Sept. 16, 2010
Until last week, my most recent memory of Terry Jones was him pitching at Capaha Field at the end of the 1960s. He was a powerful lefty whose dad was a former major league pitcher. Terry and I grew up in the same neighborhood and played sandlot baseball games together in the summer. His dad told us about pitching briefly for the Reds and remembered a headline that read: "Jones in more hot water than a housewife's hands."
Terry's been in much hotter water since tweeting that his church in Florida planned to burn some Qurans. Calling the whole thing off helped, but his days of being taken seriously are gone. Some bloggers pointed to the fact that he and Rush Limbaugh both graduated from Central High School in 1969, but nobody knew how to make something of it.
It was a good high school, the athletic powerhouse of that era. Last Saturday DC and I attended a Central High football game to see some of the school's former athletic heroes recognized at halftime. Among the new hall of famers were Weldon Hager and Bob Goodwin, coaches who were gruff on the outside and big sweethearts inside. I still wouldn't say that to their faces.
We also remembered Kim Godwin, an all-state linebacker and a pitcher who threw streaks of light. He somehow managed to graduate in 1969 without becoming a world figure.
Terry's dad groomed him to be a pitcher from early childhood. He built a backyard mound where they played a serious game of catch most spring and summer days after dinner. In pickup games at Jefferson Elementary School or Whiffle Ball games in my backyard, Terry religiously threw with his right arm to make sure he didn't injure his left one. He also batted the opposite way, but he wasn't ambidextrous. He threw like a girl back when girls didn't know how to throw yet. He seemed not to care how he looked, just to love not being serious.
We neighborhood boys, who often slipped into the woods to play dangerous games involving sharpened sticks and leaps off cliffs, thought the arm coddling a bit odd. But when Terry played baseball for real he was formidable.
Nearly half a century later people are calling him crazy. Maybe. Maybe the Rev. Terry simply is unable to resolve his faith in God with a loss of faith in humanity.
In "The World Behind the World," Michael Meade writes that when presented with a dilemma of opposites, the temptation is to retreat to fundamentalism and literalness and choose one pole or the other. That's how political parties demonize each other, he says. That's how Islam can be called evil.
"Those who fail or refuse to face the oppositions within themselves have no choice but to find enemies to project upon," Meade says.
He calls this "the refusal to bear the weight of living."
Bearing the weight of living means holding the tension between two opposites -- the light and the dark, left and right, dreams and nightmares, the divine and the profane -- until a different and creative solution appears and releases the tension. This tension is the means of transformation, Meade says,
Last week two of my journalism students wrote stories gauging local reaction to the divisive plan to build a mosque near ground zero. Some of those interviewed were Muslim, some weren't. A Southeast student named Josh Abrams offered this solution to the dilemma: To build a multireligious community center that provides education about the major religions and teaches coexistence and rejection of radicalism in any religion.
Where did the tension go?
Sam Blackwell is a former reporter for the Southeast Missourian.