Sunday, August 30, 2009

Foundations and Faith

Yesterday I watched a video posted on Facebook by one of my friends.  It was called something like "this will get you thinking" and so it did, although I doubt the person who put it together would LIKE my thoughts.  I'm not going to point to the video because they have a goal of getting a certain number of views and I don't want to add to them any more than I already have. 

The video does have some nice music, by the way, but the rest of it is just white text on a black background.  Anyway, it tells the story of a college professor who for twenty years has been turning Christian students into unbelievers with his impeccable logic and his intimidation, calling believers fools, etc.  Of course the video doesn't share with us any of his impeccable logic, but we'll move away from that thought.  At the end of the semester, he always asks that anyone who still believes in Jesus to stand up, whereupon he again calls them fools and says if Jesus is God, he could keep this piece of chalk from breaking.  He drops the piece of chalk and for twenty years it has broken.  But this time a student stands up, the professor drops the chalk awkwardly, and it doesn't break.  The professor storms off and the student spends a couple of hours sharing his witness of Jesus Christ as his lord and Savior.

Well, there are just so many things wrong with this it is hard to know where to begin.  Not very true to academic life, first of all.  I've been a student trough an undergraduate and two masters, and never had a professor this abusive.  I've also worked in academia for over twenty years, and I've known some professors who were prima donnas, and heard some horror stories, but I suspect any professor this abusive would be risking his job.  But ok, forget that.  Is the fall of a piece of chalk REALLY a worthwhile test on which to base either belief or unbelief?  Really?

I suspect this video is a piece of comfort food for fundamentalist Christians.  I suspect that they find a lot of college students do lose their beliefs in college, and they don't understand why, and it is too uncomfortable to like, you know, ASK the students why.  I can come up with a couple of scenarios.  One may be that these students have been told for years that evolution is wrong, a sham, and not scientific, and even their teachers in high school may have been too intimidated to do more than gloss over the subject.  But in college, they find out that evolution is, indeed, a foundation stone of modern science, and as well proved as the theories of gravity and atomic structure.  Not only does this challenge their beliefs, it means that the people who have been responsible for their spiritual warfare were deluded or LYING to them.

Another scenario would apply to students who go to seminary, and for the first time in their lives are exposed to the last couple of centuries worth of Biblical scholarship, which goes to show that we do not have the original texts of the Bible, that the texts were written beginning thirty to forty years after Jesus' death and we have no copies written earlier than a couple of centuries after his death, that the copies we do have are riddled with errors and changes, and that some of the books of the Bible are most likely forgeries.  Again, the student learns that the people responsible for his spiritual guidance were wrong or lying.

None of this will necessarily shake the faith of the kind of Christian who sees the Bible as an inspired guide, and Jesus as an expression of God's love.  But it can be devastating to the student who has been taught the Bible is the literally true inerrant word of God.   And the fundamentalist has no cure for that.  So they produce the comfort food of a video like this one that assures them that atheist professors will be easily vanquished, and that their children will not turn away from them and their beliefs.  Now of course I think their solution should be to face up to the real world and teach their children the truth.  But I can see that that would be devastating to them as well.  I don't have a solution for them that they will find acceptable.  And so students will go on being shocked by knowledge, and they will or won't turn away from the beliefs of their fathers and mothers.  Many remain Christians, just not fundamentalists.  That isn't a help to a fundamentalist parent who doesn't believe non-fundamentalists are Christians, though.


Posted via web from reannon's posterous

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