Saturday, November 23, 2013

College Teacher?

Almost two months ago, now, I was approached by the diocese with a request.  They want to start a lay theological institute, hosted here at Easter College.  Within a year or two, assuming it passes the accreditation process, it would become a full-fledged department of the school, giving students in the northern dioceses a place to study theology before going on to Manila to the seminary there.  And they want me to teach a course while I’m here. 

Let me back up a bit.  When I arrived in Baguio, I was introduced around to most of the higher-ups in the church offices, including the bishop.  Most of them, as part of making conversation, asked me what I studied in college.  When I replied that I’d studied Biology and Religion, there was an almost universal “Are you from Mars?” look.  And of course, they asked me to explain how I reconciled the two disciplines.  Evidently, I did a good job explaining to the Bishop, because he decided that one of the special courses for the new theological institute should be Science and Religion, and that I should teach it. 

The past two months have been spent working a great deal on preparing to teach this course.  I’ve been up to my eyes in research, including discovering that it seems like most of the work in English geological studies was done by Anglican clerics to some degree or another.  I’ll be re-writing my course syllabus this week, so that it’s ready to start classes in December, which is the current projected start date.  So far, the people who have seemed most interested in this class seem to be my fellow teachers, mostly from the clergy of the diocese.  I had several of them, while we were at our training seminar, tell me that they were going to sign up to take my class.  Which means that I will be teaching a collegiate level theology course to priests, many with more in-depth theological training than me. 

What I have prepared so far includes a bit on the course expectations: 
I do not expect you to agree with everything I say in this course.  I do not expect you to agree with everything I give you to read.  In fact, over the next few months, I will hopefully be giving you articles and books to read which will disagree with one another.  I expect each of you will find yourselves drawn more to some authors, some perspectives, than others.  I expect each of you to at times, disagree with one another. 

This is good, this is important, this is healthy to do so.  I will be striving to give you multiple viewpoints for this very reason.  It would be very easy for me to only present topics and papers that agreed with my fundamental positions on the issue of the relationship between science and religion.  It would also be an act of sabotage for your long term trust in me, and for your education.  We learn the most when we confront ideas that are not our own, when we learn to articulate the ways in which we agree and disagree with other viewpoints.

To give you only one perspective would be as if we were to say today that we should not have four gospels in the Bible, that we do not need to see multiple points of view on Jesus.  The point of this course is not to convince you to think like me.  It is not to force you to give up any position you already hold. 

The point of this course is to let all of us, me as well as you, work through what we honestly believe.  It is to force us to examine and articulate our own beliefs, to know why we think as we do.  Because as long as our positions are not thought through, they remain prejudices, and prejudices are always blinding. 

I expect you to listen, and to read what is presented.  I expect you to keep an open mind and consider what someone else's perspective might offer you.  I also expect you to offer your own opinions and reasoning throughout.  This is a dialogue, not a monologue.  I expect that I will at times challenge you, and that you in turn will challenge me to think more deeply about the subjects we address here.  And, at the end of our course, I expect that you will be able to say more clearly what you believe, and to know why others believe as they do.  If we can all do that, I will know that we as a class have succeeded.  

What do you think?  Would you be interested in this course? 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Typhoons and Me

Those of you reading this blog are probably well aware of the super-typhoon currently devastating portions of the Central Philippine islands.  My parents have been fielding a number of worried e-mails and phone calls from church members and family friends. 

For the record, I'm pretty safe. Baguio is north of the storm's path, so while we have some gusting winds and periodic rains tonight and probably through tomorrow, there's no threat to me. The other YASC missioners are also far north enough to be out of the storm path.

The same, unfortunately, cannot be said for the central islands and the people on them. There are a lot of people who are going to be homeless, a lot of people who will lose everything they've got. And, even worse, a lot of people will end die, both in the storm and as a result of storm-related issues. Please keep those people in your prayers and intentions, instead of worrying about me.

If, like many people, you feel compelled to do something, I would strongly advise you to donate to the international Red Cross, or other worldwide disaster relief agencies.

If at all possible, I would suggest donating to the general fund, not earmarking your donation to the Philippines or any specific goal.  Oftentimes there are bottlenecks in terms of how much aid can flow into an affected area at any one time, and there are cases where the fund for one country or disaster is overflowing, where other needy situations cannot be provided for. 

And again, place the people of the Central Islands in your prayers.  Between the earthquake a while ago and now this, their infrastructure has taken a double whammy, and that in and of itself will affect how the rescue and recovery effort continues.