Ph.D.s On Food Stamps

Elliott Stegall, 51, who teaches English courses, picks up food assistance at the WIC office in DeFuniak Springs, Fla. "The first time we went to the office to apply, I felt like I had arrived from Eastern Europe to Ellis Island," he says. "We all had that same ragged, poor look in our eyes." (Photo by Jeff Haller)

Getting a Ph.D. is a nice feather in one’s cap, but that’s about it these days. An article in the Chronicle of Higher Education reports on the number of people with PhDs who are struggling to get by. In fact, many are on food stamps.

One of the reasons is that more and more schools are hiring adjuncts, the slave labor of academia:

Some adjuncts make less money than custodians and campus support staff who may not have college degrees. An adjunct’s salary can range from $600 to $10,000 per course, according to the Adjunct Project, a crowdsourced database about adjuncts’ salaries and working conditions. The national average earnings of adjunct instructors are just under $2,500 per course, according to the American Association of University Professors.

The article goes on to note that the amount that adjuncts get paid is academia’s “dirty little secret.” We adjuncts — yes, I’m one — work with short-term contracts (or no contract), receive no health care or benefits, do not get to participate in the governance of the school, and can be fired or not renewed without notice.

I hustle adjunct jobs wherever I can. Three places that used me in 2011-2012 aren’t having me back in 2012-2013. I think I’ve got one new gig lined up for next year, and I applied for but didn’t get another one.

I’m not asking for pity, and I’m not on food stamps. But this is a reality in today’s world, and it’s an ugly one.

Wanna see how much an adjunct makes at your school? Click here.

Do you think that pay is fair, or unfair?

Thinking About God’s Creation

Autumn Evening on Eagle Lake, by Courtney Perry

I’m thinking and reading a lot about creation right now, in preparation for year two of the Christian Spirituality Cohort that I have the great joy of leading for Fuller Seminary’s Doctor of Ministry Program. (Another time I’ll write about what a joy it is to be in community with these 10 students.) In year one, Lauren Winner and I led the class through the history and theology of Christian spirituality; next year, Craig Detweiler and I will be teaching about spirituality, film, and fiction.

This year, my co-teacher is Brian McLaren, and we’re taking the cohort into the far north woods of Minnesota, to canoe in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, outfitted by Boundary Waters Experience. Our subject matter will be Christian Spirituality and the Doctrine of Creation.

One of the things I like most about Fuller’s DMin program is the aggressive amount of reading required of the students: 4,500 pages per year. That’s a ton of reading, especially for people who are working full-time jobs in ministry. It takes an enormous amount of discipline, but I have yet to field a single complaint about the amount from a student.

Just to make you jealous, the required reading list is below. I’ve broken the books into three categories, with Moltmann’s creation theology serving as our ur-text. Every one of these books is worth your time.

[Read more...]

An Evangelical Seeking a Commonsense Solution on Same-Sex Marriage

Bob Hyatt doesn’t blog enough. But when he does, it’s good.

Bob is a friend — he stayed at my house last week — but he’s also a thorn in my side. Almost every time I post on issues of human sexuality, he writes a comment here or on Facebook, gently chiding me from the other side of the issue (some of you who disagree with me could learn a lesson from Bob about civil engagement.

Well, Bob has a thoughtful post up today about a middle ground in the same sex marriage debate:

On one side, the Church is going to have to realize that gay men and women, in wanting what everyone else has, are asking for something reasonable. Rights of inheritance and property, custody and visitation- all of the rights granted currently by the state in marriage are good things, things we can affirm, even in relationships that we wouldn’t necessarily endorse. After all, even if we hold a more conservative view on divorce, I don’t see many churches advocating for divorced couples to lose the right to have custody over their step-children should something happen to their spouse. We may not endorse the relationship, but we can certainly try to understand the desire of those in it to have the same legal rights as other couples. And more than understand it- I think we can advocate for it, and practically demonstrate that we do in fact “love everyone.”

At a bare minimum, those who claim the stance “Welcoming but not affirming” must come to grips with the very practical question of what that looks like not just on Sunday morning, but it the public/civic arena too.

On the other side, those pushing for SSM need to understand the depth of feeling involved in and around the word marriage- what is for many Christians a sacrament and for all Christians sacred. To have the State legislate an understanding of what is essentially a religious term, and to legislate it in a way contrary to the faith and practice of so many is profoundly offensive. This goes beyond legalization into the realm of endorsement and definition, and as such, is qualitatively different than many other culture war issues.

As long as we’re talking about “marriage” we’re going to continue to see a stalemate on this issue as those who believe in a traditional, biblical view of sexuality and those who want the basic rights afforded to others all around them each refuse to give an inch.

So what’s the solution?

Read the rest to see Bob’s solution: Bob Hyatt » Last Chance For a Win-Win on Same-Sex Marriage?.

The Future of Preaching

In the world of homiletics, not much has changed since Charles Wesley delivered monological sermons.

I’m sitting in the Buckhead Theater in Atlanta, about the take the stage with Doug Pagitt to talk about the future of preaching. We’re at the Festival of Homiletics, the premier conference about traditional preaching. The program is basically sermon-lecture-sermon-lecture. A person preaches, then later they give a lecture about what they were trying to do in their sermon. There’s also some singing peppered in between.

As you might guess, Doug and I will be delivering a different message.

We live in the most highly educated society and the most highly participatory culture in the history of humankind. Everything around us has changed: the clothes we wear, the way we transport ourselves, how we communicate.

And yet, 99% of preachers stand up on Sunday morning and deliver a monologue. A soliloquy.

And their churches decline. And they wring their hands.

There is another way. There is a way of participation and inclusion and dialogue and conversation.

That’s what Doug and I will propose this morning.

I wonder if anyone will listen.


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