Friday, February 13, 2009

Crucifixes in the Classroom

Inside Higher Ed reported At Boston College, the placement of Christian art, including crucifixes, in classrooms over winter break has stirred some intense discussions over that particular expression of the Roman Catholic (and catholic) university’s identity. And over whether it’s undergoing an identity crisis.
Maybe they felt their identity as a Jesuit and Catholic institution needed reinforcement
“A classroom is a place where I am supposed, as a teacher, to teach without any bias, to teach the truth.
And the truth is that God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
And when you put an icon or an emblem or a flag, it confuses the matter,” said Amir Hoveyda, the chemistry department chair.
What chemical reaction takes place either slower or faster in the presence of a crucifix?
“For 18 years, I taught at a university where I was allowed to teach in an environment where I felt comfortable.
A sterile, secular environment.
And all the sudden, without any discussion, without any warning, without any intellectual debate, literally during the middle of the night during a break, these icons appear,” Hoveyda said.
Maybe it was a miracle. But how do you know it happened in the middle of the night? Did you see them appear?
Jack Dunn, Boston College’s spokesman, explained that the Jesuit institution first established a committee on Christian art in 2000.
So there was discussion, warning, and an opportunity for intellectual debate. And if it started in 2000, it was not very sudden.
“The crucifixes in question have been brought back largely from students who have gone on immersion trips to Central and South America and to Europe.
So they did not go out and buy 151 identical crucifixes and iconography and posters.
... The only thing that’s changed really is that in classrooms where crucifixes and iconography and posters hadn’t been present, an attempt has been made to place some form of Christian art and that effort was completed in January,” Dunn said. “The effort was to present Christian art in those remaining classrooms as a way of manifesting our pride in and our commitment to our religious heritage. “My sense is that they knew there were a certain amount of classrooms that didn’t have any presence of religious art and so they waited until they had a critical mass that would enable them to place the artwork in those classrooms. And that’s the only reason it was done now,” Dunn said. There are 151 classrooms.

The process was described by some as gradual, but one faculty member deemed it a “tsunami” of religious art that appeared in classrooms over winter break.
Maybe that faculty member would be more comfortable in a secular school.
And while most discussions on this matter have been private, opinions seem to run the gamut. In a statement provided through Dunn, Rev. T. Frank Kennedy, chair of the committee on Christian Art, wrote (in part): “I suppose a question might be posed to Boston College as to what purpose this Christian Art serves?
What purpose does any art serve?
In a world that is pretty successfully driven by media (imagery) ours is a response that seeks to pose the age-old invitation of Christ to enter into love – a love that is made perfect in its unselfishness. John Paul II spoke of the crucifix on September 15, 2002 saying ‘It is the sign of God, who has compassion on us, who accepts human weakness, who opens to us all, to one another, and therefore creates the relation of fraternity.’ The Pope also went on to say that though this symbol has been abused in history, it is the Christian’s duty to reclaim that symbol as an invitation to love. An invitation to love, and an invitation to faith is exactly that, an invitation. One is not required to respond, one can decline, and one can have many reasons for declining the invitation, but to imply that a Jesuit and Catholic university is not free to offer this invitation is simply an impossibility.”
Why should anyone expect a Jesuit and Catholic university to behave as a secular school, and be afraid of or ashamed of its Jesuit and Catholic heritage.
Father Kennedy, who is director of Boston College’s Jesuit Institute and a professor of music, continued: “For the identity of Boston College as a Jesuit and Catholic institution which we so proudly have inherited, and so happily transmit to the next generation of alumni/alumnae, impels us as John Paul also noted, ‘to offer to share the deep desire we have of recognizing ourselves in the crucifix, and of seeing it, not as something that divides, but as something that is to be respected by all, and that in a certain sense can unify.’ ”

But Dwayne Eugène Carpenter, chair of the romance languages and literatures department and co-director of the Jewish studies program, said the placement of religious art is in fact divisive.
Only Satan, or one of his minions, should feel that way.
These symbols, he said, are not neutral.
Should they have limited their symbols to pap like this?
“I think it’s naive to believe that affixing crucifixes is going to fan the flames of religious devotion.
That is not their intent. As the Pope said, they are an invitation. An invitation to love, and an invitation to faith. People are not required to accept the invitation. Students are not required to genuflect or make the sign of the cross or anything when they see the crucifexes.
On the other hand, it can have a negative effect on students” who might see them as creating an unwelcoming environment.
Only Satan, or one of his minions, should view an invitation to love, and an invitation to faith as unwelcoming. Christ is the epitome of welcoming.


Anonymous said...

Religion and religious artifacts are always a touchy issue. I have no problem with it.

I remember when I was in public school and there was a big controversary over saying "under God" in the pledge. I think it was just a ploy that the atheists had to get God out of the classroom. Everyone I knew was either Catholic, Jewish, or Protestant. Why should it matter so much? I wouldn't mind a Jewish Star hanging on the wall with a Catholic cross.

Don't people have anything else to think about?....ANON

PS: EVEN ELVIS WORE A JEWISH STAR AND I BELIEVE HE WAS A BAPTIST. I guess he believed in all religions.

Don Singleton said...

I "RESPECT" all religions, as long as they respect others.

I "BELIEVE IN" God, and his Son, Jesus Christ

Anonymous said...

I believe in all religions. I don't think you can rule out any one. The Church of England had a basis of truth to it, because, of Henry the 8th.
If those born Catholic, were now Protestant, it doesn't mean they are wrong. And for that matter, if you are born, not to believe in Christ, then so be it. There are so many others, too numerous to mention here. What I am saying is that I too respect all religions and don't think anyone's beliefs are necessarily wrong...ANON

Anonymous said...

I will say this, as long as people are NICE to each other, religion should not be a factor. I think the lunatics who believe in Osama Bin Laden, are just that, lunatics. People who willingly hurt others, have no religion, in my book....ANON

Anonymous said...

The Jesuit Priests are the fun loving ones who are so liberal and interesting. They are not the serious priests that you find in a regular parish. I was so amazed when I met some of them at my daughter and son-in-law's graduation from Fordham College. When they are not performing their duties, you would never know they were priests. They just want to have fun like everyone else. They are at odds with the Catholic Church. Hey, why not bring some fun into the church, instead of doom and gloom.
Other religions don't grind you to the brimstone.
The Catholic Church does. I could tell you stories....ANON

Anonymous said...

I'm starting to think that the Jewish Religion is correct in saying that this life we live is "hell on earth"....ANON