From the Dean

News items, published articles, and reading recommendations from Dean Timothy George




The Dean Recommends: Nicole Cliffe - How God Messed Up My Happy Atheist Life

By Nicole Cliffe
May 20, 2016

I became a Christian on July 7, 2015, after a very pleasant adult life of firm atheism. I’ve found myself telling “the story” when people ask me about it—slightly tweaked for my audience, of course. When talking to non-theists, I do a lot of shrugging and “Crazy, right? Nothing has changed, though!” When talking to other Christians, it’s more, “Obviously it’s been very beautiful, and I am utterly changed by it.” But the story has gotten a little away from me in the telling.

As an atheist since college, I had already mellowed a bit over the previous two or three years, in the course of running a popular feminist website that publishes thoughtful pieces about religion. Like many atheists (who are generally lovely moral people like my father, who would refuse to enter heaven and instead wait outside with his Miles Davis LPs), I started out snarky and defensive about religion, but eventually came to think it was probably nice for people of faith to have faith. I held to that, even though the idea of a benign deity who created and loved us was obviously nonsense, and all that awaited us beyond the grave was joyful oblivion.

I know that sounds depressing, but I found the idea of life ending after death mildly reassuring in its finality. I had started to meet more people of faith, having moved to Utah from Manhattan, and thought them frequently charming in their sweet delusion. I did not wish to believe. I had no untapped, unanswered yearnings. All was well in the state of Denmark. And then it wasn’t. Read the rest at Christianity Today.

Posted by Kristen Padilla at Thursday, June 30, 2016
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The Dean Recommends: Southern Baptists are going to need a bigger tent

By Heidi Hall
June 24, 2016

The Southern Baptist Convention was so famously insular for so long that it earned its own joke about members believing they’re the only ones in heaven.

The nation’s largest Protestant denomination was known more for what, and often who, it rejected than what it included — with political warriors in the SBC leadership often alienating other religious groups and particularly the racial minorities in them.

But over the past decade that began to change:

Southern Baptists elected the denomination’s first African-American president, apologized for supporting slavery, apologized to Asians for the culturally offensive “Rickshaw Rally” vacation Bible school curriculum, reprimanded their former Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission chief Richard Land for racially charged remarks, and recognized that its regional-sounding brand has so much baggage that perhaps a name change was in order.

They began reaching out to other evangelical churches and to Roman Catholics on issues of common interest, a collaborative spirit that landed three Southern Baptists in top leadership roles at nondenominational evangelical universities.

Then last week at its annual convention the denomination seemed to confirm its shift toward both ecumenical work and racial reconciliation by taking the first step to joining the National Association of Evangelicals and, most notably, by repudiating the Confederate battle flag. Read the rest at Religion News Service.

Posted by Hunter Upton at Tuesday, June 28, 2016
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Bystanders to Genocide

By Timothy George
June 27, 2016

“Who today still speaks of the massacre of the Armenians?”
—Adolf Hitler, August 22, 1939

The visit of Pope Francis to the Republic of Armenia, the first nation formally to adopt the Christian faith, has once again raised what is euphemistically called in Turkey “the Armenian matter.” This is all the more the case because last year, marking the one hundredth anniversary of the start of the Armenian genocide—the slaughter of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Turks in 1915—the pope dared to use the G-word. In response, Turkey recalled its ambassador from the Vatican (only to reinstate him this past February) and warned the Holy Father “not to make similar mistakes again.”

Undeterred by this snafu, on his current mission to Armenia the pope once again showed moral courage by referring to the Armenian genocide. But in fact, Pope Francis did not break new ground in this statement. He was simply following in the steps of his predecessor, Pope St. John Paul II, who described the slaughter of the Armenians, in words that Francis quoted, as “the first genocide of the twentieth century.” That comment was made in 2001, when John Paul made his own pilgrimage to Armenia to commemorate the 1700th anniversary of the embrace of Christianity in that country.

By 1915, the Ottoman Empire was in terminal decline from the apogee of its power under Suleiman the Magnificent in the sixteenth century. During the Reformation, the Ottoman armies invaded Europe, advancing to the gates of Vienna in 1529, but for some four hundred years one loss after another had left the vast empire bereft of its former glory. Now, having chosen to fight on the losing side of the conflict that was coming to be called the Great War, “the sick man of Europe” (a term for the Ottomans given currency by Nicholas I of Russia) felt besieged on every side. In this context, the Armenian Christians were accused of subterfuge and collusion with the enemy. A Turkish version of the “stab in the back” theory was used as a pretext for open violence against them.

The Armenians, along with other indigenous Christian peoples, had long served as scapegoats for Turkish disasters. For example, during the 1890s, the Hitler-like Abdul Hamid II, the “bloody Sultan,” presided over the murder of some 200,000 Armenians. There were other pogroms, including the massacre at Adana in 1909. However, what is called the Armenian genocide proper began on April 24, 1915 with the assault on several hundred Armenian intellectuals in Constantinople. In subsequent months, this attack was accelerated by the deportation, abduction, execution, starvation, and mass murder of the Armenian people throughout the empire. The Turkish train network, recently developed with the help of skilled German engineers, was used to transport displaced persons. There were also forced marches, killing units, and ethnic cleansing—prefigurements of even greater horrors to come later in the century. Yale historian Jay Winter has said that “the Armenian massacres were a critical event in the history of twentieth-century warfare. The massacre of the Armenians was not the same as, but constituted a step on the way to, the industrialized murder of European Jewry by the Nazis.” Read the rest at First Things.

Posted by Hunter Upton at Monday, June 27, 2016
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