Tuesday, April 29, 2008

On My Mind

My Hero gave me a link to a Chicago Tribune article about a controversy our alma mater is dealing with. Dr. Kent Gramm, a literature professor for the past 20 years at Wheaton, has resigned from his job in connection with the end of his 30-year marriage. Basically (as I understand it), Wheaton's policy is that if you're getting divorced, you have to talk to the administration and tell them why you're getting divorced, and if your divorce is not due to one of the two reasons provided in Scripture for divorce (adultery or desertion), you have to leave the school. Dr. Gramm didn't want to talk to the administration, so he resigned instead. Wheaton offered to let him stay on for another year until he could find another job, but he declined to do so.

I made the mistake of reading the "react to this article" posts - to put it mildly, most readers are labeling Wheaton a fundamentalist, bigoted producer of rabid extremists (literally, "a Christian madrasa") that has discriminated against this guy in the most offensive way possible - by a) judging him based on his personal life and b) ruining his career in favor of perpetuating an outdated, ignorant and narrow-minded understanding of the world we live in. Did they even read the article? The Trib certainly goes to no great lengths to say good things about Wheaton (it never has), but it's clear - he's resigning because he chose not to follow the process, not because he's getting a divorce.

As far as divorce and Wheaton are concerned, I think they probably should reconsider their approach, given its prevalence in our society (including Christian society), but from a biblical point of view, I think they're on much more solid ground differentiating between types of divorce than they are, for example, in closing the library on Sundays. I actually really respect their willingness to dialogue with employees (or potential employees) on a case-by-case basis rather than write off "the divorced" as unsalvageable. There are plenty of Christian institutions that find a blanket statement for marital status (i.e., "if you're divorced or have been divorced, we have no use for you") to be the litmus test; it's encouraging to me that they approach the question with grace.

However, there are so many other issues here that are up for discussion, I doubt I'll ramble through them all in this post. Let's start with contractual obligations: he had them. He knew what they were. He chose to resign rather than be fired for not abiding by them. The fact that the college offered him an extra year tells me that they were operating graciously; I'd expect to find out that no one wanted to see him go, but you can't have a policy like that and then break it when it's convenient/preferable. Similarly, if I work in healthcare and understand that one of the terms of my employment is randomized drug testing, then refuse to be tested on grounds of protecting my privacy when my number comes up, I can be fired for not being tested, not because I used drugs.

What about the issue of accountability and community? Commenters were complaining about the right of the college to find out about the divorce. What struck me is that part of the deal with Christian community (when it works right) is that when you're struggling with something, your community knows about it and supports you through it. It's not a question of rights when you're in a community like that - to some extent, you give up the "right" to privacy. Indeed, the community works best when all its members give up that right and allow themselves to be loved, warts and all. I don't think American culture knows very much about this anymore, and that makes me sad. Think how much energy is wasted, how much love is foregone, when one's primary goal is to look good/successful/happy/well-adjusted! It sounds trite, but I think it's far better to be vulnerable and surrounded by loving friends than to be top dog, wounded and lonely. My heart aches for those who can only understand community in the ways it has failed.

Sorry this is so long - there's lots more rattling around, but I think I can probably go to sleep now.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Letting Out the Dogs

Way back in the last decade (1999 maybe?), some group came out with some song, the key phrase of which was "Who let the dogs out?" followed by some rhythmic woofs. Obviously, a ten-year-old hip-hop song that I can't even be bothered to Google has lost something of its relevance, an observation highlighted by Michael quoting it in The Office sometime this season (I swear, I'm so lazy with the links it's pathetic). You know if the boss at Dunder-Mifflin is using it, it's way past its prime.

Then, I was driving to the grocery store the other day and saw it on a church sign as a sermon title. Imagine. What on earth can the Wellshire Presbyterian Church pastor be preaching on that s/he would title his sermon "Who Let the Dogs Out?" The only thing I could come up with was this passage. I'd give just about anything to know what the application would be.