Sinister Initiations

fumieSomething unbelievable just happened in America. Something offensive, abusive, and utterly intolerant.

At Florida Atlantic University, one of the professors taught a lesson so distasteful that, had it maligned any faith other than Christianity, it would have led to his dismissal. Instead, the student who challenged it was suspended from the course.

The class is entitled “Intercultural Communication,” and the instructor happens to be the county vice-chair of one America’s major political parties.

So, what was the malicious class exercise? The students were instructed to write the name “Jesus” in large letters on a piece of paper which they laid on the floor in front of them. Then, they were directed to stomp—yes, stomp—on the name of the person millions of people throughout the world regard as their Savior.

It’s difficult to comprehend anyone would design such an offensive “lesson,” let alone that they would actually attempt to implement it. And, since lessons are created to teach someone, one wonders precisely what Deandre Poole wanted his students to learn by encouraging their blasphemy . . .

C.S. Lewis would not be surprised by this event. He foresaw precisely where the wholesale rejection of God within academia would lead. There is a passage in his book That Hideous Strength that seems almost prescient. In this scene the protagonist, a sociology professor named Mark Studdock, is being initiated into an elite and secretive inner circle at the Institute where he has come to work. The organization has global plans and great influence. Studdock is a confirmed agnostic, yet he is disturbed by something his mentors describe as a “minor” portion of the initiation process.

Meanwhile, in the Objective Room [where candidates are taught to think properly], something like a crisis had developed between Mark and Professor Frost. As soon as they arrived there Mark saw that the table had been drawn back. On the floor lay a large crucifix, almost life size, a work of art in the Spanish tradition, ghastly and realistic.

“We have half an hour to pursue our exercises,” said Frost looking at his watch. Then he instructed Mark to trample on it and insult it in other ways.

Now whereas Jane had abandoned Christianity in early childhood, along with her belief in fairies and Santa Claus, Mark had never believed in it at all.

At this moment, therefore, it crossed his mind for the very first time that there might conceivably be something in it. Frost who was watching him carefully knew perfectly well that this might be the result of the present experiment. He knew it for the very good reason that [he had briefly experienced, and dismissed, the same thought during his own initiation].

“But, look here,” said Mark.

“What is it?” said Frost. “Pray be quick. We have only a limited time at our disposal.”

“This,” said Mark, pointing with an undefined reluctance to the horrible white figure on the cross. “This is all surely a pure superstition.”

“Well?”

“Well, if so, what is there objective about stamping on the face? Isn’t it just as subjective to spit on a thing like this as to worship it? I mean— damn it all— if it’s only a bit of wood, why do anything about it?”

“That is superficial. If you had been brought up in a non-Christian society, you would not be asked to do this. Of course, it is a superstition; but it is that particular superstition which has pressed upon our society for a great many centuries. It can be experimentally shown that it still forms a dominant system in the subconscious of many individuals whose conscious thought appears to be wholly liberated. An explicit action in the reverse direction is therefore a necessary step towards complete objectivity. It is not a question for a priori discussion. We find it in practice that it cannot be dispensed with.”

The parallels are evident. I can readily imagine Dr. Poole justifying his own exercise in similar language. However, that something like this could happen in a civilized land is sobering indeed.

This incident reminded me of powerful scene in the book and miniseries Shogun. [Appended below.]

Christianity had been embraced by a number of provinces early in Japan’s history, but the rising ruler had vowed to extinguish it. The Shogun required that samurai suspected of being “Kirishitan” prove they were not by stepping on holy images of Christ or Mary. The Christians (all Roman Catholic in the seventeenth century) would not abuse holy images and were arrested on the spot. Fumi-e were images created for the sole purpose of desecrating, and some examples (like the tile shown above) have survived to this day.

If the individual failed to recant their faith in Jesus, they would be tortured and ultimately martyred. As recently as 2008, the Roman Catholic Church beatified a new group of 188 Japanese Christians. They joined 45 saints and 395 previously beatified martyrs. They represent only a small segment of the estimated 35,000 believers who accepted death rather than denying their Lord.

The newly beatified include 183 lay people, four priests and one monk. The laity included thirty samurai warriors, as well as farmers, artisans, civil servants, teachers, painters, writers, former slaves, pregnant women and even children as young as three.

