By now we are all too familiar not only with the major terrorist attacks on the World Trade towers and the Pentagon, but also with the smaller terrorist attacks on Muslims, Sikhs and Arab-Americans in the weeks since then. At the time of this writing, the murder of an Arizona Sikh man named Balbir Singh Sodhi is the latest deadly case of mistaken identity.
One Saturday morning when there was a brief lull in our domestic hubbub, I asked our 13-year-old son John what he considered to be the most important things in life. He instantly presented me with an itemized list:
• To make sure that you and everyone else have a good time
What are your ambitions?” an administrative colleague asked me recently. I am not often speechless, but this time I didn’t know what to say. I briefly considered explaining my understanding of vocation, especially in relation to my primary identity as an ordained minister of the gospel. That would make clear why I have presumed that the church has a legitimate claim on my life.
A few months ago I gave a lecture at a small Midwestern college. Broadly put, my topic was the encounter with “the other.” In a discussion afterwards, a student suggested that engaging in evangelism and seeking to convert another person to the Christian faith is a form of violence, a form of harmful disrespect for the other.
Over the years I have accumulated dozens of crosses. I purchased quite a few of them myself, such as the crudely poured brass cross I bought from a young girl in Ethiopia, or the small golden one I found in a shop in East Jerusalem. Others have been gifts.
Josephine Finda Sellu, a nurse supervisor, is on the front line of the fight against Ebola in Sierra Leone. She lost 15 of her nurses in rapid succession. As other workers left the hospital, her family begged her to quit her job. Some of her colleagues have been abandoned by their families due to fear of the disease. Usually a tower of strength, Sellu cries when she talks about the nurses she’s lost to the disease. She sometimes wishes she had become a secretary instead, but she sees her job as a healer as a calling from God (New York Times, August 23).