My daughter, JillAnn, asked if she could borrow a post on my blog to share something on her heart. I was only too happy to hand over the space.
First off, thank you to my dad for letting me steal some of his blog space. I’m John’s daughter and a junior at a small, southern liberal arts college. You may remember me by my alias, Christian Girl at College, under which I blogged my freshman year. I guess the blogging bug never goes away because when my academic and faith lives crashed together this week, my first instinct was to write. I had to riddle something out: what do you do when you’re obligated to overlook your Christian convictions?
In college, I’ve been exposed to different people and challenged by new ideas, which is exactly why I chose a liberal arts school in the first place. I fancy myself open-minded. So no one was more surprised than me at the email I wrote to my English professor last night.
A little background: I’m taking a class this semester that studies modernist British fiction. One of the required texts is Crash by JG Ballard, which you may know from the movie adaptation with Holly Hunter. The novel centers on car crash fetishists, and includes graphic depictions of sex and violence. I know that many people, including my professor, consider it a profound work of art. I don’t want to get into a debate over aesthetics, but to me, this book is degrading, desensitizing, and pornographic.
I believe whole-heartedly that God doesn’t want me to read this book. Let me be clear here: I am anti-censorship and never in a million years would I tell someone else that they can’t read a novel. I also don’t think sex is evil or wrong. It’s just that, in my opinion, Crash crossed the line. I felt emotionally and mentally violated just reading it. “Hear no evil, see no evil,” remember?
I had no idea what to do, how to respond. I am required by the course to read a book that I simply cannot read. I froze. I wasn’t prepared for my ideals and my aspirations to clash. I’ve never heard about this conflict in a sermon or a Bible study. Maybe that’s one more sign that the church has become too enmeshed with its surrounding culture. After all, if we agree on everything, there’s nothing to fight about. But Christ calls us to more complicated, more important living.
In my head, I know that. I know that we’re called to sacrifice anything and everything for Christ and this was hardly facing a lion in the arena, but how am I supposed to tell my professor that? I don’t want to play a “religion card.” I don’t want to fail the class and ruin my future!
It got me to thinking about way bigger theological thing-a-ma-jigs than one novel in one college class. We live in a secular world and a secular country – sorry, televangelists. And if we are living our faith as untamed as Christ calls us to live it, there will be times when our faith does not jive with the demands of that world. Sure, we’re supposed to be working for the kingdom to come, but in the moment? I mean, it’s just a little thing; I can let it slide this one time; I don’t want to make a scene.
Except that Jesus never let an opportunity slip by to transform his world. What if it would’ve caused too much trouble to talk to the woman at the well? What if the stakes were too high to save the adulteress? Radical change is the very foundation of the Christian life. That doesn’t always mean toppling oppressive regimes or exposing Foxconn or eradicating racism. Sometimes it’s the everyday choices about what TV shows you watch or who you eat with at lunch.
The end of my story is that the prof replied graciously, saying that he understood my concerns. It was my choice if I read Crash or if I attended class – though, thinking about it now, he didn’t say I wouldn’t be penalized. I split the difference; I didn’t read it, but I sat in class today and tried my best. Probably not the best solution. I guess we learn by doing.
Has your faith ever made trouble for you? How do you handle it when you’re called to disrupt the order?