Thought Crimes


I went to a small Bible College with an enrollment of roughly 500.  It was a conservative college right smack in the middle of Santa Cruz County.  To say that our neighbors did not share our world view would be a gross understatement.  We used to joke about ourselves saying that we lived in the Bethany Bubble.  We had a very rigid view of reality.  Esoteric debates on theological subtleties were allowed.  But if you ever challenged a tenant of faith, you would quickly become a pariah.  I had many friends who where chewed up and spit out for nothing more than expressing what I would call “thought crime.” (Ala 1984)

Here are a couple of thought crimes:  The Bible might have errors or inconsistencies.  Gay people can be Christians (or that they might have any destination in the afterlife other than Hell).  Other religions have validity.  The earth is more than 5000 years old.  Social drinking is acceptable.

Now when I lived in the bubble, I took great pleasure dancing on the razors edge of “thought crime.”  I never would directly challenge orthodoxy.  But I loved asking questions that would make people uncomfortable.  Challenging people was all in good fun until I was no longer in the bubble.  Then it went from friendly joisting to open conflict.  I was not challenging the status quo; I was totally outside of the framework.

Fast forward 20 years.  I no longer live in the bubble.  But my kid sister-in-law (SIL), she is right smack in the middle of it.

There was a bit of an awkward moment during Thanksgiving.  We were watching Voyager with Ethan and the episode was about a race of dinosaurs that had evolved from earth and moved to another planet when the big asteroid hit.  I did not give it a second thought.  It was science fiction, a story.  But I became clear about 1/3 of the way through that my SIL expected us to explain to Ethan that evolution was not true.

Unfortunately for her, I do believe in evolution and we were just watching a TV show.  Do I think a race of dinosaurs left earth before the asteroid to pursue adventure in outer space? …No, neither did I think it required any explanation.

But I know exactly what she must have been feeling.  This TV show was casually spewing heresy into our living room.  Surely something needs to be said.  <Crickets chirp>

I kind of felt bad for my SIL.  I did not want to rattle her cage bubble.  I would not wish a loss of faith on anyone.

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2 comments on “Thought Crimes

  1. I also attended Bethany College -but it was the one located in West Virginia, just outside of Pittsburgh. My family had gone there for three generations. Luckily although it was obviously a Christian college they were quite liberal in all things. Completely dug my Judeo-Christian History professor.
    He had graduated from Yale (after obtaining his BA at Bethany) and was about 80 years old. He taught those classes as a history type of subject. In other words we would discuss when and why certain portions of the bible were written, the political climate during each time period discussed, the changes made in wording and meaning over the years it has been compiled.
    In other words: It was not religion shoved down your throat. It was a study of the texts compiling the old and new testaments.

    Good thing as I was raised agnostic. Loved that school. Have to say that social drinking wasn’t encouraged… more like alcoholism heh.
    Bethany used to provide kegs of beer for the students during Winter Carnival and green beer in the cafeteria on St. Patrick’s Day.

    developed a love of theology -for ALL religions- which lasts to this day. can’t get enough of learning about any and all belief systems. Oh, and I’m an atheist.

    Great story and wonderful post. thank you for sharing it!

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