Getting Schooled . . .

Getting Schooled . . . August 21, 2017

photo-1462219157779-8a35f2687626_optWhen school starts, most Americans do not go. We are done, graduated. Thank God.

Or should we thank God?

Should we ever leave school? The obvious answer is “no,” because who would ever quit learning? The real answer is “of course,” because I meet many people who could not write the papers like they wrote as seniors in college.

This frightens me.


We may be the first generation ever to have fifty year olds less well read than the twenty-two year old version of that same person. So many of us are skilled at our professions, but when it comes to the world around us, we have become ignorant. How many people have opined on the Civil War who have not read a single work on the irrepressible conflict since college? Much has been learned in those years about the War and the people who fought it. Are we still pontificating based on outdated information?

I fear Google gives us the illusion of expertise. We can fake it by Googling the topic and reading the Wikipedia entry. If we are very sophisticated, then we look for a general piece on a serious web site and are done. We do not read long form books.

Let me say an obvious hard truth: this should be impossible for a Christian. Why? We have a Holy Book full of many genre and deeply difficult truths and an entire lifetime is not enough to master what is there. We love God, but nobody can be in love and not want to know about the beloved. A sure sign of a bad marriage is a lack of curiosity about what the other mate is thinking and a sure sign of religious hypocrisy is the man who has it all figured out.

Sometimes even educators are done with schooling, because we allow nobody to school us. We sit as gurus and listen to nobody. We insulate ourselves from real criticism and we pontificate (God help me even now!) as if we know. We are all learning. We are all ignorant. We are all children before the great known Unknown.

That is easy to say and might merely be a moment of false humility before getting on with life. We should keep learning, but I say that if you agree with me that there are (at least) three implications to this truth.

First, as citizens in a Republic, we must read books about the issues that face our world. North Korea threatens. Get a book on Korea. Trump won. Get a book on the campaign. The Civil War is in the news. Get a contemporary account of that conflict. Don’t say you do not have time to read if you spend a minute on social media. I have read on all those topics without impacting my full time job or family.  You can too. Don’t make excuses. A blog post is not a book.

Second, read a variety of news sources. Our most excellent pastor, Father Richard, is always telling us to read foreign papers. Get a paper that disagrees with you. Get a paper from two other continents. Read. Think. Process. You must read something from India, sub-Saharan Africa, and China or you are missing the news from the area of the world where the future is being born.

Third, we must grow as believers. If you have a question about the faith, get a book and read it. Ask hard questions without assuming the answers. It is better to disbelieve in God honestly than to pretend to believe in God, because you hide from questions. The love of wisdom does not assume outcomes, but pursues wisdom. Do it.

Read theology. Find good living thinkers like Fred Sanders . Read those of the last century that had something to say such as Alexander Schmemann. Do not stagnate.

Most of us are glad when the grading stopped, but there is a danger there. We insulate ourselves from evaluation. Maybe, just maybe, we need to be schooled

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