Friday night upon returning from our son’s out-of-town football game, we were listening to Sirius channel 131 “Family Talk – featuring the best in Christian teaching ministries, powerful talk radio, and entertainment.”
Let me just say, this is not my usual talk radio fare. I’m an NPR girl through and through. The hubs has taken on an 80-mile round trip commute as of July and this was his splurge, satellite radio. Being the ever-indulgent wife (excuse me, I can’t hear my fingers hitting the keys over your guffawing…) I ran with it since (a) we’re sustaining members of Minnesota Public Radio against his will and (b) our sustaining membership is exactly half of his satellite radio subscription.
Hubs for the win.
The pastor on the radio was speaking about faith. I love faith, and not just because it’s the name of our dog. Truly, I’m kind of a faith girl, too. I get it. Things that I cannot see require faith to believe. I’ve done the requisite spiritual and emotional work on this issue and proclaim it to be true in my life and that of my family. I’m good at faith. I hear this may not be the case for everyone.
I’m a fan of faith. I’m enjoying this talk, thinking that our Sirius subscription is, perhaps, a worthwhile investment if the hubs and I can learn from great teachers while commuting to and fro in support of this never-ending season of high school football. Great use of scripture to substantiate the faith teaching, nice voice tone, good illustrations, nice story-telling ability. I’m nodding along, enjoying myself, feeling spiritually fed.
And then I puked it all up, spiritually.
Allow me to paraphrase the pastor’s sentiment since the transcript is not available. In your head, as you read along, do it in a male southern accent that is both confident and powerful. Faith requires a believe in that which cannot be seen, that which cannot be proven, that which cannot and does not reside in the natural. I imagine him in front of a church, for the acoustics were tinged with an echo, Bible spread open, right hand in a closed fist with first finger bent to make his point – like a politician. These people with their Ph.D’s and their hatred [emphasis his] of all things that cannot be proven, their absolute insistence [emphasis his] on disproving God’s hand in creation and mankind is what is wrong with this world. They have no faith and they hate [emphasis his] the gospel.
I hung my head and sighed. It was one of those big, deep, diaphragm sighs with a little moan at the end.
I clicked off the radio.
Instead of my go-to response, a full-throated, self-righteous rant complete with Italian-esque hand gestures, I just felt defeated. I was right back in the movie theater seeing God’s Not Dead with fifty of our closest church friends and our pastor, as I posted here. I constantly feel under attack in the Christian community as a well-educated professional woman with this evil and expensive paper.
My former pastor’s wife, whom I love dearly, joked that people don’t need to have “LMNO-P.H.D” behind their name to study the Bible. I laughed and concurred as I was sitting under her tutelage in a “How to study the Bible” class at church. While funny, I took note. A few years later, the movie God’s Not Dead portrayed a secular philosophy professor as an evil dictator who required all of his freshmen to deny their faith at the start of class by writing “God is dead” on a piece of paper and submitting it in order to continue in the class.
As I stated in that post, I don’t care if you are tenured, you’d be so fired.
Now that I’m a wee bit sensitive to this topic, I’ve kept my ears open in the Christian community. The community in which I was raised, in which I’ve grown substantially in the past year. In which I love the people whom I’ve met and chosen to do life with. In which I can rant (a little or a lot) and they still love me. In which I can question things like Mosaic Law, women in church leadership, spiritual gifting, submission and headship and not be vilified.
I teeter between fundamentalism whatever the opposite of that is; conservationism and liberalism, legalism and freedom. I hear the snorts of derision followed by verbal comments or Facebook posts from some of my Christian friends about politics or welfare reform or immigration. I’ve been asked about my voting record several times by Christians, because of my educational level and resulting job in academia, and it always leaves me off-kilter and defensive. I’ve heard backhanded comments on my politics as said to my children by parents in the vein of, “well, of course she thinks that, she’s a liberal.” (Actually, that’s a direct quote.) I’ve never once discussed politics if I didn’t have to. Or immigration. Or abortion. Or gun control. Or kale. Or laundry detergent. Or snow blowers. (Wait, I have discussed kale. It’s super controversial.)
Regardless of my experience at the micro level, the Christian rhetoric at the macro level is downright nasty, self-serving and exclusionary. I’ve never in my life felt more like an outsider in the Christian community than I do now. Indulge my defense of my kind for a short moment, will you? Because, evidently I’m speaking for all Ph.D’s, here, which is both ridiculous and insane.
