A Year of Curriculum Change

Div School

In 1953, when Harvard President James B Conant '14 wrote J. Robert Oppenheimer and several other scientists about what he was as the problems of the Divinity School, Conant posed three questions. The first was whether the Harvard Divinity School should exist at all. Conant's commission later raised several million dollars to follow its own recommendation that the Div School must be "completely reorganized and rehabilitated and not merely patched up.".

The Div School was then a center of political activism, particularly anti-McCarthyism, and as it became more important as a religious opinion and religious activism grew steadily. This year, a majority of the Div School's faculty proclaimed its support for the nuclear freeze movement in an advertisement circulated widely in national religious magazines.

Div. School Dean George Rupp stressed at the time that he hoped faculty members at other seminaries would follow the land of the Div School professors and students. At least the other school in the area, the Andover-Newton Theological Seminary, immediately circulated a similar statement, calling for a immediate U.S.-Soviet freeze on the production of nuclear weapons.

Suddenly the Div School began looking like the "new and revitalized school at the University that would have a nationwide influence" that Walter H. Trumbull, the vice-chairman of Conant's Div School Endowment Fund, envisioned. But the school's most visible nationwide influence this year was on political activism, not theology.

The anti-nuclear movement in Christianity spans faiths from Catholicism to the Society of Friends, and this year extended to formerly conservative churches such as the Southern Baptist church, which originally ordained the Rev. Billy Graham.

At a time when the freeze movement is growing rapidly, Graham himself came out on the side of the activists, speaking at Harvard on the topic of peace in an age of nuclear weapons build-up. The religious community at Harvard was ready for Graham, and undergraduates from Christian fellowships on campus became involved in Graham's mission, serving as counselors to people attending Graham's sermon at the Memorial Church.

Of course, there are still some differences between Graham's opinions on the nuclear weapons race and what more socially oriented Christians have to say. Graham said at the Kennedy School of Government that "man stands before Armageddon, ready to blow himself up," and God will intervene before the button is pushed. Others have said that it is important to become involved in the freeze movement now, before Graham's scenario occurs.

In any case, religious activists are now entrenched in the nuclear freeze movement, and Harvard's School of Divinity is at the forefront of the crusade.