Hangin’ With the Yalees
“What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem?” Tertullian, a North African teacher in the late second/early third century said this. What does the Academy have to do with the Church? What does secularism have to do with Christian thought? What does Yale have to do with Clarion University ? What does filet mignon have to do with Krispy Kremes and Moon Pies? Sure Yale has former presidents, supreme court justices, Nobel and Pulitzer winners etc. But did they produce John Calipari and Kurt Angle? What does Dave Swartz have to stack up against the intellectual firepower of Yale? Well, unlike current students, I’ve graduated (2.42 GPA). Beyond that, I intend to find out with the next few blogs. The Yale Daily News annually publishes a great series of interviews in their Weekend magazine with current and former Yalees and Yale visitors. I will be hanging with them with the idea that they will be raising points echoing with Scripture which can be mined for profit for those who desire to know and follow Jesus Christ. My thoughts will be my own so don’t transfer from Yale in reading this.
Meet Charles Hill. He’s advised the powerful including Ronald Reagan and Secretaries of State George Schultz and Henry Kissinger. Anybody who can tell Henry Kissinger anything is somebody I want to listen to. They asked Charles whether U.S. national/political interests have hindered negotiations in the Israel – Palestine conflict. He didn’t hesitate; he said the U.S. has been indispensable to negotiations because the U.S. remains the only party that both sides will trust. With worlds, nations, cities, neighborhoods, schools, institutions, churches, and families in conflict, who can be trusted to stand in the middle? Who has genuine peace over their own storms enough to speak calm to the winds tearing everyone else up? Enter the Christian’s moment. Back in the days when a Roman emperor caught the notion that they were God, things got warm (toasty actually) for early Christians. Letters went out through the empire that Christians should be arrested, their property seized and sometimes executions. The kicker comes when we learn that many outlying provinces refused to do it. Not carrying out the orders of an emperor who thinks he’s God can be a poor long-term health decision. Why did they do it? All the infrastructures broke down; all local government function fell apart. The local Christians serving in various functions were the only ones both competent and honest. Some whack job in Rome can chase his fantasies but out there, the people had to survive.
As Apartheid gave way, Nelson Mandela came to Desmond Tutu because Mandela knew that politics alone could never heal South Africa. He knew that forgiveness had to happen and told Tutu that the Christians had to take the lead because they knew what forgiveness was, how to do it. II Cor 5:15-21 puts us Christians in the middle of everything to bring people together with God and with each other (reconciliation – evangelism and social justice). That’s why we have the roommates and live in the dorms or off campus apartments we do. It’s why we have the families and work the jobs we do. God puts us in the middle, in places where people who need reconciled to God and each other come together.
Hill says that it’s an American form of entertainment to blame everything in the Middle East on America and what we’ve done wrong. He goes on to say that’s not true. Reality in both world politics and faith is always more layered and nuanced. His expanded answer is quite profound. It’s also an American entertainment to whack on the church. While the church has many flaws all rooted in sin, the church also has many plusses. Many have been sadly hurt; some whackers just want an excuse since Jesus Christ seems a spiritual threat to their self-centeredness and a moral inconvenience to their lifestyle. But Christ’s church isn’t as guilty as some would like to make out.
Hill comments that education (and I assume he’s not omitting Yale) has lost real focus “Teaching about the way the world actually works was dropped in colleges. Education on international affairs turned to focus on issues, not on structures, not on history. A lot of ignorance…and frustration among students and puzzlement as to why what they have been taught doesn’t seem to have any actuality to it.” One thing the Bible does is tell the truth – about God, about people, about life. So how can we hear so much of it preached, taught and believed that doesn’t get into the bloodstream of real life – no power to penetrate real life nor transform the life of the one believing? Why do we not have more “doers of the word” and so many “hearers only” writing ugly chapters in American church life? Why do we hush up, disregard or accuse of unbelief those who wrestle with their frustration and befuddlement ? Is our faith sharp and strong enough to satisfy our deepest longings and engage the toughest life can dish out? Or is there a weird disconnect between belief and what is – not much actuality to it?
While Hill says much good about Yale, he says, “Your education has to come from you.” He tells students to not take classes because they will get us a good job. Take classes that will give you a good education. Required classes, free electives (and certainly our major classes) bristle with God’s fingerprints all pointing toward Him as He’s made Himself known in Scripture. Working the muscles of mind and integrating our faith with everything that Yale, Clarion or wherever we are can offer births both color and steel paying big dividends for the Kingdom in the decades ahead. And don’t forget the free stuff a lot of students skip – lectures, art galleries, concerts, planetarium shows, etc.
Charles Hill, you and I will have to do some cheese dogs. You could have been a Golden Eagle.
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