If Dr. Poole was historically-informed, he would recognize that the odious ritual he thrust upon his vulnerable students carried a significant deal of baggage. And that’s not to mention the direct affront it poses to those who believe Jesus’ claim that he “is the way, the truth, and the life.” Ultimately, all people of goodwill—believers and atheists alike—will find his behavior repugnant.

Excerpt from Shogun:

In James Clavell’s book, it is the English protagonist who ironically desires to weed the [Roman Catholic] Christians out of his samurai contingent. (Their loyalties rest in a cause other than his own.)

. . .

“Can’t it wait until tomorrow?”

“No, Sire, so sorry.” Uraga was looking up at him in front of the assembled samurai vassals, the Dutch crew gathering into a nervous knot near the quarterdeck railing. “Please excuse me, but it is most important you find out at once. You are their most enemy. Therefore you must know, for your protection. I only wish to protect you. Not take long, neh?”

“Are they all on deck?”

“Yes, Sire.”

Blackthorne went closer to the railing and called out in Japanese, “Is anyone Christian?” There was no answer. “I order any Christian come forward.” No one moved. So he turned back to Uraga. “Set ten deck guards, then dismiss them.”

“With your permission, Anjin-san.” From under his kimono Uraga brought out a small painted icon that he had brought from Yedo and threw it face upward on the deck. Then, deliberately, he stamped on it. Blackthorne and the crew were greatly disquieted by the desecration. Except Jan Roper. “Please. Make every vassal do same,” Uraga said.

“Why?”

“I know Christians.” Uraga’s eyes were half hidden by the brim of his hat. “Please, Sire. Important every man do same. Now, tonight.”

“All right,” Blackthorne agreed reluctantly.

Uraga turned to the assembled vassals. “At my suggestion our Master requires each of us to do this.”

The samurai were grumbling among themselves and one interrupted, “We’ve already said that we’re not Christians, neh? What does stamping on a barbarian god picture prove? Nothing!”

“Christians are our Master’s enemy. Christians are treacherous—but Christians are Christian. Please excuse me, I know Christians—to my shame I forsook our real gods. So sorry, but I believe this is necessary for our Master’s safety.”

At once a samurai in front declared, “In that case, there’s nothing more to be said.” He came forward and stamped on the picture. “I worship no barbarian religion! Come on, the rest of you, do what’s asked!”

They came forward one by one. Blackthorne watched, despising the ceremony.

Van Nekk said worriedly, “Doesn’t seem right.”

Vinck looked up at the quarterdeck. “Sodding bastards. They’ll all cut our throats with never a thought. You sure you can trust ’em, Pilot?”

“Yes.”

Ginsel said, “No Catholic’d ever do that, eh, Johann? That Uraga-sama’s clever.”

“What’s it matter if those buggers’re Papist or not, they’re all . . . samurai.”

“Yes,” Croocq said.

“Even so, it’s not right to do that,” van Nekk repeated.

The samurai continued to stamp the icon into the deck one by one, and moved into loose groups. It was a tedious affair and Blackthorne was sorry he had agreed to it, for there were more important things to do before dusk. His eyes went to the village and the headlands. Hundreds of the thatch lean-tos of the Musket Regiment camp spotted the foothills. So much to do, he thought, anxious to go ashore, wanting to see the land, glorying in the fief Toranaga had given him which contained Yokohama. Lord God on high, he told himself, I’m lord of one of the greatest harbors in the world.

Abruptly a man bypassed the icon, tore out his sword, and leaped at Blackthorne. A dozen startled samurai jumped courageously in his way, screening the quarterdeck as Blackthorne spun around, a pistol cocked and aimed. Others scattered, shoving, stumbling, milling in the uproar. The samurai skidded to a halt, howling with rage, then changed direction and hacked at Uraga, who somehow managed to avoid the thrust. The man whirled as other samurai lunged at him, fought them off ferociously for a moment, then rushed for the side and threw himself overboard.

Four who could swim dropped their killing swords, put their short stabbing knives in their mouths, and jumped after him, the rest and the Dutchmen crowding the side.

Blackthorne jumped for the gunwale. He could see nothing below; then he caught sight of swirling shadows in the water. A man came up for air and went down again. Soon four heads surfaced. Between them was the corpse, a knife in his throat.

“So sorry, Anjin-san, it was his own knife,” one called up over the roars of the others.

