Monday, August 30, 2004

my little exclusivist

One of my students is a very strong Christian in the typical Korean Protestant mold, which is to say that, when I start talking about Religion X (where X is a non-Protestant Christian religion), she flatly declares, "Religion X's god is a false god." She did this to me today, cutting me off when I started talking about Buddhism as class was winding down (today was a post-test review day for her, so we had time for a bit of free talking).

Here's the question for people interested in interreligious dialogue. Does my student or does she not represent one of the demographics with whom people like me should be in dialogue?

Part of me says that people like my student are impossible to talk to, so why waste my time? Another part of me replies that this attitude is condescending.

Motivations for dialogue require constant and serious examination. Ego plays a large and dangerous role. Am I trying to browbeat the unprepared by unloading fancy arguments on them? Am I trying to shake this person's tree, knock their perspective just a wee bit off-kilter, bring them out of Plato's cave and into the light of open-mindedness? Who am I to do this? What makes this my row to hoe? Why don't I just quit my job and pursue an acting career, leaving this religious studies and English teaching shit behind?

My student's pretty nice most of the time, but she doesn't want to hear about all those false gods (not that I have much chance to talk with her about them; the lesson plan keeps us too busy on most days). As far as she's concerned, everyone in the whole world should be brought to Jesus. It's people like her who make me wary of pro-exclusivism philosopher-theologians like Alvin Plantinga. She's the kind of person for whom Plantinga is going to bat. Does the world really need such exclusivists?

My student's going on hiatus until late September. Yeesh; we'll see how things go when she gets back. She's requesting me, specifically, to be her teacher upon her return. This is the first personal request I'm aware of. I hope my partner teachers are happy, because this will help boost their all-important reregistration rates, but I'm not looking forward to more unreasoning religious exclusivism up close.


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