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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Theological lessons for unanswered questions

Duane Stephen Long, a Marquette professor of systematic theology, calls himself an “accidental theologian.”

Speaking at the first of a series of talks entitled “Lessons from the Road” and sponsored by the Office of Student Development and the theology department, Long, a Methodist, told the story of his journey to becoming a theology professor.

“Steve was baptized by the Anabaptists, educated by the evangelicals, ordained and pastorally formed by the Methodists and given his first position as professor of theology by the Jesuits, which makes him either ecumenically inclined or theologically confused,” his Marquette biography states.

Long graduated from Duke University’s divinity school and is in his sixth year of teaching at Marquette. As a senior in college, Long, a chemistry student with medical school aspirations, was in a bad relationship.

“I was dating a woman who was borrowing my car to date other guys,” Long said. “So I did what anyone would do: I fled and went to Haiti.”

Long was struck by the poverty he saw in Haiti, and upon returning to the U.S., he had more questions about inequality in the world than when he left.

After working at a low-security prison for a short stint, Long met his future wife, Ricka, whom he dated for three months before they married. After getting married, they went to Honduras, where they worked in a medical clinic.

At one time during his missionary work in Honduras, Long was helping a boy named Jeremy who was suffering from diarrhea and dehydration.

“I held Jeremy and I tried to rehydrate him, but he was too far gone and he died in my hands,” Long said. “I saw all this and I just had a ton of questions. Why is the world like this?”

As a student of science, Long never thought faith and science were contradictory. He decided to pursue his questions after returning from Honduras.

“I didn’t become a theologian to be popular,” Long said. “I mean, we theologians were popular in the 12th century, but it has been all downhill since then.”

Long’s talk, which began as a discussion of the journey his career took, became more about his views on theology.

“I like the fact that in a Catholic university, people think theology still matters,” Long said. “Isn’t it amazing that this university teaches you something that is totally useless? That’s why I’m a theologian.”

Long said theology and knowledge of God are not a means to anything else, but rather that everything else is a means to knowledge of God.

“The reason I love theology so much, and why I consider theology a journey of friendship, is that I don’t have to bracket out questions,” Long said. “It isn’t science.”

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