Saturday, April 11, 2009

Sniffles on Easter

Friends University, like all truly worthwhile institutions, honors Good Friday--and by extension the whole Easter week--by closing for the day. I'd like to say that I used the free time to go with the family out to Good Friday services somewhere, but 1) the Mormon church doesn't do much at all with the traditional Christian calendar, and so it would have been a matter of finding some other service to attend (as we do every Christmas Eve), and 2) I've been sick, as have at least half the family, and so our collective desire to get dressed up and take the kids to church on a weekday was pretty minimal. It's particularly frustrating to me, because it's as if my pride has been wounded: I have allergies, and I have had a couple of freaky health scares before, but by and large, when the flu makes it occasional march through the Fox household, I'm usually the one well who stays well. All around me, females with ear infections, hacking coughs, high fevers, and I stand undisturbed. I am invincible!, my mind indulgently cries out. Well, not this time. Running nose, constant headache, can't sleep. Blah. I think I'm finally shaking it, as is everyone else, but man has it been a miserable week.

Anyway, that's why I haven't posted anything; my apologies. I did re-post a couple of old Easter-related posts of mine, over at By Common Consent, where I do some occasional Mormon blogging these days. The first is the text of an old story about Jesus I read to the girls every Good Friday, "The Three Trees"; the second, much longer post, is a series of excerpts from a personal essay published over twenty years, title "Easter Weekend." The author was Gene England, who died a few years ago; I had known him a little bit while a young student at BYU, way back when. Gene was a professor of English, but more importantly he was beautiful writer, a Mormon essayist without peer. The honesty and humility he expresses in that essay conveys the spirit, pain, and promise of the Easter story as well as anything I've ever read.

Anyway, happy Easter, one and all. I'll be back next week.


Amira said...

Happy Easter! I hope you all feel better soon.

Julie said...

Hi Russell,
Happy belated Easter and I hope everyone feels better very soon.

Jacob T. Levy said...

"Friends University, like all truly worthwhile institutions, honors Good Friday--and by extension the whole Easter week--by closing for the day. "

Now there's a principle I'd be fascinated to hear defended at the level of generality stated!

I'll even make it easier and stipulate that you don't mean to indict as non-worthwhile the institutions of non-Christian religions-- viz. you don't think that Yeshiva University or your neighborhood mosque fail to be worthwhile by failing to close for Good Friday.

I'll even also spot you emergency institutions-- you don't mean to say that hospitals fail to be worthwhile etc.

But even so!

cantankerously yours, Jacob

Russell Arben Fox said...

Since the last thing I want to deal with is a cantankerous Jacob Levy, I know hereby amend the openingly line of this post:

"Friends University, like all truly worthwhile schools and other educational institutions which either 1) have a specifically (if not necessarily sectarian) Christian history and/or mission statement, or 2) are secular in their history and/or mission statement but which operate within a predominantly Christian milieu and serve a predominantly Christian student body, honors Good Friday--and by extenstion the whole Easter week--by closing for the day."

That will probably still leave you a little grumpy, Jacob, but at least it hopefully moves the discussion over towards more general multicultural/civic religion-type grounds, which are grounds upon which I'm more confident of my ability to argue, anyway.

Jacob T. Levy said...

Ah! Much better.

(1) is fine and appropriate, of course, modulo the problem that not all Christians observe Good Friday on the same day. (Eastern Orthodox Christians somehow get forgotten *very* easily in lots of discussions of religious accommodation etc.)

(2) depends, I guess, on the two "predominantly"s. If you count the whole United States as definitionally a predominantly Christian milieu and all institutions of higher education that aren't Yeshiva and Brandeis as serving predominantly Christian student bodies, then, yeah, I'll still be a bit cantankerous. (That's the definition according to which everyone of non-Jewish European descent counts as Christian, regardless of their substantive religious views and commitments.) When you've got students who are 1/5 Jewish, 1/5 believing Christian, 2/5 nonbelieving descendants of believing Christian, and 1/5 other, does that count as "predominantly" Christian? If not, if you really mean student bodies largely made up of believing Christians, then even (2) is unproblematic.

I don't mind seeing universities erring on the side of religious holidays. Some workplaces work fine by giving employees their several religious holidays-- and the one time I was ever in position to set a workplace policy, I abolished the firmwide Good Friday holiday, replacing it with a floating religious holiday that employees could use when appropriate (Yom Kippur, Orthodox Good Friday, etc). I like the fact that in a cosmopolitan city people take turns absenting themselves from the public and commercial spheres for religious purposes, and take turns filling in for one another on such occasions. And there's no need for public or commercial life to shut completely down on any one such occasion.

But there's much to be said for not running classrooms that way, and instead for trying to minimize the number of students who face a conflict between missing class and missing a religious observance. I don't think universities in our cultural milieu ought to hold classes on Sundays, either.

Of course, throughout I'm concerned with institutions respecting the various religious commitments of the persons involved, not "honoring" Good Friday per se, but that's not a distinction I think worthy of cantankerousness!