Does any of my FACEBOOK friends have any insight on civil religion?
It is one of the things that I love about social media, the rare opportunities to get into interesting discussions beyond the reposting of articles that people find interesting, intermingled with pictures of family life.
I’m not well versed in discussions of civil religion, but I read around a little bit. I am especially interested in the social contract, so I found the relationship interesting. I responded,
Random thoughts... According to Wikipedia civil religion was coined by Rousseau in The Social Contract as the glue that holds society together. I'm a big fan of the idea of the social contract and believe that we are at a point where we need to renegotiate the social contract. In this case, because of how the Internet is changing interactions between people. Yet it is these points of changing social contracts that bring about times of great awakenings. Civil religion and prophetic religion entwine.
Another topic I’ve been very interested in, and less versed in than I would like is great awakenings. It feels like we are at a point where a great awakening is needed.
So, I started thinking, is there a relationship between civil religion and great awakenings? My search led me to Civil Religious Revivals and Awakenings. It didn’t lead me in the direction of civil religion and great awakenings but it did give me a bunch important ideas.
The starting point is breaking apart ‘civil religion’ into different civil religions. Do we have different civil religions depending on whether we are living in blue states or red states, depending on further nuances of geography or political opinion? Are our civil religions determined by race and ethnicity?
Remillard’s article was full of interesting links. I was pleased to see that he is on Twitter and so I followed him there. This led to an article in the Washington Post, Like Pope Francis? You’ll love Jesus.
I’ve been fascinated by all my liberal friends getting all excited about Pope Francis. Elizabeth Tenety does a good job of exploring different reactions to the new Pope. It seems like the response of various American civil religions to a prophet religion.
Perhaps we are seeing an underlying battle between competing different civil religions and a manifestation of a prophetic religion. How will it play out in this age of increasing wealth disparities and climate change, amplified by changes in how we interact through electronic media?
I don’t know, but this is a great topic to be discussing on social media.
Saturday morning, the leading edge of the winter storm had arrived. It was still just snowing lightly, but it had already snowed enough to make the roads messy. Because of events on the previous weekends, it had been a couple weeks since I had made it to the transfer station and I really wanted to go before the weather got bad.
These days, every big storm brings up the topic of climate change. Yes, it had snowed recently in Egypt, for the first time in over one hundred years, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary with this storm.
On the radio, Scott Simon had talked about the drama around the production of RENT in Trumbull RENT has been much on my mind these past several days.
After dropping out of college back in 1980, I moved to New York with a couple friends. We lived in an old spice factory that had been converted to loft space in Brooklyn. One of my roommates was a painter who was working on a masters degree at NYU. Another was a photographer who was a food service manager at CBS’ broadcast center, and a third was a sculptor trying to find some way of making it in the big city. Upstairs, there were dancers. I aspired to write poetry and supported myself writing computer programs.
It was not ‘La Vie Boheme’ from RENT, but it came close. I met pushers and pimps, prostitutes and junkies. I remember the first time I saw someone shooting up in a car on 2nd street when we went to visit friends in the east village. Safely up in the apartment we sang Neil Young’s “Needle and the Damage Done.”
A couple years later, I left to spend eight months hitchhiking around the States and Europe. I stayed with friends of a friend in San Francisco and walked down a quiet Castro street in 1983. AIDS was on everyone’s mind.
When I came back, I live for a while with actors on Mott St in Little Italy and spent time talking with the old WW II and Korea veterans who drank Wild Irish Rose as they sat on the steps of the laundromats not far from the Bowery. One of those actors was from Greenwich, which now has already produced the High School version of RENT. ANother was from Trumbull. I don’t know if his folks still live in Trumbull, or what he thinks of what is going on there now.
Somehow, we all made it through those turbulent times. I got married, started a family and moved to Connecticut. It wasn’t until the nineties that I knew someone who died from AIDS. A friend of mine was gay. He didn’t tell people because he was afraid he might lose his job. His partner of 14 years had contracted AIDS and I remember doing the little I could to help.
A couple years later, my first wife left me. It was devastating to me. She got a job teaching theatre and moved to Trumbull. She still teaches at a private school in Connecticut. I haven’t spoken with her about what is going on in Trumbull, but I suspect she sees these sort of conflicts more than she would like.
During my reminiscences the song from RENT, “Light My Candle”, came to mind. I remarried. Fortunately a less tumultuous relationship than that of Roger and Mimi and she still lights my candle thirteen years later.
On my way home from the transfer station, after unloading my trash, I listened to the special coverage of the one year anniversary of Sandy Hook. I listened to the bells toll from Asylum Hill as a professor from Hartford Seminary talked about grief, hope, forgiveness and community. She spoke eloquently about what she heard in each bell toll, children’s laughter, gun shots, screams. tears, the tears of parents, of the community, of the world. They talked about other lives that have been lost to gun violence.
The words of John Donne came to mind.
Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.
It’s been a year. My mind goes back to RENT. 525,600 minutes. Seasons of Love. How do you measure a year?
In truths that she learned
Or in times that he cried
In bridges he burned
Or the way that she died
High school was hard for me. Not academically, I got good grades good test scores and was an honor student. But I was socially awkward and my parents separation and our financial difficulties weighed heavily on me. It was things like high school musicals that helped me through those difficult years.
A few years back, I found that there are municipalities near Trumbull where the median household income is over $200,000 and other municipalities where the median household income is less than a tenth of that. Sandy Hook is just a few towns away.
In the discussions of Sandy Hook, people often ask, who failed. Why didn’t the gunman or his mother get the help that they needed?
