The following has to do with a 2000 word per week blog assignment for my Theology 1120: Intro to Biblical Studies Course. The actual postings from students can be seen here.
Before I get all preachy, first let’s revisit what I wrote initially in the criteria and purpose section of the blog:
Several biblical authors and subjects sought to improve dramatically the worlds in which they lived. Similarly, this project asks you to make the world a better place by identifying a problem and implementing a solution. Along the way, you will reflect on how various biblical and non-biblical authors have addressed similar issues. Additionally, in keeping with course goals, this project seeks to improve your ability to think critically and to improve your writing. Your blogs (an abbreviation for web logs) will provide a published documentation of your thoughts, efforts, and means by which you personally improved the world.
I want this Blog “manifesto” to clarify my purpose. The course is called Introduction to Biblical Studies. So, some of you have asked, what on earth does working to better the world and then having to write about it have to do with the course? Let’s look at some concrete biblical examples from this week’s reading. The prophet Hosea tried to get the people of Israel to change their ways before their destruction in 721 BCE. To symbolize Israel’s religious infidelity, he married a prostitute, and when she cheated on him, Hosea forgave her and took her back. While I’m not asking any of you to marry a prostitute, I am asking you to think deeply about what Hosea was doing. He identified a problem in the world, settled on a project to help fix the problem, and then he (or one of his scribes) wrote about it. He wasn’t living passively in his world, and he wasn’t writing for you 2,700 years later. He was angry with injustice and evil and tried to take action. Then let’s look at the case of Jeremiah. He didn’t sit in the proverbial “Ivory Tower” and passively watch as morality in Jerusalem declined and his country eventually fell to the Babylonian army. Instead, he got angry and tried to change the world. I asked you to read Jeremiah 20, in which we read how much Jeremiah suffered to right the wrongs that he saw in his world, and then he wrote about it, trying to change the world for the better. Trust me when I say that all of us put together, volunteering our time and energy and writing 2000 words per week, don’t even come close to the level of suffering that Jeremiah endured to improve his world. Later in the semester we’ll look at Jesus, who I consider to be the best example in history of a person who tried to improve the world through action. We could sit in the classroom all semester and read the New Testament, and think about What Would Jesus Do? But my understanding of Jesus’ message is not to memorize facts, figures, dates and quotations, but to engage the world—to make a real effort to improve our lives, to fight for the exploited, and to right wrongs globally. So, these are my thoughts about what your blog projects have to do with biblical studies. I hope that through the course of the semester you’ll reflect on this.
Additionally, if nothing else, these projects will make you better writers. I could talk all semester about pronouns and subject-verb agreement, but in my experience the way you become a better writer is by writing. So I asked that you compose 2000 words per week throughout the semester. Also, I should add that these projects fit well with Xavier’s mission statement, which says “The ultimate purpose of the University is the promotion of a more just and humane society.” And that is just what we are doing with our projects.
I know from many of your midterm evaluations and comments on your blog entries that you feel that you can’t really improve the world because “what good seriously can a 19 year old do?” I fight apathy every day of my life, and it is difficult. But I would add that none of us are capable of seeing all of the ramifications of our actions. If just one of these 120 projects even slightly improves the world, then it will be worth it as far as I’m concerned. I think back on the people that made a real difference in my life. Some of them I don’t even know their names. They were role models who I encountered briefly, and they have no idea who I am or that they impacted my life, but through their efforts they made me a better person. I believe that the world is rapidly becoming a more unjust and cruel place. Never in my lifetime have I seen such greed, corruption, and moral relativism. But rather than throwing in the towel and giving up, I want to do something about it. I love my job as a university teacher, and feel that empowering students with the ability to be critical thinkers is in the end the best use of my life. You should be able to analyze information and think on a higher level than the sound bites and misinformation that we see more and more. But I also want you to not simply think critically and theorize about what ought to be done. I want you to do it.
So, that’s my motivation, and that is the best I can do at the moment to explain my rationale for this project. If you have any thoughts about it, or questions, or suggestions, I would love to hear from you in the comments section below. You can either identify yourself or be anonymous.