Last week, in my current critical thinking course, a student brought up a recent series of shootings in a local city. It led to more than an hour of discussion about how we think about these kinds of crises. Do we just rant and rave about them? Do we blame someone? Do we sigh with disgust? Or do we critically – and as objectively as possible – run down enough information to have some idea of the scope of the problem (or in this situation, multiple problems), and begin to find some threads we could pull to make the situation better?
Later that evening, another faculty asked me how I deal with this kind of class, being a religious person, for whom life is about faith and not critical thinking. I replied that I don’t think the two are separate, which was met with disbelief. If faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen,” how can you even begin to claim the ability to think critically?
It’s the assumption that all people of faith are stupid – and I have to say that I really resent it. There’s no charity in my reaction when people assume that I’m dumb, gullible, unreasonable, etc. And yet, we do know why those outside of faith think that, don’t we? They watch the news and see religious people of all faiths taking stupid uncritical actions in the name of their faith.
In preparing for this week’s critical thinking class, I worked through hours worth of news reporting – and the term “hell in a hand basket” kept coming to mind… My parents used it from the time I was a child to refer to situations rapidly descending into chaos – and this last week has been that in many ways, locally and internationally.
Another phrase kept coming to mind as well: “Faith seeking understanding.” It is a quote from Anselm and referred to his desire that his faith should support his understanding, not replace or diminish it. I don’t know how we got into this current hand basket but I do know that if people of all faiths don’t begin to think critically, to use their faith to understand the world instead of using it as a shield against critical thinking, we are not going to like the end of our journey.
With prayers for peace,