Culture

If You Are Too Triggered by Lessons About the Crucifixion, You Cannot Be a Religious Scholar

(Photo: Diego Vito Cervo/Dreamstime)
The University of Glasgow's policy denies reality.

Students in a Bible course at the University of Glasgow are being given trigger warnings before being shown images of the crucifixion — and permission to skip those lessons altogether if they are worried they’ll feel too uncomfortable.

Predictably, much of the conversation surrounding this has been focused on the cultural implications of the policy, and how it contributes to creating a generation of weak little snowflakes. Of course, that discussion is relevant. After all, giving young adults the idea that they deserve “trigger warnings” and protection from potentially traumatic material is ridiculous in a world where bad things are going to inevitably happen to them anyway. They are going to get dumped, their loved ones are going to die, and neither a partner who is done with them nor a metastasizing cancer is going to give a s*** how triggered they are before wreaking havoc on their lives.

But the problems with this policy go far beyond the abstract cultural implications. It’s also objectively, indisputably wrong on a logical level — because receiving credits for a class signifies that you have learned enough about the subject matter to earn those credits, and no student in an introductory Bible course could meet that qualification without having learned about the crucifixion.

The crucifixion may be a traumatic Biblical event, but it is also arguably the most monumental one. The crucifixion and corresponding resurrection of Jesus Christ are the entire foundation of the Christian religion, and yet somehow we have an institution willing to give students credit for a class about that religion’s holy book without them having to learn anything about the book’s most consequential event? I would have no problem with professors offering warnings before displaying graphic images — giving the squeamish ones time to cover their eyes — but giving students the opportunity to opt out of crucifixion-related lessons entirely? Sorry, but . . . nope. Giving a student who did not learn class material about the crucifixion credit for a Bible class is like giving a student who did not learn to do a cartwheel a spot on the gymnastics team, and Glasgow University should be ashamed of itself.

If you really, truly, cannot stomach learning about the crucifixion, then that’s fine. Same goes for any of the law students at Oxford who might find rape or violence law too triggering. (Oxford stupidly has a policy allowing those students to opt out of those lessons as well.) No one can or should be able to force you into learning about things that make you too uncomfortable, which is why, even before trigger warnings, there has always been a way to opt out of material that you don’t think you can handle . . . it’s called do not take a class where material you cannot handle is a central focus of the curriculum. 

#related#Now, I’m not saying that all students shouldn’t have the opportunity to learn about the Bible. Of course they should, and of course those classes’ instructors should be as accommodating as possible. But that doesn’t change how stupid this particular policy is, and that’s a fact that becomes abundantly clear when you think about what would happen to education if all classes followed Glasgow’s logic in this case. Students could pass courses about the Revolutionary War without learning about a single battle because battles are traumatic. Students could pass courses about the Civil War without learning about slavery because slavery is traumatic. Credits on transcripts would mean nothing, degrees would mean nothing, and people could confidently call themselves experts in fields without even having to know the most basic things about them. Call me insensitive, but I’d rather live in a society that recognizes the reality of facts than a fantasy founded on a flimsy collection of self-serving delusions all for the sake of people’s feelings.

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