To Josh Duggar, from a secular academic, on staying Christian

To Josh Duggar, from a secular academic, on staying Christian August 21, 2015
St Jerome in Study (Pieter Coecke van Aelst the Elder) - Public Domain (Workshop_of_Pieter_Coecke_van_Aelst_the_elder_-_Saint_Jerome_in_His_Study_-_Walters_37256.jpg), via The Art Walters Museum (http://thewalters.org/ per Wikimedia Commons)
St Jerome in Study (Pieter Coecke van Aelst the Elder) – Public Domain (Workshop_of_Pieter_Coecke_van_Aelst_the_elder_-_Saint_Jerome_in_His_Study_-_Walters_37256.jpg), via The Art Walters Museum (http://thewalters.org/ per Wikimedia Commons)

Dear Josh,

We do not know each other, but as part of the reading and viewing public, I know a lot more than I care to know about you while you know nothing about me. Allow me to introduce myself. I am a postdoctoral fellow in comparative religion at a public research university, which makes me a secular academic – which is not the same as saying that I don’t have theological convictions. What it means instead is that I work for a public university that privileges no particular theological viewpoint and requires me in the classroom to teach all theologies instead of only the ones that the institution and I favor. As I hope you’ll come to appreciate, my academic secularity will actually facilitate what I hope will be a robust conversation about how you can maintain your public profile as a confessing Christian while being – let’s face it – the well-deserved subject of scorn, ridicule, and disgust of the Protestant world and what various biblical prophets have called ‘a proverb and a byword’ for a particularly patriarchal strand of the Christian homeschooling movement. Forgive my semi-professional tone – young academics like myself need to keep up a veneer of seriousness in most of our writing – but do know that what I am about to offer is my rather unprofessional opinion about possible ecclesial futures that you might consider, especially those beyond a narrow Catholic-Protestant nexus. In fact, you and I both know that this is unprofessional because the length and the quality of what I’m about to write is so unpublishable in both academic and popular venues that I have made an executive decision from the outset to put it on my blog, on which I generate neither income nor readers because I seldom post nowadays anyway. Moreover, I do have some personal interest in where you end up: as a secular academic and not an ordained member of the clergy in any religious communion, I am sick and tired of hearing your confession and deciding whether or not I should give you absolution. To put my cards on the table, I think you should consider leaving Western Christianity for your own good, although I do not think you should cease to be a Christian either, as I shall explain in the 4500 words that follow.

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