December 20, 2010
Well, this is the week; it’ll likely be “all ‘christmas’, all of the time.” Do you hear a little “bah, humbug” coming from my keyboard? I’ve chosen to refer to the onslaught as “small ‘c’ christmas” rather than “big ‘C’ Christmas.” Small “c” for the mall version; big “C” for the Bible version…
I was in New York over the weekend, where I started my days with the local paper – the New York Times – and did cultural digs to see what that iconic paper would feature in the lead-up to Christmas, 2010.
Two stories caught my attention. One of them owned front page headlines on December 19 th, nationwide: after 17 years of policy prominence, “don’t ask; don’t tell” is no longer SOP (standard operating procedure) for military recruiters. The effects – ripple or tsunami – will follow, as the change finds its way into the uniformed ranks of America’s armed forces.
The other was buried deeply in Saturday’s edition. A lawsuit is underway – Gaskell v. the University of Kentucky – that plays on some similar American issues.
Dr. C. Martin Gaskell could have lived his lifetime unknown to any but the students in his college classrooms, but he experienced a cosmic collision three years ago that has sent fragments into a courtroom in Kentucky.
The background, in brief: in 2007, Gaskell was a leading candidate for the job running an observatory at the University of Kentucky at Lexington. His professional résumé, with postings at public universities in other states, suggested his qualification for the position. But, as anyone loosely connected to college life can attest, controlling one’s web identity is a critical factor in protecting one’s future employability.
For most people, that means exercising discretion about pictures posted to Facebook, or their digital rantings about people, places or party proclivities. For Dr. Gaskell, the internet turned up concerns that became – according to his lawsuit – a barrier to his selection for the position.
During his interview with the chairman of the physics and astronomy department, he was asked about his religious faith (a legal landmine, as any human resources neophyte could tell you). According to Gaskell, he was told that the expression of his religious beliefs would be “a matter of concern to the dean…”
The “smoking gun” is an e-mail from a university staffer (to the chairman) who reported on an internet search regarding Gaskell. She found links to his notes for a lecture that explored – among other topics – how the Bible could relate to contemporary astronomy.
From her e-mail assessment: “Clearly this man is complex and likely fascinating to talk with, but potentially evangelical. If we hire him, we should expect similar content to be posted on or directly linked from the department website.”
There’s a line for you: “potentially evangelical.” Not “actively evangelical,” but “potentially evangelical.” What does it take to be disqualified from public higher education in America, in 2010?
Homosexuals are now protected as candidates for military service, and public political figures cheer. Evangelicals are now rejected as candidates for educational service, and public political figures are silent.
The ultimate headline was not in yesterday’s New York Times: “God Sends His Son to Redeem the Lost.” The world of 2000 years ago was lost (“unable to find one’s way; not knowing one’s whereabouts”); the world of 2010 is just as lost. He sent Him then; He sends Him now; He has no mention in the mall ‘christmas’, but He’s the only headline for the Bible Christmas…