Your Teacher Eats with Tax Collectors and Sinners: Welcome to ACU's Cornerstone

Over 10 years in the planning, ACU launched our new General Education curriculum designed to equip students to think about faith and truth from an interdisciplinary perspective. ACU's Core curriculum begins with first semester freshmen in a class called Cornerstone. Kicking Cornerstone off each week is a Spotlight talk in Cullen Auditorium.

This week it was my privilege and honor to kick Cornerstone off by giving the first Spotlight talk entitled "Your Teacher Eats with Tax Collectors and Sinners: You, Cornerstone and the Mission of ACU." The goal of the talk was to introduce the students to interdisciplinary thinking as I talked about my research on disgust and contamination. (And, I guess this is as good a time as any to announce this, I have a book coming out with Cascade on this very topic. The title of the book, right now, is Unclean: Meditations on Purity, Hospitality and Mortality.)

You can see my Spotlight talk at the Cornerstone Portal where you'll also find resource links related to my talk. You can check out the Portal each week to follow the Spotlight speakers and the conversation our freshmen are having this semester in Cornerstone.

It's an exciting time to be at ACU.

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6 thoughts on “Your Teacher Eats with Tax Collectors and Sinners: Welcome to ACU's Cornerstone”

  1. Interesting. Although mentioning Macbeth in a context of faith reminds me of something that has perplexed me for sometime: In the arts, especially theatre, you find many largely non-religious people who deny the existence of the supernatural except for superstitions and, interestingly, karma. Phrases that hold power and 'an eye for an eye' mentality- although not acted on- strikes me as ironic and backward in a group that considers themselves enlightened.

    PS: How many times can you say "Macbeth" in a half hour in a theatre? I hope there was no one superstitious in your audience!

  2. Richard,

    Now when you're nice to people, it will be an open question whether it's because you think they're disgusting sinner!
    Oy vey!

  3. Cope posted your speech, so qb caught it over the weekend and thought he'd spend some time pondering your opening gambit: is it possible to hate the sin and love the sinner?

    You had qb leaning your way until qb did a thought experiment. It turns out that all qb had to do was envision one of the true apples of his eye, one of his three sons, and try it out. And given proper definitions of love (in the case of the "sinner," agape; and in the case of the sin itself, phileo), there's really no problem loving the sinner while hating what the sinner does. qb supposes that parents have to do it all the time.

    So qb found the exercise clarifying, even if he came out the same place he had originally been.

  4. It may be an issue of staging and sequencing. If you a love a person first then it is easy to hate the sin that you see afflicting them. However, if you first hate a sin it is much harder to embrace an anonymous "sinner." Harder to get past those feelings of judgment to seek out the core of the sinner's humanity.

    In short, we can love the sinner and hate the sin when the sinner is already a part of my innermost affections. The hard practice is when we are interacting with strangers where our judgments, by necessity, have to rest upon our behavioral observations and where these judgments of ours are generally ones of moral outrage. In those cases, few persist in the relationship long enough to get past the behavior (our hatred of the sin) to embrace the humanity of the person, as you do with your own child.

  5. Right. So in terms of "how shall we then live," the piont is not so much that the hate-sin/love-sinner distinction is unworkable (it's just a pithy aphorism anyway), but rather that we must learn to look upon the masses and bring them, somehow, into our "innermost affections" so that the distinction can work itself out in practice.

    This has a lot of interesting bearings. In addition to the affection angle that you're exploring, there's also a "stewardship" angle. Precisely because I easily internalize my personal responsibility for the character of my children, I am able to make - and LIVE - the distinction at issue here. If I do not sense any responsibility for you beyond getting you cleaned up so I don't have to experience your objectionable personality traits or habits, then I will find it difficult to love you while hating what you do. QED.

    Now as a practical matter, these ideals seem well out of reach at institutional scales, to say nothing of international scales. But that's probably a topic for another day.


  6. My husband watched your presentation, and he agreed that we've often seen the boundary/quarantine/purity theology actively in play, both in church groups we've been in and among our families. Merely suggesting a gracious stance toward "them" gets one treated with suspicion of being traitorous to "us."

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