I am not a conservative. There, I’ve said it. You have very little control over who your parents are or how they raise you. As I confessed here many times, I was raised in a conservative Christian home of the fundamentalist stripe. Like most kids scared of Hell I took it all very seriously. It is the reason I followed the career path—or perhaps career swamp trek—that I have. In any case, the other day I was looking through a Baker Academic catalogue. Baker, in case you don’t follow the high drama of the publishing industry, is one of the many Christian publishing houses with roots in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Like most publishers in that collective, it tends toward the conservative end of the theological spectrum. As I flipped through I noticed bio after bio of authors with Ph.D.s from Edinburgh, Cambridge, and other prestigious universities in the United Kingdom.
I hadn’t been warned, you see. Many conservatives who want a doctorate study in the UK because they can do so without taking all those classes that will make them examine the Bible critically. That’s not why I went to Edinburgh, but I can see how it might look like that from the outside. I went to Grove City College—a bastion of conservatism. (I was raised that way, remember?) My next educational move should give the lie to my attempt to remain conservative; Boston University School of Theology was considered the most liberal United Methodist seminary in the pre-Internet days. I attended for that very reason. Edinburgh, my true alma mater, was selected because they offered a scholarship that made it possible for a poor kid to finish a doctorate. I wasn’t conservative when I went, and I wasn’t conservative when I came out.
I didn’t get the memo, I guess. The sneaking suspicion that I might be conservative has dogged my career. My dissertation can be read that way, but it’s not a conservative argument. I merely suggested the decision to marry Yahweh off to Asherah was a bit hasty, based on the actual evidence. I’m all for married deities—they tend to be less frustrated toward humanity. Maybe the Almighty could speak to Mrs. God about correcting these worries about what I “really believe.” I went to a conservative college to learn—there were a fair number of attempts to indoctrinate there, but if you thought about things you could see through them, even with a fundie upbringing. But as I thumb through the catalogue I can see how perceptions can work against you, especially when your first job is at a conservative seminary, eh, Mrs. God?