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Summer 2003 | Volume 26, Number 3 | Letters to The Editor

Letters to the Editor

The article “Religion: Cause or Cure for Terrorism?” by Vinay Samuel [Spring 2003 Response] seems to lay the blame only on Islam and Hinduism for religiously inspired violence. Although he does mention violence caused by Christians during the Reformation (there are plenty of other examples), and he says that “when we point the finger at others, we are also pointing the finger at ourselves,” he really only seems to apply the word “fanatic” to these other religions.

Looking at his definition of a religious fanatic, some key elements fit quite well to our own recent religiously inspired violence: the Iraq war. It was very clear from President Bush’s rhetoric justifying the war that he had religious motivations, and the fact that this war was supported by many Christians showed that they also had been able to find religious justifications for the war. So, to take a few items from Samuel’s definition of a religious fanatic: “They possess an absolute sense of certitude, and it violently propels them.” Mr. Bush was so certain of his viewpoint that he proceeded with the war despite the objections of most of the world, the pope, many clergy, and a large portion of the U.S. public. “Religious fanatics feel called to take the world by its neck and conform it to their vision of what the world should be like.” Mr. Bush and many other neoconservatives in the United States feel that we need to spread American democracy around the world, i.e., make it conform to our vision. “In the eyes of religious fanatics, those who ignore, reject or combat their cause must be destroyed.” Mr. Bush believed that Saddam Hussein had to be destroyed.

I have picked on President Bush here because of this particularly egregious recent event, but I think these kinds of attitudes are also present in many Christians. In addition, another quote from Samuel’s article is pertinent: “They think they alone have the authority to interpret the true meaning of the sacred texts they use.” I have observed this attitude in many Christians — they believe that they alone have the truth, the true interpretation of Scripture. When Samuel speaks of pointing the finger, I think it points to us more closely than we might realize.

— David Garen, Canby, Ore.

Vinay Samuel’s uncritical acceptance of liberal democratic political philosophy problematizes any distinctly Christian response to the issue of “religiously inspired violence.” Samuel’s proposal is cast against a naturalized liberal democratic background, which acts as his controlling narrative. For example, he writes of the “separation between the state and the religious order” as if it was inevitable or natural, when such a separation only seems seems natural from within the liberal democratic paradigm. Christian thought and belief are subsumed under the controlling narrative of liberal democracy. Samuel does not allow the church to speak as church. By way of contrast, he could have resourced Christian groups which historically advocated separation of the state and the religious order because of deeply held views about human responsibility to God and the need for an uncoerced faith response to God, and thereby provided a controlling Christian narrative.

The controlling liberal democratic narrative undermines his Christian proposals. He proposes, for instance, that American Christians “need to practice kingdom principles and values.” What might these be? An example: “We need to promote covenantal relationships that take people and their futures very, very seriously.” Is such a proposal even coherent under the controlling narrative of liberal democracy? Does the concept of “covenantal relationships” make sense under a liberal democratic model in which relationships are deemed to be mutually contractual agreements between autonomous, selfsufficient individuals and in which relations between individuals are based upon the preservation of rights rather than genuine concern for the “other,” whoever that might be? Christian theology provides resources for understanding “covenantal relationships,” but Christian theology does not provide the controlling narrative of Samuel’s proposal. His proposal would carry more weight if the controlling narrative was more specifically Christian.

Dan Miller, Associate Pastor, Anchor Baptist Church, Seattle, Wash.

Gigot and the Art of University Discourse

longtime (almost 10 years), faithful reader of the editorial pages of The Wall Street Journal and an even longer-time and an even longer-time (can it really be 50 years?) believer in the mission of Seattle Pacific, I was extremely pleased to find my two enthusiasms joined in April when Paul Gigot, editorial page editor of the WSJ, spoke at the SPU Business Breakfast in downtown Seattle and later appeared on campus to address faculty and students and answer their questions. During the years that Mr. Gigot wrote his weekly column for the WSJ, it was always the first thing I read on Friday mornings. His clear prose reflected a common-sense approach to life with a respect for truth that I found captivating.

Fortunately, my schedule was such that I was able to make the trip to Seattle to hear Mr. Gigot speak and to observe the interactions on campus. It was a trip well worth making. Mr. Gigot’s perceptions of the heavy fighting still going on in Iraq were cogently expressed, and the questions from students and faculty, while at times skeptical, were unfailingly courteous and in keeping with the attitude of civil discourse one has a right to expect in a university setting. It is a sad commentary on our times that this is unusual enough that it has to be even mentioned, but it is just one more reason why I am so pleased to be able to say that Seattle Pacific is my alma mater.

