| The Day That Changed Everything
As a Premier Christian
University, SPU Brings
a Special Expertise
to the Project of
Engaging the Culture
On the morning of April 27, President Eaton spoke to 900 business and community leaders at SPU’s Greater Seattle Community Breakfast. His speech was titled “Leading With Vision in a World of Colliding Maps.” Eaton spoke of the need for clear vision in a divided world and of the role Seattle Pacific can play in “lifting up what is true and good.”
THROUGHOUT THIS YEAR, I have been pondering the question of how we might
increase the influence and impact of Seattle Pacific University. The reason?
So that we might better fulfill our clear and distinctive mission. Remember
that we want to engage the culture and change the world.
I have been talking
with people all across our campus. I have been listening, reflecting and writing.
We are drawing up a new blueprint for the next chapter of this great university,
and I believe we are on the edge of something very bold. But as we plan for
this bold future, we have to ask some very concrete questions. How does
a university make a difference in its community and in the world? What kind
of influence are we talking about? And most importantly for us, how does a
Christian university make a difference? Really, ultimately, I am asking how
any Christian makes a difference in this troubled world in which we live and
work and find our calling.
On Easter morning, I padded out my front door very
early to pick up my newspapers. The early sun was breaking out over our lawn,
and the flowers and trees were blooming wildly here in Seattle. And I found
myself blossoming too, looking forward to this holy day, a day when two billion
Christians all over the globe would shout and sing throughout this very morning
that our Lord is risen, all of us caught up in the greatest of all mysteries,
that startling moment in history when everything changed.
Back inside the house,
I scanned first through The New York Times and realized there was not one word
about Easter. This is the paper that claims to provide for its readers “all the news that’s fit to print.”
I guess Easter is no news to The Times, and if it is no news, it most
certainly is not perceived to be the Good News for its readers.
No story on Easter in The Seattle Times either. It did run a front-page
article on that day telling us that a new poll in Washington state reveals the
startling fact that people pray. But they don’t
go to church, The Seattle Times quickly wanted to remind us. This is
that endless mantra we have to endure in our region — that people don’t go to
church. But they do pray, even if it is to some vague notion of a deity. Well,
I guess all of this was supposed to be a kind of glancing reference
to Easter from our regional paper.
Fifty million Americans have gone to see “The Passion of The Christ”; predictions
are that 100 million will eventually see this movie. There are 2 billion Christians
in the world. For 2 billion people, the resurrection of Jesus Christ changed everything,
all of history and each one of us as individuals. And yet there I was on Easter
morning pushed to the margins by some mandate of our culture that wants to airbrush
Easter out of existence.
With breathtaking speed, it seems the opinion-shapers of our world have declared
the Christian experience irrelevant to the news of the day. We seem to have this
strong desire to enjoy the benefits of good Judeo-Christian values — human
dignity, freedom, liberty, rule of law, even separation of church and state,
compassion for those who suffer, a strong work ethic, prosperity and opportunity
for all, equal access to education — while at the same time we want to cut
out the roots of faith from which these values come. It is people of faith who
have articulated over centuries a tradition, a culture, that tips our society
toward decency. Such a culture emerged because these people were nourished and
renewed and transformed in mind and heart by Easter.
I think we must recognize the great danger when we try to cut
culture free from the deep religious roots that create and sustain our values.
In a recent issue of First
Things, George Weigel makes the
case that Poland survived, or better yet prevailed, against the crushing occupation
of both Nazism and Communism precisely because of its enduring “conviction that
the deepest currents of history are spiritual and cultural, rather than political
History is driven, over the long haul, by culture — by
what men and women honor, cherish and worship; by what societies deem to be true
and good, and by the expressions they give to those convictions in language,
literature and the arts; by what individuals and societies are willing to stake
their lives on.
Ah, here is the key for a premier Christian
university. This is our distinctive territory. This is precisely the strong and
compelling reason that we seek to influence and impact the culture. If we are
going to make a difference, we must continue to mine “the deepest currents of
history,” down there where we might grasp better all the time “what men and women
honor, cherish and worship,” understanding and articulating “what societies deem
to be true and good.”
And the source for what is true and good? At the root of it all is Easter. If we
refuse to airbrush Easter out of the picture, then we bring to the culture-making
project a special expertise, a special framework. We bring deep, nourishing and
sustaining roots. We bring confidence and hope. This is why we seek influence and impact. We have something
to say. We have some good news indeed. Good News that makes a difference.
— BY PHILIP W. EATON, PRESIDENT
— PHOTO BY MIKE SIEGEL
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