Tuesday, December 05, 2006

What Jesus Said

I want to give kudos to a friend of mine, Alex Stehn, for being such a fantastic teacher. He was telling me the other day about his desire to teach a class on Christianity and Marxism--a really fantastic proposition in my view--and it got us talking about the way many of our students think about the "fundamental tenets" of Christianity. As anyone who teaches college ethics these days (or, for that matter, as anyone who doesn't have his or her head buried in the sand) knows, many conservatives view the primary moral and political issues bearing upon Christians to be things like (1) reproductive rights, (2) homosexuality, and (3) whether the greeters at WalMart say "Happy Holidays" or "Merry Christmas." Of course, Jesus never said anything about any of these. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. I read the Book. It's not in there.

Very, very few young Christians in my classes prioritize their own political agendas according to what Christ actually said. That is, very few believe that the obligation of Christians to oppose social, economic, or environmental injustice is far more "fundamental" than their opposition of abortion or gay marriage. Alex (quite smartly) asked his students to compare the number of verses in the Bible that mentioned homosexuality to the number of verses in the Bible that mentioned poverty. Remember that thing Jesus said about a camel passing through the eye of a needle? Despite the fact that this is one of the very few verses in which Jesus lays out explicitly how not to get into Heaven (i.e., by being rich), it somehow doesn't carry the same gravitas as Paul's condemnation of homosexuals... who are condemned, by the way, right alongside gossips and drunkards.

Blessed are those who read.


juliloquy said...

Right on! And the parallel to your post is the recent resignation of the president-elect of the Christian Coalition, Joel Hunter. He declined presidency because the organization will not broaden its focus from anti-abortion and anti-gay-marriage to focus on issues of poverty and environment.

I have to think Jesus would be pretty pissed off at how his core messages are being ignored.

Kristen Gregg said...

jesus and marx were different people? what? tell your friend to teach this class!

as for your students..i have a suggestion. When they start going off about the bible and it's anti-gay marriage stance or how the homeless should just "work like everyone else" don't bother correcting them with actual biblical references. they've never seen them and they'll just write them off anyway and go back to the one contextually removed sentence that justifies their stupidity. don't bother patiently and socratically getting them to question the true weight of their issues and what jc would do if present in america today. they won't hear of it. just pick up an eraser, chuck it at a head and storm out of class. what good is it being a teacher if you can't do stuff like this? what good is the power if you can't cover a student in chalk dust?
somehow though...i think you're one of the people who can get them thinking without loosing your cool. plug away my friend.