President’s Blog – Crucial Conversation about Current Issues
October 30, 2018
President’s Blog 1
Crucial Conversation about Current Issues
First, let me state that this President’s Blog will be an attempt to provide light to dark places and insight to strained conversations. I am not blogging to write a political statement or address political matters. My call, as the President of the oldest protestant Seminary in the United States of America, is to help my community think critically, act justly, and love expansively; particularly in times of discourse and high anxiety.
NBTS is a resilient institution that:
- From 1855 to 1889, sent Reformed Church missionaries to serve in India, Korea, and Arabia;
- In 1879, graduated the first African American alumni; Islay Walden and John Bergen;
- In 1882, graduated two Japanese students, Kumage Kimura and Moto Oghimi;
- In 1884, graduated the Reverend Dr. Horace G. Underwood, who would go on to establish the Presbyterian church in Korea; and
- In 1909, graduated A.J. Muste who in the 1940s and 1950s, worked in the labor movement, pacifist movement, antiwar movement, and the Civil Rights Movement.
More recently, NBTS has taken a bold step to put forth our anti-racism statement! We are doing a “New Thing” surrounding anti-racism, and we are seeking to be much more socially responsible as an institution.
Since arriving as President, I have desired to develop a blog to begin a more consistent and intimate conversation with our community. Because of last week’s (October 22-27, 2018) multiple occurrences of violence in America that seem to be the product of rage, racism, rhetoric, and radicalized violence; it is clear that now is the time to begin the President’s Blog.
Three major recorded violent events in our country are painful, frightening, and alarming. I am still reeling from:
- the shooting on Saturday October 27, 2018 where 11 Jewish worshippers were shot in their synagogue in Pittsburg;
- the shooting murder of two African American senior citizens by a Caucasian American at a supermarket in Louisville, Kentucky on October 25, 2018; and
- the 13 homemade pipe bombs sent to prominent Democrats and critics of President Donald Trump between Monday October 22, 2018 and Friday October 26, 2018.
What do these events say about our politics and our society? Clearly, we are faced with tribalism, “wedge issues,” and a lack of wisdom and civility. We have devolved to a new zeitgeist where we spread untruths, contradict ancient wisdom and tradition, reject modern sociological and psychological research, and embrace ideas that harm individuals and communities (Lukianoff & Haidt, 2018; Rosling, Ronnlund, & Rosling, 2018) without batting an eye.
Rather than write a long dissertation on resolving these matters, I refer you to three interventions that you can perform:
- Read and live by ancient wisdom literature. For example, Proverbs 18:21 teaches us that death and life are in the power of the tongue. This verse clearly says that we cannot just say anything we feel like saying anytime we feel like saying it! We must use discretion and discernment in our interpretations of our societal constructs!
- Read books on critical thinking and problem-solving education. For example, I was just reading the book “The Coddling of the American Mind” by Lukianoff & Haidt, 2018, which addressed three great untruths: fragility, emotional reasoning, and us-versus-them thinking. The book helped me think about the importance of looking for truth in all events and gave me cause for hope.
- Develop leaders with integrity, bravery, and principals. For example, I was reading in a John Maxwell devotional this morning that said, “when people are esteemed, relationships are redeemed.” Maxwell also summarized seven values from Proverbs 27: Don’t brag, Don’t envy, Be forthright, Don’t forsake your roots, Stay close, Add value, and Don’t be moved by flattery (The Maxwell Leadership Bible). I recommend that each member of our community identify devotional materials and literature to read and then create sacred spaces where you can mentor and be mentored in the highest ethical, insightful, and prophetic traditions possible. Work with other leaders to harness the power of change and leadership and then apply it to your current situation.
The prevailing culture in our world today is drunk on an ethos of rage, racism, and rhetoric, and must, through critical thinking, acts of justice, and expansive love be eradicated.