Two weeks ago, Mt. Hood philosophy instructor Chris Jackson gave a presentation in which he asked a simple question: Should the college hire religious fundamentalists?
His presentation centered around the use of an analogy (as one could reasonably expect from an instructor of philosophy). The analogy went as follows: “If it would make sense, be reasonable, for a person to put an applicant of someone who belongs to a white separatist organization at the bottom of the pile, maybe not hire that person, or at least think that that’s going to be problematic, not fitting in with the values at Mt Hood or any university that I’m aware of, then by analogy maybe it follows that we should think twice about hiring somebody that we know comes from a church where they believe and adhere to the scripture as being the literal word of God.”
If that seems a little wordy – again, philosophy instructor.
As far as we at the Advocate can tell, Jackson was saying that if we’d have a problem with a white supremacist teaching at Mt. Hood, should we then have a problem with a religious fundamentalist teaching at Mt. Hood?
We suppose it boils down to what exactly is meant by “religious fundamentalist.” Jackson cited two scriptural verses:
“A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet,” (Timothy 2:11-12); and
“If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.” (Leviticus 20:13).
Now, if you happen to identify as a woman, or as queer, we highly doubt either of these verses make you feel very good, or valid, or safe. Specifically the whole “surely be put to death” bit. If you’re walking around campus as an instructor and you’re looking at your female students and your female colleagues thinking this shit, then, yeah, maybe Mt. Hood isn’t the place for you. Maybe college as an institution isn’t for you. In fact, we can think of several “institutions” that would probably be the most beneficial place for you, and for society as a whole.
But who, exactly, is Chris Jackson to decide which religions are acceptable and which are not? All right, yes: He’s a philosophy instructor, his career has been dedicated to figuring out how people think what they do and why, and we don’t mean to diminish that or make light of it in any way. As a pure exercise in reason, his analogy is worth considering, and has merit.
That said, the questions Jackson is asking, and the implied actions that would be taken as a result of using his analogies as the basis for hiring practices, are tantamount to religious discrimination. Essentially, he’s saying, “I mean, if you wanna teach here and you’re religious, that’s cool, but you can’t be too religious.”
Where do we draw the line between being religious and being a religious fundamentalist? Jackson defines it as “a church where they believe and adhere to the scripture as being the literal word of God,” but is it really that black-and-white?
Is it possible to believe in God without believing that you need to kill homosexuals?
Is it possible to believe in miracles, in salvation and redemption, without believing that women are inferior?
Is it possible to believe in heaven, without condemning all those who don’t to hell?
It’s not up to us to say.
But discriminating on the basis of faith seems an awful way to weed out people who go against Mt. Hood’s professed values.
Do we at the Advocate believe MHCC should hire someone who’s a member of the KKK? No. Do we think our college should hire someone who pickets for the viciously anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church? No way – but we should base these decisions on the actions of the individuals in question, and not on their faith, in an of itself.
For to do so would go against the very value Jackson’s analogy is seeking to uphold.