My response to Erin Bartram’s “The Sublimated Grief of the Left Behind”

Dr. Erin Bartram has written a beautiful indictment of American higher education. She has composed a post wherein she explains how she gave up trying to get that treasured tenure track position in American higher ed. She tells us of her sense of calling to be a professor, her joy in sitting on committees (commendable), and her sense of despondent letdown in never being hired to that coveted tenure track position she felt was her destiny.

It resonated with me.

I have never shared a response to someone else’s blog post here before, but here goes:

Erin,

I was deeply touched by your wonderful, melancholy post. I have a PhD in Divinity from Edinburgh, which I’m not sure is elite or not. The thing is that while doing the PhD (awarded in 2014) and through now I have been continuously employed but as a minister and missionary in the Anglican Church, which means I always had a steady if humble income (probably similar to yours as an associate professor).

But I, in the tradition of Thomas Aquinas and Martin Luther, have always tried to keep one foot in the world of academia–teaching “The God Class” (think “Survey of the Christian Faith”) here, “Intro to Philosophy” and “Bible as Lit” there. Most recently my cutting edge research into the lived theology of converts from Islam to Christianity led to teaching–wait for it–“Research and Composition”.

Two years ago I was asked to consider moving to Spain to plant a church here and do some other stuff. With a wife and three young kids it was a big ask. Sharon and I prayed about it. I felt like I had to really investigate all options in higher ed before committing to such a move and so I did. I did the CVs and teaching statements (“I don’t  actually know what that is.” –Pinkie Pie, My Little Pony, sorry for not using Chicago….), I did the “make a video and send it to us…” I did the interviews via Skype or what have you. I did the hours of composing a detailed custom q&a document because I had made it to “the last round”–and that while in Mexico for a wedding of a friend from middle school. Some people encouraged me, saying that my area of research (ex-Muslims) was so avant garde, who could resist? Others said that my main area of research was politically incorrect, as it implied that maybe something was lacking in Islam. Anyway, like you, nothing. Enormous amounts of time. Enormous amounts of energy.

My story is different, though, because for me that served as confirmation that God (the same one my Catholic sisters form the 19th Century were concerned with) was calling us to Spain, where we have now been for half a year. But I did feel that hurt, especially at first. Some positions I didn’t care about. But a few of them just seemed…so good. Like such a right fit. Also, I have friends from Edinburgh who, like you, felt that calling–that vocation–to be a professor, but have not been able to secure those positions. So what you wrote touched me.

I don’t know the answers either, but I do know there is something deeply flawed in higher ed in the USA today. There is something evil in telling everyone they must go to college, for it makes the BA or BS little more than the high school degree of yesteryear. There is something foolish in the proliferation of administrative positions in the American university while the number of professors remains more or less stagnant. There is some transgression in practically forcing young people to accrue large amounts of debt so that they will not be able to move out, get married, and have kids if they so wish. In sum, I do not offer any advice, but I offer compassion–a ‘suffering with’–though not to the full extent that you have suffered. It is limited. But it is real.

And here, for your enjoyment, is that most excellent Pinkie Pie quote (this is what comes from having kids…)

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Chuck Huckaby on *Two Stories of Everything*

I had the pleasure of being interviewed by the Rev. Chuck Huckaby on Two Stories of Everything: The Competing Metanarratives of Islam and Christianity recently. The two-part post has his review and then an interview. This is from the interview:

