More On Yale's Templeton-Funded "Spiritual Capital Initiative"
Bruce Wilson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Feb 03, 2012 at 11:52:39 AM EST
Should Chick-Fil-A be known for its extensive ties to, and funding of, some of the most aggressively anti-gay groups in America, as well as its role in catalyzing the national "Protect Marriage" (by fighting same-sex marriage) movement -- or should the fast food chicken chain be regarded as an exemplar of the spiritual value of "gratitude"?

According to a project under the aegis of the Yale Center For Faith and Culture called the Spiritual Capital Initiative, that's funded with almost $1.9 million dollars from the John Templeton Foundation, it's the latter: gratitude.  

[note: this story is an updated version of an article I originally published on March 7, 2011, under the title, Yale Faith Institute Puffs Virulently Antigay Chick-Fil-A that examined some shadier aspects of  various corporations (such as Chick-Fil-A, Walmart, Tyson Foods, and Cargill) that have been touted by Yale's Spiritual Capital Initiative as representing positive "spiritual enterprise" by exemplifying such values as gratitude, leadership, discipline, and forgiveness..]

As a story in the June 21, 2010 print edition of The Nation, God, Science and Philanthropy, concluded, the Templeton Foundation, now among America's biggest philanthropies is:

"better positioned than most to foster a conservatism--and a culture generally--that holds the old habits of religions and business responsible to good evidence, while helping scientists better speak to people's deepest concerns...

John Templeton did not want to hijack the meaning of life; he wanted to remake the human race's moral and cosmic toolbox in some scientific revolution of the spirit. His money has given new life to ancient questions that matter to all of us."

Supported by the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute, the article, by Nathan Schneider, cited concerns that the Templeton Foundation's philanthropic funding of projects which blur lines between spirituality and science might undermine the integrity of academic research; it mapped out Templeton's many ties to right wing organizations and its support for evangelical right figures such as Charles Colson, Bill Bright, and Billy Graham; it also noted that in the past the Templeton Foundation "has funded book projects related to intelligent design".

But one thing "God, Science and Philanthropy" did not do was to provide current examples that would illustrate to readers specifically why or how Templeton funding might be problematic, and the most striking examples I have been able to find are not in the hard sciences at all.

While some examples yet may emerge to support the reasonable concerns, raised in Schneider's article,  about the impact of Templeton money on scientific research, there seems already to be an emerging, dismal effect within the humanities.

Consider: As a February 2010 press release from Philanthropy News Digest described,

The Yale Center for Faith and Culture at Yale Divinity School has announced a three-year, $1.875 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation to research and promote the empirical study of "spiritual capital" -- the positive effects of spirituality on entrepreneurship and the management of enterprises.

This has born quick, dubious fruit. According to the first of 24 planned "empirical" case studies financed by the Templeton grant, fast food chain Chick-Fil-A is an exemplar of the "spiritual capital" value of gratitude, for closing on Sunday.

But in the area of sexual diversity, Chick-Fil-A might be seem as less than fully gracious; in 2009, Chick-Fil-A's charitable arm, the Winshape Foundation, gave over $1.7 million dollars to organizations and efforts known for opposing same-sex marriage.

As a January 2011 article from Change.org characterized,

"Chick-fil-A is a restaurant where franchises frequently donate to anti-gay organizations like the Pennsylvania Family Institute, Focus on the Family and others. The restaurant's charitable arm, WinShape, holds conferences for opponents of gay marriage and praises their work. And this charitable arm's Retreat program puts a blanket ban on gay couples using their facilities, because they "do not accept homosexual couples." "
[video, below: segment on Chick-Fil-A, from Doing Virtuous Business, a television documentary aired by Indianapolis PBS affiliate station in November 2010 that was funded with grants from the John Templeton Foundation, the Lilly Endowment, Inc., and the Ford Foundation. The documentary was based on the 2008 book Spiritual Enterprise: Doing Virtuous Business by Theodore Roosevelt Malloch.]

Chick-Fil-A was not the only beneficiary of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture's deft "spiritual" airbrushing, financed by Templeton Foundation largesse.

Walmart - which has generated so much controversy, in the US and internationally, especially concerning its labor practices, that the company has its own Wikipedia extended entry for the numerous areas of dispute - is the exemplar of discipline.

Mammoth chicken producer Tyson Foods, put on trial in 2010 for allegedly polluting the Illinois watershed with massive quantities of toxic chicken droppings, exemplifies the "spiritual capital" value of forgiveness while Cargill, another agriculture conglomerate charged in the pollution case along with Tyson, exemplifies leadership.

Cargill has just been charged, by the government of Argentina, with tax evasion and the company stands accused of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest and trafficking of children into Mali and the Ivory Coast, as de-facto slaves.

Another company on the list, as exemplifying the "spiritual capital" value of "courage", is Kimray, Inc. As I wrote in a March 2011 story which also covered Yale's "Spiritual Capital" project,

"Kimray is a leading manufacturer of US-made Oil and Gas equipment and controls. What's really interesting is the fact that Kimray has launched and funds the Character Training Institute, which was inspired by the teachings of cultic, neo-fundamentalist evangelist Bill Gothard, whose advice for women has been described, by author Hannah Rosin, as being comparable to "Sharia law" (note: Islamic clerics are not in agreement as to what Sharia law means. Rosin appeared to be unaware of this but seemed to be indicating that Gothard's advice was an outlier on the theocratic fringe. Talk To Action writers have covered Bill Gothard's ministry in numerous stories)

The Character Training Institute (CTI) bases its teachings around Bill Gothard's list of 49 [desirable] "character qualities", and Ted Malloch's 12 company virtues seem suspiciously like a similar, if pared down, program. As Silja J.A. Talji described in a 2006 story for In These Times, Cult of Character,

Although legally and fiscally independent, the CTI is for all intents and purposes a "secular" front group for Gothard's IBLP. In the last decade, the CTI has quietly gained entry into hundreds of elementary, middle and high schools, state and city offices, corporations, police departments and jails.

