A Teacher's Writes

One teacher's thoughts on life, literature, and learning

Latasha Morrison suggests Christians should discuss issues of race from outside politics

We try to attack these issues from a political standpoint, and politics are designed to be divisive. We need conversations that unite. You can’t jump into a conversation on race and the very next thing you jump into is affirmative action. The process of reconciliation includes righting the wrongs, but it also includes repentance and forgiveness. In those processes, you will deal with the injustices and the marginalization and the disparities, but that’s not where you start. You start from the standpoint of “Lord, we want to represent who you are. We want to be one like you and the Father are one.”

Oneness doesn’t mean me being one with everyone who looks like me, talks like me, acts like me, comes from the same community as me. We’re reconciled to Christ so that, in turn, we can be reconciled to each other. The ministry of reconciliation—that’s who He is! That’s what we do.

People try to approach it from a political standpoint, and when you do that you’re going to fail every time because people are going to put up walls and barriers. There were so many political things that were going on when Jesus walked this earth. The Pharisees tried to pull Him in on some of these political issues. They thought He was the king that was coming to set them free from the Roman Empire, but that’s not the path He took. He took a different stance, and the Church has to be able to lead in that neutral standpoint.

A lot of times people, especially as a white male, they feel like “I can’t address it,” but that’s when you lock arms with another church or another pastor maybe of a different race to help you. But if our lives are separate, and we don’t have Asian friends or Latino friends or black friends, we’re in this little box where there’s no understanding. . . .  So that same sin that divides is going to perpetuate itself.

Latasha Morrison in an interview with Relevant Magazine. I don’t think I’d suggest that Jesus was taking a neutral standpoint–I’d agree he was taking “a different stance,” one different than those people wanted him to take, but it wasn’t neutral. It strikes me that his positions superseded the positions the Pharisees were trying to get him to take, as if every time the Pharisees or even Pilate paraphrased a position to him, his response implied, “You don’t get it. That’s not what I’m talking about at all.” “Are you the king of the Jews?” Pilate asks, and Jesus responds, in essence, “Well, I know your comment is not grasping all I intend to mean by that, but since you’ve said it that way, Sure, it works.”

I might sound like I’m nitpicking, but I don’t think I am in an irrelevant way, because in these conversations about race, we’re not saying one has to be neutral about politics so much as saying a Christian should understand that the ultimate importance of these issues far outstrips any political expression of them. Is affirmative action or another racial political issue important? Sure, but not nearly as important as the oneness of the body of Christ, as reconciliation in Christ.

Leon Morris describes a few of the details of Roman crucifixion

Very simply Luke tells of the crucifixion of Jesus, the supreme sacrifice for the salvation of sinners. In this form of execution a person was fastened by ropes or nails to a cross (which might be shaped like our conventional cross or like a T, an X, a Y, or even an I). Jesus’ hands were nailed (Jn. 20:25), and probably his feet also (cf. 24:39), though none of the Evangelists says so in set terms. There was a horn-like projection which the crucified straddled, which took most of the weight and stopped the flesh from tearing from the nails. The discovery of the bones of a man crucified at about the same time as Jesus raises the possibility that the legs may have been bent and twisted, then fastened to the cross by a single nail through the heels. Such a contortion of the body would have added to the agony. Crucifixion was a slow and painful death, but it is noteworthy that none of the Evangelists dwells on the torment Jesus endured. The New Testament concentrates on the significance of Jesus’ death, not on harrowing our feelings.

Morris, Leon. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: Luke. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999. Print.

Much work is toilsome and we may not be able to make it “meaningful”

We need to be careful that our faithful valorization of work doesn’t turn into a realized eschatology. When we forget that work is “toilsome” we presume to be able to achieve a vision that cannot be fulfilled until the Lord returns—as if we could root out the thorns of the curse by making our work “meaningful.” But this is vanity, a chasing after the wind.

Instead we should try to work faithfully among the thorns. Sometimes that means taking delight in our creativity. Sometimes it means speaking loudly against injustice. Sometimes it means doing awful work for the sake of another. Then, in expectant hope of the time when the thorns will be burned in fire, we can find satisfaction in the work of our hands, for it is from the hand of God.

