A New Small World
A flat world. A shrinking world. A world without borders. However you describe it, our world continues to open up to us in new ways every day — whether through travel, television, the web, print media, business, fashion, food, music, or politics. For some, this is an exciting opportunity for new perspectives, experiences, discoveries, and relationships. For others, it’s a threat to values, personal safety, culture, and familiar ways of life. For most of us, it’s some of both.
One of Seattle Pacific University’s signature commitments is to “know and understand what is going on in the world.” On its face, this may not seem revolutionary, but intentionally seeking the nexus among scholarship, the Christian faith, and the needs of the real world is not the focus of every university. At Seattle Pacific, it is key to equipping agents for positive change in our culture and the world at large.
This issue of Response spans the globe.
It benefits in part from the diverse, worldwide perspectives of three guests SPU brought
to campus over the past year: historian
Joel Carpenter, public commentator George Weigel, and scholar of Islam Vali Nasr. Each explores issues vital to Christians who want to engage our constantly changing world. Whether you agree with what they have to say or not, I hope they will challenge you to think globally.
Just as important, this edition includes the stories of people who are not only thinking globally, but acting globally. They are genuinely seeking to learn what it means to live as global Christians.
I know Response readers are the kind of people who want to learn about their world. One reason I’m certain of this is your enthusiastic participation in the annual Response book-reading feature. For nearly a decade, the magazine has invited readers to join students in reading a text from either the Common Curriculum or the University Scholars (honors) Curriculum. These texts have varied widely in terms of author, subject matter, date of composition, and country of origination. Along with SPU students, you’ve read works by European, African, Asian, and American authors — in essence exploring the world through the pages of a good book.
This has been, without a doubt, the most popular feature we’ve ever initiated in Response — largely, I’m convinced, because of your curiosity about the world. In this issue, we look at Thomas Friedman’s The World Is Flat (page 26), one of the books being taught in a brand new course for University Scholars on 21st-century globalization.
I just flew back from a conference and was served an airline snack on a napkin that said “It’s a small world” — the phrase made famous by the Disneyland ride of the same name. I’m sure we all remember the ride’s silly soundtrack, with words you just couldn’t get out of your head: “There’s so much that we share, that it’s time we’re aware, it’s a small world after all.” Silly, yes, but its message is that we are more alike than different and that we all need each other — no matter how many miles separate us or how different our appearance. That essential truth endures, even as we search for the right metaphor (flat world?) to convey that other things have changed, are changing, and are never going to change back.
The question for Christians is this: How will we respond to this new small world?
JENNIFER JOHNSON GILNETT