Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Mere Anglicanism 2015 - a Report (II)

Friday afternoon at the Mere Anglicanism Conference in Charleston began with a talk by Mary Eberstadt, a former special assistant to Ambassador Jeane J. Kirkpatrick at the United Nations, speechwriter for Secretary of State George Schultz, and managing editor at The Public Interest. Also a Roman Catholic, she is currently Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and most recently author of How the West Really Lost God: a New Theory of Secularism.

She announced that although she was Catholic, she could not be intimidated by an Anglican audience: "You can't scare me. I have children." Her topic? Echoing Jonathan Edwards' most famous sermon, it was "Christians in the Hands of an Angry New Intolerance."

Citing the suppression of a debate on abortion at Christ Church College in Oxford last November, following threats of violence from "pro-choice" supporters, she asserted that the almost daily rage directed at Christians throughout the world was "unprecedented" in degree. (She refrained from using,  as she might well have, the horrors committed by Boko Haram in Nigeria as an example.)

She laid out seven objective facts about the current persecution of Christians and their religion:

First, as the shutdown of the debate at Christ Church College drives home, nothing less than our right to free speech is at stake. "Words matter; they are not just window dressing." Free speech is fundamental to a society's functioning.

Second, the anger has given rise to a new double standard: Christians are "fair game" for the New Atheists and others, while those who hurl their accusations are not held to account. "We need to play offense, not defense, against those who slander us."

Third, the anger is hurting real people in their livelihoods and worship, from Jews in Europe, to the British Airways stewardess who was forbidden from wearing to work a necklace with a simple cross, to the Mozilla CEO forced to resign on account of a donation he made to same-sex marriage opponents in California (the supporters of Prop. 8).

Fourth, the driving force behind this unprecedented rage is the need to protect, at all costs, the gains won in the recent sexual revolution. At stake are the quiet, domestic moments which Humanae vitae cites as bringing us closer to God, as when Whittaker Chambers related he felt the finger of God touching him as he marveled at the intricacy of his infant daughter's ear. "The family is the human symphony through which the voice of God is heard." Quoting Yeats's The Second Coming ("The falcon cannot hear the falconer ... the centre cannot hold"), she noted that the creature can no longer hear the creator, and rages because it is incapable of creating on its own.

Fifth, the sheer rage against Christianity adds to the secularization of the age, as those on the margin are swept off into the secular seas. Intimidation leads to censorship, which eventually produces self-censorship -- and Christianity diminishes for lack of witness.

Sixth, the new intolerance cloaks itself in the mantle of civil rights. Unlike the earlier righteous anger against discrimination and injustice, however, the anger of today's secularists is driven by malice, for the reasons given earlier, and so the claim to be on the side of Martin Luther King is false.

Seventh, Christianity is not without resources. Although it is ironic that it is the non-believers who cite the Pope's recent pronouncements as if to show that the Catholic Church "is saying goodbye to all that old stuff", their own intolerance to traditional religion may help to unify Christianity. For Christianity has an invincible asset which intolerance cannot touch: its God-given moral code.

The afternoon closed with an affirmation of all that had gone before, delivered by Dr. Os Guinness, great-great-grandson of the Dublin brewer, born in China to missionaries, educated in London and Oxford, now a member of The Falls Church (Anglican), in Virginia, and the author of over thirty books. Drawing on the contrast between Kant's vision of "Perpetual Peace" and Friedrich Nietzsche's "War of the spirits" (Ger. Geisterkrieg, from his Ecce Homo), and picking up on the "Yes and Amen" song in Thus Spake Zarathustra, Guinness titled his talk: "Life with No Amen: Atheism and the global 'war of the spirits'."

He began with an in-depth examination of the modern phenomenon of atheism -- whose stepchild, "irrational, implacable secularism" has been "the incubator of totalitarianism." It is a philosophy whose essence is its anti-Christianity, and its expression today poses three major questions for the West:

1. Will Islam modernize peacefully?
2. What will replace Marxism in China?
3. Will the West sever from, or recover, its roots?

