Union Seminary’s Hard Core Holy Week

on March 30, 2015

Forget waving palms and foot washing. Union Theological Seminary’s President Serene Jones is re-styling Holy Week in the school’s e-newsletter as “The Holy Week of Resistance” in which the suffering servant makes way for a generous serving of liberation theology:

“Too often, the Jesus that we remember is white as snow and would be fine with the ‘family-friendly’ Easter bunnies, spring picnics, and chocolate eggs that abound. Yet the first-century brown-skinned refugee Jesus wasn’t crucified because he was such a friendly neighbor. He was crucified because he threatened to overturn the violent ways of the Empire.”

Hard Core!

For the past year, Union has been engaged in a re-branding effort, most recently debuting a redesigned newsletter and web site intended to showcase the aging oldline Protestant seminary as something more than warmed-over 1960s thought.

“You will notice that we are rolling out new branding that reflects Union as ‘radical, urban, and edgy,’” Jones unconvincingly wrote in November, apparently having faith that graphic design and a new color scheme oddly resembling Zoolander villain Mugatu’s Derelicte campaign will somehow boost the school:

Union itself has mirrored the decline of other storied Religious Left institutions on Manhattan’s upper west side: the National Council of Churches abandoned the “God Box” interchurch center for smaller quarters in Washington, D.C. two years ago, while Harry Emerson Fosdick’s famous Riverside Church has dwindled to about 600 attendees on a Sunday, down from 3,600 in the 1950s. Union itself has dropped from 330 fulltime enrolled students in 2003-2004 to 216 in 2014-2015.

The New York seminary is still recycling old content, warning of “the collusion of police and capitalist structures” and how “postracial discourse conspires with state-sanctioned violence against brown and black bodies” while hosting the usual panels obsessed with race and sexuality such as “doing ministry from a queer space.”

Union has a distinguished liberal Protestant history that includes Reinhold Niebuhr among others, but instead it chooses to stress protest radicalism of more recent decades, attempting to latch on to the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations and Ferguson, Missouri protests.

Nothing is more pitiable than an aging hipster.

  1. Comment by Jason P Taggart on March 30, 2015 at 11:08 am

    Among Union students, the largest denomination are the Unitarians, who do not even claim to be Christian, so effectively Union is not even a Christian seminary any more.

  2. Comment by Kyle on March 30, 2015 at 2:24 pm

    That was not a shock – 600 in attendance at that humongous Riverside Church. That’s as bad as the sparse attendance in the great cathedrals of Europe, which are situated in a post-Christian society. So Riverside must be post-Christian too.

  3. Comment by truelinguist on March 30, 2015 at 9:11 pm

    Take a gander at Union’s home page: no surprises here – “justice,” “race matters,” “earth matters, “Islamophobia.” It could have been designed by any random atheist staff member working at the New York Times – and probably was.


  4. Comment by Palamas on March 31, 2015 at 3:14 pm

    “He was crucified because he threatened to overturn the violent ways of the Empire.”

    Right. Jesus was crucified because He threatened to make the Roman Empire into a pacifist utopia resembling 21st century Morningside Heights.

  5. Comment by Stephen Manning on March 31, 2015 at 6:10 pm

    Is it just me or is the entire agenda and set of values exhibited by the Protestant Mainline wholly derived from leftist politics? Is there anything at all that the political/social left embraces that these churches do not eventually kowtow to? It’s really pathetic. They’re all of them just Unitarians in drag.

  6. Comment by Nellar on April 3, 2015 at 8:59 pm

    It’s not just you.

  7. Comment by Arbuthnaught on April 1, 2015 at 9:19 am

    Found this quote in a google search. The link is below. I doubt the students at union today even know who Bonhoeffer was. The more things change the more they stay the same…….
    Bonhoeffer on Union Theological Seminary

    Here is a great quote from Bonhoeffer on his time studying at Union Theological Seminary:

    “There is no theology here… They talk a blue streak without the slightest substantive foundation… The students are completely clueless with respect to what dogmatics is really about. They are unfamiliar with even the most basic of questions. They become intoxicated with liberal and humanistic phrases, laugh at the fundamentalists, and yet basically are not even up to their level.”

    This is from his biography, “Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.”


  8. Comment by davidrswartz on April 1, 2015 at 1:59 pm

    This kind of mean-spirited, snarky article doesn’t seem to reflect the humility symbolized by footwashing either.

  9. Comment by Arbuthnaught on April 1, 2015 at 2:55 pm

    I wish you wouldn’t have said the article was “mean spirited.” I am going to be losing sleep nights now.

  10. Comment by Yank In Slough on April 9, 2015 at 8:14 pm

    This is why female ordination and “gay-griendly” theology make me nervous. I don’t have a problem in principle, but pretty much every female, gay, or lesbian priest I’ve encountered ends up pushing a really hard-left agenda. And I mean hard-left as in supporting Hamas, anti-Israel, soft on Russia, etc. That’s what worries me.

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