Perhaps this will seem like an extended complaint. So be it. In the past few weeks, I have heard more statements prefaced by the title’s phrase than I care to tally. Regardless of the topic at hand, it seems a Christian will eventually place a hand upon the heart, adopt a mask of yearning anguish, and say,

“As a Christian, I feel that…”

Most egregious of all is the frequency with which this phrase seems to fly from my English professor’s faithful lips. My British literature class is currently studying Christopher Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus, a story deeply entrenched in Christian lore; naturally, much of the resulting analysis involves discussion of biblical stories. I have no problem with this; as the story draws largely upon the Bible, it would be impossible to fully dissect themes and symbolism without mentioning Christian dogma.

My problem, however, arises when objectivity leaves the classroom and scholastic discourse morphs into religious promotion. As we were talking about the frequent usage of Latin in the play, one student asked if that was the language used when people “spoke in tongues.” I had to restrain myself from immediately condemning religious hysteria; I know my words would have been misinterpreted and only brought condemnation down upon myself.

Suddenly, the classroom was an open forum for various students’ stories and experiences about “speaking in tongues.” Fortunately, no student spoke up with a personal account or I fear I may have let forth an offensive peal of laughter. However, several students were quite adamant that people did indeed speak in unknown languages while under the influence of the almighty divine and that there were even “special” people who could interpret what the hysterical babbler was saying.

Fine. So there were some religious crazies in the classroom, big deal; everyone is free to express their own opinion. But then the professor decided to make her inevitable, dramatic declaration. With pining eyes and a manicured hand clasped to her breast, she offered:

“As a Christian, I feel that while I have never experienced it, I will respect anything to do with the Holy Spirit. If God chooses to speak to people in that manner, then I will never speak out against it because I am afraid of speaking out against God. I figure that it is better to allow for the possibility, just in case.”

Just in case of what? Aside from this mangled version of Pascal’s wager, I had to exert some serious effort to withhold my laughter. If God is so infinitely powerful and wise, is speaking in tongues really the best way that he could devise to communicate with the human race? How much more inefficient could he have been, to babble incoherently through a hysterical devotee while another semi-hysterical person is required to translate? Really?

But the primary part that concerns me about the professor’s statement is its prefacing condition. “As a Christian…” What does that even mean? Is it a warning that the subsequent statement is probably not grounded in reality? Perhaps a more accurate preface would be, “As an adult who clings to unsubstantiated fantasy and imaginary friends…” However, I assume that this is not the intent. More likely, the phrase is meant to invoke the social etiquette which deems the direct criticism of a person’s religion to be improper. Any further questioning on my part would be considered antagonistic, offensive, and hurtful; by violating the immunity of respect assumed by religious mouthpieces, I would instantly be the cruel and ruthless atheist.

But how is this appropriate in any sort of real debate? How can anyone possibly carry on a meaningful discussion when one side adheres to emotional pleas and calls upon ludicrous cultural decorum to silence any opposition?

Wait, I just discovered my problem…I am attempting to have meaningful debates with religious people. Silly me. But in my defense, as a community college student in the middle of evangelical Texas I am not left with much of a choice.

Tags: Christianity, argument, debate, in, offensive, pathos, speaking, tongues

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That's really cool!
As a life long Texan I can only suggest a move to Austin, Dallas or Houston. If you want to stand and fight be prepared for a long life of frustration or unpopularity.

Public school teacher reflect the community. Elementary school teachers are the most representative of the general population. Secondary school teachers outside of math and science are about the same. If the community college has a rational faculty - the students might not be. Since you interact with the students more than the instructors - d'oh.
We're moving to Austin next spring; I'm counting down the days until then, lol!
"How can anyone possibly carry on a meaningful discussion when one side adheres to emotional pleas and calls upon ludicrous cultural decorum to silence any opposition?"

