What Seminary Education Ought To Be [Part Two]

What Seminary Education Ought To Be [Part Two] June 19, 2012
Tony, Brian, and Albert consult the map. (Photo by Courtney Perry)

I was fishing last evening with one of my friends/DMin students, and he said something interesting: “There seems to be no rivalry between you and Brian McLaren.”

We have talked some about rivalry this week, especially about Rene Girard’s view of rivalry, and of Jesus’ undermining of male-on-male rivalries. (More on that another time.)

“It’s true,” I responded, “I feel no rivalry with Brian. And I feel that he’s genuinely happy for any success I have.”

Academic institutions are notoriously rife with rivalries. As I reach my mid-forties, I have friends across academia who are vying for deanships and vice presidencies. Bloody battles are waged over such things.

I don’t mean to imply that all professors hope for the downfall of their colleagues. But academic departments do seem to exacerbate feelings of rivalry, in spite of their attempts at collegiality.

Teaching a class from a canoe and a campsite instill a dramatically different vibe, as you can imagine. Most days end with Brian and me — the two instructors — sharing a cup of coffee and some fishing. The environment of being in the wild and out of a classroom inculcates a fellowship that I just don’t think could be replicated inside a classroom.

What is your experience with academic rivalries? How have you seen them exacerbated and/or mitigated?

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  • M. Horn

    What a combo! Would love to be on that trip! Hope you’re posting some “meat” up on the blog this week! I would be interested to know where you guys are the same and where you diverge.

  • Chris

    In your case, isn’t it just a matter of the two of you sharing the same basic ethos, and probably more importantly a fairly liberal (you’d say emergent) theological bent? I don’t know why you should feel rivalry?
    I know McLaren lectures on university campuses also. Would that make you rivals? Why shouldn’t he be happy for you if he’s at all a decent guy?

    A good question would be, would you feel a sense of rivalry if you had to share an audience with, say, an Allistar McGrath? He’s a generous and gracious speaker. Would the, peace, love, and happiness still be there? Even if it were in the great outdoors.

    • Tim

      Read Girard for more on Tony’s post and your question

  • Nick Nichols

    I think the real truth is that our world is rife with people who cannot celebrate the success of others, even within the Christian community. It is a shame when people cannot genuinely be happy for others who excel, particularly in building God’s Kingdom. It is refreshing to see (or at least read about) two people, who both have a following and the potential for a large ego, who can genuinely share with one another and encourage one another.

    Behold how good and pleasing it is for brother and sisters to dwell together in unity!

  • Evelyn

    LOL. Academia is anarchy. The more passionate the players, the more exacerbated the rivalries. Unfortunately, visible rivalry makes people look stupid so they usually shy away from it. If you and Brian are true academics, you could hate each other and share a cup of coffee together at the same time without anyone knowing how much you despise each other’s existence. The two of you simply know that you depend on each other to make a good buck and that is all you care about.

    • Erm, just curious: are you implying that Tony and Brian only care about making money? I could have misunderstood you…feel free to correct.

    • Larry Barber

      If all Brian or Tony cared about was money, they would be doing something completely different than what they are, in fact, doing. Both are smart, capable and well spoken, even if they wanted to stick with religion either could be the next Joel Osteen or another prosperity gospel huckster and make millions, if, of course, they didn’t care about their personal integrity.

  • Rivalry only makes sense to those who think they can do it all for themselves. (Believe that is heretical.) Otherwise, I should be investing in those whose support I require.

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