Without worship, we literally shrink. Indeed, fully a quarter of America's self-proclaimed atheists, according to the Pew Survey, consider themselves "religious" -- and 14 % even say they "believe in God"! Atheists can get away with these absurdities because our current weak culture, having no core beliefs of its own, goes out of its way to accommodate the whole spectrum of beliefs.

Atheism, in fact, is the reaction to centuries of oppression by corrupt State churches, so that Christians themselves, acting in their own selfish interests, and offering their own distortions of the faith, have furnished the fuel for the atheists' case (such as it is). Atheism becomes the replacement for "unnecessary" religion, whereby man can get along just fine on his own.

But secularism has its own problems: it cannot deal with the fact that life points beyond itself; or that modern science contradicts its own premises [see the account of Alvin Plantinga's talk at last year's Conference], and is thus false. It holds that the tendency towards the transcendent must be steadfastly resisted. Secularism has "no givens, no rules, and no limits." As a consequence, it is woefully lacking, and hence vulnerable.

America has to halt the process towards negative freedom: all of today's freedoms are freedom from this and that, and we are losing our traditional freedom to do, to believe, and to speak. Putting equality above liberty results in the French, not the American, Revolution (witness the reaction to the Charlie Hebdo massacre: there is no real freedom of speech in France, but only license to besmirch, insult and sink to the gutter -- so long as religion is your target, and secularism your philosophy).

Some, echoing Nietzsche, call for a "post-human" world, because of a post-liberal nihilism. The challenge for our Church is to answer that call with an unstinting affirmation of Christianity, as it has been handed down to us. Can the Church be warmed again by the spirit of the living God? (Dr. Guinness' latest book, Renaissance: the Power of the Gospel However Dark the Times, is a much fuller treatment of the themes in his talk, and is highly recommended for those who would be inspired even more.)

And on that note, the Conference adjourned to the Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul, for a choral high mass that not only warmed, but lifted, the very rafters. The brass choir gave a splendid opening fanfare, and the massed choirs and mighty organ took things from there. Bishop Lawrence presided at Holy Eucharist, while the Rev. John Guest, of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh, gave a moving sermon on the Gospel (Mt 5:11-16) -- that is to say, on the theme ("salt and light") of the Conference, illustrated with wonderful examples from his own family life and career.

The next morning, after an hour for the speakers to sign their respective books upon request, the Conference gathered for the final talk, given by the Rev. Prof. Alister McGrath, the holder of a chair in science and religion at Oxford University. His title was: "Capturing the Cultural Imagination: How C.S. Lewis Can Help Us Engage Secularism." (Prof. McGrath has recently written a widely acclaimed biography of C.S. Lewis.)

With the great benefit of having heard all the talks that came before him, Prof. McGrath was able to tailor his remarks to the themes of the other speakers, while at the same time illuminating those points with his own insights drawn from C.S. Lewis' many writings. He sketched his main theme by asking and then answering his own question as he imagined Lewis would: "What can we do to change the story that dominates our culture? Tell a better story -- capture the imagination."

As a starting point for understanding the age we live in, he recommended philosopher Charles Taylor's definitive work, A Secular Age (2007). There Taylor carefully traces the "shift in master narratives" which has taken place since the 1500's: then it was difficult not to believe in God, while today people find it difficult to believe in God.

Taylor draws a sharp distinction between natural and supernatural. While the latter used to be regarded as not impossible, the concept was undermined beginning with the modern philosophies of Descartes and Spinoza, which were amplified by the post-moderns Heidegger and Wittgenstein. But post-modernism asks us to accept things which cannot be proved, based wholly on assumptions. (Philosophy, like theology, is fiduciary in that it asks us to trust the philosophy that is expressed. Yet philosophy will not accept or trust in the existence of God, which likewise cannot be proved.)

C.S. Lewis, said McGrath, is neither modern nor post-modern. He bridges both camps -- he mingles reason with imagination. And this insight will help us break the power of today's master narratives ("metanarratives") over the popular imagination.

