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Greatest Moments in the History of Grading Part 5

May 7, 2009

I am still amazed at how quickly students slip into the language of “we” and “us” when talking about Christianity and “they” and “them” when talking about any other religious tradition, as if everyone in the class identified as Christian.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. May 7, 2009 5:09 pm

    I have found it is a lot easier to criticise Christianity when one feels one owns it.
    I grew up with neo-pagan parents, I was never a Christian (and if one becomes one at baptism, I am not even one now). Yet I would always speak of Christianity as though it belonged to me, and therefore I had the right to criticise it, deconstruct it etc in a way I would never feel justified doing about something that belonged to the “other”.

    It’s because I am still British, still Western European. Christianity has shaped my world in ways that, even when I didn’t ascribe to it sort of made it mine, even when I actively opposed it (which again, I’d feel most uncomfortable doing to an “other” religion).

    In some ways now I want to be a Christian I wish the (seeming vast majority) people who dislike Christianity would treat it with the respect one only accords to guests and strangers rather than the overfamiliar resentment one accords to siblings or parents that one doesn’t get along with… but I understand why that familiarity exists, and if we don’t get along in the end, to some extent we also must be to blame.

  2. missivesfrommarx permalink*
    May 7, 2009 7:46 pm

    Claiming an insider status often awards one’s criticism additional authority.

    However, these students using “we” aren’t criticizing anything—they throw lines like this in their papers: “We base our lives on Jesus’ teachings.”

    To which I’m like: We do? Am I a part of this we? Cause I sure as hell don’t put much stock in provincial 1st century Jewish apocalyptic prophets—especially ones whose predictions of the end of the world turned out to be way off base.

  3. May 7, 2009 8:11 pm

    To some extent you could unpack it as “we base our lives on a set of values which though they have developed significantly since then developed out of the interpretations of Traditional Christianity of the teachings of Jesus”.

    I mean, humanism was originally a school of Christianity (one I am rather suspicious of even though I relate to it), the reformation and the enlightenment are in some ways the outcome of the struggle between the humanist school and the traditional “to hell with the world, the life to come is all that matters” outlook as it played itself out over the centuries. And the dominant ideas of our society, on which most people base their lives, are ultimately the fruits of those movements.

    Of course that’s probably a very idealist thing to be saying on a blog calling itself Missives from Marx :p Also I gather that is probably not what is meant by it, not least because however it may have developed, the 18th century and Biblical times are worlds away.

  4. missivesfrommarx permalink*
    May 8, 2009 9:51 pm

    I don’t think I entirely agree with what you’re saying, but there’s definitely some sense to it. However, this isn’t what my students are saying. They just write from a 1st person plural perspective that is, for them, automatically Christian.

  5. steph permalink
    May 9, 2009 3:52 am

    Eh? That’s strange. Even when I was a student I referred to Christians, and all other religious people as ‘they’ and I’ve not come across the ‘we’ except of course from self confessed Christians. And I certainly don’t base my life on the teachings of Jesus. I don’t believe that the kingdom will come, that Jews should return to God, that illness is the possession of a demon, I don’t believe in resurrection… I do believe we should love our enemies and our neighbours but they are gifts of wisdom not owned by Christianity.

  6. steph permalink
    May 10, 2009 5:41 am

    A little off tangent but I find it frustrating when scholar write in first person plural – ‘we shall discover that’ ‘we realise that’ ‘therefore we understand that this conclusion to this book is correct’. No ‘we’ don’t.

  7. missivesfrommarx permalink*
    May 10, 2009 12:18 pm

    Steph, I know what you mean. Sometimes I write like that, as if I’m lecturing, and conversing with “us,” the class. But as a reader it is often irritating.

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