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Personal/Theological Notebook: Still Zooming Around; Over The Rhine; Barnes' Article

As I wrote in the opening of my last entry, the last few days have been hectic. The pace has not let up. It seems no sooner am I showered and breakfasted than I'm out the door, not to return until around one the next morning. I'm afraid I haven't gotten much work done. Thursday evening was taken up with going to see Over The Rhine with Mike Harris. (I kept an eye open for beyondthewell, since I thought that this might tempt her back to town for a visit.) For the first time since I've been in Milwaukee, they've finally played here, despite this being home to their label: Backporch/Virgin. They still were sticking to the setlist from their Drunkard's Prayer tour, particularly as it is represented on Live From Nowhere: Volume 1. (Only a few copies left before they "break the mould!") I was annoyed to realize that I had no pen on me and so I couldn't take a setlist. This is what I think I remember, not necessarily in the right order, with "*" being the presumed title for new songs introduced that are currently being recorded. After an uncomfortably vulnerable set of songs coming from a period trying to get their marriage back in balance and prioritized over their music, Karin confessed that these new songs were utterly light-hearted and fun in reaction to that period.
Faithfully Dangerous (One of my long-time favs, up near the top of my iTunes "Most Played" List)
Born
Lookin' Forward (I can't remember if this was in there, or I'm just too used to it from Live From Nowhere)
Jesus In New Orleans
Drunkard's Prayer
Little Did I Know
Trouble/Five O'Clock Shadow*
On A Roll*
Fever
Moondance
There might be one or two others. But it was a disappointingly brief set, only 60 or 65 minutes before they left the stage at 9:05 to let the set-up begin for the following group, who didn't take the stage until after 10. But Mike had never seen them live before, despite being a fan, like me, all the way back to the days of Patience, so that was especially fun to be able to share with him. They were in a fairly quiet mood, it seemed, with a drummer and upright bass player (the names escape me) who lent themselves more toward jazz interpretations of some of the songs. Other than Linford on keyboards, there was no other instruments other than Karin on guitar once or twice. It was stripped-down and intimate in that respect, but nicely-apportioned for moving into the occasional jazz stretches, for which the trio was fulsome. Mike finally got something of what I've described as their energy on stage together. Before going into the last song – I'm always a bit disappointed to end on a cover, no matter how good or original the take – Karin finally introduced all the players with a kind of lazy drawl in her voice, saying of her husband, "Linford Detweiler, my partner in crime. He has a dirty mind." The way his keyboard carried on with her during the sexy, soaring "Moondance," we could all accept that.

We wandered off to Wilco's set after that, which had packed out the Miller stage. I had last seen them at Summerfest in 2003 with Mark Lang and the results were the same: while I can appreciate what they are doing musically, I still haven't achieved any kind of devotion to their songs. It's probably time for another immersion, just to check it out again and see if I'm taken now in a way that I've not been despite so many trying, including drea's sending me Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

Thursday was given over to hanging with Dan, then, centered around seeing Superman Returns with him. It still wore well after a week, and the effects were still awe-inspiring, particularly when calling for some kind of high-speed Kryptonian multi-tasking. There was a great deal of talk afterwards, until he left for home around 1am, much more Superman-centered than theologically-centered.

Friday achieved more of a balance. After Dan had left Thursday night/Friday morning, I was up until dawn working on this unfinished article of Barnes' I mentioned previously. It's all a hush-hush project, of sorts, so I guess I can't relate too much of it. But it has in many ways to deal with the problem of the popular – and professional – reduction of Christianity to morality. For many students, if you took away Christianity's role as a speaker of moral imperatives or instruction, they would think there's nothing to it, and are baffled by any idea of what Christianity is supposed to "do" other than being a personal and social guide to ethics. That's the issue of the loss of metaphysics: we have little or no science of existence today. But any schoolkid in the Medieval period, which our culture so reflexively sneers at as a primitive era, could tell you that you cannot have ethics without metaphysics first: that only once you know what and how things are can you then go on to say with any reasonableness what one ought to do.

This reading took me 'til morning light. I stepped outside to put something in the mail before heading to bed, and ducked in quickly to Starbuck's to say "good night/good morning" to Donna Harris, who is still working the morning shift there after having moved out and up to the north side, and despite being in all the glory of the eighth month of her pregnancy. She had mentioned at the 4th of July cookout that as she drove to work she'd look up to see if my lights were on and wonder what I was up to. So, since I was on the street anyway, I made a point of letting her now. When I mentioned having to finish the article for discussing that afternoon, she said she now understood why Mike had come to bed so late.

First off on Friday afternoon, though, was a meeting with Barnes and Mike Harris about planning the syllabus and lessons for our Introduction to Theology courses. Barnes ended up with an Intro course for the fall, which he hasn't taught in years. So we worked together on ideas since we all had a strong belief that the students needed a greater grounding in the Scriptures than they were often getting in Intro. Without that knowledge, even merely on a literary or historical level, Western Civilization, art, literature, music and politics will always be more opaque and misunderstood. Barnes was taking a different tack than I had been, with more specific arcs of readings than just a straight chronological drive through the Old and New Testaments. So, for example, on Monday we could read the key texts on Abraham, on Wednesday we could look at later Jewish Scriptures that interpret and make use of the Abrahamic story: how the Jews inherit the land promised to Abraham after the Exile, for instance, and on Friday we could look at Christian uses of the same: Jesus' claim to be known by Abraham and as the fullness of the promise to him, Jesus and Paul's de-emphasizing the Jewish covenant as one of mere blood descent from Abraham but one built on having the same faith in God. This was an approach I hadn't considered, and so we spent some time arguing and testing its virtues.

After this and a quick Jimmy John's run, we ended up in the Thompson Room at Raynor Library to debate Barnes' paper, along with Dan and Crip. This was hard going. The paper started out with a deep immersion into 20th century hermeneutics, and such philosophical and theological questions of the philosophy of interpretation. When he moved into more specifically historical theology, I didn't have any trouble with that, but the first section is just past my limits at this point, having just started to play with this material in my reading on Modernity. There was a lot of disagreement about whether he could accomplish what he wanted in the scope of an article. I suggested that a tight group of perhaps five essays published in paperback form would both increase the possibilities of circulation and allow him to more fully develop the astonishing variety of points that he was trying to make at once. I'm all vague since I can't tip his hand in discussing specifics.

We talked until 20 or 30 minutes after the library closed at six, standing in its shadow and trying to still have our say on various points. We finally had to say good-bye as he needed to go get ready for his departure back to Virginia for the rest of the summer and we needed to get to Dan's. The trade-off for getting to have this time at school in this hastily-arranged seminar was to give Amy and Donna a "girls' night out." So we got back to Dan's where Anna and Renee were just in the process of having an evening bath before getting put down for the night. Crip and I made a run for burgers and such at Kops', and we sat long into the night talking about Barnes' paper, fading to Rahner (where the girls came back) and ending on my being asked to hold forth (since Barnes, the only other likely authority) on why super-heroes – even from their beginnings in the 1930s – wore spandex/tights. At this point we found out that Dan had fallen asleep on the floor of his living room while we thought he was in just getting another bottle of wine, and so we decided that it was time to call it a night. I only then realized that the moon had moved almost entirely across our field of vision to the south in the time we had been talking. Time to call it a night, indeed.
Tags: barnes, biblical studies, dc universe, friends-marquette era, friends-notre dame era, movies/film/tv, musical, over the rhine, personal, philosophical, setlists, teaching, theological notebook
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