If your roommate starts carrying a rock around in their mouth you can thank Rebecca DeYoung.
Over three four-hour long sessions (given Feb. 16th and 17th) the Calvin College philosophy professor spoke to an intimate group of Covenant Students about a topic they thought got left behind in the Middle Ages: their vices and virtues.
One of the primary vices DeYoung addressed, both in the classroom and in the chapel hall, was “Vain Glory.” During one of the class lectures she recounted how she has her students suck on a tic-tac—an updated version of a practice by the second century Desert Fathers who would carry a small pebble in their mouth—to remind them not to talk about themselves.
Emmie Thompson, a philosophy/biblical and theological studies major who took the one credit class, recounted some of DeYoung’s advice: “In those conversations where you always find yourself kinda wanting to one-up or add your take or whatever, she was like ‘do this practice and you are going to see how much you do that, and how much you talk about yourself, and think of things in terms of yourself. You are also going to realize how much other people don't actually really care.’”
Emmie said she hasn’t done the experiment yet, but she is excited to give it try.
The WIC lectures, while being sponsored by Women in the Church (WIC), a subdivision of the PCA’s Discipleship Ministries (CDM), are not necessarily supposed to be given by women or be about women’s issues, according to professor Jay Green.
“For whatever reason, years ago, [WIC] decided one of their tasks was going to be praying for the different [PCA] agencies and raising money to help each of the agencies do something that would advance their mission,” Green said.
WIC chooses another branch of the PCA to serve each year. About every six or seven years they give Covenant another “love gift.” One of the most recent gifts was money to install a digital lab in Jackson Hall, according to Green.
WIC raised the funds for an annual lectureship in back the early 1990s, Green said.
Dr. Jay Green, professor of history, coordinates the WIC Lectures each year by choosing a speaker and working them into the chapel schedule.
Green said he chose DeYoung, in part, because he began to feel awkward that a woman hadn’t been invited to speak since he began coordinating the lectures. After reviewing a few candidates, Green chose DeYoung for way she was able to simply and helpfully apply the medieval tradition of Christian virtue ethics to personal sanctification and civic virtue.
“A lot of the WIC lectures have been more topic-driven and issue-oriented. This one is, I think, more foundational and offers up more of a framework for thinking about our public responsibilities and our personal discipleship,” Green said.
He is afraid that our modern way of talking about behavior in terms of psychology and therapy causes us to discount the deeply rooted nature of sin. “Even when there is a physiological predisposition to certain kinds of behavior it doesn’t mean it is without rootedness, or is in no way tied to our brokenness—the brokenness with which the Holy Spirit is at work.”
Bethany Sikkink, a freshman who took DeYoung’s class, is struggling with the same questions. “God gives us science and insights into science, and so medicine is not bad. It is bad to pound someone over the head with a Bible when they have a chemical imbalance. That perspective has done a lot of damage,” she said.
These are complex issues. But professor Green encourages students to grapple with them during their few years at Covenant. “This kind of discourse is rare, but it doesn’t feel that way because almost every time you turn around there is some opportunity for a speaker, or a round table, or a panel, or certainly a recommendation for a book that is going to get you thinking. But this is a unique time in your life to have access to this kind of stuff so take advantage of it.”
Professor Green is planning on having John Inazu of Washington University Law School to speak at the next WIC lectures. He will be delivering lectures based on his book, Confident Pluralism, which explores ways that Christians can live with the differences that are threatening to pull our society apart.