Saturday, April 7, 2007

Tongue-in-Cheek Theology

In my final year as a seminary student, I had a dreary class-schedule full of "practical" classes which, after a year of hands-on experience called vicarage, seemed completely pointless. Few of these classes were nearly as interesting as the ones on exegesis (interpreting the Bible) or systematics (doctrine). Even church history could be more fun.

One horrid quarter that year, I had to go to two different classes, first period, Monday through Friday, taught by the same prof in the Practical Department. This prof was a far from a ray of sunshine as one could be. The man was so manifestly unhappy that a cloud of gloom seemed to follow him into the room; his frown lines had frown lines; and he invariably contradicted anyone who asserted anything during discussions in his classroom. I remember the feeling of triumph I felt the day he (indirectly) agreed with something I had said; for some other student had jumped on my statement before the Prof had a chance to do so, and thus it was my antagonist who got contradicted. This prof's attitude brought to mind a student nickname Zwingli allegedly had: "The Accusative Case." No matter how cheerful I felt at 8:00 a.m., by 8:15 every day that quarter I was having a miserable day.

As if bad vibes wasn't enough, this Prof also assigned a ridiculous number of writing assignments in proportion to the significance of his classes. While I had one paper, or at most two, in high-level exegetical classes that changed my life, I had to write 5 assignments in each of this Prof's trifling little classes. It irritated me. I always had a deadline looming. And some of the assignments were just plain screwy.

The "last straw" fell in Parish Administration class, when the Prof assigned a paper raising up a character from the Bible as a model of Parish Administration. I couldn't believe how stupid this assignment was. All of my ethics of Bible interpretation rebelled against reading this flagrantly anachronistic tripe back into Scripture. But I had to comply with the assignment. So, with my teeth clenched, I wrote the paper in the following post. It was not meant to be taken seriously. It was, in fact, a vaguely self-destructive gesture of tweaking the prof's nose. If he took it seriously, then the joke really was on him. The fact that he never discussed it with me, and assigned it the same grade he gave everything I turned in to him, indicates that he probably missed the irony in it.

Sometimes you have to be a stupid jerk to fight stupid jerkitude. It's a strange fact (perhaps not very strange) that my seminary grades were all A's except the classes I hated. So I suppose I deserve the grade I ended up with in this class (it wasn't an A). At the time, my thought was: "I deserve to go to hell for writing this." But I turned it in anyway, snickering up my sleeve.

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