I have never been more proud to be President of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary than I have this week.
In a time when hatred defines public discourse, when there are people actively working to divide our society, provoking opposition and hostility among Americans on the basis of how we differ, I am proud to represent this seminary in our community and the world.
We build bridges. That doesn't mean that we've got it all figured out here. And it certainly doesn't imply that we're building bridges to allow people to join us on "our side" of the bridge, whatever that might mean.
We build bridges because we know we need one another in order to be whole. We build bridges between people of different political, social and cultural perspectives because we know that the truth surely is out there, but we need one another to find it. We build bridges between different faiths because we know God is bigger than we are, bigger than our theologies, bigger even than our biggest hopes and dreams. We build bridges between persons of different races, ethnicities and nations because we know that we are all created in the image and likeness of God, and we cannot know or love God properly if we cut ourselves off from one another. We build bridges between people of different sexual orientations because we know the best way to overcome prejudice is through deep personal relationships.
We build bridges here at Louisville Seminary. And the tears of lament I have seen shed on this campus this week remind us all just how much our mission means to us.
We lament and are anxious because we do not want our country to become less generous, less open, less compassionate, less gracious than it is. We do not want our country to participate in cruelty and violence, nor to justify oppression and hatred in the name of freedom. We want our country to reflect the grace and love of God revealed in and through Jesus Christ because we know there is no power greater than love, and that every claim to power that struts upon this earth threatening to hurt others is full of bluff and bluster.
We have occasion, I think, to fear for the plight of people who are different in our society, to fear for the safety and liberty for gays and lesbians, transgender and bisexuals. We have reason to fear for Black and Hispanic and Asian persons, for Muslims and Buddhists, Sikhs and Jews, indeed for anyone who looks differently or thinks differently or prays differently from the majority. We have cause to fear for the plight of children at the margins, the aged, the poor, the under-insured, the under-educated, the under- or unemployed. But I cannot believe that they or we will be well-served to give in to fear.
"Perfect love casts out fear," we are told by the author of First John, the same author who tells us that God is love, and that it is impossible to love God without also loving people. "Perfect love casts out fear," said a spokesperson for a Christian community who wrote this letter sometime between the reigns of the Roman Emperors Domitian and Hadrian.
How in the world could this author have said this in such a time? Simply because his (or her) faith was not placed in the hands of the one who held the imperial scepter, but the One who holds all history.
We build bridges. The bridges we build bring people, societies and faiths together in the Spirit of Christ.
How important that mission is just got magnified.