Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Does this gown make me look fat?

This June, after seven years in Seminary, I finally graduated with my M.Div. Now, before you snicker at how long it took me to graduate with a degree that can be done in 3 years, is billed as a 4 year master's, but usually takes students 5 years, keep in mind that I also worked 40+ hours a week during my seminary tenure. Seminary was my part-time love.

Many seminary grads I have talked with over the years didn't feel like they learned much in seminary, but I feel like I learned a lot. Over the next few weeks I'll be talking about some of the lessons that I learned in Seminary. Some are great academic lessons, and some are more stark realizations about the nature of things. Both were valuable.

As I mentioned in my last post, the overwhelming majority of my life has been spent in school. Even though I was a part-time student, I spent the majority of my "free time" these last 7 years reading, researching, and writing. These, as is common knowledge, are very manly activities.

Let's face it, I'm not the manliest man there's ever been. At least, not in the whole "I spend all Sunday afternoon watching sports" or "I rode my Harley from here to Mexico City without taking a shower or using the bathroom" sort of way. But, I still enjoy manly fare. Occasionally smoke a cigar? Check. Work on my own car? Check. Chop a whole bunch of wood because it's there? Check. Shoot firearms because of the loud bang? Check. Mow the yard in a wifebeater? Check, sorta.

Reading, writing, and research doesn't really fit on that list. Does it make you feel intelligent, accomplished, and superior? Check. Does it make you feel like a hunter/gatherer with cunning and skillz? UnCheck. And you know, I think I could be okay with that - this emasculating they call "higher education" - if only the whole thing would end in a really big bang. I don't know - with a ropes course followed by explosions or celebratory gunfire or something, followed by roasting a pig over a fire we made with our bare hands. Just something.

But instead, how does it all end? They make you put on a hat shaped like a pizza box, a silky see-through gown, and then they make you kneel on stage while they put a shawl (a.k.a., a "hood") on you. Oh, and if you did really good at reading, writing, and research, you get special "accessories", like a golden ribbon to tie around your neck. I thought it would be cool to do some face paint or something to show how pumped I was about this whole thing, but I was told in no uncertain terms that face painting was not allowed. Though, I could swear some of the women painted their faces...

Now, don't get me wrong, I really appreciate my seminary journey more than you can know. But at the end of the day, I wonder if some of the problems the church has communicating with 20 and 30-something men has something to do with the way in which our church leaders are taught. I have a hard time understanding how reading Iraneaus, Tertullian, Augustine, Anselm, Descartes, and Tillich helps anyone penetrate the modern masculine psyche.

But I did get my party. Many wonderful old friends and family came to celebrate with me. We ate meat - lots of meat. With barbecue sauce and baked beans. Which led to another manly activity that shall not be spoken of out of politeness.

I love Ecclesiastes 7, though Ecclesiastes is often grossly misunderstood. This seminary chapter of my life closes, and I can honestly say, "The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience better than pride...wisdom, like an inheritance, is a good thing and befits those who see the sun."

Here's to leaving the reading chair empty a little more often, and going out to see the sun.


Jessica said...

i wish i got hooded...but, alas, that was reserved only for doctoral students. it seems that after all of my hard work they thought i should wear mine right on inside. who knew?

Eric said...

I laud your efforts and your whole paradigm over the situation. Spectacular, congratulations. I don't know if the world necessarily needs more educated people, but I certainly could use more in my life. :)

It is a comfort knowing smart people. They encourage you to think things out and assist you when you get stuck. Thanks for pursuing an education, Ben. It spreads to those around you. And as practical as it gets: seminary! You take a lot of us with you in all of your pedagogical journeys, what a free ride!

Anonymous said...

Congrats!!! Sorry it is so late:)

Jon and I hope to begin our Doctoral studies in Worship Theology in January. We hope to make the final-final decision next week (scholarship meeting). Either way, he will be going; hopefully, I will, too.

So, as you depart the reading chair, I will make myself at home. I have about 3000 pages to read for my first class. WHOOHOO!!!!


Benjamin said...


Good luck on the doctoral program. One of these days I intend to go for my doctorate as well, but right now I'm too busy being a rich young ruler.

Let me know how it goes - I'm a little nervous about the workload when I take the plunge.