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.”
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.