Though he never uses the term, Gothard's ideology fits into the framework of the burgeoning "Christian Reconstructionist" movement, which aims to rebuild society according to biblical mandates. Within the Christian Reconstructionist worldview, modern-day chaos is directly attributable to the division of church and state and the consequent degradation of individual character.

For Gothard, the solution is restoring the United States--and then the rest of the world--to something that he calls "The Sevenfold Power of First-Century Churches and Homes."

The concept of obeying God-granted authority runs through virtually all IBLP-published materials. "The key to understanding authority is identifying four areas of God-ordained jurisdiction: parents, government, church leaders, and employers," reads an introductory passage to Basic Life Principles Seminar."

As I uncovered for a September 29, 2010 Talk To Action story, Bill Gothard's ties to Christian Reconstructionism were even closer than Talji suspected - the only reason that Gothard chose not to market Christian Reconstructionism founder R.J. Rushdoony's writings according to Martin Selbrede, Vice President of the Chalcedon Foundation (Rushdoony's think tank), was that Gothard's views on divorce were even more extreme than Rushdoony's (who thought divorce should be legal under some circumstances. Gothard wanted it banned categorically):

"[T]he divide between Gothard and Rushdoony on divorce was a deep and abiding one. Gothard proposed using Rushdoony's Institutes of Biblical Law as a resource for his massive ministry; the sheer volume of the resulting sales would have made Rushdoony both rich and famous. Gothard's condition for moving forward on this was letter-simple: Rushdoony merely needed to remove the section on divorce from his book, and the highly profitable deal would be sealed.

Rushdoony refused the offer."

To be fair, the Spiritual Capital Initiative's list of case studies also includes well regarded efforts such as Habitat For Humanity and the Grameen Bank.

But it's for precisely this reason that the Spiritual Capital Initiative can function to burnish the images of companies such as Chick-Fil-A, Walmart, Cargill, Tyson Foods, and Kimray, Inc. - an unsuspecting audience will tend to assume these corporations must have something in common with Habitat and Grameen.

Regardless of the Templeton Foundation's intent, one has to wonder - is the "Spiritual Capital Initiative" about spirituality, or does it just amount to, in the end, corporate PR?

Co-directing the Yale Center For Faith and Culture are Ted Malloch and Miroslav Volf, who explained in a recent issue of the Yale Divinity School's Notes From The Quad ("an alumni e-magazine"),

"Dr. Malloch argues that entrepreneurs' authentic spirituality should be given amplified expression in their business activities and that, when given expression, societies, economies and companies will prosper and contribute to the common good."

Ted Malloch called Sir John Templeton, the legendary global stock picker and billionaire philanthropist, his friend and mentor, and Templeton wrote the forward to Malloch's recent book Thrift: Rebirth of a Forgotten Virtue. Malloch serves as an adviser to the Templeton Foundation which, in turn, promotes Malloch's book Spiritual Enterprise: Doing Virtuous Business.

Postscript

A quick Google search on the terms "Spiritual Capital", "Malloch", and "Yale" brings up a slew of positive reports about the Spiritual Capital project, along with my original March 2011 Talk To Action story - which seems to be the sole critical treatment of the Templeton-funded Ted Malloch / Yale Faith Center initiative.

I find that startling - has John Templeton foundation funding become so influential that no one in American academia is willing to venture even mild criticism of such corporate whitewashing, which in my opinion rises almost to the level of a parody one might find in the news satire publication The Onion?

Apparently so.




Display:
I may have missed any previous mention (I don't remember hearing about it), but I'm glad for this information.  I'll pass it along to colleagues if the chance presents itself.

I've known for some time that Chic-Fil-A has dominionist connections and I refuse to eat anything of theirs (and have gotten a few friends to refuse to deal with them as well).  I find that a lot of people have no clues as to what they're dealing with or where the money is REALLY going.  I think that the info on their dealings with anti-LGBT groups may help get more people to boycott them.


by ArchaeoBob on Fri Feb 03, 2012 at 05:21:48 PM EST

Principally, it really concerns the ongoing corruption of  entire swaths of American academia, which includes the Sociology of Religion.

This story is really just a footnote to that upcoming theme, that I've had kicking around for a while and needed to get out the door.

by Bruce Wilson on Fri Feb 03, 2012 at 06:47:51 PM EST
Parent

I have always been concerned about the infiltration of academia, at least since I walked and especially since I returned to school.  I've seen it from a different side - the multitude of on-campus religious groups that are dominionist (and officially supported), the pandering to dominionist organizations and jackleg street preachers, the tolerance of anti-evolution (anti-science) and anti-choice troublemakers on campus.  

IMO, part of the problem is the ivory tower syndrome - if it's not been discussed in a peer-reviewed journal article or academic book, it's not valid or is along the lines of anecdotal information.  Thing is, an expose of dominionism HAS been published in journals- I've tried to get copies of the articles but the journals are not readily available ones.

Dominionism research is for most disciplines very much cutting-edge stuff.  The first time a search of the journal databases showed hits for dominionism was only a couple of years ago.


by ArchaeoBob on Fri Feb 03, 2012 at 07:58:13 PM EST
Parent




If only they would attack domestic violence and divorce and evvy dads abandoning their families like they attack same sex marriage, I could understand them.

by rdrjames on Sun Feb 05, 2012 at 08:15:28 PM EST


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