In this issue you will read about our Act Six Program, so I won't describe it here, except to say that it is a vital program that is enriching our intercultural climate. I'm writing this on Maundy Thursday, and in a few weeks, we'll graduate our first class of Act Six students. I spoke with one of them yesterday. "It will be the most amazing day of my life," he said. "It doesn't seem real." He will walk across the stage as one of our most gifted graduates. I left our conversation feeling great about the success of this courageous four-year experiment.
Approximately four hours later, I answered the door to a broken-hearted minority student who had been victimized by an anonymous racist message. In my 14 years at Whitworth, I do not remember a kinder student than the one who sat at my kitchen table with his face in his hands. I went to bed feeling awful about this failure to live out the ideals of our courageous four-year experiment.
How can we not feel deflated when such things happen? Are we getting worse, I wondered, when we've worked so hard to create a Christlike climate for all students here at Whitworth?
I've learned a lot of lessons during the Act Six years. Among them is the danger of my two recent emotions – feelings of success and of failure. Both imply completion. But the "fixing" of our hearts is never really done. Two nights ago, Scott Finnie – who holds a doctorate in leadership studies, has taught a wide variety of African American courses at EWU since 1993, and serves as a consultant in cultural competency and ethnic history – provided us with a grace-filled yet prophetic map our society can follow to new levels of wholeness and respect. He began his remarks by observing that we have all inherited a mess. Yes, we have. And it grows from deep within the soil of ignorance and pride. We'll never be finished overcoming that. So we need to think and feel in directional terms. Are we moving in the direction of justice and grace?
Though I was feeling pretty discouraged last night, I'm convinced that our diversity efforts have moved us in the right direction. First, we are better equipped to deal with cultural and racial tensions. Over the last 12 hours an army of support has surrounded the student who came to speak to me. Much of that support has come from the systems we have constructed to make our campus more inclusive. Second, it is clear that the offended student is not the only one hurt. We are all offended. We all feel diminished. Third, what may have lurked below the surface is out where we can deal with it. Fourth, every day we see countless acts of intercultural sensitivity and support. We shouldn't let one ugly action erase our progress.
Tomorrow is Good Friday, and the year offers no day on which I am more aware of the mess the world is in than Good Friday. It's the day when I am forced to remember that in a horrifying way our mess became Christ's. But on Sunday, on Easter, Christ's resurrection becomes our resurrection. Jesus points us in the direction of grace, redemption, justice and love.
St. Paul reminds us that we are one in Christ Jesus – neither Jew nor Greek, neither male nor female. In the risen Christ, there is no mess. We move toward him. We wobble; we step back; we fall and we crawl. But we move toward the unblemished Lamb of God. And the Hebrews writer reminds us of an even brighter hope – as we move toward the Lamb, the Lamb moves toward us. It is this hope that lies behind the Act Six program, and behind all of our efforts to honor God, follow Christ and serve humanity.