'Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit'

Divinity - Spire E-Newsletter [Vanderbilt University]

February 2017

Dear alumni/ae and friends,

As a little kid, I was fascinated with state lines. I would pore over the map of the United States in class as my teachers would teach us about each state, when it became a state, and where it was located on the map. I was fascinated with the shapes and sizes and the neat lines that marked the borders for each state.

I thought that the lines must be pretty from outer space, and I looked forward to seeing the different lines as my parents readied our family to take our first car trip north to Binghamton, New York, to visit my aunt and her family. I became excited as we neared the first state line—from North Carolina to Virginia. As we passed into Virginia, my mom called out “We just entered Virginia!” I sat dumbfounded and confused. Where was the line? All I saw was a welcome sign on the side of the road as our car moved northward. My mother sensed my mood change and asked what was wrong. In near tears, I told her that I had somehow missed the line. I must have blinked. She realized immediately what my 7-year-old mind had conjured and explained that the borders between states were not actual lines like those on the maps I had studied so carefully.

There has been much discussion, protest, prayer about borders—southern borders—over the last several weeks. And I suspect there will be more to come as we continue to look deeply into our hearts and minds to ask who will we be and how will we be as a nation and its peoples. Many of us are familiar with biblical passages that welcome the stranger and our neighbor from Deuteronomy and Leviticus to Luke and Matthew to Romans, Acts, Revelation, 3 John, Hebrews and Colossians. We are encouraged to welcome folk past the borders we create—be they our landscapes or our heartscapes.

As we engage the conversations about borders and immigration, we must use our best discipling selves to engage those conversations and dig deep into the faith that holds each of us—morning by morning and day by day. I was disappointed that December morning so long ago that there was not a real line between the states. But what I have found over the years that what I look forward to seeing are the welcome signs.


Emilie M. Townes

E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Chair
Professor of Womanist Ethics and Society


David Michelson is part of an international collaboration helping preserve the history of Syriac Christianity in the Middle East.




Forrest Harris called for “Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit” at the kickoff for Vanderbilt’s Martin Luther King Jr. 2017 Commemoration.




The international crisis and debate over refugees is the backdrop for “Refugee Faith: Displacement, Homecoming, and God’s Heart,” a series to be led by Melissa Snarr at Christ Church Cathedral March 2-3.





VDS in the News

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports on the American Values Religious Voices letter-writing campaign in which several VDS faculty and alumni/ae are participating.

Rev. James Lawson

Vanderbilt Distinguished Alumnus James M. Lawson Jr. was interviewed in connection with his recent lecture at Wiley College.

View “Invictus: Twenty Works Celebrating African Americans’ Pursuit of Freedom and Will to Survive” in the Divinity School’s art gallery through Feb. 24.

Bruce Rogers-Vaughn and Joerg Rieger are among VDS faculty interviewed on “Authorial Intentions.”

Patti Jung, PhD’79, is the author of Sex on Earth as It Is in Heaven (SUNY Press, 2017).

Visit our job listings for alumni/ae and current students.

Check the Divinity calendar for upcoming events.

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