Campus Reform, followed by Rush Limbaugh, poked fun this week at the Very Reverend Jane Shaw, newly appointed dean of religious life at Stanford University (and no relation to me). They ridiculed her for naming climate change as the most important issue of our time, for saying that she’s not very “churchy,” and for wanting to bring more art into religion (as she has done as dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco). She is also a lesbian. The point seems to be that she is not really religious and this is a sign of our society’s decline.
Okay, she deserved some of it. How can any Christian consider climate change the issue of our time in the face of vicious wars (complete with beheadings), global poverty, and racial animosity in our own country? It defies common sense.
And Dr. Shaw, as interviewed by Palo Alto Online, is indeed the epitome of the British female academic. Speaking with a full-throated British accent, wearing very round horn-rimmed glasses, she is easy to parody–astutely informed about the Bible, biblical history and English literature, but not communicative about the role of God, in her life or anyone’s.
But she did say that she reads Morning Prayer every morning and Evening Prayer every night. Give her something for that!
And we really don’t know much about her spiritual life—although she was quick to say that she welcomes people into the church whether they are spiritual or not.
I fault the interviewer, who seemed afraid to ask questions about Shaw’s faith and instead asked her about non-religious issues such as the role of technology in modern society. I’d like to know whether Dr. Shaw believes in God; and if so what does she mean by God? In fact, do Anglicans believe in God these days? Does “anything go” theologically? Where does Anglican theology fit into “religious life” if at all? What is religious life if it isn’t just spiritual? And so forth.
Then we might criticize her answers. Or we might be surprised.