Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Bart Ehrman - The Abnormality of a Conservative Christian Upbringing/Education

I have read and enjoyed a number of biblical historian Bart Ehrman's books which place legitimate history and archaeological evidence over the blind acceptance of the Bible as the "revealed word of God."  It goes without saying that Ehrman is not too popular in Christofascists circles where logic, reason, and true historical inquiry are frowned upon if not outright condemned.  One thing that makes Ehrman interesting is that before he went on to graduate school, he attended Moody Bible Institute which, like so many "Christian" colleges pushed students to embrace ignorance and avoid living in objective reality at all costs.  Ehrman has a post on his blog that looks at the stunted world of Moody Bible College and what is being done even today at such institutions that have no right to be called institutions of learning.  Here are some post highlights:
I do need to spend this final post on the original thread to explain in very brief order what I am resentful about when it comes to my education as a 17-21 year old at Moody.   There are three things, all of which I could expand at length, but since I want to move on to other things, I will make just a few comments on each.

The first has to do with social life.   Moody was a highly regimented environment.  There were all sorts of rules involving social behavior.   Some of these rules were draconian.  here was no chance of having a normal young adulthood there, and I’ve long resented the fact that I missed out on lots of things that are normal, healthy, and important for full social and emotional integration into society.

There could be no drinking (even a beer: drinking age in the country at the time was 18), no drugs, no smoking.  These parts were obvious.  We were also not allowed to dance, to go to movies, or to play cards.  (Seriously: cards are of the devil.)  We were not allowed to have sexual relations of any kind.  Those were reserved for marriage. . . . . By no sexual relations, I not only mean no sexual intercourse.  I mean no sexual contact of any kind, including touching and kissing. 

Second thing: my education.  Or lack of it.  I’ve already mentioned that I was and still am grateful for the massive inundation that I received in the Bible.  I do not say “biblical studies” because there was in fact very, very little scholarship involved.  There was mastery of the Bible.  And of what very conservative evangelical scholars said about the theology of the Bible.   But in terms of academics, there was not much more. These were the years where I should have been, and where I so desperately now wish that I had been, studying in the great disciplines of the humanities and social sciences and hard sciences. . . .

I *should* have been studying the basics of chemistry, biology, and physics.  I had none of that.   I am hugely ignorant as a result.   In addition, I obviously never had courses in cultural anthropology, sociology, or psychology.

I was young and ignorant and was directed there by an older man whom I trusted, when – as I now know — I shouldn’t have trusted him further than I could throw him.   I was passionate for learning about the Bible, and so that’s what I threw myself into.  But how desperately now do I wish I had spent these formative years of my life reading great literature, learning modern languages, studying in depth the Greek and Latin classics, being trained in history, and on and on and on.

The third reason for my resentment is related, and is in a sense the flip side of the coin.   . . . . I am highly resentful of the approach to education taken at Moody.  It was three years of indoctrination.  It was not three years of learning how to think, how to analyze, and to assess, how to evaluate, how to come to one’s own views, how to reason to a conclusion.  It was three years of learning the right answers.   Right answers from within a very narrow and stifling ideological/theological perspective. These right answers were the key to eternal life and earthly happiness.  We simply had to learn the answers and … we would have the answers.   How stupid.  How ignorant.  How mind-numbing.   How mind-killing.   It is not simply that we were not taught how to think or encouraged to think.  We were actively *discouraged* from coming up with our own views, establishing our own perspectives, deriving our own conclusions.  Doing such things was seen as dangerous. 

I did not start learning how to think until I left Moody, and then it took me much longer to learn how to think than normal intelligent human beings take, since I had to drop so much baggage that I had been burdened with.   And this was emotionally difficult, because Moody not only loaded me up with baggage, but the people loading the baggage insisted that the only way to have a happy life and blessed afterlife was to carry that baggage all the way to the end of the road. I don’t feel I started to become fully human until I realized that they were completely wrong, and that their approach to education was, in fact, sinister. 
What Ehrman describes is what is precisely what happens at "christian" schools and colleges and universities - think Regent University of Liberty University among others - every day.   It's not an education but rather indoctrination and brainwashing.  Why such schools and institutions are given accreditation is mind boggling.  Meanwhile children and youth who are forced to attend such institutions are being subjected to a form of child and psychological abuse.  Such places need to lose accreditation sooner as opposed to later.

No comments: