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.


At 5:36 PM, Blogger xor said...

In 1984 I was in the ninth grade....don't know what that means.
hee hee. xor

At 8:35 PM, Blogger Kenny said...


well, the wearing of the ... isn't it Yarmulkas? (i imagine there are several different spellings ...)

and i remember you all talking about the thankyou that dr veenker shared with you.

hadn't heard dr SPICELAND's name in 20 years ... i think i TOOK his class ...can't remember for the life of me if i passed it or not ... :-)

so ...

go on ...

At 10:26 AM, Blogger stacey said...

Kenny, you win. I changed the spelling. That way you get blamed if I'm wrong and I look good no matter. Less risk for me... thanks. Stacey.

At 12:09 AM, Blogger Sarah said...

Thanks for linking to my site! Let's see in 1984 I was 9... Anyway, my husband Brian said you're a minister, hope you are enjoying your post at your church! I'll come back and visit your blog occasionally.


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