Thursday, October 9, 2008

A New Book

Let me tell you about a new book edited by Rhonda Hustedt Jacobsen and Douglas Jacobsen. It is called The American University in a Postsecular Age (Oxford, 2008) and it grapples with the place of religion in the contemporary university/college. The conversation is balanced and comprehensive talking about students and faculty and the myriad of ways religion impacts the university environment. The authors recognize that no institution is without religious threads that tie together otherwise divergent patterns of belief and practice and with honesty reveal some of those threads, e.g. "Why Faculty Find it Difficult to Talk About Religion" and "The Religious and Spirituality Journeys of College Students".

There are those who do not think matters spiritual should be the object of concern on campus; my response is that we cannot ignore such matters. Our residence halls, our classrooms are shaping lives, molding futures and not to recognize the importance of fundamental questions such as "Who am I?", "What am I about?", "How shall I live?" would be to abdicate responsibility. I am reminded of Reb Saunders in The Chosen who worries that is son will have a well developed mind but have no soul. Saunders says " Because this is America, Reuven. This is not Europe. It is an open world here." It is an open world here, but that does not mean that we are not concerned with the quality of the minds we are educating.

We are preparing the next generation of world leaders. At this time of the year I am particularly mindful of the things we have left undone. It is a good thing to be reminded of what we can do better in the future. The Jacobsens have given us a challenging recipe for educating minds and souls.