31 October 2010

Advice for Christian students... or anyone

Via Andrew Sullivan comes this page of good advice from Stanley Hauerwas in First Things. It is good advice. Even if you aren't a Christian. You should read the WHOLE thing (as I tell my students), especially if you happen to teach at a college or university.

First, the inescapably Christian part:
“The Christian religion,” wrote Robert Louis Wilken, “is inescapably ritualistic (one is received into the Church by a solemn washing with water), uncompromisingly moral (‘be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect,’ said Jesus), and unapologetically intellectual (be ready to give a ‘reason for the hope that is in you,’ in the words of 1 Peter). Like all the major religions of the world, Christianity is more than a set of devotional practices and a moral code: it is also a way of thinking about God, about human beings, about the world and history.”

I like that last part about history.

Here is the part Sullivan likes (me too).

But there is much more. Here is a part I like, partly because it has some relevance to my particular institution:
It’s not easy for anyone who is serious about the intellectual life, Christian or not. The curricula of many colleges and universities may seem, and in fact may be, chaotic. Many schools have no particular expectations. You check a few general-education boxes—a writing course, perhaps, and some general distributional requirements—and then do as you please. Moreover, there is no guarantee that you will be encouraged to read. Some classes, even in the humanities, are based on textbooks that chop up classic texts into little snippets. You cannot become friends with an author by reading half a dozen pages. Finally, and perhaps worse because insidious, there is a strange anti-intellectualism abroad in academia.

And if you were going to boil it down to a few sound bites:
But you are a Christian. This means you cannot go to college just to get a better job.

And, of course, you cannot read enough Trollope. Think of books as the fine threads of a spider’s web. They link and connect.

You cannot and should not try to avoid being identified as an intellectual.

Also, go to the bookstore at the beginning of the term to see which professors assign books—and I mean real books, not textbooks.

Although many professors are not Christians (at some schools, most aren’t), many professors have a piety especially relevant to the academic life.

So read the whole thing. Even if you aren't a Christian, or aren't a very good one, the advice is good and provokes thought.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home