Monday, December 28, 2009

The most difficult part of being a Christian academic

Christmas is a funny time of year for me because in December I am going full speed with work, finishing finals and for some reason I invariably a research deadline that I'm racing against, and then suddenly, I stop everything to spend whole days with my family.

This points to what I think is the most difficult aspect of being a Christian academic.

It's not the goofy, sometimes mean-spirited, almost always trivial politics in a university. They are annoying, but with time I'm learning to ignore them.

It's not the antagonism toward Christian that permeates interactions regarding religion. Yes, it exists, but we have so many freedoms in this country that it doesn't cause too many problems (though it can be pretty frustrating).

No, for me the most difficult part of academics is the flip side of what I enjoy the most--research. When I am focused on research, I charge off into the land of ideas and data and manuscripts, and, frankly, I usually don't want to be bothered by people-at least most people, some friends and family are always welcome. I keep my door shut, I try to minimize conversations with others, and I'm happy not to be disturbed by others. All too often, I carry this attitude home after work, so that I when I'm with my family, part of me wants to sneak off and read and write.

Here's why I frame this as a problem for me as a Christian--Christianity, as I understand it--is other-focused. That we interact with others, and how we do so, is of vital, even eternal, importance, and so my putting other things before that just doesn't work. In fact, the Bible and church history are full of stories of people doing thing even more important that sociological research and still giving their full attention to others.

With Christmas, I take a week off from my job, and I have more energy and interest for others, and this contrasts with the regular semester.

I'm unsure of how to develop more of an other-focus for the regular semester, but it, perhaps more than squeezing out one more publication, is important for me.


K T Cat said...

Maybe it's not being an academic around Christmastime that's the problem, but just being a guy. The anxiety of trying to find the right gift for everyone is just too much, I tells ya! Here's a gift certificate!


Edward T. Babinski said...

Feeding the brain, and juggling new information around in it is a great "high," and then to have people who want to PUBLISH your THOUGHTS! What kind of mind-gasm is that?

I just spent the better part of the last six months researching, reading and writing a paper on biblical cosmology and I concentrated on it to such a degree people were asking "where I was."

I'm happy it's finished and will be published come April.

As for loving research and writing, hey, did you know Origen used to sit and dictate books to scribes, in several different languages I believe.

Augustine was no slouch with the pen either.

Writing has always been a beloved past time of human beings, regardless of the way the author of Ecclesiastes calls it and everything else nothing but vanity. Of course he WROTE that.

Or check out this...

There are signs that the world is speedily coming to an end: Bribery and corruption are common. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book. [Message found on a clay tablet from Assyria, written approximately 2800 B.C.]

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