Nostalgia or Truth?

Few people can escape a degree of nostalgic amplification of how much their present conditions differ from their pasts. Sometimes they frame narratives of redemption — “I was a depraved sinner, but now I’m clean,” or “The oppressors had their boot on our necks, but we finally threw off the chains of our servitude” — and sometimes they’re myths of a Golden Age from which we’ve fallen (on one hand, the ideal American Family Home of Eisenhower’s fifties, or the social activism of the sixties and early seventies). Granted that there’s a decent chance that things are getting better or worse (though we shouldn’t minimize the likelihood that life continues at a pretty steady state of trading off improvements and decline), experience teaches us that people show a strong tendency to exaggerate the scale of the alleged change over time.

That being said: in the past weeks, we’ve seen the ludicrous antics of Boston politicians accusing ingenious PR flacks of inciting terror (when the “terror” had more to do with the law enforcement officials’ ignorance than any danger associated with the LED advertisements) and the disingenuousness of the Bush regime’s effort to escalate their war against Iraq, to Joe Biden’s stunning unselfconscious racism. The institutionalization of fear and folly seems increasingly entrenched, increasingly stifling.

All the more poignant, then, was my flash of recognition yesterday when the Gospel Mission class screened a television documentary that reminded me how wrong Joe Biden was: Barack Obama (whatever his gifts and charms) was not “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and. . . nice-looking” to run for President.

Shirley Chisholm was. (Lest anyone sniff that Biden said a “mainstream” candidate, they should recall that Chisholm won 152 delegates under conditions inimical to outsider candidates.)

As I look back on my formative years, I think that if anything ever impressed me with the majesty, the brilliance, the truth of what the United States might stand for, it was the presence of Shirley Chisholm on the political scene. If anything might enkindle my hope for this nation, it would require a stature, an integrity that tapped the deep reservoirs of trusting admiration Shirley Chisholm inspired in me. But I’m not holding my breath.
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Life With Pippa

Last night, I was preparing my special recipe for fajita vegetables, and Pippa looked over to say, “Lookin’good.”

I responded, “Thanks!”

Pippa: “I was talking about the vegetables.”

I: “Of course — the day you say I’m lookin’good. . . ”

Pippa: “Is April 1st.”

A few minutes later, Pippa suggested that we have oatmeal in our taco salad. I expressed bemusement that she liked oatmeal so much, and she insisted that it be included as a viable ingredient. “It’s so beautiful,” she crooned. “Look, and see!”

Oats Mod

When I registered my amazement at her modifications of the oatmeal box she assured me, “It doesn’t taste so old-fashioned any more!”

Repent, Sinner!

If I subscribed to a flat Deuteronomic theology that correlates piety with prosperity, and misfortune with sinfulness, the only explanation for this week would be a track rtecord of intense transgression. I had a faculty meeting Monday morning, Strategic Planning Committee meeting Tuesday morning, no meeting yesterday (but between classes and services, eight hours of pedagogy and worship, not counting the interstitial preoccupations), Librarian Search Committee meeting this morning, and I’ll meet the New Testament Search Committee tomorrow, with the prospect of another faculty meeting Monday morning.

(solemnly beats breast three times) Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. . . .

If any reader knows of a librarian with an advanced academic degree (preferably in theology or a related field), library management experience, and a winning vision of the library’s role in theological education in the twenty-first century, please make sure they’re in contact with the Seabury/Garrett search (I’m adding it in the extended section, just in case it takes a while for the respective institutions to update their websites).
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