As an example, consider the following quotation from Lewis' lecture, "Is Theology Poetry?":
I believe in Christianity, as I believe the sun has risen; not only do I see it, but by it I see everything else.
This shows reason and imagination as collaborative. As Austin Farrer noted, Lewis' vision carries with it its own conviction: first make people wish that Christianity were true, then show them that it is true. "Reason without imagination is dull; imagination without reason is escapism." We ourselves are as if spellbound, thinking that our destiny, and all that is good, lies in this world. But listen to Lewis himself again, from Mere Christianity, sketching "an argument from desire":
If I find in myself a desire which no experience can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.
McGrath noted that we need to present our faith in a way that opens (ignites) the imagination and shows how our faith works -- in other words, how it is true. The joy and luminosity of our faith will draw people to it precisely because secularism has none of those things to offer to them.

Consider, he asked, all of the stories Lewis tells in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the first volume in his Chronicles of Narnia series: which of the six or so stories (each character has his or her own to tell) is the best story? How does each story match up with what we ourselves observe? How trustworthy is the storyteller? How does our own individual story match up or link with the main story of the book? The larger story makes our own individual one more meaningful.

The secular world has neither hope, nor transcendence (though it has a tendency toward escapism, as Dr. Guinness noted). Our destiny, and all that secularism calls good, lies only in this world (which has banished God "far upstairs", as Prof. Wright pointed out).

Lewis' remedies for dealing with the secular age contain both strategies and resources for renewal:
  • Reaffirm the traditional doctrinal formulations of our faith -- go back to the sources that inspired generations before
  • Recapture the imagination of our culture - by "out-narrating the metanarratives of our culture", by telling a better story
  • Use the ideas and inspirations of the theologians Lewis admired: John Donne, George Herbert, Thomas Traherne -- doctrine is important, but what is significant is what you do with it
We don't need to make our faith attractive; it already is. How does my life reflect the attractiveness of my faith? Our own stories have meaning and value when they become part of the larger story that is faith, and our letting that happen advances faith on its trajectory. Meanwhile, take comfort in the sheer dullness of atheism, the existential shallowness of secularism. People love stories, and they need a better one! Prof. McGrath concluded: We have that story.

After a brief recess, Chad Lawrence (the Bishop's son) presented a short video about the Christian school he has started under the aegis of St. Helena's in Beaufort. The interviews with the young students were charming, and underscored both the necessity of winning the culture war by reaching the minds of our children before the secular age does, and the receptivity of young minds to a classical education.

Following that presentation, all of the Conference speakers came back on stage to form a panel to answer audience questions. Bishop Mark Lawrence moderated the session, and opened with a brief summary of what he had taken from each speaker's presentation. Then he asked them: "How do we tell the story of the Gospel when it is increasingly banished from the public sphere?" This unleashed a plethora of responses, most of which stressed the importance of always setting a Christian example in public. We cannot go back to the sacred public square, but we can at least show civility and respect as we give witness to our faith, and do not let rudeness pass for intellectual sophistication.

Os Guinness reminded us of the founding father's notion of the free marketplace of ideas, and then said: "E pluribus unum [out of many, one] is at risk. This country is rampant with diversity that threatens its unity." Mary Eberstadt observed that identity politics is boxing people in (i.e., "I was born that way"), and that showing people their victimhood leads nowhere is a key to freeing them.

A question about the preservation of traditional marriage also provoked a wide-ranging discussion. Ross Douthat, the Catholic, reminded the panel that defense of the celibate life must go hand-in-hand with defense of the family and traditional marriage. Bishop Nazir-Ali added that "the Bible never speaks of individuals, but of persons-in-relationship," applicable to married and celibate alike. Marriage, as Vatican II recognized, is rooted in our creation, but it is not just about the spouses; it is even more about the children, whose needs today are being woefully neglected as parents pursue their own goals. Prof. Wright noted, as he had in his talk, that marriage between a man and a woman is a sign of new creation, of heaven joining with earth to make all things new. Celibacy symbolizes the "not yet" in the Bible's arc, while marriage symbolizes the "already."

