I read the Nov. 19 letter "Teachings based on reason," a response to Tim Vivian's Nov. 14 article, "Absolutism rears head in religion and inflexible 'patriotism,'" and found one critique particularly troubling. While I do encourage the writer to pick up a history book or two (so that she may come to understand one cannot possibly reduce the fall of the Roman Empire to the existence of homosexuality), what most troubles me about the response is her -- to borrow the writer's word --"inflammatory" assertion that she "feels real concern" for Vivian's students.
As a former student of Vivian's, I'd like to assure the writer that she needn't spend her days burdened by this unfounded worry. Born and raised in Bakersfield in a secular family, my feelings toward Christianity -- based on many personal experiences with a particular brand of exclusivist Christianity -- were rather negative when I began my career as a religious studies student at CSUB. Vivian, however, dismantled my unfair anti-Christian bias, helping me to understand that Christianity is not -- historically, doctrinally or in modern practice -- reducible to one definition. Because of his dedication to his vocation, I emerged from CSUB with not only my degree, but with a better, more nuanced understanding of Christianity and its practitioners.
This may not assuage the writer's fears, as Vivian did not instill in me an absolute definition of either Christianity or Christian ethics, but this merely leads me to believe that in her reading of Vivian's piece, she missed his point entirely.