By Kevin Roose
I thought we’d try something new before class today,” says Nathan, the Evangelism 101 teaching assistant. “A little cheer.”
My roommate Eric turns to me. “God is good. Bet you ten bucks.”
Before I can ask what he means, Nathan sets down his microphone and shouts through cupped hands, “God is good!”
“All the time!” responds the class in unison. Eric pumps his fist.
“Awesome!” says Nathan. “You guys must remember this from your youth groups. Now, let’s see if you remember the second part: and all the time…”
The class shouts back: “God is good!”
Nathan waves his arms with brio, conducting the class like John Philip Sousa leading a parade march.
“God is good…”
“All the time!”
“And all the time…”
“God is good!”
I’ve been back from spring break for two days now, and I’m starting to settle back into my classes. As you might guess from a lecture that begins with a cheer, Evangelism 101 is somewhat of a gut. Our professor, Pastor Andy Hillman, conducts the class like a large, for-credit session of Sunday school, with test questions like:
God wants to be your ____.
b) Best friend*
The ultimate goal of the universe is to show ____.
a) the love of God
b) the glory of God
c) the power of God
d) all of the above*
The upside of an easy class like Evangelism 101 is simple: I’m not failing. In fact, in most of my courses, I’m improving much more quickly than I expected to. Nobody’s going to be throwing any Rhodes scholarships my way after this semester, but most of my grades are up in the B-plus range.
Despite it being my worst class grade-wise, I’m still liking my Old Testament class better than any of the others. In addition to the lessons about Deuteronomy and Judges, it’s fun to flesh out the oversimplified nuggets of Old Testament lore that make it into secular pop culture. For example: I’ve heard a million ESPN commentators refer to a lopsided matchup as a “David and Goliath situation,” but I’d never read the Bible’s account of the actual battle. I didn’t know that Goliath was not only huge — about nine feet tall, with a 125-pound cloak of armor — he was also “uncircumcised,” according to 1 Samuel 17:26. This bit of information gives me a leg up on my ESPN-watching secular friends. A juvenile leg, but a leg nonetheless.
I’m finding that my favorite courses, like Old Testament and Theology, have something in common: they’re surveys, classes in which the professor’s goal is simply to introduce a body of new information. The information always has a literalist slant, of course, but on the whole, the classes are fairly straightforward. You’d find the same thing at a hundred other Christian colleges and Bible study groups.
There’s another type of class, though — the agenda-driven class. In these courses, professors aren’t teaching new knowledge so much as teaching students how to think about the world around them.
A week or two before spring break, I started sitting in on GNED II, a mandatory second-semester extension of my GNED course. I’m only at Liberty for one semester, so I’ll never get to take GNED II for a grade, but people on my hall kept talking about it, and I wanted to get the flavor. The GNED II class I’ve been going to, like my GNED I class, is taught by Dr. Parks. In it, Liberty students are taught to view sociopolitical topics like homosexuality, abortion, and euthanasia through an ultraconservative Christian lens. And unlike its first-semester counterpart, GNED II pulls no punches. Its workbook contains fill-in-the blank sections like: