Why is it I find myself humming the theme song from the 1980s sitcom “Cheers?”
Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name
And they’re always glad you came
You want to be where you can see
Our troubles are all the same
You want to be where everybody knows your name
Ah… the hunger and quest for community. To be known by name by those who are glad you came—finding such a place is a great human good!
Here at GCC, there are two communities that I am a part of that have allowed me to participate in this “great human good.” The one is relatively new, and the other is a longer-term community that is producing deep and lasting relational effects.
The first, and newer, community is a Christian Professors Group. As the name would imply, this group is a community of like-minded individuals that gather regularly for discussion on how our mutual faith-commitment can stimulate us in our role as educators. This is a shared comradery that seeks to inculcate and sustain serious reflection on how the Christian knowledge tradition can influence us as participants in our various disciplines as well as move us to “love our neighbor” inside and outside the classroom. It is exciting to be challenged to think about the intellectual virtues needed in the academic context and how these might be modeled in our GCC context. One such intellectual virtue is that of being “fair-minded.” In his book The Outrageous Idea of the Missional Professor, Paul Gould helpful notes:
“The virtue of intellectual fair-mindedness requires that we willingly listen in an even-handed way to those with whom we disagree. It is to strive to understand another’s position and to resist erecting simplistic straw man arguments against our opponents which in turn are quickly (and often smugly) refuted. Perhaps the worry is that being open to another’s viewpoint in a fair-minded way leads to relativism. Alternatively, perhaps the worry is that such fair-mindedness is not possible given our psychological biases. Neither worry is legitimate. Being fair-minded is consistent with the belief that there is an objective truth to be found. Further, one can be psychologically biased and maintain rational objectivity. Our biases don’t stand as an insurmountable wall between our minds and the objective world. Being fair-minded is one application of the golden rule: we would want others to treat us and the views we hold with fairness and charity, and we should do likewise in return.”
Engaging with fellow travelers in the Way as we seek to bring truth, value, and charity to our students and institution has been rewarding.
The second community is one which I have had a longer tenure with—six years—and in which I have found on-going friendship as well as intellectual challenge. I’m speaking of the GCC Philosophy Club. The wonderful community provided by this group of individuals is due, in large part, to the pioneering efforts and ongoing activity of the head of the Philosophy and Religious Studies Department, Peter Lupu. He is the community-builder behind the community we enjoy.
Over the years the GCC Philosophy Club has had many students participate in its activities. Every Friday at 1 pm we can be found outside the LA building under the “Tree of Knowledge” discussing, debating, laughing, and, just in general, having a good time. We even have doughnuts occasionally. There is an exciting energy in having 6-12 students and faculty engaged in topics of keen importance (and some which are frivolous but fun). Our end of the semester meals at a local restaurant are memorable. There’s nothing like experiencing a student committed to communism have to courageously defend his views over a plate of gyros and fries!
One measure of the power of this community is how many students who have graduated from GCC continue to come back and join our discussions. During the peak time of Covid when we were meeting virtually, we sometimes had more former students joining us for our Zoom calls than current students. Personally, I have made friendships with students that have continued beyond their time at GCC. I know students pursuing degrees in philosophy who are now at ASU and U of A, and we continue to stay in contact, trading articles back-and-forth and catching a lunch together when we can. In fact, last summer I met with a group of former GCC students every Friday for lunch at our favorite pizza place—well, it was my favorite. We would discuss philosophy articles and current events. And, of course, all of this was punctuated by tons of laughter, Pepsi and pizza.
Community… the word speaks of the safety and the goodness of friendship. To find it is to find something precious. I’m thankful of the places where everybody knows my name (and I theirs) and they are glad to include me in their number.