Inside Higher Ed on Monday published an interview with Deandre Poole, the Florida Atlantic University professor at the heart of a nationwide controversy prompted after the educator asked students to write the word “JESUS” on paper then step on it.
Poole has since been placed on paid administrative leave because of death threats, according to news reports. As for his side of the story, Inside Higher Ed notes:
First off, Poole wants people to know that he never told anyone to “stomp on Jesus,” to quote the headline widely used in articles criticizing him. He said he asked people to step on the piece of paper.
… Much of the critical commentary about Poole has suggested that he is anti-Christian. In fact, he said, he has been connected to churches all of his life, has served as a Sunday school teacher, and understands the power of the word “Jesus” on a piece of paper because he cares deeply about Jesus.
“I am very religious,” he said. “I see how the name Jesus is symbolic. For people like myself, Jesus is my lord and savior. It’s how I identify myself as a Christian.”
He noted that the idea behind the exercise isn’t that students will actually step on Jesus, but that most will pause and that their discomfort sets off the discussion. He said he saw at least one student who did step on the paper, and talked about not feeling much of a connection to Jesus. But he said most didn’t, and that was fine with him. No students, he said, were forced to do anything.