Learning to Think...in 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.