Marcy Bauman (marcyb@UMD.UMICH.EDU)
Wed, 7 Aug 1996 10:19:06 -0400

Well, I've been out of town for a couple of weeks (far, far away from
Oregon, I might add), so maybe this has already been said. I teach in
Dearborn, Michigan, which has the greatest number of Middle Easterners on
the planet who are living outside the Middle East. You'd think that this
environment would provide for some interesting cultural exchange, and
give Muslims and Christians a chance to understand each others' religion
better. I keep hoping that'll happen, but it generally doesn't.

Usually when people (groups of people, usually, because of how my classes
are set up) decide they want to write about religion, I try to talk to
them about the sorts of inquiry which are done in the academy vs. the
kinds of inquiry which elicit and deepen people's religious faith. I try
to point out that library searches, critical debate, and the sorts of
writing I'm asking for are not usually very helpful in dealing with
matters of faith, nor are church services, articles of belief, or
whatever helpful in dealing with matters of intellectual skepticism.
It's not that one set of tools is better than another; it's just that
they're appropriate to different kinds of inquiry. I make the analogy
that you wouldn't use a yardstick to figure out something's weight.

Practically nobody is dissuaded from my initial speech, so when they say
they accept all that and want to research religion anyway, I try to get
them to think about the kinds of religious questions that might occur in
a university context. I've found that it's a constant struggle
(opportunity) to get these groups to think about intellectual issues
regarding their faith: they usually have a hard time finding sources
they want to use in our university library, for example, and it's _real_
difficult to get them past their various religious tape loops. The
writing that I see usually isn't very polished or academic. But I
think the effort is worth it; for many people, this encounter in Comp 105
with the clash between religious truth and academic truth tells them more
about the nature of the academy than anything else I could do, and
probably prepares them better for life in the university than anything
else would, either.

And of course, the thing I really like about people writing about
religion is that I never have to wonder if they really care about their


Marcy Bauman
Writing Program
University of Michigan-Dearborn
4901 Evergreen Rd.
Dearborn, MI 48128

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