Dr. Leo Perdue

I read today of the death at 70 of my first professor of the Bible.

Dr. Leo Perdue is to blame for me throwing and then stomping all over one of my expensive text books in my dorm room one night midway through my freshman year. “Agggh! This stuff is going to make me lose my faith!” I was legitimately afraid. Who would I be if the stuff he assigned us to read wiped away my faith?

I chose church youth group over ballet when I was fifteen. I refrained from doing (some) things in the back seat of cars with boys because I was the good Christian girl, president of the statewide youth group for my denomination. I was an upholder of good Christian morals. I hadn’t gone to college to lose my faith. I’d gone to deepen my faith and prepare to be a minister. If I lost my faith, who was I and what was I going to do with my life?

Myth in the Bible? No! It was all true, every last word. Different authors within the book of Genesis? How could that be? Various types of Biblical Criticism? Why would one criticize the Bible? Questions about Jesus’ virgin birth? If that’s questionable, what isn’t? If you pull out enough of the Jenga blocks it all falls down. Doesn’t it?

In the midst of my pique of frustration and fear, in my mind’s eye I saw Dr. Perdue. I remember distinctly thinking, he is a good, kind man. He obviously loves God and he loves us. If this stuff hasn’t ruined his faith, maybe I need to stick with it, too.

For your humor, kindness, intellect, faith, curiosity, encouragement and a beguiling touch of absent-mindedness (your burgundy v-neck sweater was inside out the day you arrived at class late because one of your babies had just been born), Dr. Leo Perdue, thank you.

You showed me how, after it first falls down, to build a faith that can be renewed.  For you, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

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