A Modest Proposal for Immigration Reform

Crisis at the border! Thousands of unaccompanied children are crossing vast distances and taking huge risks for the opportunity of receiving asylum in the US. Depending on whom you ask, the crisis is either a humanitarian crisis or a national security crisis. The crisis is evidence of Obama’s failed policies (e.g., the “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals”) or of Congress’s failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

Frankly, I feel sorry for people in Washington. They have a hard task. Even leaving aside the political considerations that tie them in knots, the question of immigration is complex. On the one hand, nations have borders and they have the right to regulate their borders. This right pertains to what Christian theologians have called the ius gentium, sometimes translated as “international law” or “the right of peoples.” On the other hand, people have the right to move freely (a ius peregrinandi). Christian tradition has favored the latter over the former, but neither right is absolute. In weighing these sometimes competing rights, politicians have to measure the harm that can result from immigration or its control. But how? It used to be that this country identified citizenship with whiteness; its immigration policies were fueled by fear of the societal harm that would result from miscegenation. And now? Is the browning of America harmful? What about the change of California into “Mexifornia”? What about the influx of retirees into Florida and Arizona? What about gentrification?

Given the complexities of the immigration issue, I’m not surprised at the current impasse. But given that the vast majority of these immigrants are not only children but Christians, I have a modest proposal for immigration reform, that Christians welcome other Christians. In justification of this proposal, let me offer three reasons.

First, being undocumented or having an illegal immigration status is not a sin per se. However, being undocumented, even if not inherently sinful, has moral implications. So, being undocumented is not sinful per se, but it can dispose one to certain sinful acts such as lying about one’s immigration status, identity theft, health care fraud, and the like. Moreover, being undocumented can increase the likelihood of adultery and divorce, as borders separate spouses and divide families. However, undocumented persons are not alone this. Being rich is not per se sinful, but riches are fraught with moral complications. In any case, the church doesn’t have a citizenship test. Whether a person presenting themselves for baptism has a US birth certificate, a Green Card, a student visa, a tourist visa, or nothing at all, isn’t an issue for the church. The questions that we ask our members are: “Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of sin?”

Second, when in baptizing in the Triune Name we pledge allegiance to authorities that transcend national borders. Implicit in the Great Commission of Matthew 28 is the claim that the apostles have the authority to preach to any nation in the world, which presupposes the right to travel and move freely. The ius peregrinandi attains its goal in the ius praedicandi. The right to preach the gospel is absolute; the act of baptism makes a claim that exceeds all natural and human law or rights. The natural inclination to society and friendship attains its perfection in the community of friends of God, the church. The baptismal certificate is not a green card but something infinitely better. It is the passport to an outpost of the kingdom of God, a kingdom that is beyond borders because it comes from above.

Third, at the conclusion of the act of baptism a local congregation commits itself to “surround these persons with a community of love and forgiveness.” It might be argued that these promises are only for the local congregation and that they are largely symbolic. But baptism is into the one body of Christ, and symbols have an underlying reality on which they are grounded. So unless our congregational vows are mere air vibrations without significance, then they must mean something. At bare minimum, the congregation should not itself initiate deportation proceedings. However, such a minimalist approach does not rule out richer interpretations of these promises (political advocacy, employment, sanctuary, etc.) — interpretations that take seriously Paul’s commendation in Gal 6:10: “So then, let’s work for the good of all whenever we have an opportunity, and especially for those in the household of faith” (CEB).” Moreover, it’s significant that the reception of the baptized into the congregation becomes the occasion for the congregation to renew its own membership vows. In welcoming the stranger as brother or sister, the church revitalizes its own identity.

“Christians should welcome one another.” This is admittedly not a comprehensive proposal. It is silent on the treatment of non-Christians. But it is a start.

Found in Translation

A recent trip to Central America and the annual celebration of Pentecost led me to reflect anew on the nature and practice of translation. Translation is a risky enterprise.

It is hard to translate well. There is more to translation than finding an equivalent word in another language. Translation requires more than dictionaries and verb charts. It requires a good ear, a quick tongue, fluency in both languages and a certain degree of sympathy and understanding of both cultures. Even then translations is difficult business.

The Italian aphorism states it well: “traduttore, traditore.” The translator is a traitor. The very translation of the phrase with the inevitable loss of the word play is an example of this maxim. It is simply not possible to translate something into another language without remainder or accretion. The act of translation involves an act of faith and hope; the core of the message will survive the journey into the foreign language. Sometimes it does. Sometimes it does not.

