Theological War Zone

I am a college student.

I am a senior Bible and Theology major in my final semester.

Thus, I am dealing with the perpetual hell that is senior seminar. Apparently I’m enough of an idiot to choose to do the GREEK senior seminar. Don’t ever do this. EVER.

Really, though, the work itself isn’t that bad. If it were just that, I’d be fine.

The problem is my classmates.

There are five of us, plus the professor. I am the only woman. I am also one of two egalitarians in the room. Three of the students attend Piper’s church. I go to Boyd’s. My professor has openly stated, as if it were fact, that women ought to submit to their husbands, that it is not possible to defend both Christ and homosexuality, and that everyone knows socialism is wrong.

Needless to say, I don’t belong there.

It’s like walking into a war zone every time I go to class.

I’ve realized, though, that this class is much like life for me on a daily basis, when it comes to theology.

I am a feminist. I support gay rights both inside and outside the Church. I believe in socialism and I think everyone deserves decent healthcare and education without spending the rest of their lives in debt. I don’t believe in violence and I think that using it in efforts of making peace is contradictory. I think what we do matters just as much as who we believe in, and sometimes I’m persuaded that works matters even more than faith. I believe that God is after every person’s heart and is open to influence and change. I think that we ought to live simply and wealth is not something to be gained, but something to be shared. I believe that it is our job to advocate for the poor, the oppressed, and the marginalized, and that we have to break down ethnic, sexual, and religious discrimination. And I believe in a God who is on our, and everyone else’s, side.

I know that when I take these stances, I put myself on the outside. I know I’m going to face opposition. I’m okay with that.

The problem is when this opposition doesn’t take the form of dialogue, but instead turns into dismissal. It isn’t that someone disagrees with me, but that they refuse to even listen to me.

When I have to raise my hand in a student-led, discussion-based class every time I want to say anything, and I still end up waiting three or four minutes to speak, I don’t feel as though my opinions are valued.

When my professor and all but one of my classmates use gender-exclusive language, I feel  like I don’t belong.

When I bring in sources by Gutierrez and Bell and Boyd and nearly the whole class is spent attacking them, I spend the rest of the day wondering why my heroes, the people whose words and actions inspire me and renew my faith in Jesus, aren’t even worth consideration.

When I am mocked, picked on, and disrespected, and it is written off as playful banter, I wonder if I made the wrong decision in my choice of this class, this major, and even this school.

I don’t know how many times I’ve pulled up the websites of other schools that I know would have been a better fit because I so badly want to transfer. And, honestly, if it weren’t my final semester, I would.

There’s something wrong with that. That I feel so unwelcome that I want to switch schools less than three months before graduation. That, because I made my stances (listed above) public, I lost my leadership role in a campus ministry and I was nearly kicked out of a pre-vocational ministry program. That I start to get nauseous and wheezy and panicky before every senior sem class. There is something wrong with this school when a senior theology major who has invested years of her life and countless hours of studying, writing, discussing, reflecting, and praying about her theological beliefs can’t even voice those beliefs without being responded to with anger and disrespect.

I had a friend tell me recently that this opposition should only encourage me to fight harder. What about when that opposition and disrespect comes from my friends? What about when I point out a sexist remark in a conversation or a reading assignment and it is met with mockery? What about when that opposition is so fierce that I have to leave in the middle of class because I’m either about to throw punches or there are already tears building up in my eyes?

It is impossible to fight harder when the other side won’t even engage the battle. When you aren’t even respected as a worthwhile opponent.

I feel like David against Goliath. But I don’t have the Israelites behind me and instead of Goliath stepping out to fight me, he says, “She’s not even worth fighting,” and the army just camps out right there on the hillside.

This post won’t end with a resolution, because I have no resolution to offer. I am stuck in a war zone. Though I wish we could discuss our theologies like equals and be okay with the disagreements, I doubt I’ll ever gain that kind of respect here. Until then, the fight continues.

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4 thoughts on “Theological War Zone

  1. I see you, I hear you. I hope you are able to graduate and find a place where you are acknowledged – and that your words make an impression on those around you, even if they seem to have no effect.

  2. Pingback: A Call for Resources and the Dreaded Senior Sem Paper | Wandering the Desert

  3. Sympathy for you are writing here. I can relate to being in theology classes and having to give in some of them the desired answers instead of what moves you and where you dare to question. Meanwhile we are a year further along the road. What happened to your graduation and what are you doing currently?

    • Thanks Rene! I graduated last spring, and am now working on my M.Div. at a far more open-minded seminary (though I still find myself off on the margins most of the time). I also moved to a church that gives me a space to share my voice. I now look back on my experiences a year ago and realize that, if nothing else, they taught me how to stay strong in the midst of opposition, but also to keep a critical eye turned on everything I write, say, and believe. Also, those experiences made me one hell of a debater, so, that too.

      I don’t know what your current context is, but I would encourage you to stand your ground without being defensive. I found that asking questions often leads to better discussions than making statements, and usually makes the same point without creating enemies.

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