“Uraga-san, tell them to search him, then leave him to the fish.”

The search revealed nothing. When all were back on deck, Blackthorne pointed at the icon with his cocked pistol. “All samurai-once more!” He was obeyed instantly and he made sure that every man passed the test.

Then, because of Uraga, and to praise him, he ordered his crew to do the same.

58 comments on “Sinister Initiations

  1. Yes, had it been Islam or any other religion being abused, the professor would have been, most certainly, expelled. But Christianity, apparently must not qualify as a religion. Or perhaps it is because its the truth? It is the truth that is always the hardest for people to believe, always it’s the truth that receives the most criticism, and that is resisted the most.

  2. To add something to my earlier comment, there is an excellent movie called “Expelled” in which many different scientists and teachers are interviewed after being expelled from their positions for teaching either Christianity, Intelligent Design, or for questioning the theory of Evolution.

  3. Dell McDonald says:

    Yes I agree. Christianity has beccome a persecuited religion. The pressure has been building up for some time and has now reached the point, like the old fashioned pressure cooker, where the relief valve is popping up and down in alarm.
    When living in Japan my wife did some research on this very subject. There is a memorial in Nagasaki to the Caholic martyrs murdered by the shogun. There are a few secret believers in the faith as it was handed down from one family member to another. Even today they are guarded about revealing themselves to anyone. I have a replica of a Fumi-e used to identify believers. The story of the Dutch ship is believable.
    To be a Christian will become more costly as the days and years pass.

    • M.G. Piety says:

      Persecuted where? Down here in Jacksonville, FL we publish a bible passage in the newspaper every day. We’re such a “Christian” community that several people told me they joined the Unitarian church just to get their Bible-thumping neighbors off their backs (i.e., so they could say that they DID belong to a church).

      • robstroud says:

        I know there are a few enclaves in America that still have a sort of residual “cultural Christianity” that can prove stifling to those who don’t share the beliefs. However, there is a vast difference between “civil religion” and genuine Christianity.

      • M.G. Piety says:

        This blog post was the first I’ve heard about this case. That makes me wonder if it in fact even happened or if someone didn’t simply make it up simply to piss off Christians. Where did you hear about it? I can’t believe you’d make so much out of a piece of hearsay, that would be REALLY irresponsible. So why don’t you give us the rest of the context from your source?

    • lpatangan says:

      Wow! That is despicable. I would say I have no words, but I have many. It would be more accurate to say I don’t have enough to convey how offensive I find that professor’s behavior. To read about such an offense during Holy Week is a good reminder though of Jesus suffering so that we may be saved. How sad this individual chooses to continue to mock our Savior instead of choosing to embrace Him and thus, salvation.

  4. jubilare says:

    I’m horrified. Where is freedom of conscience in this? Freedom of religion? But then Jesus didn’t tell us to expect an easy road.

  5. M.G. Piety says:

    I’d appreciate a little more background on the class in question. I live in Jacksonville, FL and it is pretty Bible-belty around here. I have a hard time believing that the purpose of the course in question was simply to bash Christianity. Could the point have been to help students appreciate how upsetting it is to have someone metaphorically stomp on your faith? It is irresponsible of you not to give more information about the course and the purpose of the exercise. Taking only one part of it and presenting it out of context is not simply irresponsible–it’s inflammatory. It’s bolshevik tactics like that that give Christians a bad name.

    • jubilare says:

      I am unable to imagine a circumstance where this would be ok as an exercise, even if the purpose is simply to show someone how upsetting it is to have their beliefs desecrated. The context of an exercise wouldn’t matter to a Muslim asked to desecrate a passage from the Koran, or a Buddhist asked to defile an image of the Buddha. Asking someone to desecrate a faith, whether they share it or not, even to make a good point isn’t ok.

      • M.G. Piety says:

        I agree. I think the exercise was in poor taste no matter what the purpose of it. The purpose makes a huge difference though relative to the issue of it’s significance. I would never give such an exercise, but some Christians might. Some Christians might feel that however painful it might be to them, the pain would be worth it if the end result were the extension of empathy to people of other faiths who have to endure analogous acts of desecration.

