In the world of higher education, the Happy-Hour query “What’s your sign?” has been replaced by “What’s your niche?” For instance, in a recent Chronicle of Higher Education article entitled “Small Christian Colleges Seek Niches to Be Competitive,” the author notes that “faith-based colleges [now] look for ways to set themselves apart from one another while staying true to their religious missions.” Unfortunately, the article overlooks three of the most intriguing examples of this phenomenon. Consider the following:
— At Our Lady of the Screeching Willows College in Kanawha, Iowa, students can major in Divine Imaging (DI). Undergraduates learn how to discern and identify images of saints hidden in the surrounding environment — for example, the face of the Virgin Mary in a Low-Sodium Ritz cracker…..St. Augustine’s profile in a muddy footprint in a pasture parking lot on Hog-Rasslin’ Day at the state fair…..or the glowing visage of Joan of Arc at the bottom of a Weber charcoal grill’s porcelain bowl.
According to Provost Dexter Slanz, “DI graduates are in high demand for jobs in the FBI, CIA, and Homeland Security. If there’s something to be found, our students will find it. Even if there’s nothing to be found, our students will find it.”
— Flaming Tabernacle Christian College, in Kerrville, Texas, is the only school in the U.S. that offers a Transubstantiation major. Chemistry Professor Daphne Yurt, program advisor, beams when talking about her students. “Our graduates can not only turn water into wine, they can turn it into Mountain Dew or sweet tea. They can make kale chips out of wool socks, and transform armadillo roadkill into chicken nuggets for KFC, one of our corporate partners. And don’t get me started on what they can do with a standard-issue communion wafer. You want it turned into a seedless watermelon? Done. A Bruno Mars CD? No problem. This the best major ever!
— Finally, students can major in Holy Ghost Dove Breeding (HGDB) at Nite-Lite of the Lord Veterinary College in Newport News, Virginia. Nite-Lite’s President, the Reverend Delfin Quince, observes that “our HGDB majors aren’t raising ordinary birds. They infuse every one of these creatures with the ineffable spirit of the Holy Ghost. We sell our Nite-Lite Doves for about $3500 each. Congregations around the world are clamoring for them, because they guarantee eternal life. Of course, all bets are off if a feral cat possessed by Satan sneaks into the parish bird house the night before the annual Dove-O-Mania Procession and Fish Fry. Goddammit, I hate those cats!”
Amen, Reverend. Amen.