Monday, August 22, 2005

RUMINATION, EDUCATION, AND VITUPERATION

In the dark hours just before dawn, distressing thoughts sometimes persist. Often I pray them away. Just this morning I battled some darkness of spirit.

About 3:45 am today I awakened. For some reason, Ann Coulter’s image entered my mind. I recall thinking Ann Coulter’s popularity among my Christian friends represents a pernicious feature of religion and right-wing politics.
Ann Coulter spews vitriol poisoning political debate with contempt for political opponents.

For some blessed reason, the Lord let the moment of dark reflection pass. I went back to sleep, awakened at a good time, got ready for work and enjoyed teaching my government classes.

I taught about the Israeli Palestinian conflict.

During the course of the day, I observed that there is a time for war and the courage it demands. I added there is a time for peace, the pursuit of which demands tremendous courage as well.

Peacemaking is not for cowards, I urged.

We listed some peacemakers: Anwar Sadat, Yitzhak Rabin, Martin Luther King, Jr. Gandhi, and Jesus.

We could have added another peacemaker--Brother Roger who began the Taize reconciliation movement in France after World War II. This week he suffered a fatal stabbing.

Peacemaking remains a dangerous, but apparently rewarding business. Doesn't it say somewhere that peacemakers will be called sons of God?

As I am getting ready to retire for the night, I read online that Ann Coulter has been asked to speak at the Christian university of which I am alum. While an undergrad there I often winced at the assumptions made there that conservatism in politics was the only way. It was often conveyed that it was the only way in much the same way it was conveyed that Christ was the only way. I winced, but still engaged with enthusiasm in political dialogue, social activities, and spiritual enrichment during my days there.

In the years following, I have taught government and economics for many years. In all of those years, it has been my aim to challenge my students to think deeply, read widely, and speak with civility. I pray they will fulfill the Lord's requirements “to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with their God.”

Many of my students have gone on to attend my alma mater, Harding University. I often speak highly of the potential for an excellent undergrad education. I aver the kind spirit at the university. I have done this often in the presence of their classmates who exude skepticism about Harding University. Some assume a small liberal arts college in Arkansas could not be anything but provincial and arcane. I try to disabuse the skeptics.

Tonight, as I contemplate early morning ruminations, hours of teaching, and the news of the evening, I am chagrined. Bewildered. Disappointed. Saddened.

So as Harding University announced with fanfare the name of Ann Coulter as a speaker in their American Studies program, she becomes part of the heritage and intellectual life of HU students as have other conservative luminaries like Moshe Dyan, Colin Powell, and Barbara Bush. Ann Coulter will join that roll call with others as well. Like Spiro Agnew.


Long ago, I accepted the fact that the university embraces a conservative ideology.

Ideology is one thing.

Hatefulness, spitefulness, and contempt for others is another.

Even a brief perusal of her website shows, that Anne Coulter has earned her review from the Washington Post Book World, as “a fluent polemicist with a gift for Menckenesque invective”.

During my years at Harding, I kept these words from J.B. Phillips translation of James on my bulletin board

3:17-18 - The wisdom that comes from God is first utterly pure, then peace-loving, gentle, approachable, full of tolerant thoughts and kindly actions, with no breath of favoritism or hint of hypocrisy. And the wise are peace-makers who go on quietly sowing for a harvest of righteousness - in other people and in themselves.


I believed that then; I believe it now.

I think I'll write a letter to the president of the university. My husband and I are not big donors. Our objections to this announcement may not carry much weight. Ken is a minister. I am a teacher. Although I have never embraced the political ideology of the institution, I would like to think that we exemplify the core values of our university.

But featuring Ann Coulter makes me think, Harding does not value us.

16 comments:

Bev Blair said...

You're right on target.

Becky Margaritis said...

You are so articulate. Luv you

Anonymous said...

Succinct! Beyond generous!

dutro said...

Bev, thanks for the thoughtful and gracious post regarding a subject which could so easily elicit something else. Posts like these are being considered seriously, so I (a Harding employee and friend of your sister Kim from back in the 70's) appreciate the tone and direction of your words and your underlying spirit.

B. S. Denton said...

Bev . . . posts like this? They make me miss you all the more. I am happy that you have a place in Memphis, but saddened that someone so articulate and thoughtful has moved away from GACS. We need more people like you.

P.S. -- If you ever get an anti-Coulter-at-Harding petition together, feel free to sign my name to it.

Anonymous said...

Your son, Chris, here.

Quite an encouraging groundswell of indignation from you and your fellow alums. I wonder what the reaction of fellow graduates from the sister institution I attned would have been, had the President made his rumored stop at our traditionally patriotic opening chapel. The inappropriateness would be less exquisite, but the dangerous symbolic messages likewise projected nudge at...or wholly divert...the trajectories of our respective academic legacies.

Anne Coulter and the giant American Flag unfurled at the end of every ACU opening chapel strike me as symptoms of the same apprehension over the perceived domination of secular liberalism in American democracy. I find this apprehension a deeply problematic misperception, but that is a subject for another time. Within our rarified and loosely bound community of churches and religious schools, this anxiety works itself out in two surprising ways, it seems to me - aggressive Christian involvement, usually in line with typically conservative polemic, or disengagement couched in the language of radical discipleship, reminiscent of the Anabaptist movement.

