Needless to say, last week was an interesting week.
Admittedly, calling people assholes is not the best way to start a conversation, but for better or worse, I did have a lot of conversations last week: With PhD students, with fellow MDiv students, with former students, faculty members, staff members, bloggers, anonymous emailers and letter writers, and also with the Dean of Students.
Many brought up the fact that, while there was some truth to what I said, it was the manner in which it was said that generated most of the controversy. This sentiment is not lost or wasted on me. Blogging is a balancing act. It is confessional: striving to capture the authentic emotions of the moment (even frustrated angry ones). It is marketing: striving to say something interesting enough for people to actually read it. But unlike a diary or a newspaper, it is also conversational: striving to draw people into the conversation in a way that shows respect for all. Obviously, I’m still working on that last part.
I can also acknowledge that the post in question was a rather truncated viewpoint on what is certainly a complicated issue–communities and relationships are always about more than gimmicky labels, limited experiences, and painting with broad strokes. Certainly, moving beyond those things is a step in the right direction. So I wanted to offer this additional insight in light of my experiences resulting from last week’s blog post.
I wrote a blog post about PhD Students at Princeton Theological Seminary. I said some pretty disparaging things about PhD Students at Princeton Theological Seminary. I got a lot of different responses, but here are the ones that stand out most in my mind:
- A PhD student who sat next to me on the shuttle this week, and listened patiently.
- Another PhD student who calmly offered affirmation and thoughtful insight from the other side.
- Another PhD student, who made it a point to let me know he had been praying for me.
- Another PhD student, who picked me up and took me on an errand run while coaching and preparing me for all possible angles & outcomes in my meeting with the dean.
- And finally a PhD student who sent an email to the dean saying “If he goes down, I want to go down with him.”
If those are the kind of things PhD students at Princeton Theological Seminary will do to go out of their way for a first-year MDiv student, then the only word that comes to my mind is “Grace.”
For what it’s worth, that word applies to my meeting with the dean as well. I spent all Friday morning reading the student handbook, noting (to my dismay) all the ways in which I might legitimately be chastised, penalized, or censored. My undergraduate years, and my all-too-frequent conversations with another dean of students accustomed me to one-way conversations that ended in penance for me. Instead, the dean explained the tense emotions of the community in light of another recent incident (that I had known about, but not considered when writing my post), explained that the Seminary had no interest in micro-managing or censoring student blogs, but asked me very nicely if I might consider toning things down as they work toward reconciliation among the community. I am entirely willing to get on board and work toward that goal.
Are there still assholes at Princeton Theological Seminary? To be sure, and some days I’m one of them. But perhaps where assholes abound, grace abounds even more. This asshole, for one, is grateful for that.