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Finding Faith in Faith

This blog is dedicated to exploring the intersections of faith and politics, the intricacies of religious culture and the struggle to balance devotion to a higher being and to one’s culture.

Sunday, February 24, 2002

Faith in an Academic's Life

As an academic, I am particularly frustrated at the notion that exists in the academy that intellectual pursuits ("reason") and spiritual pursuits ("faith") are incompatible. A historical perspective of the academy suggests that our current academic philosophy was born out of an environment of faith, and not simply by coincidence. We would not have academic institutions today were it not for this environment, for the modern academy is an extension of the early schools of theology that were created for intellectual pursuits. We would not have books, for the desire to having a Bible that could be navigated in a quick and efficient manner created the demand that caused that medium to become popularly acceptable. And for that matter, we would not have journalism itself, a social institution that grew out of the desire to express moral and theological thoughts and interpretations of the world to others.

Now, I will be quick to point out that I am not trying to advocate that all scholarly work should be devoted to spiritual matters (or to be expressed as such). Certainly the academy has developed and evolved in interesting and valuable ways. What I do find ironic is the present climate that somehow suggests to scholars that we should divorce knowledge or values derived from personal faith from the official voice of the academy (the very voice that owes its formation to the development of personal faith).

This climate, in my opinion, is a reflection not of scholarly progression, but rather of social and political pressures from the world that exists outside the academy.

During the course of my M.S. work, I can across a book by Stephen Carter titled "The Culture of Disbelief." Carter, who if I'm not mistaken is coming from a legal background, seems to be denouncing what he sees as a peculiar American trend to regulate religious belief to the personal identity and that the public persona of a person involved in a profession, political career or public service in this country must at least appear to check religious sentiment at the door of the office. Carter's analogy is that to good Americans, religion has become a hobby or matter of personal taste and as such has been removed from the public and professional sphere of their lives.

Though I do not wholeheartedly agree with all of Carter's observations (I still tend to think that at least a significant portion of the citizenry is downright brazen in their proclamation of their faith), I do agree that faith does seem to marginalized as a source of truth in contemporary American society.


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