    • robstroud says:

      The purpose of the course most certainly goes beyond Christ-bashing. However, the professor made a conscious choice in deciding to blaspheme Christian symbols. If I had been in the classroom, and he had placed Islamic or Buddhist images to be desecrated, I would have resisted that, as well. That’s what I meant by my final comment: “Ultimately, all people of goodwill—believers and atheists alike—will find his behavior repugnant.”

      Since you live in Florida, perhaps you can provide us with a fuller justification of his actions? Then again–as I would find offensive all onslaughts against any world religion–it would be difficult to persuade me that this exercise was justified. Still, the more facts we have available, the better. Please share with us whatever you learn about the case.

      Oh, and I’ve never been called a bolshevik before. Have to give the ramifications of that a bit of reflection…

      • M.G. Piety says:

        This blog post was the first I’ve heard about this case. That makes me wonder if it in fact even happened or if someone didn’t simply make it up simply to piss off Christians. Where did you hear about it? I can’t believe you’d make so much out of a piece of hearsay, that would be REALLY irresponsible. So why don’t you give us the rest of the context from your source?

      • robstroud says:

        Apparently there is something to the story. Enough merit for Florida Atlantic University to issue a formal apology, with a link to it on the front page of their website.

        This is the link to their letter.

        They apparently recognize the inappropriateness of the exercise . . . in that they state: “This exercise will not be used again.”

      • M.G. Piety says:

        Okay, if Florida Atlantic has a link to their apology on the front page of their website, why don’t you provide that link for your readers?

      • M.G. Piety says:

        The link on Florida Atlantic’s website does not give the details of the exercise (which was taken from a textbook on inter-cultural communication). It does, however, state that “[c]ontrary to some media reports, no students were forced to take part in the exercise; the instructor told all of the students in the class that they could choose whether or not to participate.”

        The reaction of the “media reports” suggests that perhaps Christianity is not so besieged as this blog post suggests.

      • robstroud says:

        Obviously no one was forced to participate… they only experienced the coercive pressure of their professor, the grading process, willing peers, and the secular atmosphere of the campus to “encourage” them to do so. As the persecution in Japan reveals… no Christian can be forced to revile their God… only pressured to do so.

        And as for the university saying no student was expelled or suspended, I read that to mean “from the university.” I suspect that the young man who declined to participate in the spectacle may have been encouraged to revise his class schedule.

  6. This was so well said that I have to reblog it. I hope you don’t mind.

  7. Wow! And the scariest thing of all is that the news media completely ignored this!

    • M.G. Piety says:

      No they didn’t. If you go to Florida Atlantic’s website you’ll see that the media did indeed cover it. In fact, the media made it seem worse than it was.

  8. jubilare says:

    The link does put the incident in a different light, and ought to be added to the post. I still wonder about the instructor’s motivations, whether they be intentionally offensive, or just myopic.

  9. M.G. Piety says:

    My guess is that the exercise was simply a case of poor judgement. Adjuncts live in fear of offending anyone who has any say in whether they will be allowed to teach again (and that means both students and university administrators). Religion in general is under siege in this increasingly secular age and that should be an issue of concern for Christians, as for people of any faith. But to suggest that Christianity, in particular, is under siege in the U.S. is irresponsible.

    • robstroud says:

      I don’t regard it as irresponsible at all. In fact, I think that, for disciples of Jesus, pointing out the inequity in treatment is incumbent on us. I concur with one of the comments above that says, “had it been Islam or any other religion being abused, the professor would have been, most certainly, expelled.” While all religion is, as you say, under siege, Christianity assumes a unique place–it is the one faith that can be assailed with virtually no consequences. In fact, in some environs, it is nearly an unspoken tenet that Christianity is the one “superstition” (e.g. That Hideous Strength) that absolutely must be dethroned.

      • M.G. Piety says:

        What? In the U.S. it is perfectly acceptable to disparage almost every religion EXCEPT Christianity.

      • jubilare says:

        I can’t reply to the reply of this comment, so I will reply to this one. I live in the Bible Belt, and while there are pocket communities around me where what M. G. Piety says is true, I often hear and see my faith (Christianity) disparaged and attacked, often to my face, with no consequences. What we see depends so much on our perspective.

        I know people, personally, here in the U.S., in the Bible Belt, who have been ostracized from certain fields solely on account of their profession of Christianity. It happens. It also happens a lot to Muslims in this area, which angers me too.

