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Watching and reading the news lately has been even more distressing than usual. It isn’t just the content, although that has been particularly grim. As one who grew up with Walter Cronkite every night, the news increasingly resembles a school playground with pre-teens shouting at each other.
I had my suspicions about this and now I know that I was correct. By living here in the desert where we have had a particularly nice winter, we miss some of seasonal symbolism of Easter. I visited my old homeland in Indiana last week where rebirth was evident. Although I had the coldest day of my winter there, family and friends I visited were speaking in cheerful, optimistic tones about the end of winter finally coming and the joy of warm spring days.
I drove by the Ahwatukee Lakes Golf Course the other day when the wind was up. It was odd to see dust blowing across the course. There was something forlorn about it. On the other hand, it seemed like the desert was reclaiming its own. On Ash Wednesday, millions of Christians received the sign on the cross on their foreheads in ashes with the admonition, “remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” It is the spoken decree of God in Genesis 3:19 as Adam and Eve are tossed out of the garden. There is something powerful yet troubling about those words. I remember one year marking the cross on a beautiful baby and nearly choking on what seemed to be such a dark proclamation. She was not a year old, just how depraved could she be?
Arizona made national news again, but it was not necessarily in a good way. My sister back in Indiana called me last week. She was watching the news and wanted to know what on Earth was happening in Arizona. When SB 1062 passed both chambers of the legislature, a friend from high school who connects with me via Facebook wrote, “Chalk up another one for religion.”
I have been listening to the music of the incomparable Pete Seeger since his death last week at the age of 94. There is plenty to listen to, Seeger wrote, performed and recorded music for more than 70 years. Realistically, I knew that his life had to end sometime, but there was something about Seeger that seemed endless and eternal. Though his voice had weakened with age, he was on stage last summer at Farm Aid, leading a sing-along of “The Hammer Song.”
So have you made some? You know what I mean. Have you made some New Year’s resolutions? Something about January and the need to change the number when we write the date that drives us to make bold declarations about how we are going to amend our lives for the next 365 days. Chances are you are a much better person than I am, but I was never very good at keeping New Year’s resolutions. For years I made the one about losing some weight — a lot of weight actually. Not much success there. And then there is the one about getting more exercise. There are cobwebs on the spokes of my bike.
Those of you with a passing knowledge of college basketball may remember the name Bob Knight. He was fired as Indiana University basketball coach in 2000 and took a job at Texas Tech in 2001.
I am not suggesting for a moment that my extended family is weirder than any one else’s. I am also not suggesting that we are any less weird. Chances are pretty good that we fit under that 68.4 percent normal distribution bulge in the bell curve of weirdness. When it comes to religion, we are all over the place.
Last month, two events occurred in the same week that once again had us searching for answers. On Sept. 16, a heavily armed civilian contractor with a history of disorders fatally shot 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard. Later that week, terrorists attacked a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, in a three-day rampage that resulted in the deaths of at least 61 civilians and six Kenyan soldiers.
In 1997, then Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), The Rev. H. George Anderson wrote a book called, “A Good Time to be the Church.” His successor, The Rev. Mark Hanson, who will complete 12 years as ELCA Presiding Bishop in November, quipped that he was thinking of writing a book called, “It’s Not All That Great a Time to Be the Church.”