“The Bishop”

This is perhaps the oddest first thought of the day that I’ve had. I have no idea why I was thinking about this fellow, but let’s see if I can aim at the divine while looking at this fellow.

Looking at this guy’s biography, there’s something I noticed. Its actually something that seems to be common with almost every minister’s biography that I’ve ever heard or read. Their biographies always pertain to their “academic” achievements. Indeed, this is likely the sort of biography that I will be asked to write some day if my goal of becoming a professor is accomplished. Perhaps this practice of writing an academic biography is a “window into the soul of the culture”, i.e., perhaps it says something about what the culture of academia (and in this case, the church) values.

Possible reasons for writing an academic biography: showing off credentials and/or sharing  moments of one’s life that had a large impact. The first option already seems out of tune with being a dedicated disciple of the Divine. As I remembered yesterday, we are to become less, the Divine more. The second option, on the other hand, has some potential.

Sharing important moments of one’s life seems like a good idea. Especially if this information is, according to the website, supposed to introduce us to Bishop Whitaker. What’s interesting, though, is that there doesn’t seem to be any explicit mention of moments where God shaped the bishop’s life. Its possible that God shaped the bishop’s life through his various educational endeavors, but one wouldn’t know it based on the biography. Indeed, I wonder if our “spiritual” journey should be the unifying theme for our biographies rather than our academic accomplishments. Again, I know that it is possible that the academic accomplishments are manifestations of the lessons that God has instilled in any person who writes a biography of this sort. However, I doubt that God’s work is limited to the walls of academia. Moreover, its difficult to tell the difference between these biographies and the biographies of professors who do not claim to have the primary goal of loving God with everything they have. It seems clear, that this lack of difference may be problematic.

A part of me, however, is not even prepared to practice what I’m proposing here. There’s something really corny about including God in, what is supposed to be, a typical biography. What is this insecurity? Where is the root? I suspect that I am ashamed to be seen as a fool, for Jesus does not get along well with academia. I’ve never admitted this to myself before, but now that I have, it reminds me of this verse: “Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9:26) Does this statement lend it self to “translation”? Can I make sense of this passage without presupposing a more orthodox picture of the eschatos than I currently entertain? Perhaps it matters not. Either way, I see that I should be prepared and able to produce a biography of this kind without fear of feeling foolish. Indeed, as I learned a few days back, I should embrace the foolishness.

It looks like the structure of biographies is to name places that individuals attended and the lessons that they learned there (or what they studied) So, I think if I wrote a biography that was centered around the most important moments of my journey, it might look something like this:

Kevin began his journey as an eight year old. He noticed that he was not feeling fulfilled. His insatiable desire for video games had left him yearning for something more in life. (That’s pretty freaking deep for an eight-year old, but true nonetheless.) His response was to embrace the Divine as that source of greater meaning.

In middle school, Kevin attended the Community United Methodist Church fall retreat. There he learned an extremely important lesson: God desires to be in relationship with us. The speaker there presented his listeners with a “cellphone” with unlimited minutes that had a direct line to the Divine. It was this moment that played a pivotal role in instilling the desire dialogue with the divine.

Kevin began attending TUMY (Tuskawilla United Methodist Youth) the summer of his eighth grade year. He was initially excited by the appearance of ubiquitous obedience to the Divine. This was inspiring and encouraging. This inspiration, however, was followed by a difficult and important lesson: the crappiness of human nature does not stop at the Church. Here, Kevin also began cultivating, what some may call, spiritual discipline. Thus, he began learning much on his own (with God’s help of course). At Tuskawilla Kevin began to learn how to “concretize his theology” (although he would never refer to his actions that way at that time). He began challenging himself to live to the patterns of life that he saw in the scriptures. Finally, towards the end of his high school career, Kevin began to learn about the captivating metaphysical and epistemological questions that would captivate his attention for years afterward.

The first rain drops of questions that blanketed Kevin’s mind his senior year of high school turned into a flood of philosophical questions his first year at UCF. Philosophy, Psychology, and History challenged Kevin’s largely “orthodox” faith on multiple fronts. Fortunately, he had various outlets where he could contemplate and discuss these issues, namely, with members of Intervaristy and members of the College and Career bible study at TUMC.

After the shock of the epistemological rug being pulled out from under him, Kevin realized that this state of uncertainty left him in “analysis paralysis”. If he was to be effective for the Kingdom, he would need to have faith that God would direct his path…

I think I’ll stop there for now. Capturing every aspect of my spiritual journey is sort of a daunting task (maybe one to be completed in another post). I’ve written enough to see that this would definitely seem absurd for a faculty member at a university to place as their biography. I wonder if a faculty member is even allowed to place such statements on their pages…either way, may I be given the strength and the wisdom to respond to the challenge of perennially presenting myself in a way that is true to the glory of God.


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