Mind rot or inspiration?

Find the idea

Find the idea, by Khalid Albai, via Flickr Creative Commons

When I picked up the phone, the caller identified himself as being from the Seattle university that had hired me to teach a storytelling class to education students.

“We overlooked something. I’m sure we know the answer so it is just a formality.”

I waited for some axe to fall, and it did.

“Are you born again?”

“I was born once.”

“But are you a born-again Christian?”


Silence on his end, waiting on my mine, as he processed shock and discomfort. Then, “I’m so sorry, but that is a condition of employment here.”

“I did not apply for the contract. Your university offered it to me. Nowhere on the paperwork I was asked to complete was there an indication this was required.”

I’m sure he was a good Christian man so I tried to be gentle with him when he replied, “We made a mistake. I’m so sorry, but you will not be able to teach the course.”

“I have a contract.”

He asked me to be understanding. I refused. I knew I would never again be allowed to teach a course at that university, but I insisted the university take the Christian, and legal, path. I was polite but firm. I had a contract. I would teach the course.

The conversation continued another fifteen minutes, but nothing in it changed my mind. I had a contract signed by both parties. They could pay me out, in full, or allow me to teach the course.

Fiscal concerns trumped religious fears. He relented, and I taught the course. The students and I had invigorating discussions, likely meatier than they had anticipated. They were sharpening their storytelling skills by learning the great myths from a variety of spiritual traditions. They had no idea floods, virgin births, and miracle healings were common mythological themes.

Not once did I point out the similarity with beloved Christian stories. I didn’t need to. The six-week course sped by. Evaluations were flattering. I was never again asked to teach the course.

But I still think my insistence was more in keeping with the best spirit of Christianity than the university’s hiring me and then wanting to keep me from polluting the minds of their students. The students were sturdier than the university’s fears.

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14 comments for “Mind rot or inspiration?

  1. Cathy
    August 31, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    You go girl.

    Just had a random question, are there any virgin fathers in mythology (actual fathers, not step ins) or is it only mothers that have ever been required to be ‘pure’?

    And are virgin births the result of two pairs of DNA meeting without the messy physical act, or a mysterious spontaneous replacement of the egg’s DNA with novel DNA from a miracle source, or are virgin births the prime precedent for supporting cloning (in which case, it is the egg that divides to make the baby and therefore the f/Father has nada to do with it)?

    Just being a rabble rouser.

  2. Geraldine Bush
    August 31, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    Love it!

  3. Michelle
    August 31, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    Good for you Cathryn . Always living your truth.

  4. Isabel Piercy
    August 31, 2011 at 7:44 pm

    Good on you Cathryn, as we Aussies say. Im sure all the students benefited from not only your stories but also your strength of character.

  5. September 1, 2011 at 4:03 am

    Brava, Cathryn. The fear that permeates fundamentalist thinking, and the methods they use to manipulate and control people with that fear is daunting.

  6. September 1, 2011 at 4:05 am


    Cathryn, read the above post by my friend, Peter Quinn. I guarantee you’ll love it.

  7. September 1, 2011 at 8:58 am

    Cathryn, I’m amazed that the university’s requirement is even legal. In a country that protects freedom of speech and freedom of religion, such a practice to muzzle both of them AND academic freedom is appalling. Jews and Muslims need not apply? Not to mention Christians who don’t define themselves as born again, or the many who don’t define themselves in religious terms at all.

    Even worse, it’s sneaky. The restriction is not in their contract, it’s confined to informal chats to weed out the “unsuitable” candidates. Remind you of anything?

    Oh brave new world, that has such people in it.

  8. September 2, 2011 at 10:58 am

    When I was reading your post and came to the question “Are you born again?” I was immediately reminded of the lovely bumper sticker, “Born OK the first time.”

  9. September 2, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    No wonder I’m drawn to rabble rousers, Cathy. Love your questions/observations!

  10. September 2, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    Thanks, Michelle, Geraldine & Isabel – I’m sure I got the better part of the deal. They were such an interesting group of students.

  11. September 2, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    I read Jeff Sharlet’s The Family and had nightmares for weeks.

  12. September 2, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    I do indeed love it, Charlie! Peter’s post is brilliant.

  13. September 2, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    Seemed pretty strange to me too, Rachel – and decidedly un-Christian, as I understand it.

  14. September 2, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    That’s hilarious, Fred. I’m going to have to remember that for the next time I’m asked.

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