Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Future Bears the Burden of the Present, Or, Why I Like to Punt

Even though I'm not a football fan, I like to punt.  It's my favorite classroom habit and so my favorite theological habit.

When I'm teaching my theology classes, I like to punt.

When problems get too large or diverge from the task at hand, I sometimes have to say to that subject that presents itself:  we're just going to punt here.   I noticed some of my teachers of theology liked to use boxing and shipping metaphors:  they'd say that they would need to "unpack" that idea, which meant they wanted to look at this definition or phenomena, explain it a bit more.

I hope my students remember me as the professor of punting.

After all, there's only so much I can do.  And only so much you can do.

To punt, as I understand it, is to ask the future to bear the burden of the present.  It is to act on the chance that you might have a chance.  It is to imagine that things might be different than they are right now, that we will live to converse another day.

To punt is to hope.

So. I'm not going to try to answer all of that right now, dear student.  Let's just punt on that.


I mean American football.  When I explain that I like to punt to my students, especially those who play football at St. Olaf College, they wince.  Punting is the last ditch effort in American football, usually something you have to do when you fail, when your team is out of options and downs.  Football is played by a clock and so punting, aside from other mistakes that would turn the ball over to the other team, is the lowest option for a football team.  It is considered shameful and sometimes a disaster to punt.

Which is why I like using it as an act of hope.

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