By Philip Eaton,

President Eaton was recently singled out by a Seattle Times editor as an influential voice of leadership in Seattle. "We want our work at Seattle Pacific University to model a path beyond dividedness," says Eaton. "We want to bear witness to the light."

What Is the Way Out of Our Tragic Dividedness?

"Our attention these days is riveted on a world locked in brutal conflict. If we did not know before September 11, we know now that our world is painfully and tragically divided. We watch in horror and helplessness the scenes from Afghanistan, Jerusalem, Northern Ireland, Chechnya, Colombia and elsewhere. We recall as well the surprising terror of attacks against our own people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. And sadly, we experience too much dividedness in our daily lives, split as we are so often by race, ideology, politics, religion and economics.

And we ask: Is there a vision of human unity that can guide us out of this intractable and tragic dividedness? Even as we support our leaders in these extraordinary times, we long to understand the path to peace and common humanity.

Is it possible, in these times, to evoke that ancient, powerful longing of Isaiah where "the wolf will live with the lamb, and the leopard lie down with the kid" and "there will be neither hurt nor harm in all my holy mountain"? Is this naíve idealism, sheer fantasy? Or can we claim this longing as a promise?

Isaiah articulates "the biblical vision," says Yale theologian Miroslav Volf, of a "world in which peace rather than terror has the last word." Vision is the right word — not longing alone, not fantasy disconnected from reality, but vision. This vision says that all of God's children will flourish, that all of God's children deserve to share in his love and grace. But how do we square such a promise with what we witness day in and day out?

True vision shows the way. True vision empowers even in the face of immense discouragement. True vision brings hope. Vision is not a plan of action, but a plan of action without vision is a mere whistling in the wind in the long run.

"There will be neither hurt nor harm in all my holy mountain" — this is God's vision for his children. And how do we get there from here? This is the big question for our time. What can we do? How should we take action as a nation, even military action, in a way that creates for us and for the world a vision of God's flourishing love? How can we at Seattle Pacific University model peace on our campus or in the Seattle community? How should our actions as individuals change as we seek to do something about this tragic dividedness?

My first impulse is to start with learning. We must learn everything we can. We must learn about each other across our dividing lines. We must learn everything we can about those whom we do not understand. We must learn everything we can about who we are, where we stand and why. Learning may create the possibility, in Volf's language, for "embrace" rather than "exclusion." Learning builds the foundation for common humanity, and without such learning there can be no understanding.

Next, we must act peacefully. It is not good enough to call our nation and its leaders to the path of peace when we do not live as people of peace. We must bring kindness to others. This is an act of protest against dividedness. There is no hope for peace in the world unless our lives are peaceful. We must build grace-filled communities if we are going to contribute to a world where God's love may flourish.

And finally, let us "bear witness to the light," as John says in his gospel. In John's first letter, he reminds us that if we "live in the light … we share a common life." The light requires, he says over and over, that we must love across the dividing lines. The light allows us to catch the vision for human unity — and that means risking love, risking embrace, shining the light on all that divides, and ultimately claiming the promise for "common life." The light of the world shows us the path out of dividedness.

We want our work at Seattle Pacific University to model this path beyond dividedness. We want to claim the light of Christ in all of its brilliant and demanding truthfulness. We want to live in that light. And then we want to understand, more now than ever, that we do indeed share life with all of God's children and that we are called to participate in God's flourishing love and grace.

Please read our disclaimer. Send any questions, comments or correspondence about Response to
or call 206-281-2051.
Copyright © 2003 University Communications, Seattle Pacific University.

Seattle Pacific University
Office of University Communications
3307 Third Avenue West
Seattle, Washington 98119-1997
United States of America