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Ebenezer — A Second Chance

You can go see it for yourself, you know. My blog post on May 15, 2005. Marty Medhurst — that believing gentleman and very well-published scholar — had posted a call for manuscripts on CRTNET for Baylor University’s Rhetoric and Religion series. And I responded with my dissertation. He said, to my shock, that he was hoping I’d see that and respond. Wow! Me? Color me thrilled!

All went well. After editing and submitting the whole document, he said mine was the only manuscript in the series that had unanimous approval. WOW.

I told one “rising” colleague, a friend. He responded very kindly and fraternally and happily. He, too, is a gentleman. I told a few other close friends too. I think, three or four.

And just for the record, it was in the Fall of 2005 that I double-checked the Faculty Handbook about faculty publishing. Most of the focus had to do with music publishing and recording. The rule for writing was that if you were publishing “outside of your area of expertise” you had to get dean-approval from the dean who oversaw that area of expertise. Well, when you get a Ph.D., your dissertation is the very definition of your area of expertise. And I had mentioned it to those directly above me. So I put that out of my mind. I’m sure the rule has changed by now.

Medhurst and I talked some more. And I admitted to him that because it was over five years since I defended my dissertation, it badly needed an updating. I mean, look at all that had happened in the United States political sphere since. The War in Iraq, Bush’s entire presidency. And how had fundamentalism changed? I no longer heard the moniker “fundamentalist” anymore — not from local pulpits, not from chapel sermons, not from my own students’ descriptions of themselves. I set out to find out the best text to critique and to foreground this subtle shift.

By this time it was the Spring semester of 2006. I was carrying my much-prayed-for Gavin, due for induction in April. It was a little . . . disconcerting for me. I had poured my soul into that dissertation the first time while I was carrying Elise. Many of those pages have her “footprints” all over them — before and after her death. I sighed and cried a lot during that revision. It was healing too — like a second chance.

I read every Bush rhetorical critique I could find. “Meh” was about all I could say. I wondered if Bush’s “political fundamentalism,” as one author called it, played a part in fundamentalists’ disenchantment with the label. Most didn’t fit my boundaries for inclusion in my texts. But they were kind of interesting!

I took a step back. In the 2001 dissertation, I had focused on public, BJU-produced texts that were directed at secular outsiders. I knew things had changed in the discourse (I could feel the change in the pulse of the campus), but new texts were impossible to find. BJU actually kind of shut-up after Campaign 2000 (who wouldn’t?).

Except for one text. It was very small, but it was clearly public, BJU-produced, and written for the secular outsider. And it was a more evangelistic version of an exceptionally important text to student life.

Let me back up again. In the middle of Campaign 2000, I was so disgusted with the bad treatment of fundamentalists, specifically BJU fundamentalists (my homies!!) that I marched into my prof’s office and said, “That’s it! I’m doing BJU for my text for my dissertation.” He laughed and said, “Well. . . . that’s grabbing the tiger by the tail!! Are you sure they’ll let you do that?” When I asked the BJU administration a few months later, the response was, “Are you sure they’ll let you do that?” I still chuckle at those parallel responses.

But here I was in 2006 . . . reaching past the tiger’s tail and for his ruff. Was that little public text for outsiders what I should do? Like all these other Ebenezers, I begged God to push me away from it. To help me find something — ANYTHING — else. I hunted. I looked hard. Nothing else came to the surface. Nothing.

By now you’ve noticed that I haven’t actually told you the name of this book. Although I’m purposely trying to be vague, you might be able to guess. In all these posts, it’s not my purpose to hurt individuals. So I’ve used passive voice and have referred to generic “friends.” If I use an actual name, I’ve asked permission first.

It’s not my intention to offend anyone. I’m blogging. So I’m trying to remember my feelings, my perceptions, my realizations — all how God changed me and mine. I don’t know for how long I’m going to be able to maintain that standard. Although I do know that God wanted me to write that additional chapter, He apparently has other plans for it than to be published in this first book.

But that’s another Ebenezer for a later post.

Ebenezer — A Second Chance

6 thoughts on “Ebenezer — A Second Chance

  • February 24, 2008 at 11:07 am
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    We sang “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” in church today. Very fitting this week. Felt like a special gift from God to me.

  • February 24, 2008 at 5:28 pm
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    How many BJU professors actually get published outside of the BJU Press and other fundie press circles? It seems like they really weren’t prepared for smart, driven faculty actually getting published outside of their spheres – they probably didn’t know what to think – a terrible thing for a fundamentalist.

  • February 24, 2008 at 6:02 pm
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    Well, Dan, it’s not that they can’t in the sense of that they don’t have anything to offer the scholarly community. And it’s not that they don’t have the desire to assert and document those contributions.

    It’s that publishing is really the result of participating in an academic community. That’s hard to do when you’re actively discouraged from it and when you’re worked to death with your dangerously-packed teaching schedule.

    I’m just enough of a ding-dong not to realize (in the middle of it) that they really didn’t want me to be an academic. They just wanted me to be a speech teacher.

    From the top, it’s a family business over there, not an educational institution. And as I’ve said before, nearly every conflict I’ve observed over the years is the result of the admin/staff and the faculty/students pursuing conflicting interests — economic vs. intellectual. My experience is just a really recent and really vivid example of that.

  • February 25, 2008 at 10:19 am
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    Can it change?

    Which, I guess, presupposes another question: Is it worth changing?

  • February 25, 2008 at 12:30 pm
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    In Mark Taylor Dalhouse’s book, AN ISLAND IN A LAKE OF FIRE, he suggests that one reason why BJC didn’t get accredidation from the Southern Association because of too demanding faculty teaching schedules. A group from FSU came, liked the overall academics, but the faculty schedules and the faculty:student ratio was too far off. By the time BJU moved to TN, the faculty pay schedule had been changed, so accredidation was impossible. Just think how they rewrote their history.

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