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Letter to the Editor: Andrew Swartchick

I am sure that anyone reading this article is familiar with Patrick Sorrells’s opinion column titled Politics and Religion. From what I can tell, Patrick is a voice for the conservative mind at Concordia, I want to applaud him for this. As Elaine Laliberte pointed out in her own opinion piece just below Patrick’s in the Oct. 19 issue, the Concordia student body has a hand in alienating those who fall politically on the right. Although I do not agree with much of what Patrick has to say, I do think his opinion is important to hear. I hope that anyone reading what I say next does not lose that sentiment from me.

Patrick’s most recent column is an obtuse, uninformed, ignorant, and underdeveloped opinion on the role and strength of Concordia’s religion department. Patrick does not educate himself regarding the goals the religion department and the college hold. Patrick should not be allowed to publish if his allegations throw slander, misinformation, half-truths, and are factually unsound. It is irresponsible and apprehensible for this newspaper to publish anything as such.

Although Patrick references the religion department’s goals, he ignores his own statement that “the goal of the religion courses at Concordia are to educate the student body on the various religious practices around the world, the scholarly opinions about these religious practices, and to promote thoughtful discussions about said religious practices.”

Patrick then accuses the religion department of “shaking the faith” of students who are Christian. If Patrick would have done any research into the academic purpose of religious studies at this college, he would have found that Concordia’s religion department mission statement reads:

“The Religion Department of Concordia College engages students in rigorous inquiry and searching dialogue with enduring religious questions, received traditions of belief and practice, and diverse contemporary expressions. It equips students to be lifelong learners and investigators who employ academic methods to address a crucial dimension of human life. As it advances the mission of the college through its liberal learning goals and supports its Lutheran heritage of free educational dialogue, the department cultivates faculty and student expertise in global conversation and scholarship in order that they might become responsibly engaged in the world of the 21st century.”

Patrick’s bastardization of the goal of religious studies–implying that the study should aim to create informed Christians on campus–undermines any academic research in the field. Other holes in Patrick’s argument are equally egregious. He alludes to the book of Proverbs, Chapter 27 when he says, “Just as iron sharpens iron so too will other Christians help strengthen other Christians in their walk with Christ.” I implore you to read the entirety of Proverbs Chapter 27, but I will point out some of the crude misunderstandings that Patrick’s quotation creates. First, the passage from Proverbs says that, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” In the many translations of the Bible, never does this verse say one “Christian” strengthens another. It is even translated in many editions as outlining how discussion strengthens men. Isn’t this discussion exactly what our religion department brings to students? Is that not exactly what Pat wants? For stronger Christians to come from our religious studies? How, then, can Patrick blame professors and peers for not helping strengthen each other’s “iron”?

Additionally, Proverbs is from the Old Testament of the Bible. If you’ve taken your Religion 200 course–which Pat so vehemently tore apart–you’ll know that Jesus did not exist in human form in the Old Testament, but as a member of the Holy Trinity with God. Jesus has little to do with this section of the Bible. Proverbs is written mostly by Solomon, so calling Jesus as the speaker for this is plain incorrect.

I would also like to remind Patrick and the readers of the Concordian that the Interfaith Cooperation Statement was amended recently to be more pluralistic and inviting. It mentions Concordia’s practice of “interfaith cooperation because of its Lutheran dedication.” Yes, this is a Lutheran-Christian school, but we don’t force that upon anyone. Again, Patrick failed to study what chapel at Concordia does. I celebrate the fact that Patrick feels students can use chapel services as “an outlet for religious expression through the reading of the Bible, praying, singing hymns, and listening to the homily.” Still, this expression of the college’s statement does not only extend to Christians.

The offenses that Pat has written towards the academic study of religion and our professional department on campus are abhorrent. The religion department fulfills its duty to the college by making us question what we believe. If this makes you question your faith, I suggest you applaud that. Faith that is not questioned breeds ignorance. You will be a stronger, faith-filled individual if you ask yourself why it is you believe what you do. Please, learn how to think critically, question and explore various religious traditions and what those traditions mean personally and in community with others.

One Comment

  1. Rusty Rusty November 2, 2017

    Through Concordia religin classes my faith was strengthened as I learned how frankly nonsensical many other world religions are when examined through historical and scientific evidence. I’m not sure that was Concordias goal, but that was my outcome. As for quality of professors, they are mediocre in my opinion. Often times I would present philosohy or evidence to contradict a common held position and would receive no meaningful rebuttal. Seems like most of the stuff presented by the professors was just politically infused, self deterministic, and subjective thought published through a system whose review is wrought with confirmation bias. For the average student who doesn’t think critically you might be tempted to believe what these professors taught but I found them to be of low credibility.

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