At some point in the late seventeenth century, European Christians began to wonder if religion was more trouble than it was worth. After seeing battle lines drawn along denominational lines for more than a century, the common man was exhausted by religious diversity and had begun to yearn for a public square (and city hall) where everyone simply agreed to not talk about their religion. Thus secularism was born, and religion has been seen ever since as a problem to overcome, not an asset to depend on.
In the last several years, your school may have developed a “vacation problem,” as a friend recently put it. A “vacation problem” is a tendency among school families to take long vacations in the middle of the school year. Your school may have had vacation issues prior to 2020, but pandemic policies inevitably led many families to take a much looser stance toward school attendance. For the last two years, many in-person classes were also available online, which meant a time share in Florida was just as likely as a positive COVID test to make a student absent for a week.
I think it takes a full year to really get to know a student, which means I’m bidding my students farewell at about the point I actually understand them. There may be a few chatty students I meet with outside of class whom I get to know earlier than May, but there are far more students who say little over the course of the year and thus always remain a mystery to me.
At the beginning of the school year, I hand out a document to all my students that I call “the decorum,” a set of classroom rules regarding student behavior. From one year to the next, most of the decorum remains the same, although in recent years I have made the following addition.
Do not email me. The only reason you may email me is to tell me you will not be in class the following day. For every other reason (including scheduling meetings with me), you must speak with me in person. I do not respond to any other emails from students.
The number of classical Christian graduates who walk away from the faith in college is so high, one could make a decent plan for remaining faithful to God in college simply by doing the opposite of whatever most Christian seniors say they intend to do. When asked how they intend to remain faithful to God in college, many high school students speak about the importance of having good Christian friends. “When I go to college, I will surround myself with friends who love God and will keep me accountable,” they say, blithely unaware of just how often this plan fails.
How to improve your faculty development program:
Step one: Scrap your faculty development program. No one likes your faculty development program. Work on departmental culture instead.
Step two: Culture emerges around food and drink and singing and dancing. Culture does not emerge around conversation. Judges have conversations with criminals. They do not dance with them. If your faculty does not eat and drink and sing and dance together, you do not have a faculty culture. You have some atheistic forgery of culture.
Gibbs: Your son recently asked me to write him a letter of recommendation to a big state school.
Parent: Yes, Allister is very excited at his chances of getting in. A strong letter of recommendation from you will really help with that.
Gibbs: Is there a reason you didn’t choose a smaller Christian college?
Parent: Well, his mother and I want the best for him, and he wants to study business. A big state school has far more to offer on that front than a smaller Christian college.
No one really knows which new works of art will last, but if I had to guess, I would wager that Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (2006) and Eugene Vodolazkin’s Laurus (2012) will be in print a hundred years from now and receive “the scholarly treatment.” By this, I mean these books will not only be in print but be studied in universities and written about by historians. These novels are dense, sophisticated, and can sustain tough, close reads and many rival interpretations.
I am at the CiRCE national conference at the moment and have heard a good on the matter of worlds over the last two days. What follows is nothing more than a brief catalogue of ways in which worlds are spoken of.
“This world”: The word as existential reality; everything this side of the Resurrection and return of Christ; icon of ephemerality.
“The world”: That thing which is contrary to God and attempts to exclude God; “I have overcome the world”
“The real world”: A particular plane of reality; see also “the adult world” or “the teenage world”
For years, when teaching medieval history, I created imaginary scenarios and hypothetical situations for my students to help them understand what it felt like for the common man to merely "stand on the ground" in the year 325 AD. These imaginary scenarios coalesced into "Blasphemers," a short story I wrote for my students so they could better understand the legalization of Christianity, the ancient Christian sense of piety, and the thin veil that separated earth and heaven in the medieval mind (but also in my mind).