CH: You write: “After living in the Middle East for most of a decade, I must say that I find the public religion of Muslims (and Eastern Orthodox Christians) compelling and refreshing. Yes, sometimes it can be confrontational, but the introspective Christianity of the West with its quietism and compartmentalization strikes me as defeatist, bland, and feeble-hearted.” This relates to one of the key elements of secularism, the internalization of belief. You expanded on this in the book, but I wonder if you have seen this done in a Western context?
DM: The word introspective is from Latin and means looking inwards. The response to this is public religion, meaning an expression of religious commitment lived out in the midst of the people. I have seen baby steps towards this in America—it is easier in Europe. A church opened its grounds to local families for a movie night and it was well-attended, for instance. But that was still on the church grounds. I remember doing theology at the pub in Edinburgh with a local church. The deacon, who was quite liberal I’ll say, and I went to buy pints at the bar and this old Scotsman just saw his collar and started telling him about God. The point is he wore his collar in public, and that allowed a space for witness.
I’m in Spain and I wear my clericals several times a week because our cathedral is a very busy place. One day an old Spanish lady stopped me in the street and said, “I’m glad to see a priest wearing a collar! They used to do that all the time!” So obviously she thought I was a Roman Catholic priest, not an Anglican deacon, but it doesn’t really matter. We need to find ways of bringing the presence and reality of our religious commitment into the public world. No, we don’t need to be confrontational and abrasive—though we should realize that God may indeed call us to that sometimes. And here is me as the evangelical preacher who wants a practical application for everything: be deliberate about saying grace with your family when you eat out. Hold hands, bow your heads, make the sign of the Cross. Not to impress people. But to witness to Christ. To witness that his Church is still alive and well and it’s there at Applebee’s or Taco Cabana.

Read it all at his blog Disciple Making in the Historic Church.

“El que tiene, se le dará”: sermón sobre la parábola de las minas (Lucas 19:11–28)

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Madrid

Como unos de los pastores de la Catedral Anglicana del Redentor en Madrid uno de mis deberes es predicar. Este sermón fue predicado el 29 do Octubre de 2017.

Haga click aquí para escuchas el sermón en el blog de la catedral.

Anglican Cathedral of the Redeemer, Madrid

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I hope to post some more pictures of the cathedral church soon. For now, here is the altar and the cathedra.

This is where I serve as deacon and we have some eight services per week.

  • Morning prayer at 9 AM from Tuesday through Friday.
  • Evening prayer on Wednesday at 5:00 and Saturday at 6:30.
  • Sunday mornings at 11:30 we alternate between Morning Prayer and Communion
  • Sunday night at 9:00 we have our Taizé worship. (Though once November comes that will be moved to 8 pm.)

However, I noted that Wikipedia did not have a page for our cathedral, in English at least. It was there in Spanish. Having composed pages for other previous churches in the Diocese of Jerusalem, I thought I would compose this one too.

So here is the new Wikipedia page, which I hope to expand: Anglican Cathedral of the Redeemer.

Comments on ‘A Clockwork Orange’

A Clockwork OrangeA Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

[Spoiler Alert] Dark, haunting, disturbing. I enjoyed reading the full, original version–the one published in the UK. That is not where the book ends off in the American version or the movie for that matter.

This is not exactly an end-of-the-world book, but it does show you England in a state of decline under a decadent, socialist (?) government. The violence towards humans and the license afforded the entitled and, to be frank, useless Alex (and his droogs) will ring a bell with some of youth culture today. In this Burgess was able to glimpse the shape of future things to come.

At the end of the book Alex starts to think about the permanent things in life–family, work, marriage, children. In this, I think, he was wrong. The shape of our modern post-WW2 ‘liberal’ world order is one of the disenchantment–teaching people not to love anything at all, with the assumption that people will not fight. After all, people only fight about things they care about. And if people don’t care about anything–their homeland, their people, their heritage, their god, their future–then we will have that twisted vision of peace which assumes that peace is nothing more than an absence of violence. The revival of populism (Trump) and nationalism (Brexit) reveal the disintegration of this program for disenchantment.

But Alex (and Burgess) was living in a world wherein marriage and family still had a sort of enchantment to them–a sense that they were among the permanent things. But we, in the West, have destroyed that enchantment. The only thing truly wicked anyone can do anymore is tell someone else that what they are doing is wicked. We have traded meaning for power. But a rootless power carries within it the seeds of its own destruction. Ergo, the West: a civilization without a future and unable to consider its past, and is actively breeding itself out of existence. Call it unnatural desolation, if you will.

If anything, our present is darker than the world of Alex because redemption and maturation were options for Alex. Not so for the droogs of today, who are more mediocre in their pernicious acts just as they are beyond redemption in our disenchanted saecula.

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A tidy list of all my publications…

A while back I realized I really didn’t know how much I had published or where. So I decided to keep a file with that information. And even then, I miss out on stuff from time to time.

I was just updating it tonight and thought I should share it on academia.edu. So I did that (here). But then I thought, why not post it at my blog too. So if you want to download the PDF with all my publications ever, here it is: 2017 03 Miller Publications.