There was a final, pointed question: how does one respond to a professional person -- a psychiatrist, teacher, or scientist who is told that joining a Church will bar him or her from advancement in their career? The panel had no easy answer; the gist of its response was the need to fight back against all such attempts to exclude religion from the public square. (The First Amendment guarantees the freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.) Os Guinness pointed out the hypocrisy, indeed -- illiberality, of liberals trying to exclude religious voices from the public sphere. Prof. Wright noted that we have lost the art of civilized debate, and what passes for dialogue is more like the lobbing of hand grenades. That said, Ross Douthat reminded everyone that as Christians, we are supposed to be uncomfortable in today's world: to be at home with it is to compromise one's beliefs.

And on that triumphant note, one of the most marvelous Conferences ever came to an end. People I talked to afterward were enthused beyond expectations; their spiritual batteries recharged; and their armor of light shining with a new brilliance. For all those who were unable to attend, watch the Mere Anglicanism site for an announcement of recordings of the talks to be available by March, with videos to follow afterward.

Oh, yes -- the theme of next year's Conference (January 21-23, 2016) was disclosed at the very end: it will be the Christian response to (militant) Islam. Registration will commence later this year; watch the Website for the announcement.








Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Mere Anglicanism 2015 - a Report (I)

The 2015 Mere Anglicanism Conference in Charleston, South Carolina -- a sold-out event -- centered on the theme "Salt and Light: the Christian Response to Secularism." The speakers were left to choose their own individual topics; the organizers merely designated the theme. For that reason, it was truly remarkable to observe how the presentations complemented and sustained each other.

The Rt. Rev. Prof. N. T. Wright, the former Bishop of Durham and now the chair of New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of St. Andrews School of Divinity, gave the opening night talk on January 22. Entitled "How Scripture Outflanks Secularism: the Biblical Challenge to the World and to the Church", it served as a terrific inspiration for the Conference as a whole, which aims to equip Anglicans of all walks for the challenges of leadership, and "to take theology home with them." Delivered with an enthusiasm and conviction that was infectious, his talk was nonetheless so densely packed with ideas and new ways of looking at old things that it is well-nigh impossible to summarize in a few paragraphs. Still, I must try.

In a nutshell, Dr. Wright tackled head-on how the Church best handles the secular age: not by confronting it head-on, but rather, by being true to the full arc of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, it outflanks it.

He singled out two major characteristics of secularism that open it to this strategy:

First, it has revived the ancient philosophy of Epicureanism by treating God, or the gods, as very distant and indifferent to man or what happens on Earth, thus conveniently leaving man to run things on his own. The result (in secularism, as in Epicureanism before it) is to shunt God upstairs: and thereby to divide heaven from earth, religion from man -- and Jesus from His Church.

(The latter happens when the Church all too often allows it, for example, by thinking and preaching that treats heaven as a place to which we go when we die, to live the afterlife apart from this Earth. To the contrary: Revelation teaches that heaven -- the new Jerusalem -- will come down to Earth, and the faithful will partake in Jesus' rule here on Earth. Thus, properly read and understood, the arc of Scripture begins and ends with heaven here on Earth, with God at one with His creation, and Jesus at one with His Church.)

Second, the secularist philosophy embraces the notion of progress, by which this latest age is seen as the best of all that came before it. Moreover, it is all man’s doing, with no need for any God or gods along the way. But progress on man's yardstick is illusory: what it really measures is our increasing alienation from God.

The Church’s strategy in response to secularism has three aspects.

First, in spatial terms, it refuses to separate heaven from earth, or man from God: it celebrates, and models, Christ’s union of the two through His incarnation, death and resurrection. It fills in the spatial gap that the Enlightenment philosophers deliberately created, and that secularists have striven to maintain ever since.

Second, the Church unites past and future time, by proclaiming the Kingdom of Heaven symbolized in the resurrection. That kingdom, as Jesus told us, is here on earth now, and while the future may expand and fulfill it, nothing can detract from its reality and significance for today, by showing forth God’s glory in His kingdom (akin to God's shekinah in His tabernacle, or temple). Thus in a fully temporal sense, the Church completes the arc of the Bible by placing God in His temple again, just as he was in Eden at the beginning of creation. God's glory in His temple is the parallel to Christ's marriage with His Church (just as marriage between a man and a woman signifies that same mystical union).

