complaining for some time that secular institutions of higher learning are not conducive to learning how to think properly, and we’ve complained about the stifling and the cancel culture that has just run rampant in these institutions. I would like to think that an evangelical institution would have a higher standard than that, because I care most about teaching students how to learn, how to think, and not merely what to say.

SPIEGEL: You know, that is fundamental to my discipline, philosophy. It’s about, you know, developing critical thinking skills, being rigorous analysis of ideas, defining your terms, and patiently engaging truth claims, even ones that can be presented in shocking terms. You know, I have my students read Nietzsche, and, and other highly abrasive, often hostile to theism, not just Christianity type thinkers. And it’s far more offensive than any little music video that’s speaking at a satirical point. Our culture is less and less tolerant of that approach. But I do see, you know, the songs I write, including that one, the Little Hitler one as part and parcel of my own critical thinking agenda or method. You know, there’s all sorts of ways that I’ve tried to engage students over the years I’ve written poetry, written songs, I’ve done rock music marathons, I’ve done things with juggling. All sorts of methods that I know of are pedagogically out there in order to stimulate people to think outside the box or look at things in a new way. So it’s all about trying to nourish people’s minds and improve their ability to think critically. But alas, we’re at a point in our nation’s history in our culture’s development where there’s less and less interest in pushing certain boundaries and challenging people and being shocking in the sense that Flannery O’Connor endorsed, in order to get people to become more aware of their own beliefs and ideas.

ROYS: I know there’s gonna be a lot of Taylor people listening to this: alumni, students, faculty, maybe even administrators. What one message might you have for them?

SPIEGEL: That I love them. And that is, that will never stop. Even those who made the decision to fire me. I will still and always consider them friends. I will always love the Taylor community. It’s a wonderful school with a wonderful tradition, a lot of great Christian people, all sinners just like me, but you know, through God’s redemptive work, he’s done great things through the school. And you know, my oldest son who’s already signed for the Taylor soccer team and will be pleased, you know, he goes on to the Taylor, warts and all. Right? Every college and university ever going back to Plato’s Academy has been flawed. And they’re just no perfect humans are no perfect institution. So in that sense, it’s kind of a likely story that things like this happen. But God has forgiven me a mountain of sins. And it would be foolish and hypocritical if I didn’t extend forgiveness and a desire for reconciliation, you know, to my colleagues at Taylor, you know, whether or not I go back and teach there, that’s probably not going to happen. But you know, you can still hope and pray for reconciliation.

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