Friday, August 22, 2008

Faculty or Staff?

Carl Larson was the carpenter for North Park College for a bunch of years, ever since I was a little boy. Carl Larson was my grandfather. He repaired doors and window, desks and tables that were used and abused by generations of college students. He had keys to all the buildings and knew where everything was. I grew up proud of grandpa; his portable tool box and blue-striped bib overalls.
When I attended North Park, the faculty person who became my advisor was Mr. Zenos Hawkinson. He taught history with the same passion Pavarotti sang opera. He stirred me and pushed me to think beyond where I thought I could think. And he knew my grandpa and loved him, even telling stories about him in class. I did not know there was a different rank between staff and faculty until I grew older.
Then the jockeying took over about class rank and gpa, about graduate schools and MDiv,s PhD, and DMins. Those with PhD's sneered at those with DMins and those who went overseas to schools were superior to those getting degrees in the US (at least they had much cooler robes and caps!).
Having lived close to academic communities in Indiana, Minnesota and California, I watch with fascination and some degree of pain how the jockeying continues. But it's not just the condition of academia, it also exists in the church, where I can so easily rank and position people by their "degrees" and "pedigree": the ordained versus the licensed, the seminary trained versus the Bible school, the "successful" versus the "just making it", the "influential" versus the "marginal".
My father has been a rabid egalitarian all his life, eschewing titles and degrees. One time when he was Vice President of the Covenant, his Annual Meeting badge came with an embossed blue ribbon with "VICE PRESIDENT" stamped in gold letters on it. As a young boy I was so proud. Dad, however, tucked the blue ribbon in his suit pocket and insisted on having a badge like every other delegate. When I asked him why, some years later, he responded "Remember where we came from, not the fancy pedigrees, but just ordinary cats and dogs. That's who we are and who we are called to love." My dad taught me to know and love the staff. They have the keys, they make the place run and they fix what is broken.


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