Third, the Church does not allow the secularists to pick up and exploit the bits and pieces it has left lying about through the years, such as the concepts of justice and equality for all of God’s creation. The secularists co-opt these concepts into their victims’ rights movements, one after the other (from blacks to women to gays to the trans-gendered to -- who, or what, will be next?). By teaching the union of space (heaven and earth) and time (past, present and future now) which itself embodies the full justice of God on earth, Scripture completely outflanks secularism, and thereby leaves it nowhere to call its own.

On Friday morning, it was the Rt. Rev. Michael Nazir-Ali's turn. Speaking extemporaneously (as is his wont), he gave the Conference first, a retrospective talk that answered the questions: "What was it that we had?" and "How did we lose it?" Beginning with Magna Carta -- or even earlier, with the laws of King Alfred the Great -- and continuing with the universal authority of the Ten Commandments, royal power showed respect for the law. On an individual level, the human who is made in God's image, lends legitimacy to the law by consenting to it, and achieves thereby the transition from (royal) subject to free citizen. As Bishop Bartolom√© de las Casas insisted, all who are made in God's image are worthy of the law's respect and protection -- and this concept, translated to Europe, became what Locke called "natural rights."

This synthesis, in turn, was gradually undermined by the forces of modernism -- by Feuerbach, who subjectivized God, by the materialism of Marx, and by Jung, who psychologized God. Aristotle's teleology was banished; man became a tragedy (Camus) or a comedy (Saroyan), while society's measure was taken by its material wealth, and empirical science focused only on the what and the how, while ignoring the why and the what for.

Alternatively, the "Sudden Death" thesis traces the triumph of secularism to the social (but not political) revolution of the 60s. Women's revolution -- feminism -- drove out the fathers, and the combined effect was to create a moral and spiritual vacuum that needed to be filled by something; hence we have secularism rampant. (And this is also the real danger of radical Islamism.) A human's "inalienable rights" mutate into autonomy, which leaves out the person-in-relationship of our previous tradition. But in reality, human beings are equal because they have a common origin, and not because their lifestyles are all equal. Without teleology we have "progress" without a purpose -- which is to say, random evolution.

Next, Bishop Nazir-Ali posed the question: "Are we going to turn our backs on what has brought us to where we are, or are we going to avail ourselves of our Biblical heritage?" What we need is for young people to take the faith into their professions, a strengthening of the family, a goal for the migration that is happening through our churches: we have to become more mission-minded.

"We have an answer for secularism," Bishop Nazir-Ali concluded. "Secularism does not have an answer for us."

Next up was the journalist Ross Douthat, a former editor of The Atlantic, and the youngest op-ed columnist for the New York Times. His main message for the Conference: "secularism is not as strong as it looks."

He began with a lively and captivating sketch of his childhood, where his religious experiences were largely mediated through his mother's healing-driven attempts to sample all the organized faiths, from Episcopalianism to Pentecostalism, before they both ended up in the Roman Catholic Church (where he remains today with his wife and family).

Then he took up his main theme: "The Return of the 1970s: the New Christian Civil War." Drawing on an account taken from his book Bad Religion, he traced the parallels to what led up to, and was going on in, the polarized 70s -- with four current trends he identified from his perspective as a journalist:

(1) Political polarization - the divisions between political parties threaten to swamp Christianity. It is essential to its nature that Christianity stand above politics and parties. The Gospel is more encompassing than the platforms of Republicans or Democrats.

(2) the sexual revolution - has opened a gap between the middle class's former moral common sense, and Biblical ethics. At least there used to be an acknowledgment in society that the Bible's moral prescriptions made sense; now we lack even that.

