Sunday, April 22, 2012

Challenging Horizons and Stuff, Part I

"It seems as well that students are hearing from the media and their parents about the supposed liberal indoctrination going on in the academy, and they are thus more likely to view unfamiliar topics and somewhat uncomfortable feelings not as signs that they are being challenged to learn and expand their horizons but as the intrusion of ideology in the classroom."- tsylvain
I came across this comment about an article.  It stopped me and made me think even more than the article did.  I remember this one kid at my conservative Christian college who pitched a fit every time our honors art history class watched a movie about art that showed paintings of nudes or discussed nude sculptures.  He complained so strenuously about the book we were required to read for one portion of that class that the professor was told he couldn't have us read that book. 

The book in question was The Intellectuals by Paul Johnson.  It was about how brilliant and revolutionary thinkers often lived lives full of personal depravity and immorality, and if actions are motivated by beliefs, what do the actions of their lives say about what they really believed?  I think one of the lessons in question was supposed to be that we can't dismiss great ideas just because flawed people came up with/promoted them, but we also have to be careful that we don't get caught up in charisma and ideas with no substance.  The idea behind reading the book was probably to encourage critical thinking so we wouldn't grow up to be anti-intellectuals who dismiss good arguments due to distracting but simple ad hominem and straw man attacks. 

I don't know for sure what the point of the assignment was because we never got to read or discuss the book with our professor.  The reason this student complained so stridently about the book was because it took great pains to clearly depict the depravity in question, and the student thought it was liberal indoctrination, and he wasn't going to put up with it.  At least I think that was it; they didn't really tell us, so I only know what I heard.

Another student told me that maybe lust was an area this student really struggled with, and he just had to get out of any situation where he might be encouraged to lust or think about things that would encourage lust.  If so, that's fair.  If you struggle with a sin to the point where even getting close to it seriously messes you up, then of course you should avoid any similar situations.  But just because something causes you to stumble/leads you toward sin does not mean the same is true for everyone else. 

Romans 14 gets into this in verses 12-23.  I find it easier to sling around verse 14 (which says that if you think something is a sin, then you shouldn't do it because if you do it believing it is a sin, then to you it is a sin) than to figure out how to apply the rest of the verses about catering to the weaker brother.  This is complicated stuff, made more complicated by living in a community made up of people at different places in life with different struggles. 

Frankly, what makes this whole concept/dynamic hard for me to understand is the fact that I have never been much of a herd animal; giving in to peer pressure was never a problem.  Half the time I was so oblivious that I didn't even know it was there, so the idea that people might do something they think is wrong just because others are is kind of a foreign concept to me.  Why would someone do that? 

But while I'm living in verse 14, maybe others watching me are stumbling over my behavior because to them it is sin, but they are following me, so they do it.  I would like to think this is not true because I am antisocial by nature; I do not have many close friends who could watch my behavior in the first place, but the possibility exists.

How shall I then live?  (Look for more on that in part II.)

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