Monday, October 09, 2006


There are severe generational and cultural gaps between me and my students, and these gaps grow wider every day. I just finished my Torah class where we were discussing Genesis 22 where God tells Abraham to sacrifice Isaac to prove that Abraham fears God. At the beginning of class I played a clip from Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited:
Oh God said to Abraham "Kill me a son."
Abe said "Man you must be putting me on."
God said "No."
Abe say "What?"
God say "You can do what you want Abe but the next time you see me coming you better run."
Well Abe said "Where do you want this killing done?"
God said "Out on Highway 61."

I asked my students who is singing this song, and they couldn't answer. I said it was a person whom many consider to be the greatest American song writer ever. One student said "Is it that John Elton guy?" I told them it was Bob Dylan. Some of my students had heard of him they said. But only a few.

Then later we were talking about an article I had them read by Elie Wiesel. A few students had heard of him because, they said, he was on Oprah. I went on to my speech about why Oprah is evil, and when you attack Oprah at an African American school, let me tell you, it is on. A student asked me why Wiesel was so bitter about the Holocaust. He said the Jews had 400 years of slavery in Egypt and after that they still believed in God. I talked about the aspirations of the Enlightenment, and how Germany was the most educated and technologically advanced nation on earth and how they used these "gifts" for horrible purposes. I talked about how education brings greater responsibility, and how the earth is not a very happy place upon thorough examination--the "increased knowledge increases suffering" speech from Ecclesiastes. I said think about what happened here with Katrina, and event that was only a fraction of the catastrophe, and how it raised questions of theodicy and questions about the nature of humankind. Then after class the same student informed me that God sent Katrina because He was angry with the way people were acting on Bourbon Street.

God help me.


Anonymous said...

To rework John Stewart's angle on this, if God was angry at Bourbon Street, He sure has bad aim.

God help you indeed. God help us all.

dangerblond said...

This is the kind of religious thinking that drives me crazy among young people. Connected with this kind of thinking is the idea that their observance of their religion is some kind of insurance policy against bad things happening to them. The first shitty, unfair thing that happens to them is going to knock them for a loop so bad that some of them will never get up. It's bound to cause a tremendous cognitive dissonance. It must be very hard to get through to consumerist American youth these days. I think it's impossible for most people to understand some of these things until they reach the age where they have seen the worm turn several times. So how do you teach them that so much certainty so soon closes them off to more profound levels of understanding that only come with experience? Saying "you have a lot to learn, young man," gets you nowhere. I would consider your class a success if, when it is over, there is one student who walks out knowing that she will never let anyone else do her thinking for her. Good luck! You probably have more success than you think.

A. Lin said...

Bad theology. Down, bad theology! Quit jumping up like that!

Anonymous said...

I named my son after that Bob Dylan song. It was either Abraham or Louis the King.

Michael Homan said...

Pretty cool Abu Abraham.