Sarah was recently invited, along with two other scientists, to take part in a panel discussion for a group of mostly Christian students. After the main discussion, students were invited to submit questions via text message; there was very little time to address them, so only a few were answered. The questions were quite good, so over the next few weeks, Surak and Sarah will answer most of them here. All of the questions are listed in the Intro to this series. See also: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7; Part 8.
Since becoming a Christian and living in an environment where your faith is tested every day, have you experienced doubt? If so, what has brought you through those doubts?
I have never had my faith tested in my work environment. Science is fully compatible with the Christian faith; in fact, modern science is not possible outside of the Christian framework (as will be discussed in future posts).
However, my faith has been tested numerous times by the increasingly secular humanist culture in America. Mostly that takes the form of concern over the state of the country and the world, material concerns, and worrying about the mortality of my loved ones and myself. What brings me through those doubts every time is: 1) remembering that ours is a fallen world, and realizing how fruitless it is to worry about things none of us can possibly change; and 2) trusting in God’s promises, that Christ will return, and the paradise we all long for will come.
How hard is it to work in the field of academia in an anti-Christian environment from a faith perspective?
I can only speak from my own experience. It’s not difficult at all for me to conduct scientific research in my current environment. I’m not in a tenure-track position, so I don’t know how difficult it might be from the perspective of Christian faculty trying to gain tenure, e.g. if compromises have to be made. Personally, I find the academic environment—in the STEM part of campus, anyway—pleasant and comfortable, and have so far been able to ignore the anti-Christian sentiment that generally pervades most university campuses.
How do you recommend Christian students react to professors who are intolerant of their Christian faith?
It depends on how this intolerance manifests. If a professor merely expresses his/her own personal negative opinion of the Christian faith in the classroom, you could decide whether you want to use this as an opportunity to initiate a class discussion or just let it pass if you think it won’t interfere with your ability to succeed in the class. However, if a professor is actively discriminating against you on the basis of your faith, this is the time for formal action. If you are concerned that you are being harassed and/or punished by your professor (e.g. through grade reductions) because of your faith, then you should immediately take your concerns to the Office of the Student Ombuds.