Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Learning to memorium

If you were to ever look at my profile on facebook, you'd see that I have only three TV shows that I watch: The Simpsons, The Office, and Meet the Press. For the past 10 years, I'd developed a typical Sunday morning routine which consisted of waking up, brewing a French Press carafe of good coffee, and watching "Meet the Press" at the early hour of 6AM. But yesterday Tim Russert, the show's moderator, died of a sudden coronary failure at the young age of 58. I'll surely watch the show tomorrow morning, but it will be like going to a funeral, as journalists and politicians remember Tim's life.

Tim helped me think about both sides of political issues better than anyone. Guests from both the left and right were challenged on the show to defend their positions, and this interchange with everyone from Hillary to Orin Hatch, Madeline Albright to Condelizza Rice, was followed by about 30 minutes of dialog amongst journalists. By the end of the hour, I always felt like I'd been given the opportunity to consider both the merits and liabilities of whatever issue, politician, or candidate was in the spotlight that morning.

A steady diet of this kind of 'critical thinking' helped me learn how to look at both sides of every issue more thoroughly, weighing merits and carefully considering axioms. Meet the Press has not only helped keep me informed about political issues; the show, and Tim Russert in particular, made me a better pastor, a better theologian.

But Tim was also, more than any other public figure I know, a real person, whose love of family and values shined through his work. He spoke often about his relationship with his father and wrote a book about that relationship. Having grown up in a blue collar family where his dad worked long hours so that his kids could go to college, Tim passed on the same ethic of integrity and sacrifice, not only to his own son in a way that was far more effective, at least for millions of blue or purple Americans, than Dobson could ever hope to be.

I'll still be getting up at 6 on Sundays, but I don't know if I'll be able to continue to watch Meet the Press without feeling like a friend is missing in the room.


At 14/6/08 20:07, Anonymous Eric said...

Well said Richard. Lace and I were glued to news coverage last night. As we watched friends of Tim's from NBC remember him, we realized how important his voice had become in our understanding of politics. He leaves a big hole behind. I shared some thoughts as well at

At 14/6/08 23:35, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always appreciate your blog entries, but I have to say I was disappointed to see that in addition to taking the opportunity to honor a respectable life, you chose to flippantly tear another one down (Dobson).

At 15/6/08 14:22, Blogger Richard Dahlstrom said...


Thank you for your comment. To clarify: No disrespect was intended to be directed towards Dr. Dobson, for the reality is that he too has a voice in the lives of a host of people who will never watch "Meet the Press". Rather, my intent was to point out that one need not be involved in an overtly "Christian" ministry in order to have a Christian influence. Sunday morning's remembrance show, hosted by Tom Brokaw, contained numerous expressions from people about the role of Russert's faith in God in both is personal and professional life. Watching it, I got the feeling that Tim was a pastor to the whole NBC community, which is a role that neither I nor Dr. Dobson would ever be able to play.

At 15/6/08 16:48, Anonymous Anonymous said...

richard, thank you for clarifying...i misunderstood. in response to your words re: russert's ministry within the NBC community...i love the way God works in equipping His people to build relationships with all sorts of communities...another illustration of the "body" of Christ.. we clearly were called to different places and enabled with different gifts.

At 15/6/08 21:39, Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks for your well-spoken words. i only recently starting watching tim russert when i saw him speak--perhaps a rerun of the AM show in the evening or political commentaries. but, he always seemed genuine, well-spoken, and very much a critical thinker --all with respect and integrity. i only wish i knew more about him earlier than i did, but the times i remember seeing his distinct face and personality, i remember being impressed. i had the opportunity to watch the friday night tribute NBC gave, and it was stirring. he was not in the mold of all the other journalists and political cronies. he was a breath of fresh air, and he stood out in an incredible way. i think we underestimate, perhaps, the value of how God can work through people in the workplace. he stood as an example to be excellent at what we do in our professions, to put God and those we love first, and to think critically with the minds God has given us. he will be sorely missed, as has been clearly communicated by his colleagues.

At 16/6/08 15:54, Blogger bunabear said...

Richard, I appreciated your words;

“one need not be involved in an overtly "Christian" ministry in order to have a Christian influence”.

In my life I notice that some of the most recognizable examples of the Gospel come from the least likely of sources. Yes, Dr. Dobson and his group have their own following but I usually see more of the love and mercy of Christ while listening to, studying and reading sources other than his. Blessings to you.

At 17/6/08 11:14, Blogger Thimbles aunt said...

I'm so jealous you on the west coast get to watch at 6am I am an early riser but am in church or well on the way when Meet.... came on and had to watch the repeat later in the day. I also completely understood your comment about Dobson. Evangelical christians often are so stiff about being RIGHT that they miss love and acceptance.


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