Before I begin, I want to give my highest regard to Angela Mahoney for her brilliant rhetoric in the prevous opinion piece. She was very concise and made some valid points. I’m not here to necessarily dismantle the validity of those points, but rather to convey a different perspective from someone within the department of theology.
I was in the class Angela was critical of. I can see why she would claim there was disrespect going on, but I see it differently. To me, it was students utilizing the skills they have been taught with a teacher with whom they are comfortable. We are students, so we tend to be more reactionary, but this is how we learn.
Yet I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t share her disillusionment with what “should be” the model leaders on campus. With big eyes and bigger aspirations, I entered the department of theology my freshman year and lived the illusion for a while. By the end of that year, though, I was bitter.
However, there has been a strange transformation inside of me that doesn’t call fire from heaven upon the students of theology for their shortcomings. Part of that is realizing that I burn in my own judgment. The other part is that I now have an appreciation for what we do with what we have.
We are expected to administer the grace of Christ. We are equipped with critical thinking and careful evaluation of theories, particularly about the Bible. In a world where the Bible is interpreted a thousand times and debated a thousand times more, we have to be heavily guarded against heresy and legalistic tendencies.
We live in a world where judgment and condemnation are the knee-jerk reaction, not grace. And still we are expected to administer the grace of Christ. These classes help us to understand what that means in our lives contrary to what we have been living in. But, we bring our biases to the table. Whatever background we come from, whatever denomination or family structure or learning ability or learning style, we bring these to the classroom and for these reasons we are different in our approaches to administering the grace of Christ.
Like a ballerina must force her body against its will to conform to the style of dance, so too must we battle our flesh and biases every day. Particularly in the theology department, the curriculum is set up to destroy our biases and our truth. Things we were so sure of one day must be transformed the next. We are a people who are bewildered and less certain as we go on, yet ever more certain of the reality of our faith. And people react to these challenges differently.
For seven years before I came to Malone, I took dance lessons. In these classes, we would rehearse and practice so that we wouldn’t “mess up on stage.” We were afforded grace when we fell in class, but understood that class was an area to practice so we didn’t screw up on stage. Yet there were still times when we forgot the dance or fell on stage. The only thing to do in those times was to get up and keep going. In the same way, we are taught how to be devoted to God and we are challenged in very profound ways, but sometimes we forget ourselves and lose our footing.
[pullquote]May we learn together how to forgive, and may we learn from each other how to live.”[/pullquote]
So I beg the student body to have mercy on us, for we are sinners. Angela made the point that everyone should be inwardly reflecting, especially theology students. I would nod in agreement, and add that everyone should be inwardly reflecting, especially everyone. The problem, as I see it, is one of unforgiveness. People (of all majors) gossip and may say, “Kaitie swore yesterday, Kaitie stole that, Kaitie had sex.” However, you don’t hear, “Kaitie repented, Kaitie is struggling to work out her faith, we should help Kaitie.”
Jesus said, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15). Again, he makes the point that, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:23). Thus, I beg of you all: May we learn together how to forgive, and may we learn from each other how to live.