Gordon Hille’s Germanic roots run close to the surface. His northern European heritage directs his cultural, political, and religious compass, and provide the benchmark from which he considers the United States. Although Gordon as lived in the United States his entire life, his ancestral motherland still exercises a mighty pull on him.
“I think of myself as Lutheran, though I attend the United Church of Christ. The hierarchy of the Lutheran church is liberal, but American Lutheranism is problematic. My local congregation is very conservative. UCC accepts everyone; it is more contemporary. I miss the Lutheran liturgy, but I cannot agree with the positions of my local church.”
Gordon is simultaneously deeply religious and ecumenical. He’s a big supporter of the House of One (house-of-one.org), a proposed Christian church, Islamic Temple, Jewish Synagogue to be built in Berlin’s Petriplatz on a site where, in 1964, the East Germans destroyed the last of the Churches of Saint Peter.
Gordon has been a Special Education teacher for many years, currently working with 18 to 22 year olds in an intermediate care facility. His work with people who will have little access to many opportunities influence what he sees as two major political issues: universal healthcare and gun control. Again, he views them through a European lens. “Americans are always concerned with rights; northern Europeans are concerned with their responsibilities.”
Elmore Ohio, a low-lying area just south of Lake Erie and east of Toledo, was settled later than many of its higher-ground neighbors. Gordon’s ancestors, farmers from Germany’s low lands who knew how to dredge, settled the area. “They represent an early example of balancing the individual and the collective. Everyone knew how to drain their fields, but they drained them into each other’s until they developed a central plan that drained all fields toward the river.”
How will we live tomorrow?
“In the past I’ve been conservative. The older I get, the more liberal I become. I attended the 1980 Republican Convention in Detroit and I’m a big Ayn Rand fan. Then I worked with migrants. One of my employees, who had a two-year-old son, came into work late. The child was not breathing properly. The man took his son to the hospital, and the hospital released him. The next day the boy died. A nurse I knew, who spoke Spanish, talked with the father, and later told me, given the child’s condition, he would been kept for observation overnight if the family spoke English and had insurance.
“I don’t have things all figured out, but I know the world isn’t fair. What I enjoy is the process of deliberation. But some people won’t engage in discussion. They believe they are always right. If there is no discussion, no deliberation, there can be no understanding.”