Yeah, that is the question, isn't it.
The answer is pretty much "you can't."
As an atheist, this makes me angry.
I tend to find the phrase "As a Christian" prefaces a position or view that a person knows may be openly challenged by others. It separates themselves as a person from the view by stating that the view in question is a result of their religious beliefs. You may as well re-word it to "This is my view, but bare in mind it's not [u]my[/u] view". It's a defensive strategy used to brush away the possibility that a counter-argument may be aimed at the person directly. Of course it's completely legitimate to take any statement made by a person to be their view as defined, with or without religious faith to justify it. A person who states "As a Christian, I don't think gay people should be allowed to marry" may as well just say "I don't think gay people should be allowed to marry, because I don't like the idea". It's a cowardly way for believers to make patently unsubstantiated, biased and bigoted statements with impunity. Quite frankly if I hear someone say "As a Christian...", I almost immediately counter with "That's great, but what do you think about it?".
It's a cowardly way for believers to make patently unsubstantiated, biased and bigoted statements with impunity.

Very nice summation.
I agree.
As dr House said: If you could reason with religious people there would not be religious people.
This is actually worse than anything I've ever experienced, and that's saying a lot. My professors at least make an effort to appear impartial!

What I think is sad is how clearly the choice of words reflects the truth - being a Christian prefaces a lot more things than sentences.
Most of the staff have Temple College seem to have completely abandoned any pretense of impartiality. I really can't decide if that is good or bad; I mean, at least they are honest about how completely subjective and biased they are. >/body>
It reminds me of the term 'As a Mother...' and 'As an American...' and I'm guessing it comes from the same source - the person has some subconscious awareness that the thing they are about to say has no rational foundation so they attempt to give their comment an 'honest' plea to authority to strengthen their argument.

If they believed their comment was self supporting, this prefix would be lacking.

On the topic of Texan bookshops, I've only been to one. I was visiting a friend in Dallas and after a night of 'holy-shit-that-happens-here' discussions over much weak beer and best part of a roast steer, I decided to try and buy a copy of any Sam Harris, Dan Dennett or Richard Dawkins book. I was lazy and couldn't be bothered walking into Dallas proper, so I went to the little commercial district we'd had dinner in the day before. I found the bookshop, somebody & sons... It looked like a Waterstones or Bookers kinda place, a starbucks franchise on the first floor - you get the idea. I found the philosophy section easily enough, all three shelves of it - but nothing by any Atheist I recognised. I trundled through the two aisles of religion and didn't find anything there either.

I was beginning to believe what my friend had said - about it being easier to score drugs in Dallas rather than get a book critical of christianity. In one last attempt I approached the pretty little Co Ed girl behind the counter to ask if they stocked or could order in anything by the authors I had in mind.

It took a few minutes to get past the 'I love your accent, Sir!!' and 'Oh I love England, have you met the Queen?' comments to get her to search the computer for the authors mentioned.

When she couldn't find it, she called the manager over to help. This, dumpy tank of a woman in her sixties with a helmet of white hair and the tiniest little reading glasses pinched onto her nose attached by a chain to her substantial neck wandered over, smiling so wide she reminded me of a python getting ready to eat a child.

She seemed oblivious to the names Sam Harris and Dan Dennett but when I mentioned Dawkins, her face twisted up like she had a black hole in her mouth.

'We don't carry books like THAT, here. It's against our family friendly policy.'

The rest of the conversation was largely pointless and circular with her eventually threatening to call security. As I didn't want to wake up the sleeping civil war veteran in the sun lounger out front, I left.

What got me was the idea that a book like the selfish gene, that primarily deals with genetics and biology and only mentions religion in passing was somehow seen as not 'family-friendly' as if upon reading it you would invite drug-addicted hookers around to give your son a lap dance and teach your daughter how to work the pole...

Now, maybe if I'd gone into Dallas proper I'd have gotten a different response... but I'd rather just give my friend her ten dollars and concede the point, and get back to eating my weight in beef n cheese and drinking an attempt at beer.
This story just made my day. :) Even aside from "controversial" subjects, most of the bookstores are lacking what I consider to be basic academic supplies. I had to buying a copy of the newest MLA guide from my school's bookstore (at an additional $5) because no local bookstore carried the book nor even knew what I was talking about.

Oh yeah, but don't trip on the 71684352157364 different copies of the Bible on your way out. And watch out for the giant display of Joel Olsteen books.

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