by Robert Jensen
In a world of spin, no one expects truth from corporate executives or the politicians who serve them, but many of us hold out hope that in the classroom and sanctuary we can engage one another honestly in the struggle to understand the world and our place in it. So, while Iâ€™ve had my share of squabbles with schools and churches over the years, I remain committed to them as important truth-seeking institutions.
As a university professor who has recently returned to church membership, I have a lot riding on those hopes, which is why it was particularly disappointing in recent weeks to be scheduled for speaking engagements and then abruptly canceled by a Catholic diocese and a private high school in Texas. In both cases, some people in the institutions were eager to have me share my knowledge and experiences, only to have the leadership give in to complaints from conservatives.
My disappointment wasnâ€™t personal -- Iâ€™ve been rejected enough to be able to roll with these punches -- but about a concern for the future if the institutions we count on to create space for dialogue are so easily cowed. The problem isnâ€™t that I lost chances to speak, but that everyone lost a chance for engagement.
The first cancellation came from the Diocese of Victoria in September. Staff members organizing the annual â€œConference for Catechesis and Ministryâ€ asked if I would lead one session on media coverage of the Middle East and another on strategies for speaking with children about war. I signed on immediately, grateful for the opportunity to discuss these important issues.