Be careful what you study

I saw that the local university was inviting speakers for their first TEDx events. I’ve wanted to give a TED talk for a while, what on, I have no idea. It won’t be this one, for schedule reasons, but the topic – inspiring people around education – made me wonder what I’d speak on. And at this point, I’d say my topic would be “Be careful what you study.”

I am a HUGE supporter of liberal arts education. I majored in just about everything at some point in my college years before settling on a religion major and a politics minor, because I wanted to spend my precious time in college studying the most important stuff. Then came grad school, mostly because there was more I wanted to learn, until my first year of the doctoral program in Christian Political Thought convinced me that I was working too hard for too little hope of future employment, and, more importantly for an idealist like I was then, too little fulfillment from the spiritual depth of the subject.

I have gotten a life. I’ve been out of school since 1995 and never worked in the “field.” Until last week, I hadn’t been a leader in a traditional ministry – like a Bible study or prayer group – in at least a dozen years. (It did feel good to be back, if only briefly.) Whether working in sports marketing, grassroots advocacy, or whatever you want to call what I’m doing now, I’ve done meaningful, interesting, paying work for 20 years.

And yet this pope has me back writing about moral theology and Christian political thought at night on a blog with dozens of readers.

And yet I realize how often I draw on theologians and philosophers in my decision-making at work. I hated studying Jurgen Habermas, the philosopher who emphasized the importance of language in defining our reality. Philosophy is dry, but philosophy in translation is ten times worse. But the number of times I justify a course of action at work on the fact it gives us a language to talk about how we should be together is, well, Habermasian I guess.

So be careful. That elective you take, or that second major? It could turn you into a sleeper-cell theologian, dormant for a couple decades, but never gone.

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