Christian Right Now Outraged At Being Told Their Faith Is Meaningful to Them

By Amanda Marcotte
Wednesday, March 27, 2013 21:36 EDT
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A Ryan Rotela supporter working hard at the most mentally challenging task of his life.

Ooooooh, did you hear about the evil liberal and no doubt Satan-worshipping college professor who tried to turn all his students against God by having them write the word “Jesus” on a piece of paper and then stomping on it, at what point the ground underneath them opened up and they were all directly swallowed into hell? No? Well, Rick Scott, otherwise known as America’s Stupidest Governor®, sure has, and he’s super angry about it.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has waded into a religious-infused campus controversy, asking the state university system chancellor to look into a classroom lesson at Florida Atlantic University in which students were instructed to stomp on sheets of paper that had “Jesus” written on them.

Scott said in a letter Tuesday to State University System Chancellor Frank Brogan that he was “deeply disappointed” by the recent incident in an intercultural communications class and said it raised questions about “the lessons being taught in our classrooms.” He said he wanted a report on the incident and how it was handled, as well as a statement of the university’s policies to ensure such “lessons” don’t occur again.

“As we enter the week memorializing the events of Christ’s passion, this incident gave me great concern over the lessons we are teaching our students,” Scott wrote in the letter.

The university has apologized, blah blah blah, but as anyone who follows the Christian right and their love of tall tales (backwards messages in records, anyone?) has probably already guessed, Scott’s insinuation that the professor  was trying to teach a “lesson” of hating Jesus Christ or religion or whatever is pure, unadulterated horseshit. I guessed right off the bat that it was either going to be a psychology or communications course where the whole point of the exercise was to examine the power of symbols or taboos or something like that. Sure enough, that’s exactly what it was.

“Ask the students to think about it for a moment. After a brief period of silence instruct them to step on the paper,” the synopsis said. “Most will hesitate. Ask why they can’t step on the paper. Discuss the importance of symbols in culture.”

The point of the exercise was to demonstrate to students that words aren’t “just” words, but have weight and value. Students were told ahead of time that many of them would not step on the paper because of this. Students were expected not to stomp on it, because the point of it was to examine why some words have so much power over us. Not only is this not really that hard an exercise to understand, it’s the sort of party trick to teach an important lesson that church youth groups and camps use all the time. The complaining student, Ryan Rotela, is so incredibly stupid that he has no idea how stupid he sounds.

Rotela, who identifies himself as a Mormon, said that he put the paper back on his desk instead of stomping on it.

“Any time you stomp on something, it shows that you believe that something has no value,” he said. “If you were to stomp on the word ‘Jesus,’ it says that the word has no value.”

No shit, Sherlock. That was the point of the exercise. Too bad you’re literally so stupid that you can’t even learn something after you fucking learned it. I’m serious; I wouldn’t be surprised if this lesson was adapted from a Sunday school class or something. Sadly, however, Rotela is far from the only imbecile in this situation. He’s got an entire law firm backing up his claim that people of faith are deeply insulted when you put together classroom exercises to demonstrate that people take their faith very seriously. Next they’re going to sue someone for praying in church. That’s high level paranoia right there. A stiff breeze will set off what Charles Pierce calls the “raging and Bible-banging and poo-flinging”. The university should have never apologized for a lesson teaching that religious people take religion seriously. No good can come from rewarding drooling levels of stupidity like this. These people are making Jenny McCarthy look like a fucking scientist.

The student in question got suspended, and I’m venturing a wild guess that it’s not, as he claims, in retaliation because he wouldn’t stomp on the word “Jesus” during a lesson where students were expected not to stomp on the word “Jesus”. He has already demonstrated that he’s either a terribly dishonest person or just too stupid to grasp the difference between up and down, so his claims to have been suspended unfairly need to be handled with a giant grain of salt. My initial guess is that he’s on academic probation while the administrators try to figure out how a student who filled his application out in crayon got in, but a little research suggests that it might be something else entirely:

However, according to a letter written by Associate Dean Rozalia Williams, Rotela is facing a litany of charges – including an alleged violation of the student code of conduct, acts of verbal, written or physical abuse, threats, intimidation, harassment, coercion or other conduct which threaten the health, safety or welfare of any person.”

“In the interim, you may not attend class or contact any of the students involved in this matter – verbally or electronically – or by any other means,” Williams wrote to Rotela. “Please be advised that a Student Affairs hold may be placed on your records until final disposition of the complaint.”

Hmmmm, he’s being accused of harassment and threats and specifically told not to contact any other students. Gosh, I wonder what’s going on? I mean, I’m the kind of person who understands that a lesson about the power of symbols might involve demonstrating the power of symbols, giving me apparently super-duper fucking brain powers that are well beyond those of all the wingnuts up in arms about this and the governor of Florida, so I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that Rotela got in trouble for harassing students who did step on the paper. Hey, just a guess, but generally speaking, you don’t get suspended for harassment and told to stop contacting specific people unless you were harassing those people.

Jesus, had he ever actually existed, would no doubt be proud.*

*For those with Rotela-levels of intelligence, this is what’s known as “sarcasm”.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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