DISRUPTION… The Screwloose Letters, Vol 1, #5, Election Eve/Halloween 2018
You won’t recognize this magazine cover. If you can blow it up though the bottom line will tell you that it is the journal of the notorious Fuller Theological Seminary, for the time being still located in Pasadena, California. Current issue.
I was an early graduate. Don’t ask me what year. It was primeval.
But now it seems, “the times, they are a changin’...” and what else is new? If you live long enough, nothing is the same any more, including your head. Hopefully, your head—though that is, sadly, the last thing, for many of us, that gets an overhaul. How long has it been since you’ve had a really new idea? I mean a basic paradigm shift, a really new vision of how reality is structured? This sort of thing can be scary, but then so is Halloween. What better time to get spooked?
Spooked? You can’t be serious.
I don’t know about you, but I can tell you: it’s getting to be a habit with me.
The mood this Halloween seems to favor the spooks. Little spooks, bigg-gg spooks, the one with the orange hair, for instance… and his pious Evangelical minions. Not at Fuller Seminary though! One Mark Labberton, current chancellor, has been highly critical of the President’s antics, has come out against the Republican agenda. This is a Biggie that’s gone unnoticed, for Fuller is The Largest Evangelical Seminary in the World. Or was…
The Halloween news is that they’re shutting down. Well, not quite—not yet, though they wouldn’t admit that. They—and I—hope that this is a new beginning. But the magazine’s cover tells it all: it’s disruption time. There’s reason for that mood. The campus has occupied a huge chunk of downtown Pasadena for seventy years, but now this migration to Pomona, where rents are cheaper, so they say. This is a sizable shock, for me at least, for I have wondered at and admired their prosperity, their seeming success. Eight satellite campuses opened as they spread out over all the West, new buildings, booming, burgeoning. What’s to blame? Rents too high in Pasadena? Yes, but after all, this is the fundamentalist Harvard; shouldn’t it cost students a pretty penny? Declining student enrollment? Yes again, but after all, who needs to go to Seminary anymore? The churches themselves are gone, all the old mainline denominations, nothing left but the looneytunes “megachurches,” where charisma counts, not credentials.
This brings us to the real culprit: the Internet, no less. Fuller, always the avant-garde, the entrepreneur institution, has pioneered here: you can now get a Fuller degree online, without ever going near Pasadena. So who needs all those expensive buildings?
It’s everywhere, in my world, itself dissipating around me by the way, as I near the age of 90.
Then there’s the matter of my old high school, back in Akron. Thanks to YouTube, I can watch videos of the Last Tour through Garfield… They’re tearing it down, again after building it up. I was always so proud of the place. It seemed eternal, had succeeded so well. It had been expanded, glamorized. Its football team had become the Golden Rams, its immortal coach my neighbor of old, the one and only Babe Flossie. And once more, the old scenario: just in the height of its glory, Garfield is no more. Akron had lost population; with the decline of its Rubber Industry, who could make a living there anymore, unless you were in the computer business…? Then you might have to move to California.
Which I did.
I made the right move, looking back. Disruption was right on my heels, all the way. I now realize that I have been effectively expatriated, for the America I left behind me is now a nightmare, everywhere. Violent, regressive, fearful, dangerous. Ignorance and cruelty dominate, and guys like me are routinely threatened. We who were once moderate, even mainstream back in the days of our last real President, FDR (!) are now members of that hated species they insist on calling “liberal,” not even knowing its meaning. Gun massacres everywhere, people getting shot up in synagogues, Fox News operating out of the White House, Sean Hannity advising the President, himself the biggest con man since Joseph Smith.
I can hear you arguing with me even as I write these words, for isn’t that what we do these days? Families, church members, neighbors, we all argue. For now I’m hiding in California, behind my keyboard—but it’s coming, even here.
On every level.
Some of you are thinking
perhaps that I have come into
the cosmos to bring it peace.
You do not yet realize
that I have come to throw it
into utter chaos
through burning, blade and battle.
Five will be living in one household.
Three will face off against two,
and two against three.
Parents will rise up against children,
and children against their parents,
until at last they shall come to stand united
each on his own two feet.
Logion 16, in the Gospel of Thomas! It’s in your Bible, also—only there it’s been misunderstood and applied to the End Days, just before the Second Coming… Not so. It’s always been this way, more or less, in this our place of exile, this so-called “cosmos.” And here’s a chance to learn something brand new: it may be the way the Father planned it, the way Jesus wanted it… Because the major reason you and I are here may just be to fulfill a highly personal project, namely to get ourselves together, to get our heads on straight. After we get through screaming at each other we might just learn to look inward, where the hidden treasure is to be found, the Pearl of Great Price, the knowledge of which alone can make us whole. That’s what it means to be “united,” to “stand on your own two feet,” in a cosmos where everyone is passed out around you dead drunk, horizontal, inert, stupefied, stupid.
Then you won’t have to ask anyone for help on how you should vote next Tuesday.