The Tragic Death of an Adjunct Professor

I’ve written about being an adjunct professor before. While I’m grateful for the three schools who currently employ me as an adjunct prof (St. Cloud State University, United Theological Seminary, and Fuller Theological Seminary) and those who have done so in the past (Rochester College, Andover Newton Theological School), one cannot help be see that the crisis in academia is coming to a head. Adjuncts currently make up over half of all teaching positions in the U.S. — we work without tenure, without insurance, without benefits.

The class I’m currently teaching pays me $267 to teach a 2-hour class — that does not include prep time.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette carries this story that backs up the meta-trends, about a long-time adjunct professor at Duquesne University who died in her front yard of a heart attack, penniless and without insurance (HT: JR Rozko). The writer, an attorney for the union that has tried to organize Duquesne adjuncts, writes,

[Read more...]

Gay Students at Fuller Seminary

Fuller Seminary is both my alma mater (M.Div.) and a part-time employer (I teach a cohort in the D.Min. program). As far as I know, I am one of two faculty members at Fuller who publicly supports gay marriage and the full inclusion of GLBT persons in ordained ministry. As such, I’ve had many conversation about the issue of gays in the church with alumni, faculty, and administrators. I have the most conversations with prospective students, many of them gay and wondering if they will find Fuller a hospitable place.

Over the weekend, the USA Today ran an AP story on a newly-formed and recognized student group on campus, OneTable, that exists to support and explore the issues of GLBT students at Fuller:

[Read more...]

Sacred Texts After the Apocalypse

Today, I’ve finished teaching the third in a three-year cycle of classes for a Doctor of Ministry cohort for Fuller Theological Seminary. This year’s subject matter was Fiction, Film, and Christian Spirituality. I presented the following lecture on on of my favorite novels, and one of my least favorite films.

Walter M. Miller, Jr.’s A Canticle for Leibowitz (hereafter CL) is a masterwork of science fiction, standing among the most renowned novels in that genre.[1] The same cannot be said of the 2010 Denzel Washington vehicle, The Book of Eli (BE). While both deal with themes of religion and text in a dystopian, post-apocalyptic America, the former does so deftly and the latter, well, less so.

Miller was a tortured genius. In the 1950s, after serving in World War II, he wrote three dozen short stories for popular science fiction magazines. Three of those, he heavily revised and published, together, as CL in 1959. He never published another word in his lifetime. Always odd, and likely suffering from PTSD, he grew increasingly reclusive in his later years, ultimately taking his own life in 1996 at age 72.

CL’s themes are many and scintillating. Not only did Miller’s own experience in WWII and the bombing of the monastery at Monte Cassino affect him, so did his work as an electrical engineer and, most significantly, his conversion to Roman Catholicism after the war.

The first theme to investigate is technology. At first blush, it would seem that CL, like any post-nuclear-apocalypse story, takes a dim view of technology. But Miller is no technophobe. Here, for example, is how David M. Samuelson compares him to the greatest Christian science fiction writer of the 20th century[2]:

In CL, technology and religion run parallel, as Samuelson notes. But Miller seems less than “technophilic.” Instead, it seems that both technology and religion generate ambivalent feelings for him. On the one hand, the rise of technology destroyed much of civilization, on the other hand, the Simpletons who destroyed almost all human knowledge in the Simplification are clearly portrayed in a bad light. In the middle section of the book, “Fiat Lux,” the (re)invention of the lightbulb is a significant advance, even if it is seen dubiously by some of the more skeptical monks of the order.

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Fiction, Film, and Christian Spirituality

That’s the topic of our gathering next month, when I meet with nine of my favorite people in the world — the students in my D.Min. cohort at Fuller Theological Seminary. I’m co-teaching with my seminary classmate and long-time friend, Craig Detweiler, and thanks to him, we’re meeting on the stunningly beautiful campus of Pepperdine University.

We’ve got 10 topics, and each topic includes a novel (with one exception) and a film. Novels and films were nominated by the students, then Craig and I made the final list. Each student is presenting a paper on one topic, and a response to a classmate on another topic. Plus, we’ve got guest speakers, field trips, and more lined up.

Here’s the list: [Read more...]


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