Be True to Your School, Or They’ll Go Postal

My father didn’t like rock music. But there was one time he made an exception. My brother was a Beach Boys fan, and one evening at the house he made us stand and listen to “Be True to Your School” as it played on our Magnavox console. My father was big on his sons being loyal to the institutions they were a part of, whether it was country, school or what not.

I’m not much of an institutionalist to start with, but school had several problems. For one thing, because we moved and switched schools every two years, it was hard to develop a loyalty to any school. But after we moved to Palm Beach, school loyalty was especially problematic, whether it be their blasé attitude towards bullying, my endless problems with English teachers, or their dislike of my college choice. It wasn’t until I went to Texas A&M that I found a school I could truly be true to.

Recently my church had its General Assembly, and for the General Council the following resolution was tendered, which I discussed in this post

No Church of God minister or employee of any church or institution associated with the Church of God shall violate Articles 1 & 2 of the Declaration of Faith by naming God using feminine pronouns or feminine titles. The usage of feminine titles or feminine pronouns for God in reference to the Father, Son, or Holy Spirit is a violation of the Declaration of Faith and shall result in ministerial disciplinary action.

I can feel the eyeroll from my Anglican readers…in any case, many of those who pushed back came from the Pentecostal Theological Seminary. But the real revelation came when one of those who proposed this agenda item was a Seminary graduate who first heard God referred to in these feminine pronouns at the Seminary. Evidently some at the Seminary didn’t like being outed in this way; one reaction in particular was very emotional.

I strongly suspect that at least some of that emotion came from the fact that the Seminary had been “outed” on this issue. Being outed or coming out isn’t easy; just ask any gay conservative. (They get to come out twice, and frequently the second coming out is harder than the first.) Since I am a bona fide academic with the credentials and teaching experience to go behind it, I think I can address this issue knowledgeably, which blunts those who would attack me with the decidedly “trade union” attitude inculcated by academic credentials, ministerial credentials or both.

The first task of the educator is to teach his or her students how to think. Concomitant with that is the risk that the student will come to a different conclusion than you did. Academics these days seems to be less and less willing to take that risk, which is why freedom of speech issues are so “hot button” on campuses. Many academics have retreated into a “religion of authority” (to use Sabatier’s term) which is a major reason why academia has become so monochrome in terms of diversity of thought.

That reality is amplified in the Church of God by two simple facts. The first is that our lay people (and many of our clergy that come out of the laity) don’t have a great deal of formal education relative to those outside of the “movement.” Along with lower AGI, that’s encouraged an inferiority complex among our people, which is amazing considering the impact that modern Pentecost has had on Christianity and the world. To have a seminary at all is a sign that we have “arrived,” not thinking about the fact that the rest of Christianity struggles to keep up with us.

The second is that many of our pastors, including some very successful ones, are not seminary graduates. To have one take what he learned at the institution and “turn it against” some of his erstwhile professors raises doubts in the mind of others about the value of a seminary education. It’s little wonder that a visceral reaction follows.

Nevertheless, for any educator the risk of his or her students going against what was taught to them in the classroom is an assumed risk and goes with the territory. Our best response to that is either to defend what we have been taught or admit that we were wrong. Unfortunately the nature of Pentecost and the employment of post-modern “thought” and rhetoric means that many of our seminary academics are singularly unsuited to effectively defend what they teach outside the walls of “Old Kudzu.” I suppose that’s one reason why they left apologetics to the Lay Ministries Department.

The best we can hope for is that, down the road somewhere, our students, informed by their life and career experiences, will come to appreciate what we taught them back in the day. Years ago I had one student who didn’t strike me as very studious. Nevertheless he went on to get is M.S. and has had an excellent career with a well-respected supplier in the geotechnical industry. He has told others that “I wish I had listened to Dr. Warrington…”

It would be nice if my own church would listen to someone whose own “home church” was ruined in part by those who taught and those who learned in its seminaries, but given the defensive mentality that reigns that won’t be an easy thing to do.

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