I get it that people no longer agree about who God is/if there is a God/if he should be called she, etc.. But making students or their teachers God is not the answer. In this essay I explain why.
If an author is a creator, a creator of books, plays, articles, analyses or case studies, then we could say that this creator acts like God when he writes about people. She is creating, and God creates. This is a natural connection between God and human creators, or what we call artists and authors.
In the case of really good creators, the work of art points to God and teaches us about ourselves in the process. And 19th century Russian literature, in my opinion, does this the best. I love 19th century Russian literature. But let’s not forget that God does not create mere characters – authors do. We are more than characters to God. We are His children.
I studied one famous creator, the author and poet named Dante, who wrote something called The Divine Comedy, where he describes the suffering and joys of human life and the afterlife. A man, Dante, wrote this. But in school we acted like he was God. God would never call his creation a comedy (even though “comedy” meant a different thing back then, that is beside the point). But by studying The Divine Comedy in the 21st Century, it is likely that the student will come to think of themselves as little more than a character in the book of life, a character who will not be forgiven by an unmoved God.
There is another work I will mention. The work called Ion of ancient Greek literature, where the artist is described as being closest to God. His followers (readers or students) are beneath him – on down a chain to the most insignificant people. Who cares about them!
The tragedy: people who love literature and art and would seek God through it… Who want to better understand themselves through it… at least in the United States… think that by becoming professors they will learn still more about their nature as children of God. No, they would never frame it that way to themselves or others – that would be a sin for the secular graduate student. But this is often the case. There is this deep feeling that becoming an academic will get us closer to God.
I once overheard a prideful professor share with a colleague about his undergraduate students: “they worship me like a God!” Little do the college students know that they will be trained to think they are God as they learn to dissect the human story as if they were no longer human.
The cost of this: their faith, their humility, and, as was almost the case with me, their very lives. Let alone the well-being of their souls.
Some people who are forced to leave academia mourn the loss the rest of their lives, and those who are victorious risk forgetting that they are still not God. They are merely critics. This is overgeneralizing and not always true, but my experience speaks to this and therefore I ask you to consider it alongside the voices of others.
Here is an article that gave me hope about why we should probably not pursue graduate school in the humanities. To an outsider it seems like sour grapes, but really, I mean really, I now know that it is a blessing that I did not become an academic.
I would like to thank Parker Palmer, who, in one of his books – I think it was The Courage to Teach -, alerts us to the reality that we teach students not to use “I” in their schoolwork and how, over time, this gives students the sense that they are reality rather than subjective interpreters of reality. Pair that with God being treated as an idea and you get the dangerous over-confidence that we see in the secular humanities every day.