Why I want to teach

I want to be a professor.

The journey that has led me to declare that now without the caveat–“You know, sometime down the road”–has been a crazy one. But now it seems most true and beautiful.

Nate and I do this thing. He sits outside on our back patio, smoking a cigarette, while I sit on our bed just inside the slightly-opened door. And we talk. We have our best conversations this way. We talk about life, sometimes, and cosmology, psychology, and theology. One night last week we talked about the Bible, and how people have come to simplify everything. We talked about divorce. Instead of trying to understand the culture of Jesus’ audience when he said do not get a divorce, some Christians have taken these words to mean “No, not ever.”

(Very shortly: There were a crazy amount of divorces happening during the Second Temple period, because it was so easy for Jewish men to divorce their wives. Thus, there were many woman stranded with no means of income. So they would have to beg, prostitute themselves, or something similar. So of course Jesus would say this. And I’m sure, too, He meant: take marriage seriously. Don’t be a dick. Don’t screw people over.)

What’s most frustrating about this simpleton’s reading of the Bible is that it’s taught. Churches, moms, and dads don’t teach their kids to think, to ask questions, to wonder about why this or that happened in the Bible. Instead, they’re taught that the Bible is infallible. So anything that sounds weird, well, you’ve just gotta trust the Lord! (As one of my counseling professors duly noted: I seem to have some bitterness toward Christianity.)

Anyway, this conversation led me to my rally cry: THAT IS WHY I NEED TO TEACH!

I said to Nate, “I don’t know what I would have done if it weren’t for some college professors who taught me how to think! I’m not sure I’d be here now [in Seattle, at a ‘progressive’ seminary].” Read into that what you will.

And then I said to Nate, rather impressively, “That’s why I want to teach fiction, too. I think it teaches us how to ask questions.”

By this point, I’m on a roll.

“I think characters ask questions that I didn’t think to ask. Or, characters ask the questions I’m too afraid to ask!”

Then I said what seemed to be a non-sequitur: “Asher Lev!”

That is to say, that Jewish boy asked questions of the interplay of the sacred and the secular, something I had been toying with for a few years. My Name is Asher Lev helped me wrestle with that again and even come to some conclusions (or at least “talk it out”).

Fiction is a powerful, powerful gift. I know it’s hard to prove media effects–if I learned anything in my college mass comm class–but I’m pretty convinced that good literature can shape theology. (At least, my theology.)

And that is why I want to teach.

About Lauren Sawyer

I am a Ph.D. student studying social ethics in New Jersey. I love coffee, rainy days, and John Updike. Learn more about me at laurendeidra.com.

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