November 2, 2020
To Members of the Wake Forest Divinity Community:
This year has posed extraordinary challenges to our nation and world. The physical, emotional, and economic toll of an international pandemic continues to spread with little end in sight. COVID-19 has exposed and exacerbated gender, racial, and economic inequities, the vulnerabilities of democracies in the face of rising global authoritarian populism, and disturbing climate change patterns. Such realities, in the words of Marvin Gaye, “Make me wanna holler and throw up both my hands.”
Nevertheless, the Lord needs our hands, our hearts, and voices!
Each of us who can cast a vote on Tuesday, November 3rd, has a valuable opportunity to use our voice. Regardless of your political affiliation, I encourage you to cast a ballot. None of us should ever take for granted the institutions and mechanisms of democracy. Voting is our civic duty and moral responsibility.
I also write to reaffirm our values as a community of learning at Wake Forest University School of Divinity.
Wake Divinity is committed to justice insofar as we respect and honor the inalienable rights, dignity, and humanity of all people. No person is above or below anyone else. Nor should anyone ever be harmed, excluded, targeted, or denied an opportunity because of religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, immigration status, or disability. Diversity of expression, viewpoints, and life experience is the source of intellectual excellence as a higher learning community.
Wake Divinity is committed to reconciliation grounded in epistemic humility. Humility is the grounds of intellectual pursuit at Wake Forest University, and it requires respect for the experiences, evidence, and expertise of others. Reconciliation requires us to listen generously, speak thoughtfully, and act graciously. These commitments are what bind us into a vibrant learning community that celebrates our differences. In the words of author David Brooks, reconciliation distinguishes a healthy community from its cancerous twin of tribalism. “Community is based on common humanity; tribalism on common foe.”
Finally, Wake Divinity is committed to compassion. What makes us great as a community is our commitment to being good to and for one another and the communities we serve. Pro-Humanitate must be more than a motto. Addressing public needs must be our way of life.
Thus, regardless of the outcome of this week’s election, none of us ought to beat their chest and celebrate victory. With over 230 thousand dead to COVID-19 in the United States, an estimated 100 million thrown into extreme poverty this year across the globe, and a specter of violence hanging in the air today, our posture ought to remain one of grieving. As one of our third-year students told us so poetically and prophetically this week in chapel service, our willingness to grieve prepares us for compassion.
Thank you for being agents of justice, reconciliation, and compassion. Thank you for being the architects of hope, healing, and humanity. Our world needs you. Let your voices be heard.
Jonathan Lee Walton
Dean of the School of Divinity & Wait Chapel
Presidential Chair in Religion & Society
“The love of God and the love of humanity are one love.”
– Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays
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