Was it because the school administration and the members of the community were unwilling or unable to confront challenging topics? I’m not saying that a tragedy like Sandy Hook is likely to happen in Trumbull because of overly cautious administrators, but I do believe we need to look closely and see how the actions of the current administration in Trumbull relates to other failures in education and community across our country.
OK, and so one of the expressions I learned at Electronic Arts, which I love, which pertains to this, is experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted. And I think that’s absolutely lovely. And the other thing about football is we send our kids out to play football or soccer or swimming or whatever it is, and it’s the first example of what I’m going to call a head fake, or indirect learning. We actually don’t want our kids to learn football. I mean, yeah, it’s really nice that I have a wonderful three-point stance and that I know how to do a chop block and all this kind of stuff. But we send our kids out to learn much more important things. Teamwork, sportsmanship, perseverance, etcetera, etcetera. And these kinds of head fake learning are absolutely important. And you should keep your eye out for them because they’re everywhere.
These words from Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture often come to me when I read about school administrations seemingly getting in the way of education. The latest debacle in Trumbull is a great example of this.
The short version is that the principal canceled the production of the high school version of the musical RENT because of the sensitive issues that it raises. When he received pushback, he said that more time was needed to talk with students about the topics. After the story went national and theatre companies across Connecticut offered to assist, he backed down a little bit, but still had to try and get the last word in by moving the date to one that conflicts with other school events.
On one level, he is to be applauded for his efforts to make sure there is a meaningful discussion around the play, if that is his true intent. He has spoken about having the Anti Defamation League help with these discussions. This got me curious. Why the Anti Defamation League?
Yes, there are lessons to be learned about homophobia and bullying, but there are so many more lessons to be learned as well. As a health care activist, I’m especially interested in discussions about HIV/AIDS. I’ve written before about HIV/AIDS in the area around Trumbull High School and have spoken with other health care advocates in the area.
One health care worker in the Trumbull area I wrote to replied, “As you may know, I've been working in the area of HIV for aprox. 21 years, as we are in the 32rd year of the epidemic, I don't think we have done a good job with addressing the stigmas that is associated with the disease….Trumbull is part of my catchment area. I have not been able to make any inroads in that community.”
Yes, let’s have a serious discussion about the issues RENT brings up. Let’s make sure we have an open, honest, and frank discussion about HIV/AIDS around Trumbull and how stigmatizing the disease only makes things worse.
But back to the Anti Defamation League. I wondered why they were involved. A search online about the Anti Defamation League and the high school musical RENT turned up this article:
Apparently, another high school tried cancelling RENT. In this case, football students bullied a student who had expressed her disappointment about the school cancelling RENT and soon after “received honors from their school for their athletic prowess.” The ADL became involved in part of the settlement of a lawsuit brought against the school district.
I hope, for the sake of Trumbull that the school does not get sued, and that there won’t be negative repercussions for the schools football team.
This was four years ago, so I wondered if there was something more recent I should know about. So, I contacted the director of the Anti Defamation League in Connecticut to talk about what was going on there. He wrote, “Although we have not formally heard from the High School at this point, we have seen the press reports and a press release from Trumbull High confirming that it will get us involved in this matter.”
He also wrote about how the ADL already has “a pretty deep and long relationship with Trumbull High School. For a number of years now, we have been providing the school with training that fights bigotry, promotes respect for difference and counters bullying.”
One would think that if the principal of Trumbull High School was so concerned the educational opportunities around RENT, he would have contacted them already, instead of having them rely on news reports and press releases about the controversy.
This takes me back to my opening. There is a lot to be learned from producing high school musicals. Some of it is indirect learning. The student who spoke up in favor of RENT has demonstrated amazing poise. The principal who refused to appear on camera is demonstrating that he is a petty bureaucrat most likely propped up by other petty bureaucrats, more interested in demonstrating what bullying is by trying to make things difficult for others when he can’t get his way.
Let’s hope that the students in Trumbull, as well as their parents and voters find more ways to stop bullying.
Recently, the Making Things Happen blog reviewed my daughter's book Don't Make Art, Just Make Something. It ends off with:
The trick is to understand what makes the Miranda Asilings of the world tick—and how best we can foster such maker empowered dispositions in others.
As Miranda's dad, I would like to think that I had something to do with how Miranda ticks and I've been pondering that comment since I read it.
Today, I stumbled across a couple things that might provide a little insight.
First, I saw the video This is Water based on a 2005 commencement speech by David Foster Wallace at Kenyon College. It captures ennui of the daily grind, and why people may feel they need to veg after they get home from a long day at work.
I can understand that feeling, but instead of vegging, I prefer to write something. Last month as National Novel Writing Month. I completed the first draft of my second novel. It doesn't matter if it ever gets published. Writing it was fun and there was a great sense of accomplishment when I finished.
Today, I saw another video, Learn what most schools don't teach. It is about programming. This is Computer Science Education Week. For me, writing computer programs is another form of relaxation similar to writing fiction. It helps get around the ennui of daily life.
Most importantly, by writing, whether it be fiction or computer programs, we become empowered creators and not just bored workers vegging in front of the television at the end of a long day.
Yesterday, professional photographers, stylists and others from around the world gathered to provide portraits to people otherwise haven't had the opportunity to have their portraits taken.
CHC participated in Help Portrait for a second year and we had some great photographers and stylists help ou.
When I got home from my various events of the day, I checked on Facebook and saw a couple great posts about this.
It appears, for whatever reason, photography was on a lot of people's minds yesterday. Several people shared different links to collections of photographs, Initially, I was going to reshare them on Facebook, but there were too many, so I decided to share them as part of this blog posts.
So, from the sublime pictures of Help Portrait, I move to the humorous if not ridiculous.