“Bobma” would be a new concept to any student in Bob Flanagan’s religious studies classes, but to Flanagan it is just his way of communicating.
Flanagan points out to his classes that if you reverse the word “dogma,” you get “am God,” and he says one of society’s failures comes when too many people fail to distinguish their points of view from God’s.
“Bobma” is Flanagan’s method of distinguishing his own point of view and encouraging student conversation. He says communication should be a process invoking thoughtful and respectful conversation, and he strives to achieve that every semester.
With an average class size of 35, Flanagan is willing to surrender some control by organizing each class into small groups to encourage what he calls creative conversation.
After teaching at MU for more than 20 years, Flanagan said he sees generational changes every few years in which the seriousness of students varies. But with these changes, he often finds himself faced with issues he doesn’t quite know how to handle, such as the popularity of cell phones.
Last semester, Flanagan asked every student on the first day of class to bring their cell phones and ask someone to call them during class time.
“I wanted everybody to be receiving phone calls,” Flanagan said. “People acted like I’m crazy, but I’m feeling my way here. One of my goals is to always try to get to know these particular people. I’m in a very privileged position because I get to know who students are, and they keep changing. My world keeps expanding as a consequence of this.”
Outside teaching, Flanagan is a pastor at Sturgeon Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), where he preaches to a congregation of about 50 people every Sunday.