Translations can be dangerous. The translation of “Messiah” into “Christ” unwittingly opened the door to supercessionism. Some of the Christological controversies of the fourth and fifth century had to do with whether the Greek term “hypostasis” was translated into Latin as “substantia” or “persona.” Important distinctions can be lost. When I translate for English speaking teachers in Latin American contexts, I warn them that contrasting resurrection with resuscitation does not work in Spanish where the same word is used for both.

Translation is so difficult and treacherous that it might seem pointless. Except that I found Wesley in translation.

As a surprise convert to Methodism, my first encounters with John Wesley in church and seminary left me cold. I struggled to understand what this slightly prudish, Anglican priest had to do with me. It’s not that I was looking for teachers who were after my own image. I loved reading Augustine and was attracted by the clarity of Calvin and the wit of Luther. The problem was that Wesley seemed too much of an intellectual lightweight to make the journey to eighteenth century England worth my while. Not surprisingly, Methodism was my worst subject in seminary and my paper on Wesleyan-Catholic encounters was my lowest grade in my graduate student career.

After graduating from divinity school, I became involved in the translation of Wesley’s works into Spanish. As indexer for the fourteen volume series, I had to read carefully through many sermons, treatises, letters and journals, looking for key words that would help Spanish-speaking readers understand Wesley. At the same time that I was reading more Wesley than I ever had in seminary, I was trying to launch a new Hispanic ministry in my adopted hometown of Durham, North Carolina. The attempt of building Christian community among nominal Christians who were largely poor resonated with my growing understanding of the beginnings of the Methodist movement. Wesley’s approach to theology was “light” because in order to reach simple people nimbleness and humility are the order of the day. The gap between Wesley and me was bridged by the practice of ministry at the margins and also by hearing Wesley speak in my own native language.

Things can be lost in translation. The translation of John Wesley’s works into Spanish included very little of the Methodist hymnody. Partly this was an editorial decision, partly it signaled the difficulty of translating poetry into another language. Literal translations lose the rhythm and resonances of the poetic original. Lyrical translations lose the theological precision of the prose. The result was a prosaic Wesley that is only a pale shadow of the founding vision of the Methodists, which united prose and verse, sermon and song.

Things can be found in translation. In Spanish the first line of “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing My Great Redeemer’s Praise” (one of the few Wesley hymns translated into Spanish) reads as “Mil voces para celebrar a mi libertador.” A line that resonates with fiesta and has more than a hint of liberation theology. Wesley’s Aldersgate experience is translated into Spanish as the experience of the “corazón ardiente,” the burning heart, which sounds hotter than “strangely warmed.” In both of these cases, I think that the translation improves the original.

Translation is risky business, but the risk and possibility of translation is intrinsic to the message of the gospel. The gospel rests on a massive act of translation. The word became flesh. God’s first language is Jesus, and the Holy Spirit can take any language, purify, and stretch it so as to be the bearer of a Word that not all the languages of the cosmos can contain.

Found in Translation

A recent trip to Central America and the annual celebration of Pentecost led me to reflect anew on the nature and practice of translation. Translation is a risky enterprise.

It is hard to translate well. There is more to translation than finding an equivalent word in another language. Translation requires more than dictionaries and verb charts. It requires a good ear, a quick tongue, fluency in both languages and a certain degree of sympathy and understanding of both cultures. Even then translations is difficult business.

The Italian aphorism states it well: “traduttore, traditore.” The translator is a traitor. The very translation of the phrase with the inevitable loss of the word play is an example of this maxim. It is simply not possible to translate something into another language without remainder or accretion. The act of translation involves an act of faith and hope; the core of the message will survive the journey into the foreign language. Sometimes it does. Sometimes it does not.

Translations can be dangerous. The translation of “Messiah” into “Christ” unwittingly opened the door to supercessionism. Some of the Christological controversies of the fourth and fifth century had to do with whether the Greek term “hypostasis” was translated into Latin as “substantia” or “persona.” Important distinctions can be lost. When I translate for English speaking teachers in Latin American contexts, I warn them that contrasting resurrection with resuscitation does not work in Spanish where the same word is used for both.

Translation is so difficult and treacherous that it might seem pointless. Except that I found Wesley in translation.

