STILLPOINT Archive: last updated 11/21/2011

To Be a Tree

“A tree is more than its fruit; we must cultivate our whole selves from the roots up.”
— Thomas Merton

Inauguration Day’s first official event consisted of three concurrent symposia at which faculty moderators and distinguished panelists reckoned with this compelling question: How can we glorify God by being the artists, the scholars, the businesspeople He has created us to be?

Serving as moderators were Bruce Herman, Gordon’s Lothlórien Distinguished Chair in Fine Arts; Stan Gaede, scholar-in-residence at Gordon, and Christian College Consortium president; and Kent Seibert, professor of economics and business at Gordon. Seibert kicked off the Faith in the Marketplace symposium with the Thomas Merton quote (above), adding “We give glory to God by being who He created us to be.”

Faith and the Arts

The three panelists offered their insights on stewarding artistic talent, and speculated about some of the lines that are drawn—perhaps arbitrarily—across the art world. These artists seeking to glorify God are desperate to portray what Herman called “hope, but not a cheap hope.”

Filmmaker Todd Komarnicki described a spiritually transformative experience upon viewing the work of Willem de Kooning, a “secular” painter (and Herman extolled the moral resonance of Komarnicki’s popular film Elf).

Singer and songwriter Sara Groves spoke of the difficulty of writing music that “ties everything up with a bow.” Visual artist Makoto Fujimura said that although art is often drawn from destruction and chaos, it is no longer enslaved to the “bondage to decay.”

Faith and the Academy

Marla Frederick, professor of African and African American studies at Harvard University, said that though her studies have brought her “closer to faith,” her faith has been reshaped: “Christ is in culture and above culture,” she explained. She wrestles with the duality of her academic and spiritual life.

Nancy Nason-Clark, chair and professor of sociology at the University of New Brunswick, Canada, noted the Church’s “skepticism toward higher learning,” saying that her own research on abuse within Christian families was a hard sell to some Christian groups.

George McLendon, Howard R. Hughes Provost, and professor of chemistry at Rice University, remarked on the tenuous balancing act of presiding over a secular institution while holding deep faith convictions, stating that often core human “values” can be a place to find common ground, even with those who are “rigorously secular to the point of being dismissive.”

Faith and the Marketplace

Business often involves “more conflict than convergence” for the Church. Hearst Business Media president Richard Malloch ’75 strives to live out his faith through meditation and a deep commitment to “service-informed leadership.”

Katherine Leary Alsdorf, executive director for the Center for Faith and Work at Redeemer Presbyterian Church, encouraged those in management roles to “give up some of the power” in decision making.

Neil Clark Warren, co-founder and chairman at eHarmony, urged the next generation of Christian businesspeople to pursue new technology for the spreading of the gospel; and to cultivate a healthy work-life balance.

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NEXT: Heart, Soul and Strength