The lecturer stood to the podium and cleared his throat. Within moments he began his tirade, railing against all manner of things which he disdained. He was highly educated, enviably intelligent, eminently successful, supremely qualified, unanimously endorsed and ever so arrogant in that pre-eminent place.
One of the students turned to a friend and began discussing some trifling matter external to the whole proceedings. The student persisted in his disruption and spoke louder by the minute until many were distracted, including the speaker.
Finally the lecturer stopped his rant and called to the distracter, in an angry and contemptuous tone, demanding, “Do you know who I am?”
The student stood to his feet, paused and then spoke clearly for all to hear. “Yes sir. You are a jerk!”
Taken aback, the lecturer bore into this foolish lad with biting sarcasm. “And what makes you so sure you’re not the jerk?”
The young man explained. “Sir, you are a rationalist, are you not?” The lecturer nodded his agreement. “And you don’t believe in anything more significant than man.” “Of course not!” came the reply.
“So you place your trust in the abilities of the human mind?” The lecturer paused for a moment then gave a nod. “Then sir,” the young man continued, “I contend that you are a Jerk!”
“That’s outrageous!” the lecturer responded. “Certainly not.” The young man hastily replied. “I am human and I have as much right to an opinion as any other. In my opinion, sir, you are a Jerk!”
“Then get out of my lecture!” The lecturer demanded. “No sir, I choose not to do so”, was the reply. “I demand that you go!” “But sir, you have no more right to speak than any other. You have already admitted so.” The lecturer struggled to see how anything he had said gave any significance to this upstart.
The young man continued. “Sir, you have assured me that there is no greater authority in the universe than humans. So there is no morality or dignity apart from what men choose to give each other. I choose to give you none whatsoever. You are thirty years older than the rest of us, so you are out of touch. You were educated before many of the advances we take for granted, so you were taught things we wouldn’t teach today. Mankind and human society have evolved beyond the things that made you what you are. So I say, you are a Jerk!”
The lecturer scanned the room then tried to continue his presentation. Once he had finished his first sentence the student also began addressing the group. Both voices resounded in competition until the lecturer realised he was getting nowhere.
The young man continued. “Here is a man who has denied his own dignity. By enshrining the mind of man he has debased himself to being nothing more than one animal contending with others. He has no right to any moral authority. He has no right to assert his opinion over another. His whole life is of no substance and no consequence. Once he is dead he will soon be forgotten. His opinions will be outdated and his science displaced by later insights. He has thrown his whole life in the trashcan in the vain belief that it will ennoble him. Therefore I say, without equivocation, that he is a Jerk!”
The lecturer watched on, bemused, as the young man abducted his whole class. “Here is a noble being, graced with intellect, experience, insight and abundant personal resources, yet who cannot recognise the dignity of who he is. Instead of acknowledging that God has graced him and given him privilege and significance, he has denied the very existence of God and thus relegated himself to the status of just one more rat on the rubbish heap.”
“Sir, I contend that you are much more than you think. You are worth far more dignity than I have shown you today. I have withstood you now, not because I despise you, but because I want better things for you. I want you to enjoy the amazing wonder of God’s design and purpose in your life. But you insist on being a jerk. You insist on pretending that you have no value at all, except what you can demand from others who have no particular value at all.”
“Sir, I am about to sit. I do so because I want to hear your lecture. I want to be enriched by you. I want to be ennobled by you. But if you deny your own nobility you deny me the richness of the grace God wants to give me through you. Sir, please acknowledge God’s goodness in you. And please continue with your lecture.”
The young man, still standing, began to applaud the lecturer. As he did so he sat down. Everyone applauded, and it seemed they were applauding the lecturer, yet surely they must have been applauding the speech they had just heard.
When the din subsided the lecturer tried to speak. He was not exactly sure what to do next. He finally cleared his throat and said, “I think we have all heard enough today.” With that he turned to gather his papers.
The young man sprang to his feet and began applauding vigorously again. In moments the whole student body rose to its feet, some hooting and hollering while others simply clapped and smiled.
This story continues in a later post – “Disqualified Still?”
Click the link to go directly to the continuation: DISQUALIFIED STILL?