More on Matthew Fox

I really hate to belabor this point, but I still cannot understand why Matthew Fox has been invited to speak at ECU this fall at our annual Jarvis lecture series. I received this in an email today:

Matthew Fox, the next Jarvis Lecturer, was prohibited from teaching in the Roman Catholic Church. That is a part of his story, and it is important for understanding both his life and his writings. Bringing Fox in for the Jarvis Lecture, however, does not imply on the part of the Religious Studies Program, or on my own part, any particular view of Roman Catholicism. I wanted to make this point up front, because his unhappy relationship with the Pontificate in Rome will come out both in the summaries of his life and work that I provide over the next couple of months, and perhaps in his presentation.

I can sort of buy this, I guess. While I don’t think ECU’s religion program is outright hostile to Catholicism, inviting someone like Fox is in some way, however minimal, a legitimization of the things he says about Catholicism. And that’s really all he has – every book we read of his last semester was basically whining about how everyone doesn’t understand how much of a genius he is. Inviting him to a serious, scholarly forum only legitimizes his whining as ‘scholarly.’

The main criteria that guide the selection of our speakers is that the person be a recognized and respected scholar and that they have the ability to communicate well to the diverse Jarvis Lecture audience. Of course, they also have to be affordable on our tight budget.

If this is their main criteria, they should drop Matthew Fox and find someone who is “a recognized and respected scholar.” Who is out there taking Matthew Fox seriously? Who is out there championing him as a ‘respected scholar’? Unfortunately, I think someone like Fox is being brought to this lecture series (a series which has had such speakers as Marcus Borg, Lawrence Cunningham, and Walter Brueggemann) because of the shock value of Fox’s statements and nothing more. His attempts at scholarship have been mostly ignored, and when noticed, have been critiqued pretty severely. See, for instance, Barbara Newman’s critique of Fox’s revisionism of Hildegard’s life and thought. There are basically two ways that would legitimize Fox’s invitation: 1) He becomes a scholar and starts doing the work of a scholar 2) The lecture series stops saying that it is an academic forum and instead begins inviting people who are just shouting loud enough.

I’m ashamed that my alma mater is providing a platform for this kind of nonsense.

4 Comments

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4 responses to “More on Matthew Fox

  1. Mary

    I am “virtually” visiting here after learning about Matthew Fox and his work just two days ago when I searched Google using these terms [hibernating]+[spirituality]. One of the main hits brought me to a scanned version of one of his books; AND, it was open to a page in Chapter 8 that said: Who is Humpty Dumpty? This was an amazing creation-centered moment that helped me fill in the “I am _____” blank a la his notion that we each seek a Cosmic Christ from within.

    The word [hibernating] was important to me because it is a main theme in the children’s book called _The Happy Day_ by Ruth Krauss. When I was little I was drawn to that book for its pictures and the theme of happiness. And, yet, I also remember thinking it was a “big kids'” book and that I wasn’t really ready for it yet.

    The Humpty Dumpty theme is important to me because I had a great fall in the rain (literally) on March 28, 2010 (Palm Sunday). Six days after the fall I emailed several staff members at my church for prayers for recovery from my Humpty Dumpty Moment. To me, this experience and its impact on my lived experience is an example of my call to finding the Cosmic Christ. [Even though I was confirmed as a Catholic three years ago in my early forties after having been Baptized at 5 weeks, one thing ALWAYS held me back – the notion that Christ (the historical one) was MY personal savior. I’ve always known that His WAY was a healing path, but that is different that accepting him as a PERSONAL savior.

    Another interesting story here that, in my view, reflects and constitutes creation-centered thinking is this: When I was in my teens I had an assignment at school that asked me to go home and ask my parents separately what animal reminded them of God the most. They both said BEAR, and I thought that was MAGICAL! That has stayed with me for years because I knew it was meaningful. And, just yesterday the meaning was revealed because I learned that Matthew Fox wrote a book called “On Becoming a Musical, Mystical Bear”

    The comments about his scholarship may or may not be “valid”, and it is not my goal to comment on that right now because I think such energy is mis-placed. The question, in my view, is NOT whether or not he is a good scholar, but HOW does he experience God? Scholarship, as defined below, focuses on study in a traditional sense that seems to exclude problem-based learning and experiential learning. Mr. Fox has articulated the problems we face clearly. And, he is offering an experience that, for many, is solution ordered.

    schol·ar·ship   /ˈskɒlərˌʃɪp/ Show Spelled
    [skol-er-ship] Show IPA

    –noun
    1. learning; knowledge acquired by study; the academic attainments of a scholar.

    When I was young, my Mom once wrote to me: “Whatever you do in life, always be a Lady.” So, it appears I have had the answer to the I am _____ question for quite some time. I AM YOUR LADY. And, I am at your service. [What I wrote above reflects my understanding of what it means to find the Cosmic Christ within. Did it take 45 years or two days? Hmmmm]

  2. Joshua McManaway

    Mary,

    The issue is that Fox is speaking at an event reserved for scholars. Since he isn’t one, he shouldn’t be eligible. Thanks for commenting!

    -Josh

  3. Mary

    He founded a university AND has served and may still serve as a scholar in residence. To me, these facts indicate he is a scholar.

  4. Joshua McManaway

    Greetings, Mary. Thanks for your comment, however I feel I should clarify a few things:

    1) Anyone can start a university. You can. Right now. Fox’s ‘University of Creation Spirituality’ was an unaccredited institution. So, sure, he started a university (which failed and closed in 2007), but this is something anyone can do, scholar or not.

    2) Serving as a scholar-in-residence doesn’t mean one is doing scholarly work. Having read most of Fox’s books, I can say that he’s very very light on footnotes. He says things like, “Augustine was fond of saying X” but can never seem to find “X” in Augustine’s writings. As I said above, his ‘scholarly’ work is typically ignored because it’s scholarly on the level that Kent Hovind is scholarly. When it is discussed by academics, it’s discussed as nonsense. Read, for instance, Barbara Newman’s very charitable article on Fox’s use of Hildegard de Bingen. She points out the fact that the Hildegard Fox discusses isn’t the Hildegard of history. She’s a construct that Fox has created out of an historical person in order to serve his new age teaching. That’s not scholarship, that’s propaganda. Ergo, Fox still doesn’t qualify to speak at this lecture series.

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