Ethics and Faith

I’m part of the professional networking website Linkedn.  I’m not looking for a new job, but it helps me to stay connected with people I have worked with over the years.  This week a colleague that I taught with at a private university 15 or so years ago posted this letter on the web site (he isn’t the author, he just shared the article and responded in the comments thread).

The article is from an educator who is angry that as part of his application to teach for a Christian university he was expected to fill out a detailed response regarding how he is living his life and the views and opinions he holds, regardless of how he is or isn’t choosing to live his life at the moment.  His argument is that as an educator teaching business courses, the school has no right or basis for making such a probing inquiry.  He appeals to others online to validate his outrage, which stems from an anti-Christian bias (he asserts in the comments that Christians are incapable or at least unwilling to engage in critical thinking or encouraging others to consider multiple points of view).

The irony, of course, is that he asserts his own methodology for handling such a situation with the assumption that he is objectively right, while castigating the school for holding a different point of view and practice.  His objections override the very ‘value’ of critical thinking and openness to other viewpoints that he claims to defend and demand.   The irony is also that other schools apply very similar (though opposite) probings to those who not only wish to teach, but those who wish to pursue terminal degrees, making it difficult for committed Christians to gain acceptance into high-calibre universities.

At the core is a fundamental misunderstanding of the Christian faith, a misunderstanding that has in large part been perpetrated and fostered by so-called ‘Christian universities’ that really aren’t Christian.  The misunderstanding is that Christianity is primarily an ethical system and more guide which only touch on certain aspects of life but do not permeate all of our life, both public and personal.

It is unfortunate that for some time, many Christian schools have de-emphasized the Christian aspect of their historic or current identity, acting as though faith can be compartmentalized and relevant to only certain areas of a person’s life.  It is no wonder that this gentleman is confused.

Having taught in higher education for nearly 15 years, I understand that teaching is not always a simple matter of information conveyance.  Good teachers (and especially good online teachers, which is what this man was applying for) need to be able to connect with their students, to bridge the technology gap that leads to isolation and separatism and foster a sense of community through personability which helps motivate and encourage students to stay plugged in and to strive for excellence.  This inevitably leads to side conversations and discussions both in public forums as well as through private messaging, and it is within these contexts that the professor’s opinions and life choices may come into play.  It is in these contexts that it isn’t merely what I as a professor do or say that matters, but the reasons why I do or say them which become important in the dialogue.

 

As Bernie Sanders’ outrage this week amply demonstrated, there is considerable confusion and antagonism against Christianity for asserting that some things are true and others, logically, are not.  The irony is that in castigating Christians for their world view, Sanders – as with this gentleman – ignore the reality that those they claim to be defending adhere to just as exclusive a world view, which in turn is no more exclusive than the world view they themselves are seeking to impose.  Ethics cannot ultimately be divorced from a deeper underlying worldview and understanding that unables them and lends them meaning and purpose.  Otherwise they are not so much ethics as matters of convenience, subject to change as the popular opinion changes.

To pretend that one’s own worldview is not exclusive while berating a differing worldview is inconsistent to say the least, and it doesn’t matter whether you’re teaching business administration or theology.  What you believe and how you live your life should matter, and to think that it shouldn’t matter to other people is defeatist of even bothering with an ethical and moral framework at all, let alone an all-encompassing worldview.

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