My senior religion seminar

My senior religion seminar this semester is, quite frankly, a big, fat joke. It’s awful. Last semester my seminar was on ‘Socially Engaged Buddhism’ – certainly far afield for me, but still extremely interesting. This semester we’re focusing on one author: Matthew Fox. If you aren’t familiar with Matthew Fox, he was a Dominican priest who left Catholicism because of his new age-y teachings. We’re reading a bunch of his books this semester and I’ve basically identified a pattern in the first one we read (Original Blessing). On every page he either 1) Praises himself as the greatest theological mind this side of the Church Fathers 2) Blames Augustine for any theological idea he doesn’t like (even if Augustine wasn’t the first to hold it)   3) Builds a strawman argument against “the West’s” theology (as if there’s a single, homogeneous theology floating around) or 4) he insults people (he actually compared the Pope to “the Fuhrer”).  He comes across as whiney and ridiculous to me. He harps on Augustine page after page, but then named one of his books “Confessions”. He tacked up his own 95 Theses on the church door in Wittenberg. He argues against dualism while maintaining a “Me vs them” attitude (not to mention the ‘right brain vs left brain’ that he mentions all the time).  He dislikes Descartes but is so unbelievably Cartesian in his translation of Jn 1.1-14 (“In the beginning was the Creative Energy……” instead of res cogitans, Christ is now a res faciens).

In the first book, I found something on the order of 20 misquotes of historical persons, false etymologies,  and straight up lies. He tries to recast Hildegard and Meister Eckhart as “creation mystics”. He conveniently edits out the things that make Hildegard a 12th century Benedictine Abbess. The thing that bothers me the most: he writes this stuff for lay people who are never going to know any better. I’m not saying all lay people won’t research it, but the grand majority of people who read his books are going to think he knows what he’s talking about and move on from there.  That’s upsetting to me. I feel for those people.  I also wonder why we’re dedicating an entire semester to reading some whiney liar. I think we’d do much better to just spend the entire semester reading Augustine or Hildegard.

3 Comments

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3 responses to “My senior religion seminar

  1. For a good laugh, read Harold Bloom’s take on Fox in his THE AMERICAN RELIGION.

    • Joshua McManaway

      Just read The American Religion and loved it – thanks for the comment. His comments about Fox are brief but entirely correct. Though Bloom attempted (three times) to read Fox’s “The Coming of the Cosmic Christ” (a naive and shallow attempt at something theological) and failed, I had to read the whole thing (and more). If anything, Matthew Fox is a great model for what not to do.

  2. Ugh — former Dominicans are the worst (cf. Fox, Crossan, Hoinacki, Bek, etc.). They are, however, followed closely by former Jesuits, and then by former Augustinians.

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