        I get irritated with the paranoia I see some Christians spouting, where they see everything as an attack and think that everyone is against them. I think it only acerbates the real problems. The more we cry wolf, the less anyone will listen. But the fact that there are false outbursts doesn’t negate the fact that there are real forces at work, that it is becoming harder, on an individual basis, to be a Christian in this country.

        I do not see that we are marginalized in the U.S. as a whole, at present. In some communities within the U.S., though, we are. I won’t use blanket statements if I can help it. I hate their inaccuracy, but I do expect, in my lifetime, to find it harder and harder to own my faith with impunity. I’m not bitter about that. I’m not angry. I am a little afraid. What is coming is coming, and while I can and should speak out against injustice, I cannot, with my own strength, hold back a tide. I’ve tried that, and met the undertow.

        What Robstroud says in his post carries weight. There are signs that we are headed at a quick pace to a nation that is much more hostile to Christianity than it is now.

        M. G. Piety’s call for accountability is necessary and just. The fact that the incident did not go unnoticed and that the University took some action and acknowledged a problem (under pressure or not) is relevant and shows that Christianity is far from powerless or defenseless in the U.S. at the present time.

        I guess that’s all I have to say… as usual, I find myself somewhere in the middle. I hope I am at least somewhat coherent.

      • robstroud says:

        Jubilare, you’re not merely “another tree in the proverbial forest.” I agree with you completely.

  10. Reblogged this on The Recovering Legalist and commented:
    You may have read somewhere in the news about a Florida professor asking his students to stomp on the name of Jesus. Here, in an excellently worded piece, Rob Stroud points to similar instances in the past that were not so academic.

    I highly recommend this post by Mr. Stroud, and I would encourage you to check out his blog, Mere Inkling.

  11. Incidents like this really upset me. And defense of them is also upsetting. As you say, if it had been any other religion or faith, screams would have been heard all over the media. But it’s OK to do this with Christianity…those Christian people are so understanding and tolerant and reluctant to raise a fuss.
    Universities often have instructors who feel it is their lot in life to “shake-up” students…and often those don’t have good judgement, consideration, or tolerance of anyone who thinks differently than they do.
    I remember when my brother called home after sitting in a class with a Prof (Very large name brand major university)who was way off the deep end as far a “normal person” thinking.It was a mandatory course – no way out, no other prof. Dad said “just get through and write down on the exams what the guy wants. You were raised to think for yourself, analyze, and not be easily swayed or bullied.” My brother hated that course, but made it through.
    My concern these days is that the schools teach more social programs than logic and reasoning – how to analyze for generalities, false assumptions, and incomplete facts/statistics. Too many students aren’t firm enough in their beliefs to withstand a confident person presenting something that sort of sound logical and reasonable.
    Much appreciate the literary references. Time may be coming when enough is enough and it is necessary to speak not so softly – with numbers and conviction.

    • robstroud says:

      Very true. And, your father was a wise man. I love the way you say that the most confusing errors “sort of sound logical and reasonable.” Like counterfeit money… it looks very much like the real thing.

      • Parents who shelter, over protect or isolate kids put them at risk. Better to let them encounter different people and ideas- difficult situations and choices while they are home with a safety net and can talk through things. Once they leave home all you can do is hope you’ve done your job to prepare them to face conflicts with reason and stand for their convictions

    • jubilare says:

      “those Christian people are so understanding and tolerant and reluctant to raise a fuss.” Maybe it’s where I live, but I’ve never heard that view expressed. Usually, people are shocked to find that I am Christian and yet not “super judgmental and rabid.” “Christian” and “Christ-like” are worlds apart in the minds of so many people now. It seems to be OK to attack Christianity in the same way that people think it is OK to mob a bully on the playground. It’s not easy explaining to them that the bully is not what they think it is.

      I’m one of those people who likes shaking up beliefs because I’ve found it useful when I’ve been shaken up… the problem is that, as you say, the people being shaken up need, first, to be able to reason and analyze for themselves, and the one shaking them up must be willing to let them come to their own conclusions. As you say, if the person doing the shaking up is in need of being shaken up (because they are intolerant) then there is a serious problem.

  12. FormCritic says:

    Telling students to stomp on Jesus’ name just reinforces how important Jesus is to our history, culture and worldview. There is no way you can knock down Jesus by stomping on his name. In fact, Jesus wins because his name is WORTH stomping on.