As a surprise convert to Methodism, my first encounters with John Wesley in church and seminary left me cold. I struggled to understand what this slightly prudish, Anglican priest had to do with me. It’s not that I was looking for teachers who were after my own image. I loved reading Augustine and was attracted by the clarity of Calvin and the wit of Luther. The problem was that Wesley seemed too much of an intellectual lightweight to make the journey to eighteenth century England worth my while. Not surprisingly, Methodism was my worst subject in seminary and my paper on Wesleyan-Catholic encounters was my lowest grade in my graduate student career.

After graduating from divinity school, I became involved in the translation of Wesley’s works into Spanish. As indexer for the fourteen volume series, I had to read carefully through many sermons, treatises, letters and journals, looking for key words that would help Spanish-speaking readers understand Wesley. At the same time that I was reading more Wesley than I ever had in seminary, I was trying to launch a new Hispanic ministry in my adopted hometown of Durham, North Carolina. The attempt of building Christian community among nominal Christians who were largely poor resonated with my growing understanding of the beginnings of the Methodist movement. Wesley’s approach to theology was “light” because in order to reach simple people nimbleness and humility are the order of the day. The gap between Wesley and me was bridged by the practice of ministry at the margins and also by hearing Wesley speak in my own native language.

Things can be lost in translation. The translation of John Wesley’s works into Spanish included very little of the Methodist hymnody. Partly this was an editorial decision, partly it signaled the difficulty of translating poetry into another language. Literal translations lose the rhythm and resonances of the poetic original. Lyrical translations lose the theological precision of the prose. The result was a prosaic Wesley that is only a pale shadow of the founding vision of the Methodists, which united prose and verse, sermon and song.

Things can be found in translation. In Spanish the first line of “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing My Great Redeemer’s Praise” (one of the few Wesley hymns translated into Spanish) reads as “Mil voces para celebrar a mi libertador.” A line that resonates with fiesta and has more than a hint of liberation theology. Wesley’s Aldersgate experience is translated into Spanish as the experience of the “corazón ardiente,” the burning heart, which sounds hotter than “strangely warmed.” In both of these cases, I think that the translation improves the original.

Translation is risky business, but the risk and possibility of translation is intrinsic to the message of the gospel. The gospel rests on a massive act of translation. The word became flesh. God’s first language is Jesus, and the Holy Spirit can take any language, purify, and stretch it so as to be the bearer of a Word that not all the languages of the cosmos can contain.

The Joy of the Gospel

I heard that during Obama’s visit to Rome this spring, Pope Francis gave him a copy of the Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel. If Obama reads this document he may be surprised by two things. First, the Pope speaks a lot about economics and the common good but in ways that do not fit within the liberal conservative binaries of American politics. Second, Obama may be surprised to learn that what Francis has given him is not actually an economic manifesto but a preaching primer, a homiletics manual.

Francis wrote The Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium or EG) in response to a request from church leaders who wanted guidance on the church’s task of evangelization. As an Apostolic Exhortation it does not carry the weight of an encyclical, but it bears the stamp of Francis more than The Light of Faith. In this long letter (over 50,000 words), Francis addresses the need for reform in the church’s missionary work in order to confront the challenges in the present world. At the heart of this need reform is a call for the renewal of the ministry of preaching.

Francis begins by asserting the universality of the preaching vocation. “Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization; indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love” (EG, 120). Perhaps Methodists could lift up the ministry of lay preachers as the first fruits of what Francis hopes to see in the church. Incidentally, it is interesting to observe that Catholic priests face temptations familiar to Methodist pastors. Some apparently do not set time apart for study and rely on the Holy Spirit to give them the words when they climb to the pulpit. To these, Francis says: “A preacher who does not prepare is not ‘spiritual’; he is dishonest and irresponsible with the gifts he has received” (EG, 145).

Francis spends a significant amount of time shedding light on the social depths of the kerygma (the proclamation of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection). “Our faith in Christ, who became poor, and was always close to the poor and the outcast, is the basis of our concern for the integral development of society’s most neglected members” (EG, 186). The connection of kerygma and society is very Methodist, but easily missed. I was recently in Peru with a pair of Duke doctoral candidates. They were teaching theology to Methodist pastors in the Andes. In the class discussion, their students spoke articulately and passionately about the economic and environmental challenges facing their communities, and yet when pressed they admitted that they had never preached explicitly on these matters. Apparently, Peruvian Methodists have a hard time seeing mining companies and the agro-industrial complex as gospel issues. So do we.

In preaching, content matters, but form matters too, and Francis offers various pieces of advice with respect to the sermon from which Methodists might benefit.

