Articles List

Faith and Truth in the Classroom
By C. Banescu - March 17, 2003

As a university professor and an Orthodox Christian I find great satisfaction in opening the eyes and hearts of my students regarding ultimate truths about many worldly issues. While I am not able to make direct references to my faith or religious practices in my classrooms, I can indirectly bring in a more balanced and objective perspective while discussing various issues by focusing on truth and reality. One would think that such an engaging and free arena would be the rule rather than the exception in academic circles; unfortunately, that seems to be very rare these days.

In many of America's secular universities even the mention of God or Christianity is strongly frowned upon by administrators, faculty, and even students, despite the fact that we supposedly live in one of the most permissive cultures and tolerant societies in the world. "Freedom of Speech" rather than being embraced, has been re-defined to mean only "Freedom of Politically Correct Speech."

While I am not allowed to mentioned Christ by name, I still use every possible means, examples, facts, arguments, and objective analysis to show and express the truthful and balanced view on social, cultural, legal, and other ethical issues that are discussed in the classroom. It is a joy to see how many students begin to understand and start to see different social, cultural, and ethical issues from a more objective and honest angle; something that many of them were never allowed to do previously in their academic career. Many of them have never been allowed to challenge, question or critically analyze "sensitive" issues as part of their education! You would think they attended college in a communist country, not in the freest country on God's green earth!

Unfortunately, this is what happens when many university professors require students to agree, support, and accept the ideological biases and worldview that they put forth. Many secular instructors literally ban any dissension in their classrooms and heap scorn and contempt on anyone who dares state an opinion that deviates from the "official party line" the instructors themselves support. I have witnesses situations where even the idea of uttering the word "God" was criticized and ridiculed. In both my graduate and undergraduate experiences I have seen and also personally endured ridicule and insults from quite a few unscrupulous professors who chose to belittle my arguments and even mark me down for daring to disagree with their biased and prejudices views on many topics.

These totalitarian "instructors" are a negative and disturbing influence in any learning environment, let alone inside an institution of higher learning; they are more prejudiced and discriminatory than most average Americans. One would think that in the heart of an academic institution, different points of view, argumentation, and critical thinking would be the norm, not the exception. Sadly, the unethical and prejudicial stance of many secular (and indeed liberal) faculty members stifles any possible dissent, discourages the free flow of ideas, and fosters an artificial environment where actual learning and critical thinking are outlawed altogether.

Partially in response to the ideological discrimination and scorn I have suffered in my own academic experiences, I have adopted a unique approach with my students. At the beginning of every class, I let my students know that agreeing with me is not a basis of my evaluation of their participation; and I always stand by promises. I reassure them that I will judge their performance based only critical thinking and objective reasoning, not political or ideological grounds. What matters most is how they state their case and defend their arguments with supportive facts and reasoned points of view. This courtesy, I believe, creates an open and unfettered learning environment that encourages the free exchange of ideas and the ability to think critically and objectively. The rest just happens naturally. Truth will always win out in any objective discussion and will be able to stand on its own two feet without any help or assistance from anyone.

In some of the ethics courses I have taught over the years, I often discuss the implications of the First Amendment of our Constitution in regards to the establishment of religion and the free exercise thereof. I make every effort to clarify the various false interpretations the secular academia and the media keep propagating in regards to the "Establishment Clause" of our Constitution. Secular humanists expect Christians to separate their faith from every possible aspect of their daily lives and have banished religion from every corner of our public life and social culture. That is a wholly false and wrong interpretation of the Constitution.

The Establishment Clause was meant to prevent a specific federal or national church that would impose only one "flavor" of Christianity. It was never meant to banish religion and faith from our society, politics, all public forums, and every other aspect of our professional lives and careers. By giving the First Amendment its proper perspective, emphasizing the "free exercise thereof" portion of it, outlining the reasons and context in which it was written, and then asking my students to critically analyze and understand the issues, I am able to show them reasons and wisdom of our Constitution and its roots in Christian principles, and shine the light of truth in their lives.

Another sensitive topic I sometimes tackle in my ethics courses is the brutal practice of partial-birth abortion. Many of my students are under the mistaken belief that such a thing is not really happening and that it must be illegal. Indeed, many have accused me of either lying or exaggerating the truth. Here again, presenting the reality of this practice and letting the truth shine through help my students understand the moral and ethical issues and gain a deeper understanding of the consequences of using our free will and responsibilities it carries regarding the value of human life and freedom for all.

I have never had to convince my students whether this is wrong or not, or work very hard to show them how inhuman and evil this practice is. I often use the example of a woman in her 7th month of pregnancy, who can walk into an abortion clinic and request the procedure without any criminal consequences. Then, I contrast that act with the scenario where that same pregnant woman and her unborn child are shot and killed by carjacker. Our secular society will find the carjacker guilty of double murder in that incident, while that same mother will be praised for her "choice." I point out that in both instances the precious and miraculous life of an innocent child has been destroyed, yet we celebrate the mother and condemn the criminal! I have never once had convince any of my students that such a distinction is insane and illogical. They themselves reach that conclusion on their own without any prompting from me. Truth and common sense will always shine through when given the proper perspective and framing.

C. S. Lewis once wrote: "There is no neutral ground in the universe: every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counter-claimed by Satan." We cannot be neutral about the implications of our faith. At every moment of our lives we are either standing with Christ, or against Him. We cannot serve two masters. I strive to stand on the site of Christ which means standing on the side of the definitive Truth about everything in life.

Everything humanity has ever discovered, invented, and built, is just another glimpse into the great mystery of God. Since Christ is the source of all truth and all wisdom, blending truth with learning is the most natural and normal way to educate. Therefore, all the subjects the students study and learn, simply represent different sides and perspectives on the miraculous reality of creation. Even a molecule of water, can be shown to be a miracle of creation. The hydrogen and oxygen bonds that theoretically cannot exist, water's incredible ability to sustain and maintain life, and its unique ability to expand when frozen (the only substance that does such a miraculous thing), can be more realistically seen and understood as science only through the perspective of God.

Ultimately my responsibility as an educator is to give my students the proper tools and insights to be able to distinguish truth from falsehood, and right from wrong. That innate sense is there in all of us to some degree or another. I simply provide the fertile ground and proper arena for these young minds to think critically and see the world through a more truthful and universal perspective. The rest is in God's hands; and He never disappoints!