    No one is going to tell you to stomp on an image of Jay Gould, Aleister Crowley or Ayn Rand. They are not in Jesus’ league. Lenin, Hobbes, Marx, Locke, Rousseau…all dead. Voltaire? Also dead. All not worth stomping on. You would not even bother to lift a foot.

    I don’t think that stomping on a piece of paper…or a cross, for that matter…could be blasphemy. As Lewis’ character points out…it’s just a piece of wood. You cannot stop Jesus by stomping, stamping, champing or shoving pieces of it up your nose (which I suggest trying, by the way).

    Either Jesus is dead (and can therefore safely be stomped on…but why bother?) or Jesus is not dead and therefore cannot be harmed by paper stomping.

    What concerns me more is that the professor felt safe conducting this farce. Since the exercise was almost impossibly stupid, one suspects that he had some other point to make besides denigrating Jesus. Direct experience with academics has amply demonstrated that wisdom and intelligence are NOT the same thing, but this action seems too far fetched to make sense unless it had some larger purpose that has been missed in the fuss.

    • robstroud says:

      Thanks for the input, Mark. Of course you’re completely right in Jesus being immune to damage from people’s acts, no matter how horrific they might be. However, I think you underestimate the power of symbols in this case. In the minds of some (probably especially those Christians with sacramental theologies), to reject the Name in this fashion is representative, in a serious way, of rejecting the One whose name it is. It would be tantamount to those cases during persecutions when all people had to do to avoid martyrdom, was simply “deny” the name of Jesus.

      In the context of Lewis’ That Hideous Strength reference, it’s precisely because the hero thinks the cross is only the wood that it’s carved from, that he begins to realize it is truly much more than that when asked to defile it.

      • formcritic says:

        Since I don’t come from a sacramental theology background (I looked that up on Wikipedia) I don’t have the same feelings about rituals and objects.

  13. robstroud says:

    Another update, as news continues to develop in this case. The columnist linked below reports that the student who objected to the exercise did indeed initially receive some “special treatment.”

    “Ryan Rotela, a student at FAU, was accused of violating the student code of conduct after he reported his instructor to university administrators. He was removed from the class, ordered not to contact fellow students, and was facing possible suspension or expulsion – pending the outcome of a student hearing.”

    Apparently, with the university’s apology and alternative arrangements for completing the course, the matter has been resolved.

    http://radio.foxnews.com/toddstarnes/top-stories/university-jesus-stomp-student-will-not-be-punished.html

    Oh, and lest anyone say… “oh, it’s from fox news!” just realize that facts are facts and if these are wrong, please point out how. Foxnews is one of the precious few outlets that is willing to cover outrages like this. Also, please note that the reference cited here is to a commentary, not a news report.

    • formcritic says:

      One wonders what part of the code of student contact Rotela violated.

      One also wonders how a university can “order” a student not to have any contact with fellow students, as if the university were a court.

      There must be something more to this story.

      • robstroud says:

        Alas, there’s always more to any story than we hear or read, isn’t there? I believe that allegation was made by his attorney. I suspect he was directed (not ordered, but coming from the Authorities, in essence the same thing) to not discuss the matter with classmates.

        Student courts are quite popular now, I understand. From my college days the only equivalent I can recall was “Greek Courts,” where the fraternities and sororities were granted some discretion in policing their own members and organizations. Of course, I could be wrong about that, since the memory is rather hazy and I had no personal experience with them.

  14. This school seems to be a magnet for controversy. They’re also under fire for naming their new stadium after a controversial private prison company / benefactor.

    http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/sports/college-football/fau-faculty-senate-opposes-geo-stadium-naming-deal/nW363/

    And last year, a student have to be tased after a violent outburst during a class on evolution in which she asked “why does evolution kill black people.”

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/21/jonatha-carr-fau-student-class_n_1369739.html

    As far as the exercise in question, there are clearly more appropriate ways to deliver a point…

    • robstroud says:

      Thanks, Andrew. I hadn’t done any additional research into the university’s background. The second case you reference is quite sad, isn’t it? The poor girl is clearly disturbed. The article’s links to videos of her rage have been disabled but, as is often the case, the episode is still available on youtube. None of her classmates could believe her outrageous behavior. (Mental health or drug-related, I suspect.) It doesn’t appear on the video, however, that the university did anything wrong… and if we were all judged by the actions of 100% of our students, there’s not a teacher who would be left standing. (Of course, we could say that about our own personal actions. None of us are infallible, are we?)