  • Sermons should be simple. “The greatest risk for a preacher is that he becomes so accustomed to his own language that he thinks that everyone else naturally understands and uses it” (EG, 158). What Wesley calls “plain speaking” is crucial.
  • Sermons should be clear. “Our language may be simple but our preaching not very clear” (EG, 158). In an era where many, for good reasons, decry the three-point sermon, and encourage preachers to explore more narrative, inductive approaches, it still remains true that a three-point sermon beats a no-point one.
  • Sermons should be brief. I once heard a Dominican friar (a member of the Order of Preachers) state that the first five minutes of preaching belong to the Holy Spirit, the next five minutes belong to the preacher, and anything beyond that belongs to the devil. Francis cites scripture in support of this principle: “Speak concisely, say much in few words” (Sir 32:8). Allowing for more generous time limits, Wesley would agree: “People imagine the longer the sermon is the more good it will do. This is a grand mistake” (“Letter to Mrs. Johnston”).
  • Sermons should be good news. The chief motivation for preaching is joy. “A renewal of preaching can offer believers, as well as the lukewarm and the non-practicing, new joy in the faith and fruitfulness in the work of evangelization” (EG,11). Preaching is always more of an Easter “Hallelujah” than a Lenten lament.

Some will be skeptical as to the utility of the Pope’s preaching primer. And yet, I dream of a day when The Joy of the Gospel may be found not only on the desk of the Oval Office but on book tables at Annual Conferences. Methodists who heed this exhortation may discover anew that “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world” is not a burden that we bear but a joy that bears us up.

The Only Way

The Five Practices, the Four Foci, Three Simple Rules – Methodists love numbering things. Of course, the people of God have a long history of makings lists: Ten Commandments, seven gifts of the Spirit, four cardinal virtues, three theological virtues. These lists are helpful ways of remembering important things, even if at times they appear to be somewhat forced. In the hope of the former and at the risk of the latter, I offer one more list with a single bullet point. There is only one way to make disciples of Jesus Christ: by persuading the intellect with reasons and gently alluring the will. So said Bartolomé de las Casas. Who was this man?

Bartolomé de las Casas was a priest who in 1502 sailed from Spain to the “new world” in search of adventure and fortune. He found both in Cuba where he became a prosperous landowner and slaveholder. However, in 1514, while preparing for a Sunday sermon, Las Casas came across a text from Ecclesiasticus 34:26-27 which states: “To take away a neighbor’s living is to commit murder; to deprive an employee of wages is to shed blood” (NRSV). Las Casas heard this text as a direct condemnation of his colonial lifestyle. His treatment of the Indians had been gentle by Spanish standards, and yet, in depriving them of their liberty, he had committed murder. In response to this word from God, Las Casas freed his slaves and became the defender of the indigenous inhabitants of the Americas until his death in 1566.

There is much that could be said and has been said about Las Casas. He has been hailed for his uncompromising advocacy for the Amerindian, pilloried for his blindness to the plight of the Africans, and studied for his writings on history and theology. On this last point, he wrote a book titled The Only Way that argues that there is one and only way to draw people to Christianity. There is only one way because there is only one God, and God does not change. There is only way because there is one human nature, and generational, cultural, and gender differences are so many variations on a common theme: the image of God. For Las Casas, the most important questions for evangelists are theological rather than technical. What is the human? Who is God? There are three points I want to highlight from his reflections on these questions.

First, the only way to make disciples of Jesus Christ is by teaching. At the heart of the Great Commission in Matt 28:20 is the command to teach, and good teaching moves the mind with reasons and moves the will sweetly. Evangelism cannot be reduced to tugging on heart strings or to presenting propositions. Both intellectually sound doctrine and affectively good rewards are required so that the whole human person is healed. Moreover, the successful integration of truth and love in the presentation of the gospel calls for the integrity of the messengers, which leads to the second point.

Second, the only way to make disciples of Jesus Christ is by living peaceably. The guiding text in sixteenth century missions was Luke 14:23, “Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in” (AV). A common mantra among colonial evangelists was “better forced to be good, than free to be bad.” For Las Casas, these arguments are nonsensical. A forced conversion is an oxymoron. The only way to make disciples calls for messengers who renounce violence of all kinds: physical, cultural, economic, and epistemic. After all, Jesus sent his disciples carrying neither staff nor purse, which leads to the third point.