Brian Dijkema at Comment Magazine, pointing out the reality of work that is often missed in conversations about work and faith. It’s also an aspect of work we don’t discuss much in schools, but we should. The notion that you should do something you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life is nice but not realized by enough people to be much more than cute. It can even be insulting to the person who doesn’t have that opportunity. So though I hate that it’s our reality, I have to admit that one of the most important lessons anyone can learn in school is how to work hard even when you don’t like what you’re doing–because for much of the work force, that’s likely the most practical skill we can acquire.

Evangelical Christians need to study their history to grapple with the present

As a growing number of latter-day southern white evangelicals begin pursuing racial justice, recognition that a substantial percentage of their forebears opposed the civil rights movement on religious grounds becomes ever more imperative. A hermeneutic of segregation helped produce today’s society. Achieving racial justice, then, will require evangelicals to grapple with this historical truth and counteract its historical residue. If a hermeneutic of segregation justified white flight, its historical residue makes it possible to view evidence of deeply entrenched residential segregation with an untroubled conscience. If a hermeneutic of segregation justified a retreat to segregated private schools, its historical residue has allowed the resegregation of public schools to proceed unabated. And if a hermeneutic of segregation justified maintaining segregated sanctuaries, its historical residue is profoundly felt in surveys reporting that, while 11:00 Sunday morning continues to be the most segregated hour of the week, most white Christians are just fine with that.

J. Russell Hawkins on the history of how evangelical Christians responded to the Civil Rights movement. Within this paragraph there’s a lot to justify not only a vastly different approach to race in the church, but the importance of diligently studying history.

Justification for sports, straight from the pages of The Odyssey

It’s fit and proper for you to know your sports.
What greater glory attends a man , while he’s alive
than what he wins with racing feet and striving hands?
Come and compete then, and throw your cares to the wind!

Why don’t we have passages like this one, from The Odyssey, painted on the weight room’s wall?

Being simultaneously the past and the present America in our race relations

In another sense, though, the ways that Handler’s comments have shaped our conversations about Brown Girl Dreaming shine a light on another trick of memory, the ways that Americans are especially prone to pretend that the past is past, that the troubling history of American racism is part of a national childhood that may be left behind now that we have achieved enlightened adulthood. As Woodson suggests in Brown Girl Dreaming, though, “past” selves can coexist with present ones, and that’s as painfully true for the nation as it is for the individual. We can be the America Du Bois described at the same time that we are the nation Woodson described. When it’s 2015, it’s also 1963 and 1903. Sometimes it takes a children’s book and the kerfuffle surrounding it to force us to acknowledge that.

Carissa Turner Smith, reviewing Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming for Books and Culture, observing the ways race issues operate and how they don’t go away in the manner we might wish they would.

Echoes of my students’ fundamental issues with schooling

The country’s whole school system seems geared toward solving large-scale economic woes and producing future workers. It’s most definitely not geared toward children. In fact, the prevailing view is that if teachers focus too much on students’ pleasure they will somehow be encouraging wanton self-indulgence and dangerous hedonism.

A look at what goes on in most classrooms these days makes it abundantly clear that when people think about education, they are not thinking about what it feels like to be a child, or what makes childhood an important and valuable stage of life in its own right.

I find Susan Engel’s words, published at The Atlantic this week, interesting considering how closely they mirror those of Austin Lammers, a student who wrote the following in an article for The Pine Needle, our school newspaper:

Students should be thought of as whole people, not just products of the school system. We are imperfect, and always will be, especially at a younger age lacking experience. Contrary to popular belief, we do crave to learn. But the modern school system labels learning as scarfing down facts and theorems, then vomiting them back up onto Scantrons. We are more than the grades we try our best to reflect. We have personalities and qualities that make us unique, and molding us to be alike does nothing but destroy the concept of education, which is developing young humans so they are capable of discovering their maximum potential. . . . My point is this. Schools have become unpleasantly anti-student. Not just with the criteria we are forced to learn, but also the little things that could make our days better.

Coincidence? I think not.

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