Many of the most moving experiences I have had with students in class have involved encounters with members of other religious traditions. When teaching at the University of Saint Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, Illinois, I used to invite Rabbi Herman Schaalman to speak to first-year seminarians about the importance of Jewish-Christian dialogue since the Shoah.
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.
When I first started teaching, the dean thought it would be a good idea for me to warm up to the vocation (after five years in the pastorate) by teaching summer school. The summer school was designed for second-career folk—those called into the pastoral ministry late in life. Some of these students, I was to discover, are the most interesting kind.
My guess is that most middle-aged people when prodded to consider “aging” think immediately about what the flesh is heir to. In my case, there is the hair once “prematurely” gray now (without excuse) white. The root canals. The face that looks increasingly lived-in, the lower back that threatens to go out.
Most people, on some level, love movies. Yet as both a Christian and a filmmaker, I’m persuaded that Christians have not excelled at filmmaking because they haven’t really loved the cinema. They may love the power of cinema. They may appreciate the social impact of cinema.