The Widdershins

Remain Calm, Etc: The Stomp On Jesus Kerfuffle

Posted on: May 2, 2013

Greetings from South Florida, where the fun simply never stops.

Back in March, a professor at Florida Atlantic University held a classroom exercise which was taken from a textbook entitled Intercultural Communication, A Contextual Approach.  The textbook and accompanying instructor’s manual were written by a man named Jim Neuliep, a professor at Saint Norbert’s College.  Sr. Norbert’s is a private, Catholic liberal arts college located in DePere, Wisconsin.  Mr/ Neuliep has used the exercise with his students in the above referenced Catholic college without incident or controversy.   Apparently, no one else has had a problem with the exercise in the other institutes of higher learning that have used the book, either.   Here it is, straight from the instructor’s manual:

“This exercise is a bit sensitive, but really drives home the point that even though symbols are arbitrary, they take on very strong and emotional meanings. Have the students write the name JESUS in big letters on a piece of paper. Ask the students to stand up and put the paper on the floor in front of them with the name facing up. Ask the students to think about it for a moment. After a brief period of silence, instruct them to step on the paper. Most will hesitate. Ask why they can’t step on the paper. Discuss the importance of symbols in culture.

The point of the exercise is to engender discussion of the importance of symbols, and our emotional attachments.  The author states that most students are hesitant to step (not stomp) on the paper, and that asking them about the reluctance leads to a healthy class discussion.

Earlier this year, FAU professor DeAndre Poole offered the exercise to his class on a voluntary basis.  No one was forced to participate.  In one sense, the exercise worked like a charm, as there has been no end of conversation subsequent to this event.   It seems, however, that  the voluntary nature was unsatisfactory to at least one student.   Junior Ryan Rotela, a devout Mormon,  not only declined to participate, but also punched a fist into his open hand and stated that he wished that he could punch the professor.  Unsurprisingly, that bought him a suspension from the university. Mr. Rotela handled the news of his suspension by shrieking that he had been punished for his steadfast refusal to stomp on Jesus.  At that point, all hell broke loose.

Needless to say, all of the fundie churches, aided and abetted by the Tea Party, rallied  to Ryan’s defense.  Rev. Mark Boykin, (The Church of All Nations),  Ren. Nesl Dozier (Worldwide Christian Church), and Danita Kilkullin (Ft. Lauderdale Tea Party) held a rally of a whopping 175 people on campus in support of Neal.  Local conservatives (and there are not millions of them), gleefully pointed out that Poole is the vice-chairman of the Palm Beach County Democratic Party, which of course proves that all Democrats are heathens.  Even our beloved governor got into the act, labeling the event as intolerant, and demanded a complete report.  (Take that, heathens!  The Governor wants a report.)

Despite the fact that Rotela was actually suspended for threatening a professor, FAU caved under the ranting, raving, and ongoing media circus.  Rotela was reinstated, and the university actually issued an apology to him.  Next, the administration removed the offending exercise from the course.  As for Professor Poole, he in on leave of absence because of the ongoing threats being made to him.

Anyone with such utterly delicate sensibilities is ill-served in a public university.  No state university should ever bend itself to the will of religious zealots of any stripe, nor should they compromise the First Amendment.   There are plenty of non-secular colleges and university out there that would welcome such scholars, but avoid St. Norbert’s, where  they actually ask you to think.

This is an open thread.


8 Responses to "Remain Calm, Etc: The Stomp On Jesus Kerfuffle"

I read somewhere that the author was asked why he did not choose an Islamic reference. He stated that he wrote the course for use in the US. The basis of the exercise was to have students discover and discuss their reluctance to step on a piece of paper.

i recall seeing the news on this. I thought initially it was a tempest in a teapot and didn’t know it had gotten to the point the professor had to take a leave of absence. Incredible.

There’s an important lesson here — the mere presence of the symbolism can indeed hamper one’s physical acts. Case in point, that’s why the Gideon Bibles are always kept in closed drawers of the seedy motels where these hypocrites are having their trysts with their parishioners.

I’m told that they are wont to have telephone numbers written in them as well.

@prolix and chat: 😆

The religious zealots will never stop trying to impose their will on others. We are fighting this battle year after year, country after country and they still keep coming. I am not religious, although I was raised High Anglican (Church of England) which is another way of saying anglised Roman Catholic. I have a lovely neighbor who tried to convert me to Islam. We have had secular governments for many years yet now we are seeing that change through the election of fundamentalists of all religions all over the world. They will never give up. Sorry for being chicken little with the sky is falling, but I am afraid of what is occurring.

So the devout Mormon, defending Jesus, threatened violence in Jesus’ name. Ditto all of his defenders, forcing the teacher to go into hiding? I believe this might be irony?

Indeed it is. Of the first order.

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