This makes me worried, because I think that democracy, inasmuch as it entails giving reasons and respect to plurally realized citizens, is a good idea. On the other hand, American militarism and materialism are enormously destructive, corroding the very values with which we allegedly light the world.

In this light, our traditions of radically rejecting membership in the broader democratic community of reason-givers is as disturbing to me as the triumphalist commingling of Christian reasoning with a selective American mythos. I learned, somewhere in my childhood, that the way of Jesus was inextricably linked to identification and engagement with the anguish and hope of the world itself. I am loathe to trade this legacy for menacing patriotism or an enclave society.

Because it is not really surprising that Harding invited Ms. Coulter to speak and ACU, with elegant dissonance, apologizes for its patriotism even as it brandishes it proudly, we "little-d" democrats in this little corner of the Christian milieu have our work cut out for us if we think the progressive substance of the thoughts expressed by Lincoln and King...or Carl Spain, for that matter...worthy of recognition as both democratic and Christian reasoning.

Anyway. Hope all is well in Memphis.

chris

Mandy said...

I do not relish leaving my comment directly after Christopher's... his use of the written word makes me look as though I'm a 2nd grader leaving a note on your desk. But you'd think I was used to it... he's been a better writer than me since he was in 8th GRADE! :)

Bev, I miss you terribly and this blog reminds me of the reasons why. I have always admired YOUR talents with the written word, especially in the context of "delicate subjects" like Liberal politics and Christianity. It is the 3rd week of school and I am already missing the times when you would drop by my classroom to chat and "touch flesh".

I can't discuss the Ann Coulter issue yet... my doctor is reccomending that I keep my blood pressure down. I'm trying to determine my course of action. Any suggestions?

Love you, sister!
mr

Beverly Choate Dowdy said...

Mandy
All I can suggest is to write to Dr. Burks, to Dr. Carr and to your favorite board members. This is about much more than liberal and conservative. I have always accepted the conservatism at Harding and sometimes even regret that I didn't accept my invitation to the ASI because I could not bear to hear such one sided rhetoric. I regret it because even though the speakers were conservative, many of them were nonethless outstanding folks with great character.

There were some exceptions--Spiro Agnew for instance.

The problem with Ann Coulter is that she outright encourages hatred. She is a mocker. She is scornful. I don't think that's an auditorium I should sit in. Especially when it's in the halls of a place "educating for eternity."
It's more like educating for temerity.

I have been a little amused at all of the blogs that have hoped that Harding would invite those on the other side of the political spectrum to come to campus to help balance the views. That is not part of the character of the American Studies program. Never has been. But I would hope that in spite of that, the character of the institution would keep it from putting espousing such a mean spirit. There are other women--Nancy Percey for instance that speak forcefully and eloquently for a conservative world view that might not only educate and challenge, but also build up the hearers.

Suggest her.

Anonymous said...

Beverly, I would like to suggest two books from a couple of Quaker ministers from Indiana to put on your's and Ken's night stand. One is called "If Grace is True" and the other is "If God is Love". They are universalists and I have to give serious thought to their theology, but they really cause you to think about how we as Christians treat people and how we truly ought to live a gracious life as followers of Jesus. Hope to see you guys soon in Memphis.

Beverly Choate Dowdy said...

To my best friend Bev
My Auntie Beck
My brother in law (love) Don
My son Chris
My colleagues Brad
My fellow alum Don
My old friend who remains anonymous

Thanks for you comments and for giving me encouragement, insight, and a bit of your time. I am pondering your ideas and will post again soon.
Ah! But first, I must grade papers!
Bev

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Dr. Burks has considered the possibility that Ann Coulter could come to Harding and pull a Pat Robertson. His university could make the U.S. News and World Report in a regular edition.

kim said...

I have written a letter to Dr. B, too. Should I send it?
sisterkim

Beverly Choate Dowdy said...

I say send it.

Anonymous said...

Bev,

I completely agree that Christian institutions shouldn't be used to push extreme ideologies on either side...and I'm pretty sure they should not be pushing any political ideologies. I think it is funny how people debate whether Jesus would be Republican or Democratic, where from his example it is obvious he'd be apolitical. Maybe with David Lipscomb's (the man not the institution) apolitical stances, to our Center for International Peace and Justice, to our recent guest "celebrity" of Donald Miller (author of Blue Like Jazz), maybe Lipscomb could be your adopted Alma Mater! :-)

David Fann

Cole said...

Hi Bev,

First time reader, first time commenter, long-time fan of your son and daughter-in-law.

As a fellow Harding alum, my heart breaks for her inward-focus, if for nothing else. So many of my fellow faculty here at ACU who are HU alumni are shaking their baffled heads.

Anonymous said...

I am proud of Ann! She is not afraid to speak against evil! Do I not recall your "peace loving" Jesus calling some people "Vipers"? Did he not use a whip to drive evil people from the Temple? Our country is in a spiritual battle! There is a time for peace and there is a time for war. I think good willed peace loving people have had enough from the God bashing, anti Jesus media. It's time to stand and fight for our relgious freedom! Ann is fighting mad, and so am I! I see Ann as hateing the sin, not the sinner. I wish we had a society where everyone wanted peace, but as long as there are evil people that want to take my children's rights away, I will stand with Ann and fight! We need to wake up and see the downward spiral that our society is taking. Peace is wonderful. I supose that I could have peace with the Devil if I would agree with him, but since I don't, I have a war to fight!

Thanks, Don