Third, the only way to make disciples of Jesus Christ is by embracing poverty. Jesus sent his disciples as “as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything” (2 Cor 6:10, NRSV). Detachment from earthly goods is necessary for the sake of mission. The direct relation of poverty and grace was evident to Wesley, whose greatest fear was that the Methodist people would prosper economically and end up being a dead sect. The moment that the disciples of Jesus can no longer say “silver and gold have I none” is the moment when they can no longer say to the paralytic, “take up your mat and go home.”

What if contemporary theories and practices of evangelism were compared to The Only Way? How holistic would its approach to teaching be judged? Would it resemble the gentle and reasonable persuasion of Matt 28:20 or the forcible manipulation of Luke 14:23? How peaceable and poor would its practitioners be found? Like sheep among wolves? Or like wolves among sheep? I am not sure, but in my own experience as a Methodist evangelist, the results of such a comparison would be mixed.

The Light of Faith

The pope matters. For many years I have been persuaded that Christians of all denominations should pay attention to the teachings of the bishop of Rome. After all, if one is going to be a Protestant, it is probably a good idea to stay up to date on what one is protesting against. More positively, the documents issued by popes and councils have an authority and gravitas unrivaled by anything coming out of Canterbury, Geneva, or General Conference. For these and other reasons I don’t have the time to state, I encourage Protestants of all stripes to read the latest encyclical issued by the bishop of Rome, The Light of Faith or Lumen Fidei (LF). A patient and charitable engagement with this document by Pope Francis reveals numerous areas of convergence with Methodist teaching. I call attention to three.

First, the teaching on faith in Lumen Fidei and in Wesley occur within a polemical context. Lumen Fidei identifies a number of struggles that the church faces in elucidating the doctrine of faith. On the one hand, some reject the light of faith as “illusory.” The light shines too dimly to illumine earthly realities beyond the individual. On the other hand, some reject the light of faith as “totalitarian.” The light is too strong. It dispels all shadows and robs the human of freedom. Like Pope Francis, Wesley’s teaching on faith has to be understood against the backdrop of his struggles against rationalists, Calvinists, and quietists (with whom he associated Catholic mystics). Against the rationalists, Wesley argued that the light of faith exceeds the reach of the light of reason while remaining consistent it. Wesley would certainly agree with Francis’s declaration that “faith and reason strengthen each other” (LF, 32). Against the Calvinists, Wesley insisted that the light of faith can be extinguished. The visibility of God afforded by faith can give way to darkness on account of sin.

Second, the teaching on faith in Lumen Fidei and in Wesley underscores the luminosity of faith. For Wesley, faith is a light, and this light is nothing less than the very light of Christ in whom there is no darkness at all. Wesley would strongly concur with Francis who says: “In faith, Christ is not simply the one in whom we believe, the supreme manifestation of God’s love; he is also the one with whom we are united precisely in order to believe. Faith does not merely gaze at Jesus, but sees things as Jesus himself sees them, with his own eyes: it is participation in his way of seeing” (LF, 18). Faith does not simply fill me with new ideas. Faith fills me with God. At times Wesley understands faith as a spiritual sense that allows one to perceive invisible realities like God’s graced presence in the soul. When the Holy Spirit opens our spiritual eyes, we can see the light of faith as clearly as our physical eyes see the light of the sun. At other times, Wesley understands faith as a holy temper, an infused virtue which purifies and perfects the exercise of reason. Wesley would certainly agree with Francis: “the light of faith is unique, since it is capable of illuminating every aspect of human existence” (LF, 4).

Third, the teaching on faith in Lumen Fidei and in Wesley fails to account for the darkness of faith. In the case of the encyclical, this omission might be explained by the fact that Francis is following in the footsteps of the Augustinian Benedict XVI who was the chief drafter of this Lumen Fidei. By some accounts, the Augustinian tradition does not offer as rich an analysis of the dark aspects of faith as the Thomist tradition. It is perhaps not surprising that John of the Cross, the doctor of the night, though a Carmelite by profession, was intellectually a Thomist. In the case of Wesley, his own unhappy flirtations with various mystical writers led him to reject any aspect of darkness in connection to faith as sinful. For him there is no fellowship between the light of faith and the darkness of doubt. And yet, the experience of Christians like Mother Teresa and John Wesley himself says otherwise.

