Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Watching Roy on RFD

Last week we switched from cable to Direct TV. One of the glories of the shift is the addition of RFD television. I'm excited because I'm gonna get to see whole episodes of "I Love Toy Trains!" I've been a long time lover of toy trains. Maybe this show will inspire me to get my train out, clean it up and get it running. I doubt it, but maybe. The other big thing is Roy Rogers. The old television shows and the movies -- without singing. Roy Rogers and the Rough Riders. There's a lot to be admired about Rogers' vision of America. Hard work and living by the rules pays (mostly). If you have to violate a rule you have a good reason to do so. At the same time there is something shallow about the vision of America. The good are nothing but good, the evil nothing but evil. The problems were unidimensional. The bad guys want to steal the girl and the gold, but Roy stops them. It's an appealing America, but it isn't true. Sadly, it isn't true. But it is very appealing and close to the vision of America that much of American conservatism wishes we could return to.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Ozzie G and Fidel C

Ozzie Guillen offered the opinion "I love Fidel Castro."

Later he clarified, "I'm 100% opposed to the way he's treated people, but I admire the way he's survived."

That was enough for the Batista supporters in Miami. They want Ozzie fired. Of course they have the right to express themselves by boycotting the Marlins. That's their right, just as it's Ozzie's right to say whatever he wants about Castro or any other world figure. But I think the Cubans in Miami are being petty.

Petty, petty, petty.

I also think that there is nothing we can do that will appease this rather small group of ex-Batista supporters. They were the ones (by and large) who had it good under Batista, who benefited from his corruption and draining the resources of the country. Like the 1%ers in New York, they saw themselves as the elite, the country's best, the rightful owners of the country.

When Fidel arrived and demonstrated that the very rich didn't own Havana, that the gangsters were going to go, these Cubans evacuated to Miami. They have governed US policy through failure after failure. Cuba represents a significant market for US farmers, but we can't sell goods there. Cuba represents a place with which we could have significant spiritual congress. We have Christian brothers and sisters there, but we can't commune with them. Cuba represents a culture that we could learn something from -- as well as teach something to. Nothing is allowed because of a small group of ex-pats who are waiting for the embargo to bring Castro down.

That policy has been in place for half a century and has utterly failed.

Yet, let Ozzie Guillen say anything that points to the failure of the Cuba policy and the Cubans in Miami hit the roof. They're petty and it's time to start ignoring them.

Mr. Robinson Goes Pro

Thomas Robinson, Kansas Junior forward, will skip his senior season to go pro. He’s in better shape than Anthony Davis who will go pro after one year. Speculation is that Davis would have gone pro after High School, except that the NBA introduced a rule that you had to have at least one year of college before going pro.

I’m not sure of the why of that rule. Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett have both been very successful coming straight out of High School. They’ve both had fine careers, earned enough money to keep them living in high style from their retirement to their death. Of course that depends on how they’ve invested their high incomes thinking about the years of low incomes coming.

But will this “one and done” trend trickle down to our level?

There may be one NAIA player who has gotten a chance to make it in the pros. We occasionally get a baseball player scouted. I don’t think we’ve ever gotten a football player from the NAIA to the NFL. We don’t even get the TV coverage of NCAA III. It’s just not likely.
I met a potential student we were trying to recruit for our basketball team. “What are you going to do after college?” I asked. “I’m going to play basketball in Europe.” He’s not alone in that certainty that somewhere, somehow there is a professional sports check in his future. I like the confidence, but I sure hope we can help this young man get a reality check.

Otherwise we’re just using these young men and women. The odds are so stacked against them that they’re astronomical. And if “one and done” becomes the trend we’ll have a generation of athletes who have no higher level thinking skills, the skills that will be absolutely necessary to future success. Yes, there will still be a need for those who are skilled with their hands – but the folks who’ll be running the society are those who can think from a concrete situation to the abstract decision. The future belongs to those who are able to critically evaluate claims and adjudicate among options. We need highly educated citizens.

That takes time, reading, thinking, debating and mentoring. One and done won’t get you where you need to be.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

My Thanks

Today we present a Reader's Theatre program of three hymns, two stories and two "poems."

This was originally supposed to be a presentation of three medieval mystery plays, out in the amphitheater. My illness and struggles with chemo made it impossible for me to direct such an ambitious program. We had to scale back.

Thanks to my colleagues, Dr. Linda Lewis and Professor Greg LeGault, there will be an excellent program today.

The students have worked hard, but I am overwhelmed by the support of these two colleagues. I am sure that if my third colleague were not of sabbatical she'd pitch in too. But I want to publicly praise the collegiality I've found at Bethany. This makes Bethany a great place to work.

Thank you, my colleagues, my friends.

A very human Jesus

I didn’t make it through the whole three hours of St. Matthew’s Passion. All kinds of reasons not related to the performance. Let’s say it was my leg and my gut and let it go at that.

I also hadn’t take my Zoloft equivalent for several days, so this post has to be made with an awareness of that. My emotions were very much available to me, is what I’m saying.
While I was only able to stay for the first part of the passion, I heard it in a way I had never heard it before.

I didn’t get how Bach felt whatever it was he felt. I think he deeply felt his guilt and shame before this dying hero. The passages from the women were extraordinary – both Mary and Mary Magdalene had a depth that I had not experienced before.
What I heard that I had never heard before was the story of a man who is betrayed by his friends, left helpless by his family, exposed to the power of the Roman Empire. First the first time, I think, I felt the depth of that betrayal and that exposure.

I have never had disciples, never had followers. But I’ve had an been friends. Some I’ve been close to and supported, and some I’ve failed at various times. But I’ve never been betrayed by my friends. Disappointed, I suppose, but never betrayed. Yet I can feel how vulnerable that leaves you. Alone. Solitary. Friends failing you left and right. My God, the darkness that descends as you face the universe alone. As Moltmann emphasizes in The Crucified God, even deserted by the one who sent you, by the Father who said he loves you unconditionally and has called you, once, My Son.

Letting go of the specific Christian claim of the resurrection, last night I felt anew a very human story, and it moved me deeply. I am sorry that I was not well enough to stay for my favorite chorus, the last chorus. Next year in Presser Hall!