Why I Haven’t Dropped out of SeminaryPosted: November 5, 2012
Two months ago, I jigsawed everything I owned into four modest suitcases and boarded a Southwest flight from San Francisco to New York City, successfully completing my first cross-country move to begin a three year masters program in divinity at Union Theological Seminary in Manhattan. At some point after my arrival, that fabled, gnawing voice that seems to haunt most American twenty-two year olds stumbled upon a megaphone and began using it liberally to broadcast those hopelessly unanswerable questions I’d hoped to leave on the West Coast: the ones about vocation, purpose, and future.
A month in to my program, after preliminarily discerning that I don’t want to work in a church, I started a love affair with my Google search bar: “What can you do with an M.Div if you don’t want to be a pastor?”; “Ph.D programs in American studies”; “Top law schools US.”
I was drafting an email to a friend of mine whose spouse went to law school at Stanford, wondering if his husband would be willing to meet with me to help parse through some of these questions about where I hope to land after I graduate. “I’m just not sure what I want to do with this degree,” I wrote, struggling to remember why I applied to seminary in the first place. With friends settling snugly into careers in medicine, law, education, and business, I feel embarrassingly naked, knowing only that I love books, people, and Netflix.
Finally, just before boarding a flight back to the City after a weekend with my boyfriend in Phoenix, the clarity I was craving came to me.
Seminary, for me, is not primarily about utility, about what I will be able to do with my degree after I don the red robes of my institution and receive my diploma. Contrary, my years in seminary are an unimaginable privilege, a time and course that are encouraging me to continue becoming the kind of person I hope to be: a man who constantly interrogates his presence in the world, and tirelessly fights–in faith that his efforts matter–for those whose voices and experiences have been unfairly silenced. Seminary, I graciously remembered, is a purposed endeavor precisely because of its ability to subvert the questions my society teaches me matter most: will people be impressed by your job title? Will your salary buy you a designer living room? Will people know your name before you introduce yourself? Instead, it illumines far more pressing ones, questions that–if left unanswered–will compromise my character: will you be a person who sows love in the face of uncertainty and death? Will you be bold enough to decry oppression in all its pernicious forms, even when it means you lose your job and security? Will you choose your children over your career?
For now, these are question enough.