Secular Students in Divinity Schools

I find it encouraging but also slightly puzzling that secular or religiously unaffiliated students are attending American divinity schools. A journalist at the New York Times interviewed some of these students at Harvard Divinity School recently, and my predominant thought on reading the article was, “What do humanists need a chaplain to do?” In spite of the seeming incongruity, it appears that the divinity school students are looking more for values education than anything else. One student had been in nonprofit management, and found that the capitalist values prevalent there were simply wrong, and she needed to do something completely different. One thing that moved her in this decision to attend divinity school was the recent recession that caused so much pain and damage.

This points to the fact that our society has really let the next generations down regarding values and right living. Of this trend toward secular divinity education, though, I find mainly encouragement that some are recognizing the need for decency and right living in work and society, and not remaining satisfied with unreflective money grubbing.   I hope more and more people will come to see that the values promoted by our society are actually harmful, so that our downward spiral can be stopped. If enough people reject capitalist values as this student did, then we may have more hope. I applaud the independent and principled thinking of this new breed of divinity students.

For pagans, however, there is another way; for those who wish to gain skills in ritual and chaplaincy and theological thought, they can attend Cherry Hill Seminary, the only pagan seminary I know of in the United States, although there are other pagan training schools available. Since pagans are likely not very welcome in a traditional divinity school, this allows pagans to study in a supportive community without the confusion of having to learn Christian, for example, theological and liturgical principles.

I hope this trend continues, and that more people take an interest in incorporating spiritual values into daily life.


Copyright © 2015 Teresa Chupp.  All rights reserved.


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