The "Hillside" Mission: A Response

I must confess to being a little perplexed as to how one can be "True to our Christian heritage" and "Encourage students both to learn and to practice Christian values," without also proclaiming the primary and classic Christian value upon which all other values depend and from which they flow, which is Jesus Christ as LORD. If he is LORD, however, it is Jesus Christ who is also lord over all matters of faith and practice, which means that I must respect the individual beliefs of all people, for they answer to God and not to me for their faith.

Seeing "our Christian heritage" as founded upon the First and Second Great Commandments has important consequences. First, my orientation is toward God, the Creator and sustainer of life and of everything that exists.

The Second part, also known as the Golden Rule, is more relevant to my relationship with the administration, faculty, and students at "Hillside College"*, as it encourages me to seek and offer to them everything I would want for myself, were I in their place. This has at least these three important implications.

I seek to learn Truth wherever it may be found, and I reject all manner of deception. Thus it behooves me to speak and act truthfully at all times with respect to other persons. When I am in the position of educator, I must provide my students not only with relevant facts and great ideas, but also the means to continue their own pursuit of Truth after my time of influence is complete. I value my opinions -- otherwise I would change them -- so I must also respect the opinions of other people, even while helping them to see and appreciate differing points of view, insofar as it is my responsibility to do so.

America is a nation of great wealth, and I participate in that abundance by providing value to other people, for which they are willing to pay. It may not be the best of all possible economic systems, but it is far ahead of whatever is in second place. I appreciate having received the help and influence of other people farther along life's road than I, so the Golden Rule encourages me also to share what I have learned with the next generation. Different people from diverse backgrounds need more or less help to achieve their potential. As a computer professional I seek to assist their professional preparation in selected areas related to my own specialty. In an academic context, I would similarly support the institutional efforts to follow sound financial strategies.

No man is an island, the poet said, and everything we are and do is in relation to other people. The liberal arts deflect our attention away from our natural selfish inclinations, and toward a rich fabric of interaction in community. I sought that kind of breadth when I was a student, and I intentionally encourage it in those under my influence.

When I seek employment in an academic environment as today, it is to express and sustain these values. Exercising my professional specialty in the marketplace places a deep focus on a very tiny part of the universe, but sharing what I have received with a broader community in a context of learning validates my existence as a human being.

Tom Pittman
1st draft, 2010 June 25

* Not its real name

PostScript: The college I drafted the above essay for apparently decided I'm a little too diverse for their preferences. I prepared a generic "Diversity" essay for future occasions, which might help to forestall such bigotry. Or at least expose it for what it is.