An evening with David McCullough

David McCulloughJohn and Marjie were gracious enough to consider us when they had two extra tickets to hear David McCullough speak down at Powell Hall tonight. And, though I am woefully behind in reading most of his books, I, like you, have seen and heard many of his endeavors on PBS. And, when I saw an hour of him on the Charlie Rose Show, it really inspired me. He has a love of history coupled with some very, very good communication skills.

He spoke most passionately and emotionally on the subject of Public Education. No matter where the speech took him, he always seemed to come back again to the subject. His overall sentiment was, it’s up to the parents. Some of the biting criticisms he had were along the lines of “less soccer for the 6th grader and more family field trips” or “when you go the parent-teacher conference, ask the teacher ‘what can I do to help you.’ ”

That was also his answer when he wondered aloud what he would say to the new president. He claims he would simply say, “what can I do to help.” And, as long as one does not interpret that statement as “when can I get on the Federal payroll?” then, I most heartily agree with it.

But, what can you do to “help?” Well, help what? right? Isn’t that the question?

Anyway, listening to Mr. McCullough has inspired to write a bit, so there you go.

If Jesus could do it

I figure if Jesus could get up after three days in a tomb, I could maybe write a blog post.

I had my usual Holy Week schedule this past week: Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. For me, the usual combination of playing guitar and cooking. It’s what I do.

Saturday morning I was watching the History Detectives on PBS and one of the stories got me thinking about mythology and religion.  The story starts like this:

George Washington’s cherry tree, Betsy Ross’ flag, Paul Revere’s ride…now Muhlenberg’s Robe may be added to the list of debatable Revolutionary War legends.

The story goes that in January 1776, Lutheran Reverend Peter Muhlenberg turned his pulpit into a recruiting station for revolutionary fighters. During a fiery sermon, he tore his robe from his shoulders to reveal a uniform, and at once rallied 300 able-bodied congregants to the patriotic cause.

So, off go the history detectives to discover that a.) Though the robe is made of the right material and is of the right age to be the robe, there’s no way to prove whether it really is or not and b.) Rev. Muhlenberg most certainly did not tear it off during the sermon to reveal the uniform and likely did not rally the 300 right there on the spot. The story is probably a concoction derived seventy-plus years later when German immigrants needed to feel special about their role in the war up there in Pennsylvania.

But here’s my beef: we all too often ignore the plain obvious facts right in front of our face. 1.) Rev. Muhlenberg was a Lutheran Minister who lived and preached during the birth of our nation 2.) He gave up (took off?) his robe to wear the uniform of revolution and 3.) he convinced many of his congregants to fight against the British.

So, you see how the “myth” compacts and teaches us the story? The real story. The myth is good. Leave it alone.

On another note, I felt obliged to defend the Methodists a bit during this story. As the story goes, the “American Anglicans” (aka Methodists) would not fight the king. This is true enough. One must look inside John Wesley’s head a bit for the answer though.

I won’t bore with all the details, but we could safely say the Wesley simply did not like our founding fathers. He thought them buffoonish hypocrites. His main moral contention was, of course, their ownership of slaves. They demanded “freedom?” …right. The Wesleyan movement had already played a role in abolishing slavery in England years before.
Anyway, sometimes it’s healthy to read about people that our history books tell us are heroes, saints practically; to read Wesley just cut them down and insult them…well, it’s good for you sometimes.