Saturday, October 14, 2006

Becoming "The Man"

Last night I caught up with a former student, now working hard on a fascinating doctoral project in sociology. She is a feisty black woman who has succeeded in elite white schools because she is smart and funny. I always enjoy talking to her. She was recounting her difficulties with her department chair, who she critically resists. The difficulty is not that she critically resists – she does that to everyone in authority; it is what sociologists call a structural critique, as opposed to a personal critique. The difficulty is that he does take it personally. She is not criticizing him. She is criticizing The Man. That is how she got to be a good critical thinker.

She keeps rising in all these institutions because she is a good critical thinker. Teachers in every school she has ever attended have asked her to teach, and I am no exception. So it is inevitable that someday she will be The Man. And then I will laugh.

No, said she, "then you will point and laugh."

True. I look forward to that day. Secretly, so does she.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Governor Warner is Out for Good Reasons – But I am Still Bummed

Former Virginia Governor Mark Warner has decided not to run for president in 2008. I am disappointed – he was My Guy. However, I fully respect his reasons. He made the decision after his father's 81st birthday. My father, were he living, would be 82. Warner was showing his daughter, Madison Warner, colleges that she might soon go off to. My MW is in college now, and I am at them moment on the road showing colleges to daughter #2, NW (who delightfully signs herself Endub). Indeed, as Gov. Warner says, these days will never come again. Even the presidency can wait and, if necessary, pass.

So I am bummed out. But I understand.

And I still want a successful governor as our candidate for president.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Will Immigrants Renew Marriage?

Los Angeles County has shown an increase in its marriage rate this past year. This wouldn't seem like a big deal – except this is first time this has happened in a populous county in more than thirty years. No one has analyzed the numbers yet, but David Popenoe, one of the country's best marriage trend counters, thinks that this reflects the greater commitment of Asian and Latino immigrants to marriage.

Los Angeles County also brings us the normally sorry spectacle of the Hollywood Marriage. They say that a Hollywood marriage is like an African democracy – if it lasts five years, we call it a great success. (Ok, I said that – but maybe it will catch on.)

Perhaps to counterbalance the Hollywood Marriage, Southern California will also bring us the East L.A. Matrimonio and the Orange County Danh Tu (which I hope is the right Vietnamese word for marriage).

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Under New Management

I am on the road with Junior Gruntled #2 for a college search. We saw a wonderful example of the right understanding of family life. Driving down the highway was a black SUV, probably his, with this legend painted on the back window in bright colors:

Just Married.

Under New Management.

I think they will go far.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Invisible Christian Movie Line Makes the "Cosmopolitan" Cities the True Parochial Backwaters.

The most interesting production story about movies at the moment is about "Facing the Giants." Made by amateurs from Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia, the film is about a high school football team that enjoys divine help after committing to God. To almost everyone's surprise, it has been released in 400 theaters and is doing pretty well.

The Washington Post reported the story. But, of course, the film is not actually playing in Washington. What I found most interesting was the explanation of where the movie was and was not playing. Reporter Peter Whoriskey lets the distributor tell why:

According to Julie Fairchild, a spokeswoman for Provident Films, "There's a sort of imaginary line where Christian films don't play." Where it is showing, she says, is the "flyover country that Hollywood has been ignoring."

I wish Provident films well in serving this ignored market.

The real loss is to Washington, DC, and all the other blue-state metropolises that shield themselves from the discomfort of films that don't fit their worldview. A similar cultural censorship is not so common in flyover country. The little town I live in showed both "The Passion of the Christ" and "Fahrenheit 9/11." I expect that "Facing the Giants" may get to us, too. Which is more than can been said for our "greatest cultural centers." This is a pity, as we could all benefit from balance in our culture, as well as in our politics.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Harvard Gets Religion

Harvard is considering adding a new course in "Reason and Faith" to its core curriculum.

Zachary Steward's Wall Street Journal article quotes Prof. Louis Menand, co-chair of the curriculum committee, as saying "I think 30 years ago, people would have said that religion is not something that everyone needs to know. But today, few would disagree that religion is supremely important to modern life."

Harvard, whose original motto was Veritas pro Christo et ecclesia, seems to have forgotten some things about how the other 99% of humanity lives and what we value. It is refreshing to see them catch up with what is customary at most liberal arts colleges, like the one I teach in.

Seriously, Harvard is often a curriculum leader, especially for the secular research universities. I am glad that they have given up on the fantasy that religion will just go away, and are trying to bring their students "in the center of contemporary religious debates."

Sunday, October 08, 2006

No Scruples in Sacramento

Sacramento Presbytery had a special meeting on September 9 to consider and adopt four strong resolutions. The presbytery is now committed to
1)not ordaining anyone who has a scruple about any of the church's constitutional standards;
2) not to accept a minister ordained elsewhere with such a scruple;
3) not to make up money due the national church that any congregation withholds in protest; and
4) not to contest any congregation that wants to leave with its property.
Leslie Scanlon's solid article in the October 9 Presbyterian Outlook covers the whole meeting in more detail.

The intent of these resolutions I judge to be a serious attempt to find a middle way of keeping the constitution of the church whole. The presbytery commits to upholding a strong standard of the constitution, but it also makes room for those who do not find even this strong stand to be enough.

The first resolution, which was adopted on a vote of 87 to 59, says:

To promote the peace, unity, and purity of our presbytery, we resolve that the Sacramento Presbytery holds that all candidates for ordination, installation, and/or membership in this Presbytery shall comply with all standards for ordination set forth in the Constitution of the (PCUSA) (G-1.0500), or shall be ineligible for ordination, installation, and/or membership.

I have long wished that the church would take its whole constitution more seriously. We attend minutely to the Book of Order, but neglect the first book, the Book of Confessions. Yet the confessions are supposed to be the real meat of our constitution. If the first Sacramento resolution means that they will now take all the confessions seriously, I applaud them.

But I think Sacramento Presbytery bit off more than it can chew.

The Book of Confessions contains hundreds of tenets. I keep hoping that we will have a serious discussion about usury, prohibited by the Westminster Larger Catechism. Any up for the "undue delay of marriage" fight? Keeping "stews?"