  15. jubilare says:

    Thank you, Rob. It makes me smile that you think so.
    Being just another tree in the forest isn’t so bad a thing, though, considering what an amazing forest humanity is, ne?

  16. [...] his weblog Mere Inkling, a retired chaplain named Robert Stroud quotes a relevant passage from C. S. Lewis’ The [...]

    • robstroud says:

      It’s quite an honor to have your blog cited by the editor of First Things, one of the most influential Christian publications in America. Speaking of which… I encourage all of you who enjoy thoughtful discussions about Christianity and culture to consider subscribing to the journal. They have some downloadable articles you can “sample” at: http://www.firstthings.com

  17. nbyrley says:

    http://news.yahoo.com/teachers-stomped-american-flag-jesus-officially-no-longer-084614330.html

    “As a result of the reaction to a recent exercise in Dr. Poole’s intercultural communications class, the instructor’s personal safety has been compromised,” Metcalf wrote. “Dr. Poole will not teach any classes, conduct office hours or be present at any of FAU’s campuses or sites.”

    So now hes not teaching for the moment, but the reason being his safety not over his actions or questionable suspension of a student. Still not dealing with the real issue.

    • robstroud says:

      Thank you for the update. I’m sorry to read about his safety being in question. Genuine Christians would never threaten someone in this situation. Of course, there are others who are offended by his offense to a “culture” they identify with who do not possess actual biblical values. I’ll offer a prayer for Dr. Poole and his wellbeing today on this Resurrection Sunday.

      • formcritic says:

        it is possible the man’s safety is in danger. However, it is common to make such a claim in order to cover up the abrupt exit of an academic like Poole. This is a subtle way to paint the man’s critics in a negative light. “They must be racists!” “They must be fanatics!” FAU has gone out of their way to emphasize that Poole is “not affiliated” with their university. Such a disingenuous rhetorical trick does not cast FAU in a better light. It would be far better just to admit that the man made a glaring error in judgment and the university fired him post haste. Poole’s academic career appears to be what is most “in danger.”

  18. [...] an indirect nod to a Rob Stroud post at the Mere Inkling weblog, Dreher ends up quoting a haunting piece of the famous C.S. Lewis novel, “That Hideous [...]

  19. Jessica says:

    If you think there is little or no persecution of Christians in this country, try to get a degree in any scientific field in a major secular university if you believe in Biblical creation or intelligent design. As far back as the 1950s one of the teachers I later had at a Bible college was denied a higher degree, despite meeting all the requirements for it, because he believed God created the universe as described in Genesis. (He was actually told that was the reason.) It’s pervasive. Academic doors are closed to Bible-believing Christians if their beliefs are known.

  20. [...]   If your child was asked to stomp on the face of Jesus would he do it? [...]

  21. JudahFirst says:

    Your post reminded me of the book “Silence” by Shusaku Endo (http://www.amazon.com/Silence-Shusaku-Endo/dp/0800871863) which I read approx. 20 years ago now. Great book, although quite depressing.

    • robstroud says:

      I’ve never read Silence, but your comment moved me to read a review of it, and now I’ve added it to my must read list. Shusaku Endo sounds like he was a gifted writer, and a devout Christian. His understanding of the Suffering Savior was profoundly affected by religious persecution.

      • JudahFirst says:

        Yes, if nothing else, it is quite the memorable book. His words produced pictures in my mind I have not forgotten in over 20 years. Enjoy!

  22. Sonja Anderson says:

    The Samurai is another excellent book by Endo for people interested in this time period in Japanese history. His insight truly is unique and powerful, and I find I want to re-read his work every few years.

    I haven’t had a chance to read through all of the comments so maybe this has been addressed already, but as alarming as this lesson appears to be (and it certainly appears alarming!), it reminds me of cases where books are challenged in libraries because of a certain word or action by a character, but where it is taken out of context and not understood on the merits of the entire story. Sometimes the whole book isn’t even read before a challenge is made.

    I would love to hear “the rest of the story” as Paul Harvey used to say, and find out what on earth the instructor was trying to teach.

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