The past few years have given me numerous opportunities to experience the atmosphere of what is going on at SPU. I can confidently say that these are the “good old days” at SPU: Never before in my 50 years of association with the University has it been positioned better to meet the needs of students and to serve its communities in ways that the communities truly need to be served than it is today. I thank God for the leadership in place now and pray for continued wisdom to keep SPU true to its calling and make it ever more effective in changing the world.

One final note, the evolution of Response over the years has been nothing short of spectacular. For years it has been a quality publication that has consistently provided an engaging window into the University. But in its latest manifestation, it has become a thing of beauty as well as quality. My hat’s off to you, Jennifer.

— Jerome Kenagy ’56, Reedsport, Ore.

The World Is Coming to Us

from Seattle Pacific University with a master’s degree from the School of Religion. I then moved away from my hometown of Seattle to Holland, Michigan, to become a youth pastor at a Wesleyan church. Over the years, our church has grown so that we now see more than 3,500 in our Sunday morning services. I am no longer the youth pastor but now serve as the pastor of global ministries.

As an alumnus of SPU, I have been intrigued by its theme, “Engaging the Culture/ Changing the World.” As I have pondered this phrase, it has grown in its significance and meaning to me. As a missions pastor, most of my ministry has been about how we reach the world with the Gospel. I see my ministry expanding to help my congregation understand that we don’t need to get on a plane and travel to the world because the world is coming to us.

My work at SPU really gave me the heart to do what I do. My ministry in helping our people reach the world did not start within me when I arrived in Michigan. It was planted in me as a student at the University by the professors who would not allow us to take in the information only, but pushed us to apply it to change our world. And we can only change our world as we engage it.

— George Beals ’80, Pastor of Global Ministries, Central Wesleyan Church, Holland, Mich.

A Day for Garden-Lovers

to share with Response readers news of Seattle Pacific’s successful new community event, the SPU Queen Anne Garden Tour, held May 31. Clearly, there is pent-up demand for seeing fabulous landscapes in an urban setting — we sold 750 tickets in the first year!

One of the most personally gratifying parts of the event was watching and hearing gardening enthusiasts “ooh and ah” over SPU’s attractive grounds. I am so impressed with the talents of SPU’s head gardener, Jeff Daley — he’s used God’s beauty and his own artistic eye to plant lush, exciting borders throughout the campus. If you haven’t visited the campus lately, make a point of seeing its gardens.

I invite anyone interested in gardening and horticulture to volunteer at next year’s event. We need enthusiastic garden-lovers who can donate four hours to welcome and assist guests touring the gardens — you’ll enjoy every minute! Contact the SPU Alumni Office at 206/281-ALUM to add your name to this cool event.

— Debra Prinzing ’81, Seattle, Wash.

WHEN [SPU ALUMNI DIRECTOR] Doug Taylor called last January and asked if we’d consider having our garden on the first SPU Queen Anne Garden Tour this summer, I said no, our garden was definitely not ready for a garden tour. But after talking with Doug, I thought about it and wondered if I could get my garden in shape by summer. I had five months until May 31, the date they had set for the event. I would need to build pathways through some of the garden, move shrubs and roses, replant some areas and label all the plants.

I decided I could do it, and if I was ever going to get our yard in shape, this was the incentive I needed. I called my husband, Burt Walls ’66, and asked what he thought of the idea of putting our house on the garden tour. He said that sounded great as long as it didn’t take away from his time on the golf course. I told him I’d only need a little help (and I pretty much kept my promise), and I called Doug Taylor back and said I’d changed my mind and we’d put our garden on the tour. Doug laughed and said he knew I’d call him back.

Thus began a winter of activity in our garden getting ready for the tour. It was a very happy time for me. The roses and many plants were blooming in time for the tour, and it was such fun to welcome everyone into the garden. The weather was just gorgeous on the day of the event, and I enjoyed watching the guests sitting on benches in the garden listening to the SPU musicians or talking about the plants, asking me questions or giving compliments. It was a wonderful day we will long remember, and now we have the summer to relax and just enjoy our garden. I thank and compliment Debra Prinzing ’81 and her committee for a job well-done organizing this very successful event and making it a lot of fun for the owners of this garden.

— Ralene Walls, Seattle, Wash. Editor’s Note: For more on the SPU Queen Anne Garden Tour, click here.

In Praise of Theme Articles

Response is wonderful! I particularly appreciate the theme articles each quarter. I’m proud to be an alumnus of SPU.

— Elizabeth Kroon Davey ’71, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

What Do You Think? Don’t be shy!

We’d like to hear your opinion about Response or any articles printed in the publication. To tell us what you think, send email to, or visit You may also write Editor, Response, Seattle Pacific University, 3307 Third Avenue West, Seattle, Washington 98119–1997. Letters must be signed and will be printed as space permits.