July 4th, 2007

I See You!

Personal: Farewell Cookout for Crip and Lisa; Summerfest

Blew off the John Mayer/Ben Folds concert tonight to go to a cookout over at Dan and Amy's to say farewell to Crip and Lisa Stephenson, who will be moving to Tennessee in a few weeks. They're still both dissertating, but Lisa already got a tenure-track position at their alma mater, Lee University, and Crip has a possible foot in the door by being down there adjuncting right away. So we grilled chicken kebobs and ate pasta salads and just talked for hours, taking time out here and there to play with the kids. Lee is an institution with its roots in Pentecostalism, and we've already produced at Marquette another of their next generation of theologians in Barnes' old protégé Skip Jenkins, so the Stephensons are more of the upcoming, Catholic-educated theological cornerstone of the denomination's future. That had us talking some about the charismatic aspects of my dissertation research, and I had made a bit of a breakthrough on the bus on the way down to the party, so I ran some of that new idea by the crowd and got some immediate feedback on what I was thinking.

I'll make up some of the Summerfest loss with a Thursday night sweep of "jam band" night, where I can take in Umphrey's McGee, Rusted Root, and (non-jam band) B.B. King. It'll be weird, as ever, to see Umphrey's, and to see how far they've come from the days when they were just "the other band," and Umphrey's and the Freeks were the only geeky guys hanging around catching the opening-day noon showing of The Phantom Menace after having taken in the midnight showing several hours earlier. Their songwriting clearly seemed second-rate compared to the Freeks', but they've worked hard and gone the distance. I know it's a bittersweet feeling for Mark when he hangs with them when they pass through Pittburgh and such. But it should be a good night for some great sounds and dancing. If I'd made it to Summerfest tonight, I was hoping that the great songwriter double-whammy of John Mayer and Ben Folds was going to finish in time that I could hit AFI's show: some of their stuff has really grabbed me. I don't know if they did the big fireworks show tonight: there was enough rain now and again at the Lloyd's that maybe they cancelled it if it was the same out by the Lake. The Summerfest opening fireworks the other night went for a jaw-dropping half hour. I think it might have been the best show I've seen here, of the dozens I've caught in this festival- and fireworks-saturated city....
Chagall Guevara

Personal/Theological Notebook: Patriotism; Dan and Amy's; Leadership Charisms; Chagall Guevara; Dad

My Fourth of July was a quiet one, one of the many blessings of America: war is once again being fought elsewhere. I spent a few hours thinking about the Revolution and the Founders, and how it's all played out, much aided by the reading in McCullough and Ellis I've done for fun over the last few years. weaklingrecord's posting of quotations about patriotism and nationalism (and his earlier Independence Day Quiz) had me thinking about those two phenomena in particular. So many Americans have made the mistake of letting their patriotism make them nationalists. The Founding Fathers articulated a new vision that we have not always easily taken as our own: they were not speaking of a patriotism for America itself, now to be directed toward America instead of at Great Britain as though we were only to trade loyalties to a new football team. They envisioned a patriotism toward humanity as a whole, where our belief in the rights and dignity of human beings – that "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights" – was not a promotion of Americans and their welfare, but a promotion of all human beings against whatever unjustly impedes their flourishing. Their distrust of government, which they wove into the Constitution, was indicative of their knowledge that our own government could be the enemy of liberty, and that we ought to be prepared to challenge and improve our government for exactly that reason. To equate American patriotism with loyalty to the American government as such, to a particular administration, or to any of an administration's policies, is to miss the point of America. The petty politics of patriotism we have seen in recent years – the Republican party playing of the "patriotism card," with equating its policies to patriotism, and the Democratic party caving in craven cowardice to this cheap political move – has been as dismaying, unpatriotic, and unAmerican thing as I've ever seen. I hope this Independence Day took us one day farther toward a more American America.

Dan and Amy are leaving on Friday for their first vacation in four years – their first since their honeymoon – and so, since I had plans for Thursday, they invited me over for another night of visiting, this one much quieter than yesterday's farewell cookout for Crip and Lisa. They generously fed me the fruit of their grill and garden again, with a thick pork chop cooked in a marinade they've developed that's quite tasty, baked beans, and a cucumber/squash dish from their small vegetable garden. After Anna and Owen were down for the night, we drifted into the kitchen, with quiet talk around the table about marriage, love, and the struggle to make a family despite whatever obstacles our history throws at us. They showed me pics of the house they're staying in with Dan's family on the South Carolina beach, and that drifted into an introduction to Google Earth, where I showed them some features of that juicy program and the ability it grants to help log and scrapbook your travels. That led me to seeing places from their honeymoon vacation in Malta and Sicily. Quiet times. Good times.

I did some work on Sullivan, thinking toward a dissertation reading through his From Apostles to Bishops: The Development of the Episcopacy in the Early Church, considering this as a shift from a charismatic mode of leadership to a formal mode, but without denigrating the latter, which I think is an easy tack to take, and one that has been done a gazillion times before as it plays to the crowd so well. While the Apostle as a charismatic form of leadership – one that is on the basis of a charism, a gift for leadership – is properly called "charismatic" in this sense, I'm toying with an angle that also calls the formal structure of leadership that gives us Bishops, the episcopacy, a charism as well, if not one that operates as a personal charism. This would be more of a "structural charism," if you will. I think I can talk about that in a way that makes sense, that ties into the charisms-oriented view of the church (and thus into an explicit vision of the Church as tied into the life and action of the Spirit of God), without watering-down the language. My goal is exactly that kind of vision of the Church that heightens, rather than obscures, the vision of the life of God acting in the Community (which is the too-often meaning of "church").

I'm listening to the overwhelmingly-awesome-and-rocking CD Chagall Guevara, tragically the only release of the band of that name, after MCA signed them and then didn't do a bit of promotion, even after a great review in Rolling Stone that compared them to nothing less than The Clash. Bill Oliverio talked with me at the party yesterday about his love of Steve Taylor's work, which seems as strong as mine. Taylor authorized the copying of this difficult-to-find disc (I looked for five years for a copy for less than $30 or $40: I'm flabbergasted to see used copies on Amazon right now for as low as $6.50) and so I'm listening to it again (and writing about it here) as a "note to self" to remind me to pass this on to him. Michael McGlinn, who produced my CD with me, was friends with a few of these guys, so I passed copies of Life and Other Impossibilities to them through him as a lame way of expressing my gratitude for their work.

Dad is getting ready for major surgery this morning, with the rest of his colon being removed. His quality of life should be immeasurably better after he recovers, but he's dreading the process, understandably. He had an awful night of preparation, having a pretty dreadful reaction to the antibiotic preparation he was going through, which seemed to rob him of any chance at a decent night's sleep, as well as an agonizing kind of pain I well remember after my own post-surgical infection in the fall of 2004. Those of you who are praying folk, I would surely appreciate a prayer right now for my Dad.