Social commentator, whose commentaries air on Minnesota Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” (91.1FM) and appear in print on MPR’s Public Insight Journalism, http://www.MinnPost.com, The Chaska Herald, Chanhassen Villager, The Star Tribune, and The Presbyterian Outlook. Pastor of Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church in Chaska, MN; former Executive Director, Legal Rights Center, Inc., Minneapolis, MN.
Very early in life I was full of faith, but I was also Thomas, the doubting disciple. At the age of five I plunged to the bottom of the neighbor’s fish pond after the Vacation Bible School teacher told us that Peter could walk on water because he had faith. I’ve never read the Bible the same since that day! My mother rescued me with quick thinking when I ran home sobbing, soaked with muddy water. “Yes, dear, but Jesus didn’t tell YOU to walk on the water!” Nice save, Mom!
In college I again fell into the fish pond, thrown into it by my professor, Esther Swenson, in a course in contemporary philosophy. Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit and The Flies, Albert Camus’ The Plague, and Beckett’s Waiting for Godot pushed me back into the fish pond, despairing over God’s absence. It was also Esther’s hand that helped lift me out by introducing me to 20th Century theologians Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Karl Barth, Martin Buber, Paul Tillich, and the man who had most deeply influenced Esther and whose thought would most deeply influence me, Esther’s mentor and colleague, the Dutch theologian-philosopher Willem F. Zuurdeeg, Professor of the Philosophy of Religion at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago.
Zuurdeeg’s An Analytical Philosophy of Religion (Abingdon Press, 1958) makes the case that the human being, anxious and conscious of the limit of death, ”establishes his/her existence” by means of powerful convictions.The human being is Homo Convictus. Homo Loquens (man-who-speaks) is also Homo Convictus (man-who-is convicted/persuaded). Following Zuurdeeg’s untimely death at the age of 57, it was Esther who completed his unfinished work under the title Man Before Chaos: Philosophy Is Born in a Cry.
When I read the news or listen to a speech, I am always listening for the convictions, spoken and unspoken. I listen for the convictional utterances , taking “the term ‘conviction’ to mean all persuasions concerning the meaning of life; concerning good and bad; concerning gods and devils; concerning representations of the ideal man, the ideal state, the ideal society; concerning the meaning of history, of nature, and of the All” (An Analytical Philosophy of Religion, p. 26). with the ears Willem Zuurdeeg and his most respected and dearest friend. my college teacher and mentor, Esther.
Pastor, Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church. Click “Leadership” page on the church website for more information.
I live and breathe theology, listening for the open and hidden convictions that hold us captive or give us life. The ”A Way of Seeing” and the “Sermons” page tell you more about how I construct, deconstruct, and reconstruct the world. If I could be anyone other than myself today, it would be Bill Moyers, Cornell West, or the late Daniel Schorr who spoke and name the spoken and unspoken “convictors” that grasp us and shape public and private life.
My life journey took me from Broomall to school in Tennessee and Chicago; to campus and pastoral ministries in Decatur, IL, Whitewater, WI, Canton, NY, Wooster, OH, Cincinnati, OH, and Minneapolis, MN to eight years as Executive Director of Legal Rights Center, MN, and to part-time retirement as pastor of Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church.
I live in Chaska, MN in the greater Twin Cities Area where I’m slowly becoming a Minnesota Grumpy Old Man, loosened up by Kay (wife and addiction therapist), Maggie (our Westie-Bichon Frise), and Sebastian (our Shitzu-Brichon Frise who never stops smiling). Our family live in Bend, OR (son John), NYC (son Doug), and in MN (Kristin, Andrew) and son-in-law Christopher with whom we continue to mourn the death of his and our beloved Katherine (“Katie”) in 2000. Our grandchildren Jackson (“Jack”) and Amelia (who will always be”Mimi” to us!) split their time between KY and OR.