The encounter that most decisively shaped my teaching occurred during my very first year in the classroom. I was fresh out of graduate study at the University of Chicago Divinity School, and the lines of my life, as the psalmist says, had fallen in pleasant places.
In the death chamber at San Quentin just after midnight on January 28, a confessed killer was executed by lethal injection. He was convicted two decades ago for the murder of an 81-year-old woman during a botched burglary in which he cooked noodles in her kitchen as she died.
Our parents are our first and most important teachers, but they cannot teach us everything. Sometimes they are not equipped to teach us some things we need. Sometimes they teach us things that we do not need. So we move at age five or so to additional teachers.
In the safe, posh setting of the seminary, the Bible can seem straightforward enough. For example, my class one day was considering 1 Samuel 5, which is about the capture of the ark of YHWH by the Philistines, who brought it to the town of Ashdod and placed it before Dagon, the Philistines’ god.
When former secretary of State Madeleine Albright was fielding questions about Afghanistan recently, one inquirer asked about the role of women in Islam, citing the miserable treatment of females in Afghanistan. Albright’s response was less interesting than the assumptions of the questioner, who was clearly expressing the opinion of many Americans.
There is an 80 percent chance that later in this century a megadrought will plague the American Southwest for decades, according to a study released by researchers at NASA and at Columbia and Cornell universities. The drought will be caused by reduced precipitation and changes in evaporation rates. The researchers say other factors, such as the El Niño weather pattern, could interrupt long periods of severe drought. The researchers say there is time to reduce the factors contributing to climate change (Washington Post, February 12).