Magazine article The Christian Century

Motley Crew. (M.E.M.O)

Magazine article The Christian Century

Motley Crew. (M.E.M.O)

Article excerpt

CHRISTIAN TETZLAFF, superstar young violinist, charmed our town last month by playing Bach's six works for solo violin. Critic Ted Shen came up with a stereotype when he described Tetzlaff as looking like "a graduate seminarian in his rapt intensity.... With his eyes closed ... he seemed in the flow, in communion with the music."

Whoa! What does a graduate seminarian look like? The picture of Tetzlaff shows him bespectacled, short-haired, bent over his violin and, yes, in tense. I tried to match his image with the reality of students at the seminaries I have visited for decades. If Shen traveled with me, I'd show him that half the seminarians are women--even in the largest Catholic "seminary" in the country, our neighbor, the Catholic Theological Union. The fact that they do not look like Tetzlaff keeps these Catholic seminarians from ordination. Pope Paul VI declared that priests had to have a physical likeness to Christ.

Next, I'd have Shen follow me to the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, where the skin color of most seminarians doesn't match the Germanic hues of the violinist.

But the biggest gap between Shen's stereotype and reality has to do with that "rapt intensity" theme. I tend to visit seminary classrooms first thing in the morning or right after lunch. At the early hour I see barely opened eyes and many nodding heads. At after-lunch seminars seminarians arrive from nightlong sessions of intense Greek studies. Others have been with a child who cried through the night, or an errant teenager who set them to crying. In short: Shen's stereotype doesn't hold.

Reading Shen prompted me to go back to the November 21, 1951, issue of the Seminarian and find a column that I wrote. In it was a Time magazine reference to a kidnapper who had "the martyred gaze of a divinity student. …

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