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Interruption for a good cause or two

15 November, 2009

Interruption for a good cause or two (NaNoBloPo/NaSchoWriMo 14)

Yesterday’s post was suspended due to my going to a charity dinner and then for drinks with friends. That and feeling horrible when I got home. I swear I’ve had H1N1. But at the moment, I’m having San Elias 2009 Sauv. Blanc. I recommend it. I also recommend Men who Stare at Goats, which made me laugh. Saw it tonight with two biologist colleagues, who are lovely people. They also bought me fantastic gifts for my birthday — Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters and the best pirate t-shirt ever.

Oh, right — so that’s what I did today. Slept, tried to grade papers, took care of a friend’s dogs, and slept. And dinner, movie, and hanging out. A few errands. Tomorrow is going to be a serious workday.

In the meantime, I’ve been thinking about teaching things religious in history classes. It’s not so hard to teach basic ideas of Confucianism or Islam, but the Abrahamic religions are tough, because you never know the audience, and people will get offended. And I’m the first to admit that I’m not an actual authority on such things, but I have actually done *some* reading, and did ace two courses on the History of Christianity with an Actual Big Name Scholar at Beachy U. Not to mention I’m sort of a medievalist and all, and we do read a fair amount of vitae, passiones, translationes, regulae, and actual theology at some points in our lives. Having said that, I admit that I do tend to confuse monophysites and monotheletes, but am pretty sure there’s an iota of difference between them. Oh, and also? Have done much in the way of reading and coursework on the Reformation. So possibly, I have some foundation to teach a bare-bones sort of historical approach to such things.

To be fair, my students seldom question my ability to teach about religion in the context of my classes. But there are always some who have a hard time with my saying that Christians at a certain time believed X, or that Muslims believe that the Quran was dictated to Muhammad, whereas the Bible was put together by committee… and of course the “is Islam a violent religion?” question. And normally, I just don’t care. That is, I don’t care what people believe in private. I don’t care what people believed in the past. But I do care that people in the present not argue that adherents of religion X believe Y, when they have not always believed that. This especially bothers me with Christianity, because beliefs about Christianity are so often wrapped up in ideas of progress that are actually sort of appropriate — after all, to Christians, we’re moving towards the apocalypse and all. But I get sort of irked when that’s linked to a belief that “J. Student’s” Christianity is so much better and purer and right-thinking than the Christianity of the past. I get sort of irked when students talk about Christians and Catholics, as if there is a difference in 300 CE, or as if there were no Christians till the Reformation (except that they often don’t know about the Reformation). I become annoyed when they ask me about salvation, and I reply that at the time in question, people believed one thing, only to be told that those people were wrong. This is most especially irritating when those people include, um, I dunno … Church Fathers??? Because, well, Augustine, as much as I think I would have disliked him, is sort of largely responsible for Christian theology, I’m pretty sure. So are some of those other guys who died well before Luther. It’s not that I’m all about orthodoxy — after all, I think that both Ariua and Pelagius were sensible about some things. It’s not that I want them to believe anything — I really don’t care. But I would like them to be a little more open-minded about history when it includes religion.

Yes, there’s a story behind this rant. It doesn’t have much to do with my students, as it happens. And to be honest, it’s not just religion that does this — I get the same sort of frustration when talking about Liberalism, Conservatism, various forms of Socialism and Marxism … it’s just cranky-making when you have to fight the “but it’s not always been that way” battle, is all I’m saying. Because I teach history. Nothing has always been this way, with only a few biologically determined exceptions.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 15 November, 2009 6:56 am

    Absolutely true. And it's always been this way!

  2. 16 November, 2009 2:00 pm

    Isn't it interesting that we feel like we have to apologize for taking a few hours off on a weekend? Hope you feel better soon, ADM!

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