Last week I had to read The Conffessions of St. Augustine for Lit. Joy. I did OK at first, but as it wore on, it was grating. I almost didn’t go to class as a result.
Fortunately, I know from a conversation at the beginning of the term, that my prof is an Atheist and an ex-Christian. So I talked to him before hand to see how he was going to handle the situation. I was mostly concerned that there might be people in the class who knew Augustine and loved him.
I let the rest of the class discuss pre-destination and original sin, a couple of the more heinous ideas Augustine added to Christianity when he became the hottest thing in town. The prof was really good with how he steered the conversation, knowing there would be a good chunk off people who leaned toward Christianity.
It was interesting watching the reaction of people who had never heard of Augustine. I think it gave a lot of the Christians something to think about because, really, most of our Christianity is not based on what we think it is. Things like original sin are ideas that came along far after “Jesus” and his disciples were gone.
As usual, many of the students found some positive take-aways from it. I had feared I would get angry about that. But that didn’t happen.
I considered before the class that people don’t just abuse in the Christian religion, they abuse in all of them. So there are people out there who know Hinduism and Buddhism as well as I know Christianity and are as disgusted by people finding anything useful in them as I am at people thinking you can gain anything from Christian teaching.
And that’s the benefit of education. We are forced to think beyond ourselves. We have to see things through the eyes of others. We learn to deal with unpleasant situations.
One day we’ll all graduate and go to work, but hopefully we’ll remember that there are ideas outside our own, outside the ones we were raised with. And that there are people who have had the same experiences we have had even though they are from entirely different cultures.