What is Remembered

My dad and I recently traveled to the Philippines to attend a conference where several of his students from Bible College were now serving as pastors and denominational leaders. Everywhere we went, they told stories of “Pastor John” and his radio quartet, choir, music practice.

Dad didn’t go to the Philippines to teach music and direct choirs. He went to teach the Bible and direct a College.

In frustration one night he asked the question that I could tell had been causing him a lot of anguish: “Why don’t they remember my Bible teaching?” (The reverse was implied: “Why is it that all I hear is ‘We remember the music’?”)

What is remembered says a lot about two things:

1. The effectiveness of what was presented, and

2. The response of the person to what was presented.

IGBIPerhaps what dad taught in Theology 101 wasn’t as memorable. This could be the boredom factor of having to go through a systematic study that would, at times, seem tedious and sleep-inducing (Been there; done that.) It could also be a comparative thing: compared to the joy and excitement of singing, traveling around to visit churches and performing on the radio, sitting on a hard wooden seat listening to the 26 reasons why we aren’t Arminian just doesn’t cut it.

Or it could be that the students who were enrolled in the College at the time were far more passionate about and felt connected in singing together than they were about studying Soteriology and proof-texting John Calvin’s 5 Points?

We could look at this example and draw the conclusion that his students should have been more serious about their Bible study and ministerial training and that this should have driven them to enjoy learning and applying themselves to their studies.

But that would be about as fair as expecting the congregation on any given Sunday to leave reciting the main points of the pastor’s sermon rather than singing the memorable chorus of that final song. We are naturally wired to remember things that appeal to all our senses; our minds naturally prioritise that in which we are actively engaged above that which just goes into our ears.

Dad shouldn’t be so hard on himself. He did a great job of teaching, I’m sure. Otherwise the vast majority of his students would not be in the ministry today. I’m sure the essence of their vocation has “Pastor John” written all over it; the music is simply the spoonful of sugar that helped the medicine go down.

(And, in keeping with this theme, the ending pointed question of this post is, “And who doesn’t like sugar?” not “And how bad was that medicine!”)

Under Attack?

Last week there was a major development at the University from which I graduated–a student was expelled for watching the ‘morally reprehensible’ TV show Glee on his computer, off-campus, at Starbucks. This wasn’t the only thing that led to his expulsion, but it was the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ so to speak. However, the list of offenses for the preceding months was just as ludicrous. Keep in mind we are talking about a ultra-conservative, Christian University.

People may argue whether or not the University was right or wrong to expel him, knowing that he signed a statement saying he would abide by the University rules when he enrolled. But the fact is that he organised a student protest last year against the University for allowing a pastor who had covered up and mishandled a case of the rape of one of those in his care to serve on their board. The protest did not draw a huge participation by the students, possibly because they feared the would become targets for harassment or possible expulsion. It did, however, draw extensive media coverage including some of the national networks in the U.S.

Now, after the College has taken this step, and people, organisations and the news media are once again scrutinising the University, those who support the College are posting on Facebook and Twitter comments which ask for prayer because the University is experiencing “an attack of Satan.”

So let me get this straight: You know this is an “attack of Satan” because…? Are you good at recognising these so-called attacks? Do you get them often? Could you be mistaking them for what happens when institutions do dumb things–could it be that what the University is experiencing is the result of its own actions? Is it possible that they are being seen by people outside of its “hallowed halls” as being arrogant, ignorant, and antiquated? (On arrogance, how arrogant is it to think that the Prince of Darkness would leave whatever ghastly, horrible torture he is afflicting somewhere else to personally attend to thwarting your righteous and holy activity?) Could it possibly be that it is the University which is being the evildoer by harassing, intimidating and provoking fear in its students?

Time will tell.

In my opinion, student numbers will drop somewhat as the media and blogosphere publish their take. I would be surprised to see much coverage nationally due to the way the media has gotten used to the lunatic-like activity of fundamentalists, but it will provide fodder for the tabloids and comedians as well as discussion topics for the disenfranchised ex-fundies. In the long run, such actions will hurt the College and it will lose any status it may have in the community as a credible educational institution.

Meanwhile, I am looking forward to seeing a Glee episode that has the expulsion of a student from a fundamentalist Christian school as its storyline.