My husband cautioned me against writing this blog post. Which, of course, sealed the deal. 
It’s been a while since I ranted in public (see: here, here here, here and here > oh geez, that looks bad). However, as dozens of church friends witnessed, Sunday was an exception. 

Sunday night, that is. 
In the movie theater lobby. 
It was an u.g.l.y. diva-sized rant after a showing of

Because while others were cheering the film, I was seething in the first 15 minutes. You see, (spoiler alert) the atheist philosophy professor depicted as the villain is an ego-maniacal, condescending, power-hungry narcissist who requires first year freshmen to write, on the first day of this liberal studies course, God is dead and sign it. Ultimately, under the guise of agreeing to a basic, common premise in order to learn about philosophers within the course. 

According to the professor, all students must have a specific viewpoint in order to study the great philosophers and thinkers of our time.  So, I have to be narrow-minded to learn varying philosophical viewpoints? Isn’t this a premise in absolute contradiction to itself? I have to be closed-minded to be open-minded about philosophy. We’ve built an entire movie on this ridiculous proposition?

This is an absolutely absurd portrayal of a college classroom, secular or otherwise. I’m afraid this generation of students is going to view this film as their rally cry against non-religious educational institutions. 

Plenty of situations test our faith. Rarely are they this blatant and preposterous. Often they are more insidious, peer-based and personal. Sure, the filmmakers include a laundry list of court cases in which students took Universities to court, but the majority of them seemed to deal with the right of a religious club to assemble and be granted official status on campus. In my experience, it’s not necessarily because the University is opposed to students gathering of like faith, but because their student activity fees go toward support of University-sanctioned student clubs. Honestly, the students are the ones who often do not support clubs such as these because it’s their money at work. After careful debate, not always accurately reasoned but most always passionately argued, the students ultimately decide where their fees apply via majority vote. 

In response to the depiction of the philosophy professor as an ego-driven, power-hungry, argumentative, bastard. Well, some of us are, yes. But, most of us are not. That is to say, the vast majority of professors actually care about teaching, not proselytizing our individual beliefs. 

Psst… students. If I told you how to think and what to think, why do we need to spend an entire semester reading, considering, discussing and analyzing? I should just type it up in an easy to read, 8th grade reading level format and give it to you. I won’t even need to test you because, quite frankly, if this is my strategy, I don’t care if you learn or not. I’m too lazy to teach you myself, so let’s just agree I’m right and be done with this. Why do I need to teach you philosophy and ethics if you don’t need to think in the first place? I’ll just tell you what to think and give you an “A” for nodding, parroting it back to me, and we’ll end this class in a week. Bada bing, bada boom. 

Lately I’ve talked about authenticity in my IF:Equip Bible study posts. The need for deep conversation, thoughtful consideration, and genuine appreciation for those of whom are different than ourselves resonates with me. Why are we afraid to discuss difficult topics? Why are we resistant to exchange thoughts and ideas with those with whom we do not agree? 

Is my faith so weak, that I cannot speak to someone of another religion (or lack thereof) or to someone with a personal orientation in contrast to mine, and doubt my entire value system? Really? Can I not take a biology class from an avowed evolutionist and still learn about biology? Can I not take a philosophy class from a proud atheist and still come away a better critical thinker? Can I not take a Women in Literature and Film class from a feminist lesbian and appreciate the carefully crafted language and beautiful symbolism? 

Is this where we are now, Christians? Do we surround ourselves with like-minded people to avoid confrontation about things with which we do not agree? Are we going to limit our interactions to Christians because we don’t want to be infected with contrasting viewpoints, corrupt positions or challenging notions? 

Of course, the acne free, cross-wearing, clean-shaven, white freshman male hero rises to the occasion and spends all of his free time researching and crafting his arguments, which he delivers in three consecutive lectures to the class. His peers are to decide his fate and whether or not he’s proven that, indeed, God’s not dead. 

This would never happen. A professor cannot require a student to defend his religion to his peers in order to maintain his enrollment in a course for which he’s paid and fulfills a general education requirement. I don’t care if you are tenured, you would be so fired. The professor is further depicted in a social setting as essentially holding court for the other philosophy professors who collectively scoff at the notion of God and basically puff up the ego of this colleague. Not realistic, my friends. It’s a pretty cutthroat business, so we rarely stroke each others’ egos. 

Four days later and I’m still furious. Every time I get a text message GOD’S NOT DEAD (part of the movie is a social networking ploy to market the film itself) or see a Facebook post of the same ilk, I can’t help but feel my pulse race and my blood boil. 

I can’t see the premise of this film as a common occurrence, as it’s suggested by the roll of court cases at the end of the film. However, I hear it whispered among the church body. In fact, as I reminded my pastor on Sunday night, returning college students were both welcomed back to school and openly warned about “professors who will challenge your faith” from the pulpit just a mere two years ago. My blood boiled then, too. 

Because, you see, I’ve been in school. Like, a lot. On both sides of the chair. The closest I’ve ever come to this was my last year of doctoral work in a class where a (come to find out later) born-again Christian in the secular professiorate asked us to consider if this was a good research question: Does God Exist? At no time, even in those previously mentioned real examples (of mine) did a professor assert his or her own will over my own. At no time in my experience has a colleague required students to adopt their belief system, even for argument’s sake. We may make students argue a stance with which they do not agree, but it’s an exercise, not a requirement for adoption of personal morals and values. 

This is the very opposite of teaching; it’s brainwashing. We may require you argue in favor of abortion, euthanasia, the death penalty or gay marriage when you are, in fact, in opposition to any or all. That doesn’t mean you have to adopt the stance personally. 

So today, for argument’s sake, I asked 75 of my students if this has ever happened to them. A few vaguely recollected situations in which a friend had experienced a professor stating their views at the beginning of the class and expressing their concern for those who did not share it. But, at no time was anyone denied the opportunity to remain in the class nor was anyone forced to deny their faith on paper, sign it and submit it to the professor. In fact, more students mentioned their experience in religious schools (middle school/high school) as similar to the film in that they were strangled by Biblical teaching and forced to comply with subsequent religious beliefs as children. 

The quickest way to shut minds is to force students to comply with something they do not believe in for the sake of your ego or school policy.  

How stupid can a teacher/school be to adopt this manner of tutelage? How stupid can we be to fall for it, even in a film? 

As a professor, I’m deeply offended.
As a professor of ethics (and, by default, philosophy), I’m appalled.
As a Christian, I’m disgusted. 

Go ahead, like the movie, fellow Christians. I dare you to support the stereotype of our inability to appreciate and learn from other religious standpoints. To study only that which we agree is both dangerous and unwise.