Friday, October 22, 2004

Christian Americans Mend the World

I’m teaching this freshman seminar, which is supposed to help freshman students bond with the campus, thus increasing retention rates, thus increasing eventual graduation rates, thus increasing the number of people in NW Arkansas who have university degrees, thus making people in Arkansas smarter. (This is the sort of Sisyphean quest we academic types involve ourselves in. It might even work, mind you, if it were not for the fact that people who manage to get university degrees in Arkansas almost invariably depart from Arkansas, and who can blame them? See my post on pumpkins below. What we need to do, as I have suggested to the Chancellor, is seal the borders. If we sealed the borders, I have said, we could maybe do something about raising the number of people with university degrees in Arkansas. But so long as we’re letting’em just up and leave any time they take it into their heads to, well… )

Anyway, to get back to my original story, one of the requirements of the freshman seminar is ten hours of community service. The purpose of this is, I suppose, to help’em bond with the community, so that they and so forth.

Students are outraged by this requirement, even though we make it as painless as possible, and even though we let them pick whatever charitable cause they like to donate their hours to: Habitat for Humanity, Meals on Wheels, tutoring in the public schools, feeding the homeless, volunteering at the animal shelter -- Hell, I let them donate the ten hours to their own church if they want to.

Oh, no, that’s not the point. The point is they are paying for this education and they should not have to “help a bunch of poor people” if they don’t want to.

This is the same population of folk who get all testy when I suggest that the founding fathers were, at least some of them, deists, rather than theists. God forbid they spend ten hours out of five months helping the poor – fine Christian Americans that they are.

Course, these are also the same people that, without the slightest ironic intent, drive their Hummers to church on Sunday morning too.

When I mentioned that as a worldview conflict in American Lit a few weeks ago, a little Christian American kid stayed after class to ask me, “I don’t understand. Are you trying to say that Jesus wants Christians to be poor or something?”

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