Disconcerting Things

Students reject worship.  It is an evil to them.  Nothing is to be worshiped.  Nothing is worthy of it.

Students are indifferent to worth or dignity.  They are free-marketeers in the extreme.  Humans have exactly as much worth as DLC on Steam–whatever someone is willing to pay for it.

Students reject logic despite being completely under the spell of our country’s obsession with math education.  The conclusion of a valid syllogism is just a matter of opinion to them, as easily shrugged off as a preference for Key Lime over Pecan.

When asked to work backward from the conclusion they reject, they cannot show which premise or connection is faulty.  Worse, they simply don’t care to.

I have started an anti-media component to my doctrine class.  The only thing–literally, non-hyperbolically the only thing–they “know” about the Catholic Church is that it is an organization that opposes the rights of gays and women and that they like to abuse children.

No matter what I do to show them that the Church is not obsessed with oppressing people, they will assume that this place (my class, the school, the monastery) is the exception to the rule.  It is impossible to break their media-programming.

I have explained why the Church is always in the paper talking about abortion (reporters keep calling us and asking for quotes).  They don’t think I am lying; they just don’t care.

I have logged an entire year of homilies at my parish to show them what run-of-the-mill Catholic teaching is really like.  They don’t think I am lying; they just don’t care.

It is impossible to break their media-programming.

When I teach them about prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, they usually tell me with surprise that it sounds a lot like Islam.

Students don’t know what poor in spirit means.

No matter how many times I go over the four senses of Scripture and show them countless practical examples of how Catholics really read Scripture, they still assume we are evangelical fundamentalists.

Teaching theology at a Catholic school makes St. John’s talk of “the World” far, far more intelligible.

The idea that reason could break through these problems and solve them is laughable.  Teaching theology proves the need for grace.

Luckily, we have that.

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3 thoughts on “Disconcerting Things

  1. When I am not the one up speaking in front of my religion class, I’m in the back praying for the Holy Spirit to break through to these kids and overwhelm them with grace, because sometimes our feeble efforts seem to be accomplishing absolutely nothing. And one of my prayers is that our teaching, even if it seems like useless effort now, will bear fruit one day even if we never see it or hear about it.

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  2. Would it be worth considering adding “Amusing Ourselves to Death” by Neil Postman to a class reading list, or perhaps a little book club to begin the year or something? Perhaps (without specific reference to the Church issues) a way to awaken some healthy skepticism about the messages they’re imbibing without realizing it?

    I was blown away to hear people discussing why Scalia’s constitutional literalism was a needed correction on a court that was no longer interested in what the Constitution actually *said* – because if language itself means nothing objective, why would you care about the exact “words on the page”? World-views like that make me feel like just packing up and going home…. Is there a way to reach siblings/families before they hit this stage, to inoculate them a little with “question the media message” tools?

    MrsDarwin, I think you put your finger on the most important thing – grace, and prayer warriors fighting on your side. The impervious shell is very disturbing. I guess it gives a good picture of what “invincible” can mean….

    Have you read “The Closing of the American Mind”?

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    1. I’m afraid I’m not optimistic about that approach because it’s too rational. Anyone who would be swayed by that reading or discussion is already getting swayed by what the class offers–and those students do exist, despite my griping. It might be an interesting summer reading list item, though. Thanks for the suggestion!

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