Student suspended for disagreeing with Muslim professor

male-213729_640Muslims believe that Jesus was not really crucified.  According to the Qur’an, 

That they said (in boast), “We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah“;- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not:-
Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power.  (Qur’an, sura 4 (An-Nisa) ayat 157-158)

This is taken to mean either that Allah substituted someone else for Jesus, making the other person look like the “prophet,” or that he created an illusion so that a spirit-shape only appeared to be Jesus, which was the teaching of some Gnostics.  In any event, Muslims believe that Jesus, while He existed and was a great prophet, did not really die on the Cross, but that He was rather taken up into Heaven.

At Rollins College, a Muslim professor, in light of his religious commitment, claimed outright that Jesus’s crucifixion was a hoax.  A Christian student took issue with that and argued otherwise.  Whereupon he failed the class and got suspended from school.

Let me offer some perspective based on my four decades as a professor:  In a secular school, professors may talk about religion, including their own, as long as it is relevant to the course and as long as they do so objectively, without imposing their religious views on their students.  In discussing Milton, even when I was teaching in a secular college, I could talk about the Christian concepts of creation, fall, and redemption.  “This is what Milton believed.  You need to know this to understand Paradise Lost.”

The professor here could say, “We Muslims don’t believe that Jesus died on the cross.”  That would be interesting and could prompt some illuminating discussion.  But in claiming outright that Jesus’s death was a “hoax” and then punishing a student for disagreeing, in accord with his own Christian religion, the professor was clearly “imposing” his religious beliefs on the class.  Professors aren’t supposed to do that.

But what about issues of diversity?  Wasn’t the student being insensitive to the professor’s religious beliefs?  Cultural diversity, sensitivity, tolerance, etc., are supposed to manifest themselves in the way faculty members treat students!  Not the way students treat faculty!

Faculty members have the power here.  It’s their job to treat their students appropriately, including showing respect for their religious sensibilities.

I don’t know the whole story.  Maybe the student was disruptive, disrespectful, and breaking other campus rules.  But treating Muslims equally means holding Muslim professors to the same standards as Christian professors in the way they handle their religious beliefs in their classes. [Read more…]

Group morality vs. individual morality

In the context of a discussion of the conflict between education secretary Betsy DeVos and the teachers’ unions, S. M. Hutchens cites an interesting point made by the late theologian Reinhold Niebuhr.

In his book Moral Man and Immoral Society, Niebuhr contrasts group morality to individual morality.  Groups form a “collective egoism” that resists self-criticism.  Whereas individuals are capable of repentance and change.

What are some applications of this observation?

[Read more…]

Starving patients to death

starvation_by_ivnkadsyra-d4f57bcEuthanasia laws have a way of expanding.  Once a society accepts the concept that sick people should be “put out of their misery,” the benefit can be applied ever more broadly–to those who are not terminally ill, just depressed; to people who cannot give consent; to the mentally handicapped; to children.  What begins as a humane-sounding way to end heart-breaking suffering, to be used only in rare and carefully defined cases, turns into something ever-more brutal.

Oregon legalized assisted suicide in 1997.  A new law would allow caregivers to deny food to those who have written an advance-care directive allowing for non-treatment.  Not just intravenous nutrition, but actual eating and drinking, even if the patient is hungry and wants to eat. [Read more…]

Bringing back the woolly mammoth

The two kinds of romantic love

8096547973_367546a4eb_zOne kind of romantic love leads to life–to marriage, fruitful sexuality, children, family, virtue.  The other kind of romantic love leads to death–to sin, sterile sexuality, abortion, family destruction, ruin.

These two kinds of romantic love are explored in one of the most morally illuminating books of literary criticism I have ever read:  Love in the Western World by the Swiss Christian scholar Denis de Rougement.

A romance novel will often set up a triangle in which a woman has to choose between two suitors:  One is a good guy who cares for her, whom her parents like, and who would make a good husband.  The other is nearly a villain, an “anti-hero” who sometimes mistreats her, is a social outcast from her circles, and who even seems dangerous.  Young adults novels are often built around the same pattern,  with the choice between an all-American popular boy and a troubled, misunderstood, passionate “bad boy.”  Many literary novels have been about a happily married man who is lured away from his angelic wife by an exotic, sensual, forbidden beauty.

Sometimes the characters make the right choice in committing themselves to the good person.  But, more often than not, they choose the one who is bad “in society’s eyes,” but who offers them excitement, passion, and the thrill of transgression.  Romance and young adult novels often stop when the choice is made, imposing a “happily ever after ending.”  But honest works of literature, like Anna Karenina, show what happens next, with the forbidden love resulting in ruin, despair, and even death.

More importantly, the pattern keeps asserting itself in real life.   [Read more…]

An obituary for a contemptible life

Memento_mori_(3690813647) (1)Obituaries summarize the events of the life of the deceased, a way of honoring the dead by looking back on the life they have lived. They often turn into eulogies, praising the character and good deeds of the person who died.  Lutheran funerals try to keep the focus away from the person’s good works as something to comfort the family, instead emphasizing Christ, the Gospel, and the persons’ faith.  The funerals of non-Christians are trickier.  (I’d be curious how you pastors handle those.)

A woman recently wrote an obituary for her father, who, she said, would “be missed only for what he never did; being a loving husband, father and good friend.”  He died at age 74, “which was 29 years longer than expected and much longer than he deserved.”

“At a young age,” the obituary said, he “quickly became a model example of bad parenting combined with mental illness and a complete commitment to drinking, drugs, womanizing and being generally offensive.” “Leslie’s life served no other obvious purpose, he did not contribute to society or serve his community and he possessed no redeeming qualities besides [quick-witted] sarcasm which was amusing during his sober days.”  “Leslie’s passing proves that evil does in fact die and hopefully marks a time of healing and safety for all.”  And that’s not all.  You can read the entire obituary after the jump.

My first impulse was to laugh, then to appreciate the brutal honesty, then to be disturbed.  Is this breaking the Commandment about honoring your father and your mother?  It certainly breaks the taboo against “speaking ill of the dead.”  A news story confirms that the man abused his family, having been arrested several times, including for pouring boiling water on his wife.

But imagine living a life that inspired your family to write an obituary like this. [Read more…]