Friday, December 09, 2005

Scattered Thoughts on a Professors Resignation

Professor Paul Mirecki resigned from his position as chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Kansas.

Mirecki remains on the faculty, but has resigned from his chair position and has cancelled the course he planned entitled: "Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationism and other Religious Mythologies".

According to CNN, 'A recent e-mail from Mirecki to members of a student organization referred to religious conservatives as "fundies" and said a course describing intelligent design as mythology would be a "nice slap in their big fat face." Mirecki apologized for those comments.'

I'm glad that Mirecki apologized for those statements. If we are to maintain any serious dialog on issues like this, emotionally charged labels such as "fundies" will not get us anywhere. I think its safe to say that this sort of unsophisticated communication exists on both sides of the fence. CNN goes on to say: "On Monday, Mirecki was treated at a Lawrence hospital for head injuries after he said he was beaten by two men on a country road. He said the men referred to the creationism course."

This sounds like a reflection of the inherent UGLINESS that is sometimes a part of what is bandied around as "fundamentalism". I believe Mirecki is wrong in what he believes. But he is also a human. Made in the image of God. As an image bearer of God, Mirecki has dignity and worth. He is also likely an extremely intelligent individual. On that basis, any dialog should be conducted with love, clarity, respect, and hopefully some level of sincerity. I believe the Christians (I use the term loosely here) who act crudely will, in at least one sense, be held to a higher standard, because they are PROFESSING religion.

Unfortunately, in many charged debates like this one, the real issues get swept under the table. The Christains often crudly fight the wrong battles in a very obnoxious way that merely feeds anti-Christian stereoptypes. On the other hand, the individuals opposing the Christians, often resort to name calling and often their rhetoric is more hype and not nearly as factual as they would assert. Here are some things I think everyone should look for IN THEIR APPROACH to any debate:

1. Have I identified the critical issues which are not symptoms, but penetrate to the root of the problem?

2. Have I taken the time to understand my opponents position and also given some thought as to the reasons it stands in their mind?

3. Am I ready and willing to treat the individual in this conflict as an IMAGE BEARER of God and as one who I am willing to take efforts to CONVINCE not CLOBBER?

4. Have I taken the time to reach a level where I am confident enough to dwell nearly exclusively on the critical issues and not resort to name-calling or other emotional appeals?

I appreciate the fact that Mirecki took steps to resolve this situation. Are the Christians in the area willing to do the same? This does not mean that they have to accept his beliefs, but they should at the very least be ready to keep the lines of communication and dialog open and not do anything rashly to close them. Too often, we do rash things that are very antagonistic.

The Intelligent Designer that I worship has a high regard for Truth. Mirecki is ultimately not the one who decides what is truth, and at least some of what he said is wrong. On the same end, Mirecki is a good challenge to the Christians out there and an opportunity to defend and further clarify their faith. God does not call on His followers to blindly accept the status quo and run anyone who opposes it out of town. His claims on our lives are of such a nature that He wants us to be ambassadors for Him, at that we must seek to be compassionate, grounded in the truth, and knowledgable. We need to be apologists, yes, but that is within the context of being ambassadors and ministers of reconcilliation first.

Wow! This is all over the place. Hopefully it has some coherence.

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