Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Happy Valentines Day! On February 14, 2006 Harding will be hosting Jose Maria Anzar, President of Spain from 1996 to 2004, instead of Ann Coulter. In an act affirming the highest ethic of Christians--love--and repudiating Ann Coulter's vitriol, though of course, not her conservatism, Harding selected a known statesman.

Now, I will write Dr. Burks a letter saying thanks for listening.

Monday, August 22, 2005


In the dark hours just before dawn, distressing thoughts sometimes persist. Often I pray them away. Just this morning I battled some darkness of spirit.

About 3:45 am today I awakened. For some reason, Ann Coulter’s image entered my mind. I recall thinking Ann Coulter’s popularity among my Christian friends represents a pernicious feature of religion and right-wing politics.
Ann Coulter spews vitriol poisoning political debate with contempt for political opponents.

For some blessed reason, the Lord let the moment of dark reflection pass. I went back to sleep, awakened at a good time, got ready for work and enjoyed teaching my government classes.

I taught about the Israeli Palestinian conflict.

During the course of the day, I observed that there is a time for war and the courage it demands. I added there is a time for peace, the pursuit of which demands tremendous courage as well.

Peacemaking is not for cowards, I urged.

We listed some peacemakers: Anwar Sadat, Yitzhak Rabin, Martin Luther King, Jr. Gandhi, and Jesus.

We could have added another peacemaker--Brother Roger who began the Taize reconciliation movement in France after World War II. This week he suffered a fatal stabbing.

Peacemaking remains a dangerous, but apparently rewarding business. Doesn't it say somewhere that peacemakers will be called sons of God?

As I am getting ready to retire for the night, I read online that Ann Coulter has been asked to speak at the Christian university of which I am alum. While an undergrad there I often winced at the assumptions made there that conservatism in politics was the only way. It was often conveyed that it was the only way in much the same way it was conveyed that Christ was the only way. I winced, but still engaged with enthusiasm in political dialogue, social activities, and spiritual enrichment during my days there.

In the years following, I have taught government and economics for many years. In all of those years, it has been my aim to challenge my students to think deeply, read widely, and speak with civility. I pray they will fulfill the Lord's requirements “to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with their God.”

Many of my students have gone on to attend my alma mater, Harding University. I often speak highly of the potential for an excellent undergrad education. I aver the kind spirit at the university. I have done this often in the presence of their classmates who exude skepticism about Harding University. Some assume a small liberal arts college in Arkansas could not be anything but provincial and arcane. I try to disabuse the skeptics.

Tonight, as I contemplate early morning ruminations, hours of teaching, and the news of the evening, I am chagrined. Bewildered. Disappointed. Saddened.

So as Harding University announced with fanfare the name of Ann Coulter as a speaker in their American Studies program, she becomes part of the heritage and intellectual life of HU students as have other conservative luminaries like Moshe Dyan, Colin Powell, and Barbara Bush. Ann Coulter will join that roll call with others as well. Like Spiro Agnew.

Long ago, I accepted the fact that the university embraces a conservative ideology.

Ideology is one thing.

Hatefulness, spitefulness, and contempt for others is another.

Even a brief perusal of her website shows, that Anne Coulter has earned her review from the Washington Post Book World, as “a fluent polemicist with a gift for Menckenesque invective”.

During my years at Harding, I kept these words from J.B. Phillips translation of James on my bulletin board

3:17-18 - The wisdom that comes from God is first utterly pure, then peace-loving, gentle, approachable, full of tolerant thoughts and kindly actions, with no breath of favoritism or hint of hypocrisy. And the wise are peace-makers who go on quietly sowing for a harvest of righteousness - in other people and in themselves.

I believed that then; I believe it now.

I think I'll write a letter to the president of the university. My husband and I are not big donors. Our objections to this announcement may not carry much weight. Ken is a minister. I am a teacher. Although I have never embraced the political ideology of the institution, I would like to think that we exemplify the core values of our university.

But featuring Ann Coulter makes me think, Harding does not value us.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Moving Rocks

After a little over ten years in the same house and at the same job, I am moving from Roswell, Georgia to Memphis, Tennessee.

If it “takes a heap of living to make a house home,” what does it take to move?

It depends on what you have to sort through, on what you have to pack, and what you have to unpack.

My friends know we have had a garage that no cars can fit in, because we’ve a good bit of our past with us.

For example, I have a box of rocks.

I have been moving some of these rocks for at least thirty years. Fossils appear in this box from my husband’s childhood collection. The fossils weren’t formed during his childhood. We’re pretty sure they were already solidified by 1952. In high school he displayed them in his room in some fishnet hung from the ceiling over his antiqued avocado green dresser drawers.

A red rock with some sparkling qualities dominates the box. This rock hales from a park in Colorado. The Civilian Conservation Corp constructed the fences and pavilions at that park. Ken’s dad, Jim, proposed to Ken’s mom, Shirley, at that park during World War II.

Once the boys, exultant in discovery, uncovered shards of broken Coke bottles, rusted AW Root Beer caps, and some pieces of broken concrete. When someone disparaged their finds, one of them defended with, “One’s person trash can be another’s treasure.” A concrete treasure stays in the box of rocks.

I’ll admit, my box of rocks, my portfolios of Trevor and Chris’s artwork, the CD jewel cases, the boxes with the school certificates, medals, trophies, and immunization records needed some thinning out.

Paper, scissors, rocks.

When you move what do you keep? What do you cut? What’s solid and sustaining?

It’s not really the things I see that make moving so hard.

Well, okay. Stuff does make moving hard.

Cleaning stuff out that garage reminded me of a weird little film called
in which an eccentric woman dealt with her obsessive keeping of stuff by torching her abode. Okay, so a few thoughts of arson have passed through my mind. Figuring it would be hard to set a fire that would selectively preserve some of the priceless papers has repressed the impulse.

My rocks might have survived a garage fire.

After ten years of boys, of teens, of laughter and tears
of work, of play
of faith and fear

After ten years
I am saving and sorting the things of life
our boys’ childhood
the seasoning of our marriage
the weaving and unweaving of friendships and careers

I have resisted torching stuff
I have sorted, straightened, sifted, and tossed

Now, so much is gone
Yet, so much goes

I have packed

much joy
some sorrow
failure and success

I have packed some fear
and bundled up some doubt

I have packed prayer
and a confidence hard won by sharing the yoke of life
with a loving empowering God of grace

I cannot pack Trevor or Chris and Lauren

I cannot pack my sister, Kim, her husband Ted,
their children Katy and Josh

I cannot pack my many precious friends

I can take my life with Ken
my mom, Jo, along with the heritage of love we bring from all of our parents
the continuing treasure of parenthood

and my box of rocks

I can make the unpacking a work of art

a labor of love

Unpacking can reveal
gifts received
the grace for which my weaknesses continue to beg
the antcipation of joy, friends, and ministry

Moving hurts
Moving exhilarates
Moving rocks