What Did I Sign Up For?
- May 25, 2021
- Sage Blalock
Observations from Three Years at a Progressive Divinity School
If you’ve read my blogs or listened to the dearly departed Bite Size Theology podcast, then you know I got a Master of Divinity—the most pretentious possible degree name in the history of academia—at Wake Forest Divinity School. It was an incredibly enriching experience that gave me numerous tools I’ll be able to use for the rest of my life. It also pushed me to the breaking point more than I’d like to admit.
A recent conversation with a friend who also went to seminary inspired me to undertake this project for my next few blogs. So, I’ll be taking you on a journey through the biggest takeaways, scars, and moments of God’s grace that all came from that place in my life.
Because I am eternally in love with providing proper context for my stories—a characteristic that, at least, doubles the length of any tale that I tell—let’s devote the introduction of this series to my journey to Wake.
I come from a conservative evangelical place. The reason I am most thankful for that is that God put me in a place that impressed upon me the importance of the core doctrines of Christianity: Jesus’ divinity, his sinless life, his death’s atoning power to forgive sin (to name only a couple). But this place lacked something I felt was necessary for my development as a minister of the gospel: diversity of thought and life experience.
Some of you may be tempted to stop reading now because you think of “diversity” as a bad word that signals a casting off of theological or cultural beliefs you find important. I disagree.
Being exposed to diversity of thought and life experience make us better. It makes us smarter because we have to learn to think for ourselves, to better interrogate our own beliefs, and to see where other people are coming from. If done correctly, we grow stronger in some beliefs and change radically in others. Just as important, it exposes us to other people’s lives and experiences, taking our intellectual arguments from the realm of the theoretical to that which is more integral to living amongst and loving the people around us: the real. Remember, Jesus hung out with people—religious leaders, sex workers, people whom society had cast out—he didn’t just speak in the synagogue about how they should live.
Though all of the seminaries on my list weren’t diverse, Wake Forest—where Jamie had recently been accepted for a master’s program—was. Ultimately, that’s where we chose to go. Shortly before I got accepted, I received a call from the Dean of Admissions. She wanted to interview me for us to find out if I was a good fit for them and vice versa.
Early on, she asked me a surprising but prophetic question: “Do you know what you’re signing up for?” “Yes,” I answered, “the diverse environment is exactly why I chose to apply.” While I thought that was true, I soon learned I had absolutely no idea what I was in for.