- A degree does not define the entirety of person-hood. A degree signifies the attainment of a level of education. A DEGREE DOES NOT DEFINE EVERY FACET OF A PERSON.
- People who have earned a Doctor of Philosophy, “with all its privileges and obligations” as it states on my framed paper that I’m looking up at as I write this tome, are philosophers by nature. We offer views on theories, wrestle with profound ethical questions and explore logical underpinnings.* BASICALLY, WE ASK WHY A LOT.
- People with Ph.D’s are not inherently evil, bad or always looking to upset the proverbial Jesus apple cart. ASKING WHY IS NOT A SIN. Using exclusionary language to single out one group of people is hardly an act of Christianity. It’s stereotyping, which is kind of a tiny sin, amiright?
I’ve got news for you; we’re trained to ask why in our chosen field OR THEY DON’T LET US OUT WITH THE PAPER. We conduct scientific research and invent the portable fax, touch tone telephone, solar cells, fiber optic cables, caller ID and call waiting; thank you, Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson of MIT. Danish entrepreneur and unfortunately named Dr. Morten Middlefart (seriously…) is a prolific inventor in the field of database technology and is researching human-computer synergy.
Dr. Leroy Hood and his other Ph.D.-colleagues revolutionized the way DNA was synthesized to transform genomics, biology and medicine. In addition to being incredibly adorable, Dr. Spencer Wells used a rare combination of anthropology and genetics to trace early migration of man out of Africa. If you haven’t seen the 2003 documentary Journey of Man that catalogs Dr. Well’s journey, here’s the link to buy it! Ba Bam!
Do I even have to mention Dr. Martin Luther King’s advancement of the Civil Rights movement? Perhaps my favorite Ph.D. inventor is Dr. Pranav Mistry out of MIT who developed a wearable computer while at the MIT Media Lab. If you want to know tomorrow’s version of a laptop/cell phone/camera, watch his TED Talk and prepare to have your mind blown.
Look, all I’m saying is that we’re trained to ask why and you’re damn welcome. That doesn’t make me a faith-hater.
Personally, I’m trained to ask why in the area of ethics, organizational culture, human resource development and adult education. Why do we have to teach adults this one certain way? What causes people to commit white collar crime and how can I teach my undergraduate business students to stay the hell out of prison? How can we best train corporate America to make better ethical decisions? Why is the phrase ‘this is the way we’ve always done it’ an anathema to growth and innovation?
In my personal life, this translates as How can we best prepare our children to launch as adults? Why is it that I tend to lose my temper when my husband does not? What is my role as a Christian woman in the secular professoriate? What, exactly, did the Apostle Paul say about women in the church again? (In the original Greek, please and thank you.)
I struggle with all of these questions, and more. However, I do not struggle with the concept of faith. I have been trained well enough to know that I can’t prove everything. Nothing is absolutely certain; statistics are just numbers. Just because researchers like to delve into deep questions doesn’t mean our individual faith is tested or even wanes under study of scripture or church teaching. In fact, you should consider it a compliment when we ask questions because it means we’re interested.
Mr. Sirius Pastor can take his exclusionary, stereotypical Christian rhetoric of the faith of PhD’s and shove it. Didn’t Paul warn the Galatians,
If you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. (Galatians 5:15 NASB)
Why, yes, I’m certain he said that because I just studied it in my IF:Equip daily Bible study today. In fact, in the very sentence prior, Paul reminded us to love our neighbor as our self which, as Jesus instructed, was the second most important commandment behind loving God (Mark 12:31).
Gotta say, I’m not feeling the love lately from the larger Christian community. Not feeling it at all. It feels a bit like death by a thousand cuts lately, truth be told.
Perhaps we should ALL check our egos at the church door and invite questions, welcome skeptics, and engage in a little scriptural dialogue. It does not mean our faith is weak or we hate the gospel. It means we are interested and, especially lately, I think the church needs all of the interested parties it can handle. Thanks, John Pavlovitz for these three recent blog posts that spoke to my heart. Read them and then go hug your very own PhD. We probably won’t curse you with our evil faith-hating intelligence.
Church, here’s why people are leaving you, Part 1. August 15, 2014
Church, here’s why people are leaving you, Part 2. August 20, 2014
Church, here’s why people are leaving you, Part 3. August 29, 2014