In his role as prophet to the nation, Martin Luther King, Jr. drew on
the ancient wisdom of both the Greeks and Hebrews. From Aristotle he
learned that the character of an orator is of prime importance,
but not in the ways we moderns might imagine.
What ought to be the relationship between the church and the academy? Does professional theology matter for congregational life, and vice versa? What do preachers and professors have to say to each other?
Outrage is pouring in from all sides — as
it should. Terry Jones is the kind of ”pastor” who gives clergy a bad
name; the kind of ”Christian” who affirms the worst suspicions of
skeptics and cynics. His plan to burn copies of the Qur’an on Saturday (September 11) is a stunt both feeble and horrifying.
The first time I taught an introductory
world religions class, one of the students was a quiet Afghan named
Mohammed. When it came time for oral presentations, Mohammed talked
about Jesus. As a devout Muslim, he knew a lot about his subject.
A tacit assumption is that PowerPoint computer presentations are merely a means to an end, a value-neutral tool used for innocent, even noble purposes: enlarging text for the hard of seeing; reducing the demand for printed materials; bringing younger people, who spend much of their lives in front of screens—TV, computer, cell phone, PDA—into worship. But PowerPoint is not value-neutral. As information design analyst Edward Tufte has argued, PowerPoint promotes a kind of cognitive style that routinely disrupts, dominates and trivializes content.