November 11, 2009


Posted in church, memories, movies, personal at 8:06 pm by jimazing

Jesus from GodspellPlease don’t tell my Sunday School teacher, but I watched Godspell, a musical from 1972 based on the life of Jesus from the Gospel of St. Matthew.  I was 14ish when it came out in movie form and being Southern Baptists, my peers and I were forbidden to see it.  I (being an obedient young fellow) didn’t see it.  By the time I was old enough to decide for myself, I had forgotten about it and it was not readily available (VCRs hadn’t even been invented yet).  I never saw it until tonight.

I can understand why they didn’t allow us to see it.  This modern, artful depiction of Jesus and his followers was way too “out there” for most of the folks in my parents’ generation.  In this musical, Jesus is a hippie and is dressed clownishly.  The whole “hippie” thing of free love and irresponsibility, chafed against their values  for hard work and conformity.  To make matters worse, his disciples are both black and white, male and female and the songs are rowdy rock and roll (for the time).

While I understand and even respect the stance of those church leaders (oddly, I don’t remember ever discussing this with my parents), I was not part of their generation and I feel like I missed something good.  The movie I watched tonight was quite dated.  The video quality and the style of music were typical of the 70’s… but there was something about it that moved me.  I think I would have been moved as a teenager too.  I saw a creative, artistic expression of the life of Jesus that I think would have inspired me.  Clearly, it was never intended to be taken as a literal interpretation of the Bible, but that fact was likely missed by the folks who ran things in my church.  Their position was that dancing, joking, references to drinking wine, etc were sacrilegious and disrespectful.  To them, acceptable depictions of Christian themes in art would be limited to “normal” church music and art.

I remember some of the songs from the musical like “Day by Day” that came into their own as pop tunes.   I could never understand what they found offensive (apart from the association with the musical itself).  According to the wisdom of Wikipedia, “Most of the score’s lyrics were from the Episcopal Hymnal, set to music by the cast members.”  I think it was a good desire to protect the young people from something, but in retrospect, their control kept me from an experience that would have been enriching to me.

Day by day
Day by day
Oh Dear Lord
Three things I pray
To see thee more clearly
Love thee more dearly
Follow thee more nearly
Day by day

November 7, 2009

A Phone Call from the President

Posted in Current Events at 11:34 pm by jimazing

Getting ready to go for my morning run this morning, I picked up the newspaper this morning.  It was yesterday’s paper that I hadn’t read yet.  I saw the following headline and read just a couple of sentences (quoted here), then I left for my run.  I wasn’t thinking about the election or the state of BofA, I was thinking about how cool it must have been to get that call…

foxxFoxx tells Obama Charlotte needs BofA

Posted: Friday, Nov. 06, 2009
Charlotte Mayor-elect Anthony Foxx said he spoke with President Barack Obama on Wednesday about the importance of banking to Charlotte’s economy, and said Thursday he thinks the White House could play a role in whether Bank of America keeps its headquarters in Charlotte.

“The federal government has some skin in the game,” said Foxx, who was receiving a congratulatory call from Obama after winning Tuesday’s mayoral election. (read more)

Thinking about how cool it must have been for Mayor-elect Foxx to get that call from President Obama caused me to wonder who else might have gotten such a call. Are there any rules of protocol around who the president calls?  Given that it is most likely a personal choice that each president makes,  I wonder what criteria he actually uses and how knowing that would that change the way I feel about the call itself.  Making some separate assumptions, I want to explore how it would feel as the mayor-elect to receive that call and as a citizen to know that’s what’s going on.  The following scenarios are in order from what I think are least likely to most likely…

Hypothetical Scenarios

Assumption: Barak and Foxx are good buddies and Foxx is the only one he called.

As the mayor-elect, I’d feel the warm affirmation of a friend who had been with me through thick and thin.

My personal reaction; I would think that was pretty darned cool that my mayor knows the president that well.

Assumption: The president called winners randomly.

As the mayor-elect, I’d feel like the call was impersonal. Not all that meaningful except for the fact that the caller is the leader of the free world.

My personal reaction;  The president must be pretty low in Emotional Intelligence to do such a thing.  Since I perceive Mr. Obama to be quite emotionally intelligent, I don’t think this is a likely scenario.  I just include it because it is a possibility… however remote.

Assumption: The President called all the winners of every mayoral race in the country.

As the mayor-elect, I think I would feel honored to a small degree, but like one in a million.  The call itself wouldn’t be a big deal.

My personal reaction; I would question how the President of the United States has time to call every mayor in the country.

Assumption: The President called all the winners who are Democrats.

As the mayor-elect, I would feel the camaraderie of our shared group identity. I think it would be much like a winning sports team congratulating one another.

My personal reaction; This would irritate me.  I would feel that the call was polarizing and that the talk about bi-partisanship and working together is just talk.

Assumption: The president called winners who changed the sitting party from Republican to Democrat

As the mayor-elect, this would feel like the high five congrats I might receive from a teammate after scoring a major point.

My personal reaction, much like the scenario of calling all Democratic winners, this would irritate me.  However, for some reason, this one wouldn’t bother me as much as if he called all the Democrats though.  I don’t really understand why.  It seems more like a congratulatory thing than an us-against-them thing.

Assumption: The first African American President called all the winners who were also African American

As the mayor-elect, I think my feelings would be much like the last scenario, except way stronger because our shared experience would be so much stronger and the group so much smaller and the win so much bigger.

My personal reaction, I could understand this call better than calling all Democrats, but there’s something about it that bothers me.  I feel like the office of the president should be above any social groups.  The reality is that each of us is a member of certain social groups; some  by the choices we make, some by choices of other people and some we were merely born into (skin color being one of those).  The social bonds we form in these groups cannot (or should not) be ignored.  Those who are in positions of power need to be aware how their affirmations within the social groups can cause isolation and polarization, which I abhor.  I want to acknowledge these social groups, not ignore them.  At the same time, I also want people to feel value no matter which groups they are in.

Assumption: The president called those whose mayoral races he had a really big stake in.

As the mayor-elect, this would feel like a call from a close partner in a shared dream. Of all the scenarios, I think this is most likely the strategy behind the presidents call… and possibly the most meaningful scenario in which to receive this call.

My personal reaction; I think that the president has a high stake in changing the party of the mayors from Republican to Democrat wherever possible.  Charlotte was high on that list this go round.  To add to the mix, race was a factor.  The Republican nominee was white and the Democrat was black.   Foxx is not our first black mayor, but it is significant, nonetheless.  I think these were two major reasons that the President would have had a stake in this race.

I’m not moved by political strategies.  While I see the need for a two party system and the necessity for each to have strategies for being on top, the polarizing affect bothers me.  It isn’t about Democrat or Republican for me, it would work the same either way.

How I feel in reality

I’m excited to see the ceiling crumble for people of color.  As a white man who grew up in the south, black people were always “them”.  You might have friends who were black, but your friend was always the exception to the rule of “us” and “them”.  They weren’t as smart as we were. They were people we called names.  Having them in power was unthinkable.  I’m so glad to see those walls begin to crumble.

I’m ok with the camaraderie of people of color congratulating one another as they overcome some pretty dang huge obstacles.  At the same time, I’m also aware of human nature and the real danger of swinging the us/them situation in the other direction.  I hope we can learn to congratulate ourselves without isolating others.  I hope we can learn to congratulate groups even when we aren’t a part of the group.  I really hope we can truly begin to break down the walls between the us’s and them’s and value everyone.

Oh, and congrats to you, Mr. Foxx.  My hope is that your administration will bring positive results to our community.