(3) the impact of money and wealth -  the gradual  accumulation of wealth beyond one's wildest dreams has tended to blur moral boundaries. This drift into prosperity has given rise to a theology of prosperity, whereas what we need (but don't want to hear) is a theology of renunciation.

(4) Decolonization, globalization and the huge expansion of information technology - these all work together to make it more difficult to believe that religion has the one Truth. The pluralists and multiculturalists all maintain that "the world is just too big and complicated for Christianity to contain the complete truth." Their growth in numbers has opened the door for heresy to creep in.

That was how Douthat saw things five years ago when he wrote his book. But now he sees things a bit differently, as conservative religion is thought to have run its course, and we are back to the 70s' habit of questioning everything. This development threatens to reopen the civil wars between liberal and conservative Christianity, involving a religious push-back to the increasingly secular judiciary; a "liberal Christianity" whose all-inclusiveness is actually one-sided and polarizing; and "therapeutic faith" - a search for the version of religion that makes you feel better about yourself (e.g., as in the book Eat, Pray, Love), without regard for Biblical truth.

On the positive side, there has been a return to orthodox theology from within, and the fresh outlook stemming from the election of Pope Francis. The flashpoint is same-sex marriage, with its related attack on religious beliefs as embodied in Obamacare.

Douthat offered three ways to look at the current situation:

(1) As a challenge: how to respond to "friendly pressure", such as from those who view the Bible's sexual mores today the way that Christians a century ago viewed Mormon polygamy -- as an embarrassment that needs to change.

(2) As an opportunity: secularism is not as strong as it looks; there are cracks in it everywhere. The culture is fundamentally religious.

(3) As a necessity that we prove wrong the views of our friendly underminers.

And that sums up the evening and the morning of the first day of Mere Anglicanism. To keep the talks in perspective, and your curiosity whetted, I shall divide this report into two parts, with my summaries of the last three talks in the next installment.








Monday, January 5, 2015

Shooting Fish in a Barrel

No one in his right mind could enjoy "shooting fish in a barrel" -- and that is the point of the metaphor: it is too easy.

That said, I must acknowledge that my own alma mater is coming in for some (well-deserved, IMHO) ridicule for its faculty's belated discovery of the costs added by the coverage mandates of Obamacare. To wit (H/T: the New York Times, of all conceivable sources; my emphasis added):
For years, Harvard’s experts on health economics and policy have advised presidents and Congress on how to provide health benefits to the nation at a reasonable cost. But those remedies will now be applied to the Harvard faculty, and the professors are in an uproar.

Members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the heart of the 378-year-old university, voted overwhelmingly in November to oppose changes that would require them and thousands of other Harvard employees to pay more for health care. The university says the increases are in part a result of the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act, which many Harvard professors championed.
Oh, champion it they did, indeed. But somehow, what Harvard's faculty expressed was "good" for America's uninsured, they never understood could cost them anything out of their own pockets:
In Harvard’s health care enrollment guide for 2015, the university said it “must respond to the national trend of rising health care costs, including some driven by health care reform,” in the form of the Affordable Care Act. The guide said that Harvard faced “added costs” because of provisions in the health care law that extend coverage for children up to age 26, offer free preventive services like mammograms and colonoscopies and, starting in 2018, add a tax on high-cost insurance, known as the Cadillac tax.
As I said at the outset, reminding Harvard's distinguished faculty that there is no such thing as a free lunch is all to akin to shooting fish in a barrel. But what can one do, when they offer the Times such ready targets? Take this professor's quote, for example -- and how appropriate that a professor of the classics should deliver such a classic quote:
Richard F. Thomas, a Harvard professor of classics and one of the world’s leading authorities on Virgil, called the changes “deplorable, deeply regressive, a sign of the corporatization of the university.”
The "corporatization [one shudders at the adoption of such a 20th-century neologism by a Harvard classics professor] of the university"?? Excuse me?

How about: basic mathematics? Such as: 1 (your own insurance) + 1 (the insurance you agreed to mandate be provided for others, who cannot pay for it) = 2 (the total cost you now have to bear)?

Sigh. Sic transit gloria harvardiensis.

