Statement:Â (Y)ou are great.Â You are amazing!
Response:Â No one has ever said that about me before.
Some lines from the short filmÂ Validation (16:23).Â Have you watched it?Â Some reflections below.
As part of my work at Following Christ 2008, I had the privilege of assisting the Humanities track, chaired by Michael Murray and Dora Rice Hawthorne, and joined by Mark Noll of Notre Dame, Hal Bush of St. Louis U., and Paul Moser of Loyola U. Chicago. The final session of the track addressed the question “How Can We Be Agents of Human Flourishing in the Church and the World?” Michael Murray identified three threats to Christian scholars that hinder their role to the church and the world: specialization, fear of “popularizing,” and fear of being “outed.” He also offered thoughts about how to counter these. [Read more…] about Human Flourishing in the Church and the World
On InterVarsity’s main website, one can find two articles
AND two audio files
After you’ve reflected upon the presentations, take a moment to share some thoughts on fear, power, and faith in higher education.
Listening to the Day Ahead speakers, it occurred to me that we were focusing mostly on sacrificing time, energy, even the privacy of homes as professors who seek to serve students, but I heard little about issues of wealth. Jesus of course spoke over and over about issues of money but these concerns did not find a place at FC08 alongside stewardship and sacrificial usage of the other resources with which God has blessed us.
Are we then only mostly following Christ, or is this a call that is outside the sphere of university ministry? Am I adding a burden that is outside the full gospel, or is wealth simply not on the â€œradarâ€ of most American Christians?
I ask these questions as I have wrestled with the transition from graduate student in the social sciences (not as rich as engineering or natural science students who actually earn money in the form of stipends for their schooling, yet not as poor as the language and literature students who have fewer scholarships available to them) to new professor making more than three times more money. I neither want to let money concerns be the guiding force in my life (such that I fail to cultivate campus friendships because many faculty socialize by eating out) nor do I want thoughtlessly settle into a middle class trajectory that does not question my use of money any more than it questions how I value time or energy.
What worried me at the conference was that we are very comfortable discussing issues of the correct philosophy or theology or intellectual approach to problems (after all we are intellectuals!) but I find myself much less comfortable delving into issues of money. That discomfort leads me to ask whether there is a stronghold of power and status that I am unwilling to relinquish.
Such questions have been strengthened in reading Day Ahead speaker Mary Poplinâ€™s Finding Calcutta. Mother Teresa emphasized that full obedience to Christ, including living at the poverty level of poor Indians, leads to full freedom to follow Him wherever He leads. As American Christians, I would guess that we consume at the same level as our non-Christian friends, buying as much stuff, traveling as frequently to far-off vacations, and eating out at restaurants as often as others do. As American Christian academics, we do not seem to wrestle with the easy position of status and wealth accorded us.
What am I suggesting then?
Mother Teresa herself was not against enjoyment of all the fine things God has made available. A friend told me a story of Mother Teresaâ€™s reaction to a young couple that planned to spend $500 on an evening of dinner and music. â€œShouldnâ€™t they give that money to the poor?â€ was the question put to Mother Teresa. No, but they should remember the poor, replied Mother Teresa, and give money (an equal sum?) as well to the poor as part of the nightâ€™s celebration. (How much richer the eveningâ€™s enjoyment might be, knowing that others are also being blessed at the same time!)
Mother Teresa was not advocating punishment or self-denial for its own sake. But I am suggesting that we raise questions about (and consider thoughtful alternatives to) how we use the money weâ€™ve been given to steward. As another friend said, denying ourselves should occur because we want to experience more of Jesus, not because we want to fashion crosses for ourselves that the Lord has not asked us to carry.
If we are to deny ourselves materially (by living below far below our means or by giving away much of our income), the promise of Christian community is that we can share in the excitement and support each other in the struggle to live out a counter-cultural call to simplicity and sacrifice. Such denial is difficult, maybe impossible, to do alone but it is certainly less fun than if we share in the journey together.
Are these irrelevant objections, or are we only mostly following Christ?
After listening to Professor Ken Elzinga of the University of Virginia on ways to evangelize on and off campus â€œwithout turning people off,â€ I came away both excited and with questions. I am a first year professor at Loyola College in Maryland, a Jesuit institution where Christian faith (and probably other faiths as well) can be much more easily discussed, in contrast to UVa, a secular institution whose heritage is shaped by Thomas Jeffersonâ€™s strict church-state separation.
Elzingaâ€™s announcement at the start of each semester to â€œserve studentsâ€ and his request that they hold him accountable strike me as a courageous promise and offer. That he prays before office hours that the Lord would reveal at least one student with whom he can share the gospel or help in some tangible way is a challenge to me to transform office hours from a â€œnecessary evilâ€ to an opportunity to serve. That he had few expectations or strong desires to get tenure and so was freed to be faithful to Christ was a surprising (and enviable) perspective.
My questions arose from his practice of offering prayers for every student that walked in his door, something he hoped new professors would do right away, rather than wait 20 years as he had. Clearly, over the years his approach and dedication to love others as himself has won over department chairs and big names who were offended by his Christian faith; his care for students â€“ who may suspect he is Christian during the term but only learn definitively so at the termâ€™s end â€“ has also won many of them over, if not to conversion, at least to respect.
In fact, many students return to ask for prayer again. Others, he reported, seemed puzzled or pleased by his prayers for them. None has refused his offer. And even Muslims and Jews have appreciated his prayers.
Yet Ken dismissed secular colleaguesâ€™ suggestions that students may be intimidated by his stature as a full professor and so be too afraid to say no. I am not so sure those concerns should be easily dismissed.
After all, as professors, we do carry a substantial measure of power. We hold the power over students to give them grades; perhaps as important, we are accorded authority for having trained and studied for years to master the subjects we teach. Might that power and authority not intimidate undergraduates from expressing discomfort? Jesus seemed to rarely wield authority over others, unless attacking the hypocritical Pharisees.
Perhaps I am being overly sensitive, and perhaps such worries compared with the results of students returning for prayer (and even making up econ problems to have excuses to visit Ken and ask for prayers!). Is it enough that the gospel is preached, no matter the way, as St. Paul wrote in Philippians in response to complaints of preaching out of envy?
Iâ€™d like to hear comments from students and professors, new and old, of their experiences.