Monday, April 01, 2013

Stomping on Jesus and the Power of Words

Not sure how many of you have seen the article about the Florida university professor who asked his students to write Jesus on paper then stomp on it.  Long story short, one student refused, and allegedly (the university denies it) got into trouble for refusing to do the assignment.  Now, they are saying, the assignment should not have been given.

My original reaction was, "What possible reason would anyone have for assigning kids to 'stomp on Jesus'?"  Then I read in the article that the professor got the idea from a lesson on the power of words.

And my head hits the desk.  Repeatedly.

Let's look at this scenario.  Professor asks students to write an important word on paper.  In this country, which still is primarily Christian, that word is "Jesus."  It's on paper:  it's just a word, a combination of letters, right?

So stomp on it.

One student refuses.  Now here is where it gets stupid.  Instead of insisting he "finish the assignment," he should have been asked, "Why not?"  Let him reply:

Why not?  Because it's more than just a meaningless combination of letters.  It stands for my Savior.  It stands for the core of my beliefs.  It stands for something sacred.  I'm not just stomping on a piece of paper.  I'm stomping on Jesus.

THAT is the reason behind the lesson. Words have power.  Words have meaning.  And some words have meanings that deserve respect, even for just the word itself.

Think about it: why do we care if someone burns a flag or burns someone in effigy--it's just a combination of materials after all.  Or is it?  Why does it feel so cleansing to write an angry letter and then rip it up--those are just letter combinations.  Or do they stand for something more?

IMHO, Professor Poole failed his own lesson, because he totally missed the point.  The Florida Atlantic University officials failed the lesson, because rather than making sure it's applied properly in the future, they are going to remove the lesson totally.  I'd even say any true believers who stomped on the paper missed the point, because words stand for things, and they disrespected what should be the most respected thing in their lives, all because a teacher suggested it.

And the boy who refused?  Give him an A.  He gets it.


nissa_loves_cats said...

Imagine if a professor asked students to write 'Mohammed' on a piece of paper and stomp on it. The professor would be fired for 'hate', and the students who stomped on their papers as the professor asked them would be in trouble for their anti-Muslim behavior. And the people who nodded in agreement with that way of handling things would not understand that stomping on 'Jesus' was comparable to that.

Susan Hornbach said...

Our words are powerful Karina, and your response proves that. The student who refused to stomp does get it, and did have a right to refuse, but more than that, the teacher should not have had a right to order such an assignment. Jesus said to turn the other cheek 70x70, but he did not say to do it forever.

Christians do not have to deny God because some hateful teacher decides to get his jollies by seeing how their little Christian students will react when he gives them an impossible assignment to do.

Taking the teachers name, along with the University's name,and the assignment given, running it through the press, the internet, and finally taking back to them what's been stamped on their names, and saying, "Here is my final assignment. It's what happens when you stomp on the name of Jesus."

We as Christians sometimes need to treat others as they would treat us. Turning the other cheek may sometimes not be productive!

I say life lessons to them, becsue now the internet is showing them how to stomp on someone's name! The power with in us, the power of words. Thanks for sharing this article.

Karina Fabian said...

Nissa and Susan. I understand where you're coming from and agree, but that wasn't the point I was trying to get across.

The only reason this incident became about "stomping on Jesus" is because the professor didn't understand his own assignment--and, to be frank, the students (with one exception) have lost sight of the power of words.

The thing is, for the assignment to work, it had to be a powerful word, and in the US, that word should have been "Jesus." Or, if he'd wanted to acknowledge his multi-cultural class (if they indeed were, he should have had the Muslims write Muhammad. Generic words like "love" or "freedom" would not have worked.

Had this assignment run properly, everyone would have objected, and they could have discussed the power of words. As it is, the professor should have stopped them--or when the one person objected, used him to open the discussion. (If he'd had to stop them, he could have opened the discussion with "Who felt wrong doing that?")

Instead, the professor totally missed the point of the assignment. I'm not ready to say this was an anti-religious reaction by the proff so much as a "student challenging my professorial authority" issue. Again, because the PROFESSOR MISSES THE POINT, which is that he was supposed to be challenged.

Our society has forgotten that words are there because they have meaning. Because they stand for something more than the words. We want to redefine or water down meanings or totally change the meaning. That's fine if you want to use "decimate" to mean destroy or to say "That hot guy is really cool" but some words are sacrosanct.

Of course, now we're in a society where saying OMFG (Oh, My F***ing God) is considered a cute way to expressing surprise. I suppose that kids stomping on a page with their Savior's name on it doesn't mean much anymore.

But it could have been a powerful teaching moment...if the professor had done his job right.

I keep thinking of the movie Dead Poets Society. I could have seen Robin Williams doing this exercise with his kids and having an awesome discussion from it. (And, no doubt, he'd have taken heat for even suggestion his students stomp on Jesus' name, but it would have been about the appropriateness of the exercise and not religious persecution/discrimination.)

Karina Fabian said...

Forgive the typos. Too much caffeine!

Sue Freivald said...

Any who have read C.S.Lewis' trilogy starting with Out of the Silent Planet, gets it.

David A. said...

I've seen something like this before in a Japanese anime (not with christian figures), so I did some research into its origin.

Below is an excerpt from the wikipedia article on the practice of 'fumi e'

A fumi-e (踏み絵 fumi "stepping-on" + e "picture"?) was a likeness of Jesus or Mary upon which the religious authorities of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan required suspected Christians to step on in order to prove that they were not members of that outlawed religion.[1] The use of fumi-e began with the persecution of Christians in Nagasaki in 1629. Their use was officially abandoned when ports opened to foreigners on April 13, 1856, but some remained in use until Christian teaching was placed under formal protection during the Meiji period. The objects were also known as e-ita or ita-e,[2] while the forced test was called e-fumi.[2] The "ceremony of e-fumi, of trampling on images, was well enough reported in Europe already by the early eighteenth century to have left a mark on works of imaginative literature like Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, Oliver Goldsmith's The Citizen of the World, and Voltaire's Candide," according to Prof. Michael North in Artistic and Cultural Exchanges Between Europe and Asia, 1400-1900.[3] In modern Japanese literature, treading on the fumi-e is a pivotal plot element of the novel Silence[4][5] by Shusaku Endo.

The Japanese government used fumi-e to reveal practicing Catholics and sympathizers.[6] Fumi-e were pictures of the Virgin Mary and Christ. Government officials made everybody trample on these pictures. People reluctant to step on the pictures were identified as Catholics and were sent to Nagasaki. The policy of the Edo government was to turn them from their faith, Catholicism; however, if the Catholics refused to change their religion, they were tortured. As many of them still refused to abandon their faith, they were killed by the government. Executions sometimes took place at Nagasaki's Mount Unzen, where some were dumped into the volcano.


Is this professor knowingly trying to cause history to repeat itself - except in America? Creepy.