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Challenging Issues - Message from the Provost

Dear Bethel Community,

This is a significant week in the life of our country. On Monday we honored the remarkable leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and tomorrow we will inaugurate Donald Trump as our 45th president. 

Our country is at an important crossroads on a number of issues that have become divisive, emotionally charged, and hurtful. We struggle with how to listen, learn from, and engage with persons who are different from us and/or who hold different views, let alone to find ways to move forward well for the benefit of all persons in our country.

Earlier this week several faculty members in the College of Arts & Sciences received an anonymous note under their office door. The author strongly advocated for the deportation of persons who are undocumented immigrants and expressed opinions about challenges faced by African Americans in our country. The views expressed are very hurtful to many people and others might agree with the sentiments. My own perspective about the content of those anonymous notes is not the point of this email. I am most concerned about how we live out our values as a Christian learning community. Bethel’s values speak directly to how we will engage with each other as we face challenging issues.

As learners, we are critical thinkers and problem-solvers committed to academic excellence and intellectual rigor. At the same time, we are truth-seekers, recognizing that all truthscientific, artistic, philosophical, or theologicalhas its source in God.

We have been put on this earth for a purpose: God wants us to use our talents and compassion to be world-changers and reconcilers. As we humbly and honestly engage with our own biases and preconceptions, we grow closer to understanding Christ's infinite love and selfless mission of redemption.

We must join together as learners, truth-seekers, world-changers, and reconcilers. We must learn from and critically evaluate information that is available, pursue new knowledge, and explore challenging questions while we also conduct ourselves in ways that honor God. 

This past weekend I read Hillbilly Elegy in attempt to understand voices in America that I have not heard and perspectives that are different from my own. I couldn't put the book downI felt like I entered a world that I need to understand if I am to live out the biblical mandate to love God and my neighbors as myself. The people in this book are my neighbors. I also saw the film Hidden Figuresa compelling story that needs to be heard about people who are also my neighbors.

We will not move forward unless we listen, truly listen, to persons with differing perspectives and seek truth to God’s glory and for our neighbors’ good. 

I challenge you this term to seek to truly understand a perspective that is different from your own on an important issue that is facing our community, our country, our world.

In this journey with you,