We continue this sad parade with this quote from a Harvard professor who thinks what has happened must be considered "a pay cut":
Mary D. Lewis, a professor who specializes in the history of modern France and has led opposition to the benefit changes, said they were tantamount to a pay cut. “Moreover,” she said, “this pay cut will be timed to come at precisely the moment when you are sick, stressed or facing the challenges of being a new parent.”
Well, yes -- it is a sort of "pay cut" -- because Obamacare charges those able to pay more in order to subsidize the previously uninsured so they can have coverage, including all of those mandated extras, remember? But then: if you didn't want to suffer a pay cut, why did you support Obamacare???

And it is not as though Harvard is being stingy: to the contrary, it is one of the most generous of employers affected by Obamacare:
Harvard’s new plan is far more generous than plans sold on public insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act. Harvard says its plan pays 91 percent of the cost of services for the covered population, while the most popular plans on the exchanges, known as silver plans, pay 70 percent, on average, reflecting their "actuarial value.”
Did you get that? Whose employer, out of all those who may happen to read this blog, ever pays as much as 91 percent of the employee's costs? Yet, listen to those disgruntled Harvard professors again:
In response [to the announced increase in costs], Harvard professors, including mathematicians and microeconomists, have dissected the university’s data and question whether its health costs have been growing as fast as the university says. Some created spreadsheets and contended that the university’s arguments about the growth of employee health costs were misleading. In recent years, national health spending has been growing at an exceptionally slow rate.
Problem is, one of Harvard's own (today) was in the forefront of recommending the features of Obamacare that now are driving up the immediate costs of insurance -- and he still claims that the increases are  a good thing (over the long run, of course):
In 2009, while Congress was considering the health care legislation, Dr. Alan M. Garber — then a Stanford professor and now the provost of Harvard — led a group of economists who sent an open letter to Mr. Obama endorsing cost-control features of the bill. They praised the Cadillac tax as a way to rein in health costs and premiums.

Dr. Garber, a physician and health economist, has been at the center of the current Harvard debate. He approved the changes in benefits, which were recommended by a committee that included university administrators and experts on health policy.

In an interview, Dr. Garber acknowledged that Harvard employees would face greater cost-sharing, but he defended the changes. “Cost-sharing, if done appropriately, can slow the growth of health spending,” he said. “We need to be prepared for the very real possibility that health expenditure growth will take off again.”
But you can't convince that most enlightened of faculties that they, of all people, should have to share in the cost of covering those who had no coverage before (such as those, for example, who were denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition). No, they think that Harvard is pulling a fast one on them -- even though they want it all, and think that Obamacare -- for others -- is just fine:
“Harvard employees want access to everything,” said Dr. Barbara J. McNeil, the head of the health care policy department at Harvard Medical School and a member of the benefits committee. “They don’t want to be restricted in what institutions they can get care from.”

Although out-of-pocket costs over all for a typical Harvard employee are to increase in 2015, administrators said premiums would decline slightly. They noted that the university, which has an endowment valued at more than $36 billion, had an unusual program to provide protection against high out-of-pocket costs for employees earning $95,000 a year or less. Still, professors said the protections did not offset the new financial burdens that would fall on junior faculty and lower-paid staff members.

“It seems that Harvard is trying to save money by shifting costs to sick people,” said Mary C. Waters, a professor of sociology. “I don’t understand why a university with Harvard’s incredible resources would do this. What is the crisis?”
Indeed: "What is the crisis?" As long as the Harvard faculty can benefit from an endowment that enables the University to pay 91% of the employee's true cost of coverage (and even more for those it pays less than $95,000 per year), why should they, of all people, have to dip into their own pockets to pay for their well-intentioned beliefs?

It's really not like shooting fish in a barrel. Instead, it's just a matter of reminding everyone about the deep truths of Orwell's Animal Farm.

Harvard's motto is Veritas -- "truth."

Well, Harvard, enjoy the veritas that you can't support free lunch for the masses while remaining isolated in your academic towers. That which you support in lofty principle for others has a way of becoming painful reality for everybody.