When we moved back to the Toledo area in 2020, one thing I was excited about was finishing my bachelors degree at the University of Toledo. Personally, it has been a bit embarrassing that it has taken almost fifteen years to do so, and has been a point of shame and contention for myself. My education is not listed on any of my biographies for work, this website, or publications I’ve had. It embarrasses me. After all my first degree is an associates in Pastoral Leadership from Grace Christian University (formerly Grace Bible College which is now in the news because of a lawsuit that is horrific which you can read about here). And that experience was honestly, not one I do not care to talk about.
The first time the history of my education comes up with my peers or coworkers, there is (with the majority) a shift in how I am spoken to, or the way they perceive me from there out. Sometimes it may be subtle but, I always pick up on it because most of the time it isn’t. It ranges from surprise about how much I know on one subject, to explaining things to me that I already know (even though I am pretty good at asking questions about things I’m unfamiliar with), to the point where I know preface responses (depending on who I am with) by saying “now, I haven’t been to seminary but…”.
At the beginning of my professional ministry career, these responses from friends and colleagues had motivated a spite response in me to where I took to heart a line from Good Will Hunting where Matt Damon says to Scott William Winters (after he regurgitates a memorized line from a book in order to impress some people), “you just spent 150 grand on an education you could have gotten for $1.50 in late fees at the public library.” (However, ass my wife will tell you, I didn’t go to the library, I went to our Amazon Prime account. After all, you can’t mark up and dog ear library books.) Now, I am not a genius like Will is in the movie, but consuming books, journals, and articles about Christianity, faith, and ancient Judaism allowed me to form a theology that was not the norm of those I was surrounded by. My mentor Don was someone I learned this drive from. He is, without a doubt, one of the smartest people I have ever met, and he helped show me that all you need is curiosity and the willingness to ask questions, and in all things try to take the posture of a student.
Something that became clear as time went on was, there was a disconnect between how I approached theology and learning versus my peers. I had not yet gone through the system that was perfected by a lot people over generations who were only concerned about getting their denominational views inscribed on the minds and hearts of others. However, something that kept biting me in the ass as I looked for work was my lack of formal education.
Did I have the experience? Yes.
Did I have the sheet of paper that cost tens of thousands of dollars? No.
So after many painstaking conversations in 2012 with my wife, I enrolled in UT’s Religious Studies program. It broke my brain open, and I loved it. For the first time in my life I was in a place that welcomed my ideas and thoughts on religion, and challenged me to dive deeper. This had not been my experience with school. In fairness, until that point I had practically failed out of a program from a Christian university that was only interested in me learning and regurgitating their theology. Naturally, when we moved to Grand Rapids in 2013, I was heartbroken I couldn’t finish my degree program. I received my AA in 2015, and I decided I was done with school for a while. Fast forward a few years, I jumped back into a program only to leave it because we moved to Columbus. Again, I jumped into a Christian university (always because they were cheaper), and I found myself in a biology class that taught a literal seven day creation narrative.
I hated every second of this program, and ultimately I did not finish it because we found ourselves again moving, but this time back to Toledo. After getting settled in April of 2020 and working through the first few months at the new job, I re-enrolled at the University of Toledo, which felt like coming home. Luckily for me, on my first day of classes in Fall of 2020 some of my previous teachers were still there and excited to see me back in the area. Something that was different this go around was that the school now had a Peace and Justice Education minor that I absolutely wanted to take part in. I would have graduated at least a year earlier if it wasn’t for my desire to learn more about these subject, but it has been incredibly worth it. This past Spring I finished the requirements for my minor with a capstone class which was focused on the importance of peace and justice education in houses of worship while paired with the Sermon on the Mount. After it was reviewed, a more polished version of it was accepted to the peace education and social justice journal In Factis Pax.
You can read the article here if you so choose. There is still more work that needs to be done on it but I am incredibly proud of where it currently sits. The goal is to expand and deepen it, but that is way down the line, after all I am working right now on my capstone to finish by bachelors and graduate in December. While this is a diversion from my normal postings, I wanted to share this accomplishment with y’all. Never in my dreams did I think I’d have a book come out, nor did I ever think I’d be published in a journal focused on peace and justice education. Education has been a wild ride, and I look forward to applying to seminaries in hopes to be enrolled in the Fall of 2023. I guess what I am trying to say is, it’s never too late to go back and do what you originally intended.
Grace and peace y’all.