Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Lectures and Love

I slept early last night to help me stay awake for the long day to come and I woke up an hour early this morning at 7AM- leaving plenty of time to prepare. I reviewed the text that had been assigned for homework and arrived in class almost ten minutes early. With a wide choice of seats available, I sat in the middle of the second row-- right in front of the black board. Professor Kramnick soon entered the room, and after the comical morning greeting, whereby he would take off his watch and have the class say animatedly “Good morning Professor Kramnick!”, he launched into his first lecture of his summer class.
The lecture hall with the moving black boards.
The lecture room from Professor Kramnick's perspective at the
front of the room.

Today’s morning session dealt with justice in Christian thought. Kramnick began with the Old Testament background, wherein justice is embodied as law and command. He then moved on to the New Testament, which rejects the former and defines justice as love. In the New Testament, Jesus Christ emphasizes the importance of forgiveness and obeying God’s command; in Matthew 10:35, there is a transcendence of “narrow human connections”, as Kramnick phrased, in which Christ encourages people to drop family ties for religion.

The Bible is a fascinating object of religious and literary beauty and contains an infinite maze of intricacies that clash together in baffling contradictions. The basic fundamental contradiction of the Bible, as phrased during the lecture, is the coexistence between love and the sword- between love and violence, love and power, peace and violence. The symbol of Christianity, the cross, is a symbol of brutal violence and of horrible death; yet following Christ’s sacrifice for his “sheep”, the cross has come to represent love. I was further enlightened when Professor Isaac Kramnick pointed out that Christianity is one of the most successful ideologies in that it has been survived for more than a millennia and even thrived all over the world.
Ray Schlather stayed after the lecture to answer questions.
In the discussion session we further delved into the Bible’s concepts of justice during an oral discussion and following collaborative exercise. Kevin, my group’s teacher assistant, distributed a handout describing four common conceptions of justice. The first category is Formal Justice, where rules or principles are consistently applied without bias or regard of whether or not these rules or principles are just or unjust. For example, in the Bible God is portrayed as the omnipotent overseer, the judge who deals punishment to those who are due; his principles are not questioned, for they are the word of the Lord and thus are not classified as just or unjust. The third concept of justice is Distributive Justice, where resources such as money or material goods are evenly distributed. The final definition is Restorative Justice, which is common in the Bible. Restorative Justice is characterized by the reparation of harm caused by some wrongdoing, and focuses more on encouraging healing and reconciliation rather than revenge and punishment.

After the different conceptions were discussed, Kevin divided the students into four sections and each was assigned an excerpt from the New Testament to read and answer three questions about the text together. I learned a lot from my peers and was glad to have been able to contribute to the discussion as well. 

The most invigorating event of the day, however, was our first guest lecture by downtown attorney Ray Schlather. I actually came to class twenty minutes early after lunch and had the privilege of having a one-on-one conversation with him. He is a kind-hearted and eloquent man, and I do not doubt his intelligence. He holds the United States Constitution in the highest regard and gave pocket Constitutions to the class. He shared many stories from his experiences of an attorney, and his passion for his field was clearly evident when he became emotional during his recollection of a particularly difficult case. I hope I can find a career I love as much as Schlather loves his. 

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