By Wesley Kime
If you can fiddle with Genesis 1, you can twang the strings attached to your California construction bond. LSU seems to be striving for prominence in the field of such stringed performances, and its latest production, “Fugue on A Funding Bond, a Concerto Grosso for Attached Strings,” was a landmark contribution, inaugurating and setting the tone of the recent Blogway concert season. At the several popular blogatoriums the resident choirs and roving troubadours, etc., gave improvised, impassioned, comedic, convincing, enraging etc., etc. performances. Costumed in the music critic’s tux and tie, yours truly scribbled notes.
As the music began to sound less heavenly and more like law opera, set in modern Southern California, two voices blog-oomed above the rest. Fittingly, these two choristers are barristers. Singing in original legalese, Mr. Phillip Brantley, a rococo tenor famous for fanciful cadenzas and apoggiatura, and Mr. David Read, a heroic baritone, known for sticking strictly to the score as composed, no trills, gave dazzling performances, I thought. I noted somewhere in the program notes that, adding to the courtroom and operatic drama, the two went to the same law school and once were roommates, like Jacob and Esau.
So that we can follow along with the music, here is the score showing the signature page of a tax-exempt California Municipal Bond with the new attached stipulations (the section is titled “Religious Certification and Acknowledgment”), with annotated grace notes of mine, certain words emboldened, and legal trills elided.
I, (name of signatory), … do hereby certify that: … the …coursework used to teach secular subjects [wk-i.e., real science; Genesis 1 is legally pseudoscience and sectarian] is neutral with respect to religion and … is typical of that provided in nonreligious institutions for higher education [wk-but that’s why our SDA schools were established, to not be typical]. …no bond proceeds will be used to finance any facility… to be used for sectarian [wk-that’s doctrinal Adventism] instruction,…in connection with any…department of theology…that includes instruction … that promotes … a particular religion or religious beliefs.
That is the chorus they sing nowadays in California.
Before the chords of the prelude have faded Mr. Brantley is belting out the ballad of our many institutions, notably hospitals, that have for years received government funding, so why the uproar over this case? What’s this, a hoedown for spilled milk? Wrong chorus. Take it again from the top, please. If those funds also have borne religious strictures like those of California’s new Municipal Bonds, that would indeed be news and cause for discomfiture for SDAs, as Catholics have just recently awakened to the strange things mandated by the health insurance they must by new law provide their employees. Unless waivered, of course.
The bond stipulations seem as clear and as closed to multiple interpretation as the law can make it. 1 Peter 3:18-20 or the Constitution should be so clear. Not that there weren’t legal arpeggios and riffs around the interpretation of the bond stipulations, ably led by Mr. Brantley, but these seem to have been generally accepted as only token efforts. Boilerplate, if you will. Blogs wouldn’t be blogs without such toots.
What really rang my ears and hearing aids was how differently the same score, given the wording, was rendered. From Mr. Read’s mouth rang the urgent trumpet blast in ominous, troubling tones. To him the California Chorus isn’t just to slumber by, or doze through, it’s the Anvil Chorus. But for Mr. Brantley, it is a tableside gypsy serenade, Muzak, or Brahms’s Lullaby.
Mr. Brantley is here to lull – by banging the “boilerplate,” of all things! It’s standard, he hums while he bangs, it’s just a formality, just to cover eventualities and contingencies, to fill space like junk DNA. It doesn’t mean a thing, not to worry, a nonissue, be calm, don’t get hostile, retract sheepishly your uninformed speculations and paranoia. Anyway, we can always get a waiver. It’s just “boilerplate.”
Boilerplate! That’s all our Will & Testament is, boilerplate, boilerplates slung around like Frisbees. My lawyers brag about it, and charge big-time. And what is a college catalogue statement of institutional goals and philosophy if not straight out of boilerplate alley? What are all those awards for every last administrator, professor of hermeneutical research, and parking attendant if not brass plaque boilerplate? Are you saying they don’t mean anything, not to be taken seriously?
But seriously, folks, of the boilerplate bobby traps that government lays, eventualities and contingency clauses, waivers and benign neglect are to be most feared. They’ve been known to be setups. Ask Daniel in the lions’ den. Hasn’t original Adventism always warned that society and government would change key from major to minor? And might California Bondage be coming in on cue? Or is that old fogey classical music few listen to nowadays?
And now, ladies and gentlemen, we are back on campus among the new award-winning structures bonded so securely they exceed earthquake standards, and sheep may safely graze. We are attending the season gala and finale, a specially commissioned LSU Response, a tone poem for church organ and pastoral oboe with counterpoint for thin-skinned snare drum, and legal obbligato by the official court counsel, a Mr. Hansen, who, having thus performed, seems to have bowed off stage as Mr. Brantley came on.
The organ begins, softly. There is a strange peace here. I cannot but recall the Sabbath evening organ vespers Professor Hanum held in old Hole Memorial Hall, when I was a student here, almost seventy years ago, before the big church with the big square tower was built. My happiest school memories, those vespers, that organ. My eyes, old and watery now, begin to spill over.
Could it be that LSU’s peace that passeth all understanding is truly warranted, LSU being the soul of contented compliance, at least to its bonds, living the letter and singing the spirit of the law, and the law is a friend and abettor? Abide in the law and fear not. This regulation might as well have been specially commissioned and composed just for LSU. Providential. The attached strings are the ties that bind, blissfully. LSU has faced the music and it turns out to be “our song.”
Or will it be “Requiem for An Adventist University”?