I recently flew with my family from Tel Aviv to Boston via Rome. The day was full of long lines, bomb-sniffing dogs, the opening and searching of overfull suitcases and the struggles to close them up again. In Rome, every single person on our flight was patted down and searched. We must have shown our passports 20 times.Impromptu debates arose as people from all over the world waited in line together. Was it better to search for the explosive device, as the Americans do, or for the bomber, as the Israelis do? Do the airlines need better technology or better training in behavioral screening? Has the war on terror made us more safe or less?
Tom walked into my office looking glum. He tossed his backpack on the floor, fell into a chair by my desk, sighed, and then rummaged through his bag for the registrar’s form. Tom is a first-year seminary student, and I’m his counselor. We walked through the courses he would be taking, most of them part of our core curriculum. Tom’s lack of enthusiasm was screaming at me. Finally I took the bait: “So, Tom, what’s the matter?” His hands went up in the air as he shot back, “What’s the deal with all of these required courses? When do we get to study things that are relevant?” Ah, I thought, the old “Let’s make thousands of years of inherited tradition relevant to me” argument. I’d just had a similar conversation with a woman in the congregation where I serve, who wondered why we repeat the “same old creed” each Sunday.