Small Scale Tyranny

Summit Semester Zachary ShepardTypically, a debate on the morality of abortion, an accusation that a student is a communist radical, and a discussion about observing the biological anatomy of a fish would occur in three largely different circumstances. During Dr. Bauman’s class, all three can arise in one hour.

Full of humor, visionary insights, and the dissection of modern viewpoints, Bauman’s lectures always leave me with a different world perspective than I had before the 90 minutes of teaching started. Whether spent examining the works of Chaucer or the role of Stephen in the early Christian church, all lessons end up full of ideas applicable to one’s walk with Christ. It is amazing how our three courses-English Literature, Church History, and Church in Politics-often point towards basic questions such as “What does love look like?” and “What is God’s image?” However, while the organization and topics of our classes are fascinating, the real focus of this post is on the dictator of the class himself-Dr. Bauman.

When describing Dr. Bauman, the film industry provides a perfect image of comparison to our professor. In The Incredibles, super-hero outfit designer Edna Mode appears to be a tiny, innocent looking woman who would love to discuss quantum mechanics over a cup of tea. And then she starts to talk. You soon realize that in front of you stands a woman you would never, NEVER want fighting against you.

Dr. Bauman is the theological equivalent of Edna Mode.

At a first glance, he seems like a kindly gentleman who would love to patiently explain the history of The Renaissance to you over the table of a French café.

And then he starts to talk.

A master of both thought and rhetoric, he takes your presuppositions about topics such as Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac, turns them on their heads, and leaves you wondering why you where ever stupid enough to bring up the topic in the first place. He can play Devil’s Advocate like Debussy can play the piano, and using a completely secular viewpoint he can shut down almost any religious idea in your insignificant mind. In a debate, he is both judge and interrogator, accuser and defender, observer and participant. In addition, Dr. Bauman is a strong advocate of clear thinking and language, and if you bring up a point that has not been well thought out, he will find the chinks in its armor and destroy it, embarrassing you in the process.

One day in class, I heard Dr. Bauman say something that petrified me where I sat: my own name. I looked up and was immediately challenged to create a way to defeat terrorism. In an attempt to think outside the box, I suggest that the US should create temporary militant alliances with nations that have strong military forces to destroy ISIS at its source. However, in a moment of poor mental choice, I chose China and Russia as my examples. Immediately I became the communist student. When I scrapped that idea and suggested domestic gun control in a classroom with multiple Texans, I sealed my reputation as the student most likely to have a red star tattooed on my body.

Bauman took my argument and destroyed it (of course), framing me in the process. If you have an idealism you believe, even when much more practical than communist alliances, Dr. Bauman will challenge that standpoint from every attackable point, reducing it to a mere pile of ash. And yet, like a phoenix, it is only from the ashes that improved opinions and thought processes may rise. So Dr. Bauman prepares the construction ground by tearing down the rotted wood huts occupying the land, readying the area for the creation of condos. Like the removal of a deformed wisdom tooth incurs pain, the destruction of your “well thought out” perspectives hurts both pride and intellect. But in the end, you leave your discussion with Dr. Bauman a better thinker, theologian, and person. You learn to study an idea from every possible angle, scrutinizing it like a Marine Biology major may study single aspect of a fish’s anatomy.

Have I had my ideas torn apart by Dr. Bauman? You would have to be C. S. Lewis for them not to have been. But I have learned so much about the origins of Christianity and how its views may be applied to political debates such as abortion and same-sex marriage. Sure, I’ve left classes with my head in shambles and my tower of ideas toppled. I’ve been labeled a communist radical as a result of thinking outside the box, and yet sat stumped, unable to find the basis on which every man is equal. But I’ve learned. And in the end, that’s Bauman’s goal — to shape us into independent thinkers, resistant to the blows of the secular world.

We are undergoing purification of thought through fire. And that fire’s name is Dr. Bauman. And I am thankful for this painful process, for I know that it is shaping me into a wiser man of God.

Zachary Shepard joins this year’s Summit Semester Class from right here in Colorado. Future study plans for Zachary include subjects such as Mathematics, Physics, and Medicine. In the future, Zachary looks forward to combining his love of Mathematics and Biology in a research related field. During his time at Summit Semester, Zachary is looking forward to growing in his understanding of the Bible and Christian Thought, developing solid friendships with the other students, and fitting in some exercise. In his free time, you’ll find Zachary making music, enjoying great science fiction, or striking up a good conversation with those around him.