9.28.2004

I heard from Dr. Ron Veenker today via email. Unbelievable. He says he remembers me and sends greetings to my son, Asher. We named him after the title character in My Name Is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok, one of the novels Dr. Veenker assigned to our class on Judaism. He's spending the month in North Carolina, waiting out the storm. The internet made finding and contacting him a breeze. Thank God for email.

On another note, Kenny, Dr. Veenker informs me that the proper spelling is yarmulke, so I shall change it once again: yamika, yarmulka -- and finally -- yarmulke. Peace at last.

9.24.2004


Rachelle at her photographic best.
Posted by Hello

Rachelle, until now, has not had her picture on the site. Now she does. I couldn't resist, really. She is such a delight.

This afternoon I went downstairs to the Fellowship Hall to join our senior citizens for their monthly luncheon together. Normally it is a salad luncheon to which we bring our own sandwhiches. Today it was a full on potluck, with sloppy joe's, hotdogs, deviled eggs and four kinds of potato salad, followed by coffee, apple pie a al mode, or cherry pie, or rich fudge brownies, cookies of several sorts, sugar galore. This is not good for someone who consumed too many carbs last night and will again tonight, no doubt. It's pizza night a the household.

But I digress. I found myself sitting at the table with five other senior citizens and somehow we ended up talking politics. Now, this is dangerous, sometimes. In Evangelical culture there is this assumption that we will all put George back in the White House for another 4 years. The thoughtline goes something like: he's a Republican, so he must be God's choice. Or, a variation: he's 'one of us' Christians, so we need to get him in office. Now I find this talk fascinating when the whole of the New Testament was written under the rulership of non-Christian leaders. But anyway, I digress. Again.

I came to find out over apple pie, vanilla ice cream and coffee that every single one of us at the table were registered democrats who are, to put it mildly, a bit fed up with war, the current administration, etc. To a person we all had to admit that sometimes it is difficult to talk about our political beliefs in the Evangelical Christian subculture. We feel too often in the minority. We feel like we should aplogize, sometimes. We feel like if we say anything or disagree it will be the inquistion all over again. So, more often than not, we say nothing. We chicken out. We keep the peace. We know, after all, that our words will not challenge or change a thing, sadly.

However, sitting there with five seniors who all live and breathe in the same Evangelical culture as I do, it was refreshing to hear dissenting voices. It was refreshing to hear people passionately against war. It makes me wonder if there are more voices yet to be heard.

9.16.2004

In 1984 I was in college. I was just finishing up, actually, and in the midst of a class entitled Introduction to Judaism taught in a novel way by one Dr. Ronald Veenker. In addition to our text book (which I still own) Dr. Veenker had us read various novels from different periods in Jewish history. I have never forgotten that class, those novels and the birth of my love and respect for Judaism.

Dr. Veenker had a reputation among many in the College Christian subculture (this was in Bowling Green, Kentucky, the "buckle of the Bible belt" as Steve Taylor would say). His reputation was that he had "lost his faith" somehow, though he continued to teach in the religion department. Even now, I believe, he is only "partially" retired. We did not know at that time that there were likely many religion departments across the nation in which teachers were not necessarily believers, at least not in the way we understood "true believers". I had the impression that many students had attempted to evangelize him over the years. I realize now, of course, that he probably had not lost his faith at all. It had simply evolved and changed into a different kind of faith than that which was so marketable in 1980's Evangelical Culture.

Beyond my love for Judiasm something else has recenlty resurfaced in my memory of my experiences in Dr. Veenker's class. This memory has resurfaced in a way that I now see had more meaning than I initially recognized back in 1984, though I am still reflecting on it, still decoding it.

At the end of the class, the last day in fact, Dr. Veenker ended class early with a short message for us. I don't remember all of his exact words, unfortunately, but they were along the lines of a subdued, but heartfelt thank you to us, his students. He said that he had not had a class to date which he had enjoyed as much as he had enjoyed us. He remarked specifically about how refreshing it was that none of us, over the course of our time with him, had sought to evangelize him or share with him the "four spiritual laws". And then he took us on an impromptu "field trip" down the hall.

We held hands as if we were on a kindergarten outing to the zoo. We stopped in Dr. Spiceland's class to wave at the Intro to Philosophy students and say hello. And then he took us outside, to a patio where a stringed quartet was playing chamber music. We sat and listened to the music. We laughed and talked. And then class was over.

The next week, during final exams, my two friends and I showed up wearing yarmulka's.

There is more here to reflect on than I have time for right now. Why does this event stand out to me twenty years later? Maybe I'll be back in a later post.

9.04.2004

On the one hand, I can apologize for how long it's been since I last wrote. On the other, honestly, I've come close to closing this thing down altogether. There was too much going on to keep it up.

This morning, however, I feel a compulsion to process the violence.

The latest toll says as many as 300 people (many of them children) are dead after the school hostage tragedy in Russia. As I watch television this morning I am confronted by shaky images of screaming naked children running from a school building, bereaved parents and remnants of a violence the likes of which I can barely conceive.

Yesterday I watched a video one of my son's friends produced. He overlayed a spoof song by Jim Carrey and Andy Kaufman (and someone else) entitled, "The World Is a Friendly Place" with images and clips from the news and violent scenes from computer games and war films. Soldiers blown in two. People shot at point blank range. Smart bombs in Bagdad, covered by CNN. It was disturbing.

I am sickened by all of this and yet I have occasionally played some of these games and watched some of these films. Not so much any more, but a couple of years back, when I'd had a "rough day at work" I sometimes came home and told Kim that I needed to shoot some people and blow some things up as I headed to the basement to play video games.

In an election year, I suppose it would be nice if I actually felt that the choice we make at the polls was going to make a difference in the violence quotient in the world. I am unconvinced that it will, personally. Both presidential candidates are, to one degree or another "for" the war in Iraq. And, to be truthful, I thank God that Hussein is no longer in power, though I am outraged at being lied to or misinformed over such an important and vital issue that has put so many lives at stake.

Last night I went with friends to see The Bourne Supremacy. It was good. It was entertaining. It was also violent. Violence is entertaining. So, if I am to ask, as so many do, "What is this world coming to?" I suppose I must also ask, "What am I coming to?"