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.