Flights of Faith

Monday, August 18, 2008

Putting Myself on a Blank Page

In case you didn't know, I'm entering Yale's Divinity School in a week or two. I plan to get a three year M.Div degree with a concentration in Theology and Ethics, Theopraxis. The dream is to be a writer and church laborer who is invested in a New Haven org at the conclusion of YDS. The prayerful post-YDS consideration is whether I should get a JD to do human rights and civil rights law, something I grow more passionate about each and every day. Rewinding back to the present, I had to write a student bio for a yearbook and a few essays for a course taught by Miroslav Volf and Former Prime Minister Tony Blair called "Faith and Globalization." Thought I'd share them with you. My on paper presentations of myself are a bit quirky and non-traditional so be prepared.

First, the bio:

I am excited to continue the journey of my twenty two year old life at Yale Divinity School and in the New Haven area. I have been encouraged and challenged by the time I've already spent in this city of dramatically engineered opposites. It is a tension I have felt most of my life as a black kid living in Iowa, a dreamer living in reality, and a soul contained in a body. Thankfully, I am aware of the process of reconciliation that is found in Christ. I am trying to follow that path to freedom every day.

Then, the description of the course.

This course will explore a set of issues concerning the public roles of religious faiths in the context of globalization. Students will explore (1) the nature, extent, and causes of the global resurgence of religious faiths;(2) cases from various spheres of life in which faiths serve as oppressive or violent forces and cases in which faiths contribute to human flourishing; and (3) the conditions under which robust religious allegiances can constructively be employed in the pluralistic environments of an increasingly interconnected world. By the end of the course, students will be able to express how faith traditions and globalization may influence each other and why understanding this mutual process is important in the twenty-first century.

In 200 words or less, describe your qualifications to participate in this course.

To the Jew, I became a Jew. To the weak, I became weak. If they are with the Law, then I will be with the Law. If without, then I am without. Paul of Tarsus set a fascinating model for cross cultural interactions and evangelism. Effectively demonstrating solidarity with differing communities, Paul was able to reveal Christ not as foreigner; instead, Paul presented him as a relevant Savior to any and every group. I’ve often looked up from my Bible only to find myself dizzy at how different the church seems today. We are mired in our differences and have effectively selected isolation as our solution. As an African American who grew up in the 97% white state of Iowa, I have been a lifetime student of these differences and of the vast similarities that present an escape for us all. This “real life academia” has equipped me with a desire never to make my scholarship something that exists in a vacuum. As I realized how much of a stretch it was for some to call me neighbor, I began to push my own definition to navigate a reverse middle passage and fling myself out of American notions to see a world of neighbors in need either from their humble cries or their proud shouts of dominance. As the world spins, I still myself. Jesus, make me relevant to a world you have saved. My eagerness and passion to listen to His answer is my best qualification for this course.

In 300 words or less, describe how participating in this course would promote your intellectual and vocational goals.

I’ve often imagined a simpler world. Sometimes, a village. In it, I would finally be able to do what I daydream: love as I would want to be loved. Naively though, I erase that path, the one out of the village where no has ventured before. As soon as I became a member of the village, I would itch to explore that path. It’s part of who I am: an adventurer. Maybe seeing the world via 24/7 news channel and a web that covers the world is better. Everyone is my neighbor now. Jesus’ commands to my life would not change no matter the century, but my ethical response to my overwhelming ability to make a difference must change.

Thus, I need knowledge and guidance. This world is breaking, and I have given up on independent actions to salvage what I can see. Instead, I’ve ceased striving and I am learning to be directed by what I believe. In that same spirit, I seek to be directed by Professor Blair and Professor Volf to consider a deeper understanding of faith in this world as something that is publicly growing, a burgeoning second sight in a world whose gaze is often transfixed on the horrifying.

Most importantly, I want to continue to expand my reach to the areas beyond the trans-Atlantic coasts I studied heavily in college given my interest in slavery. From my time as a researcher in Australia, I realize that we must engage the East outside of a Western imagination of the world, something Australia has failed to do until very recently. We must build relationships without fear of ignorance while positioning ourselves as learners of culture and tradition. Similarly, I am eager to become a better student at interfaith dialogue and efforts that do not erase distinctions and religious truths but instead find common ground to mutually labor for shared goals. By accomplishing these things, I will hopefully leave your class confident in a world outlook of a global village that will increase the impact of my scholarship and my pastoring.

We'll see if I get into the class. Pray for God's will to be done.


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