Wednesday 20 February 2013

'Acids of Modernity' at a Christian Finishing School

Where to begin mocking the announcement -- finally -- of the actual establishment of the Office of Religious Freedom and the naming of its head, Andrew Bennet, to be styled apparently, 'Ambassador'?

I took my cue from Canadian Cynic and looked into the 'Christian college' of which Bennett is currently Dean.

It is Augustine College in Ottawa.

First thing to know -- it's tiny. It graduates at most 16 students a year, many years far fewer.

Next, it is a one-year program, well, really eight months, two semesters.

It certainly is Christian and evangelical. (Bold in original.)
The faculty, staff, and board of Augustine College desire above all to live out a faithful and disciplined Christian life, both as individuals and as a community.

Although we have come together from a diversity of church backgrounds and although the College has no denominational affiliation, we do share a profound desire for thorough-going faithfulness to the Lordship of Christ, submitting to the authority of Scripture and the foundational teachings of the Church.

We are called to unity in love of Christ (John 17) and seek to live by the first things of faith and, in the root sense, to exercise an evangelical duty to the world in which we have been placed.
Bennett exercising his 'evangelical duty' as an 'Ambassador' of Canada will go over well, I'm sure.

Next thing to know is that its views are a bit, well, retrograde.
Augustine College is a Liberal Arts college. It teaches the subjects that were the foundation of education for centuries, before education succumbed to the acids of modernity.
'Acids of modernity'* was one of the things that Evan Solomon latched onto in speaking to Jason Kenney on Power and Politics

At about the 9:15 mark, Solomon asks about the phrase. Watch Kenney bluster and squirm. Solomon also asks about non-believers and about situations where 'religious freedom' might conflict with other human rights, such as those of women and LGBT. Kenney faffs. (He is a very good faffer, isn't he?) But there is a teensy problem here. In a screed on the college website that should be hailed in the annals of the 'blog' of 'unnecessary' quotation marks, there's this.
We believe that faith is rational: reason shows man that he must have faith.
I'll let CC take that. Ok, then. Non-believers are irrational and believers of other nonsense are wrong. So who the hell goes there to study? It's a bit pricey for an eight-month bunfest program. Students pay $1500 down plus $3500 due on the first day of each of two semesters, total $8500. Residence is extra, but the site assures worried parents that it is NOT 'co-ed'. The college 'welcomes' everybody -- as long as they are Christian.
Many of our students have been home-schooled. Many come from public schools. Still others come to us after earning other degrees, desiring to fill in what several years of study elsewhere did not give them.
It's when we get to the Student Life part that things start getting really sad. This section talks up communal dinners, hymn sings, four tickets to the Ottawa Symphony, dinners with profs, and skating on the Rideau Canal.  All very wholesome. How 'bout this for a knee-slapping good time?
RESTLESS HEARTS CAFÉ Typically held around February 14, this pot pourri of entertainment includes readings, music, recitations, and lampoonery (sometimes harpoonery) presented by the students, faculty, and staff of the College.
'Harpoonery'? And there's helpful advice.
HIKING AND SPELUNKING The Gatineau Hills also have interesting caves and the Lusk Caves have been a destination for hikes. In fall the caves sport great views and sections of semi-submersed paths which are great fun to navigate (don’t forget a change of clothes, especially socks).
So what do student do upon graduation? There's a list of 13 mostly Christian (as far as I can tell) colleges in Canada and the US that will allow transfer of credits. Pay $8500 for some transferrable-only-to-Christian-colleges credits? Wow. Finally, if you have a penchant for sad-sacks, watch some students talk about their experience here. My conclusion: This new Ambassador is currently chief baby-sitter to a bunch of home-schooled kids in what amounts to a Christian finishing school. Is this really the best person the CONs could find?
There were reports that two people who had been approached to head up the new agency had turned down the post.
We here at DJ! look forward to watching the embarrassments activities of this latest Pandering to the CON Base effort. * 'Acids of modernity' is a phrase from a Walter Lippmann essay from 1929. By the way, he is the coiner of both 'Cold War' and 'Manufacture of Consent', though he is mainly known for his works on public opinion and advertising. Update from deBeauxOs: Stephen Lautens designed a special poster for the *Office* and his tweet regarding its funding. ADDED  by fh: Alison has more. UPDATE: Some question Bennett's academic credentials. No. Really?


Luna said...

Shit. They should have hired me. I'd have been awesome. And I wouldn't have insisted on being called an ambassador.

And barring me, I can think of about 3 dozen better people, just off the top of my head. Lorne Calvert would have been great. Bill Blaikie? Damn. I was actually hoping (I know, I know) that the Harpercrits were going to get something right for once.

fern hill said...

You would be awesome, Luna.

I was kinda hoping for an atheist, you know, someone who could say: 'I am not biased towards any faith. I think they are all silly.'

Anonymous said...

Check out the Intelligent Design titles listed in the "Good Books" section under "Further Learning".

OTOH, the combination of doubting Darwinism and the lack of mention of proper safety procedures for caving could lead to interesting experiences.

Sixth Estate said...

"Many of our students have been home-schooled."

I'm shocked. Shocked, I tell you.

Kev said...

AARRGGH played the video and an EAP ad played before going to the interview We're not safe anywhere, not even here of all places.

If it couldn't be Luna then Blaikie would have been a wise choice, that is if this embassy of the irrational was about the protection of religious freedom and it isn't. Instead it is merely another misappropriation of public funds directed to the only cause Harper gives a damn about, his own re-election.

deBeauxOs said...

So this fundamentalist religious quack Bennett has been awarded full diplomatic status, an Ambassador at large, not assigned or tied down to a particular country.

He'll be roaming the world, likely helping right-wing evangelical missionaries that CIDA funds get out of jail when they inevitably get on the wrong side of officials in whatever town they're hell-bent on evangelizing.

That should end well.

fern hill said...

Anon: Yeah. Same for LGBT. Patriarchal religion, misogyny, and homophobia make a lovely acid bath with which to persecute the unwanted.

Welcome to the CONs' upsidedownland.

Sixth Estate said...

"I especially like Kenney's comment that "often religious minorities and women are persecuted together by societies.""

I believe this is the appropriate moment for the religious side of the debate to point out that HITLER WAS AN ATHEIST!!!!

There. Did I get that right?

e.a.f. said...

must have faith????? Well this woman doesn't but then I'm not a man, so I'm in the clear.

What a waste of tax $s. They closed the Kits coast guard station in Vancouver without telling the Vancouver police or fire dept. but they opened a dept of religious freedom/????? O.K. well let them burn in hell. stevie slime and his slimers are going to be responsible for the deaths of people because of a lack of a coast guard station, in the busiest harbour in Canada. This bunch of religious trash ought to remember, thou shalt not kill. Closing the coast guard station is like killing people.

their idea of "religion" is just a bunch of christian bigots and christian taliban getting together at the expense of Canadians who do not adhere to their crazy ideas.

Ellen Burkowitz said...

Interesting case, what is important, but the journalists fails to report is what type of teachers these are. The Supreme Court ruled that Christian schools can fire for religious grounds those in a position of ministry and teaching faith. This would be a hard argument to make to justify firing a math or science teacher.

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