Not all Protestants reading this encyclical will feel their hearts strangely warmed, but they should. The teaching in this document sheds light on the riches and poverty of our own traditions. Pope Francis’s first encyclical could be read as an extended commentary on Heb 11, which traces the pilgrimage of the people of faith throughout salvation history. In this journey, Catholics and Protestants are fellow pilgrims who must learn from each other. I believe that Methodists would benefit from paying attention to the pope. Whether Catholics would benefit from paying attention to General Conference requires further reflection.

Toward a Renewed Idea of a University Divinity School

For the past three years I have had the opportunity of leading teams of theological educators to Central America as part of a program for training Methodist pastors for the countries of Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and El Salvador. As you might expect, most of the teaching occurs in classrooms, but every few days the whole school goes on wheels. Students and faculty ride together in vans and buses to expand our context. We have held Scripture classes at the foot of Mayan pyramids and preaching classes next to a (we hoped) dormant volcano.

On one occasion, we held classes at the University of Central America (or UCA, as it is better known) in San Salvador, where six Jesuits priests and their two housekeepers were killed by death squads on 16 November 1989. For those of you who do not know, Central America was a place of political and religious persecution during the 1980s. In those troubled years, priests and theologians were singled out for torture and assassination for teaching the radical idea that God loves the poor but hates poverty. At the site where the Jesuits were martyred there is now a shrine, and among the relics from this massacre is a blood-stained copy of a book by Jürgen Moltmann titled The Crucified God.

I am a member of the theology faculty at Duke Divinity School, one of the leading theological schools of The United Methodist Church. At Duke I have access to a world class library, internationally renowned colleagues, and bright, enthusiastic students. Frankly, I cannot imagine a better place to teach theology. But holding classes in the airy catacomb of the UCA raised many questions for me as a Christian and as a theological educator.

What would it mean to belong to a faculty that includes martyrs? What if the qualifications for advancement, promotion, and tenure were measured not by publications but by persecutions? What if our yearly report included not only lists of donors but of confessors? What if, instead of decorating our halls with the portraits of distinguished deans, we displayed the pictures of the broken bodies of Jesus’ witnesses? What questions like these amount to is a challenge to the idea of a university divinity school.

In The Idea of a University, John Henry Newman memorably describes the essence of this particular kind of institution as “a place of teaching universal knowledge.” This is in many respects and admirable definition. Newman’s emphases on the teaching of all subjects and on the importance of the church for the coherence of this intellectual enterprise speak a challenging word to modern universities that increasingly resemble R&D labs with classrooms on the side.

The martyrs’ shrine at the UCA raises an issue that is crucial for education: location, location, location. The essence of the university may be the “teaching of universal knowledge,” but this teaching occurs in a given “place.” In the context of Central America, embracing place as a constitutive component of the goal of higher education is impossible without embracing the lowly. Ignacio Ellacuría put it this way, “The university should become incarnate among the poor, it should become science for those who have no science, the clear voice of those who have no voice” (“A Christian University for the Poor,” in World Christianity in the Twentieth Century: SCM Reader [ed. Noel Davies and Martin Conway; London: SCM, 2008], 164).

Ellacuría understood that becoming incarnate in the UCA in the ’80s brought severe persecution. “If our university had suffered nothing during these years of passion and death for the Salvadoran people, it would mean it had not fulfilled its mission as a university, never mind displaying its Christian inspiration. In a world where falsehood, injustice, and oppression reign, a university that fights for truth, justice and freedom cannot fail to be persecuted.” Ellacuría was one of the Jesuit priests martyred in 1989. The place where we teach “universal knowledge” matters.

In many ways, North American institutions of higher education have modeled themselves after the University of Berlin. Reasonably enough, university-affiliated divinity schools have located themselves at the crossroads of Berlin and Aldersgate, or Berlin and Canterbury, scientific knowledge and denominational identity. The excellences and strengths of these social locations are evident, as are their limitations. Our divinity schools have struggled with maintaining roads connecting them to Kampala, San Salvador, or even East Durham.

The shrine at the UCA raises questions for institutions like my own beloved Duke Divinity. It is not enough to have a chapel at the heart of the university. Where are the poor? Where are your martyrs? Who is it that is teaching “catholic” knowledge and to whom and for whom? The renewed idea of the university divinity school is cruciform. To quote Luther, the “cross tests everything” (crux probat omnia). All of our fundraising, research, and teaching are measured against the hard wood of the cross, the open wounds of the crucified, and the bleeding bodies of his friends. The future of theological education might involve not more high speed modems but more rugged vans and buses.

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