Showing posts from February, 2019

The End of (United) Methodism

                           They came to St. Louis hoping to win hearts and minds as liberals always do: through love, prayer, empathy, compassion, witness, dialogue, building relationships, scriptural principles, appealing to the better angels of humanity. And as is almost always the case, they lost to cold-hearted power mongering. Liberals wave the banner of hope; conservatives count votes and bargain away principles to consolidate and preserve power. It's how Donald Trump was elected president, how Mitch McConnell is stacking the Supreme Court, how Benjamin Netanyahu is staying in office, how Brexit passed and is still the law of the land, and on and on. Time and again, conservatives have demonstrated through their actions that principles are a commodity. That's how it was in St. Louis, as United Methodists from around the world gathered to decide, once and for all, if one of the world's largest Christian denominations would live up to its slo

Still Racist, After All These Years

Is it just me, or do you see the similarity, too? Bing Crosby in blackface. I rubbed my eyes, tried to wish it away, but there it was: midway through Holiday Inn , the classic musical that introduced "White Christmas" to the world, there was a blackface number. It wasn't just Bing doing the bit, either: there was a whole chorus of white people, all done up the same way, gathering around as he sang a ballad of "Abraham" (Lincoln, that is) who had "set the darkie free." The year was 1983, and I had begun a decades-long quest to see every classic musical I could. This one happened to be on TV a few hours before I boarded a train from Champaign, Illinois that would take me home for Christmas break. I was charmed by the high concept of the film--a hotel open only on holidays--and the chance to see Crosby paired with Fred Astaire (and yes, that's him, not Der Bingle, in the picture). But then came the Lincoln's Birthday number, and


I have no idea what this kid is thinking--and neither do you. Cards on the table: I'm frequently uncomfortable around teenagers. As an educator, this has been a hard thing for me to accept about myself. My initial training was to be a band director, more specifically, a high school (and hopefully, eventually, college) band director. I didn't really get to do that until 2011, when, coming out of the recession, I was hired back to Banks as a half-time middle and high school band and choir director. There I found many kids I liked and enjoyed working with, some who were difficult, and a few who scared me. More cards on the table: boy energy agitates me, sometimes to the point of shutting down. As boys get bigger, they also get louder, their impulses more dangerous. I've seen boys in the fifth grade (the oldest kids I work with, now that I'm an elementary music teacher, band together into disruptive proto-gangs. I've seen them play at, and sometimes a