ON THE SHELF
The Radical Life of Kindness Biola president’s first book calls us to a forgotten biblical virtue. Interview by Morgan C. Feddes
ADVANCE | SPRING 2016
What was the catalyst for writing this book? Three things prompted it. One was the story of my father’s perspective on the idea of being receivable in Matthew 10:40, where Jesus says, “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.” That influenced me for a long time, so I was mulling it over, wondering, “How do I process that powerful image?” Second, I’m increasingly asking myself, “How do universities, organizations and institutions lean more into a posture of a firm center and soft edges?” In the current cultural climate, I think we’ve bought into the fact that shouting, fist-raising and saber-rattling seem to be more effective. Obviously, I wrote this book way before anything Trump-ish happened, but to me, the political campaign has underscored that, sadly, people are motivated by meanness, which I believe is grounded in fear. I think the opposite of kindness isn’t meanness; it’s fear. I think it’s fear that causes people to act so angrily at things and causes them to lash out. So that’s the second question – how do we posture Christian universities in an increasingly post-Christian, religiously plural world to be winsome without capitulating? Third, I’m looking at students and realizing that those of us in these
[leadership] roles are entrusted with this rising generation of Christian leaders. What will [students’] postures be, and how will they be able to be effective in the generation that God has called them to? This is a bit of an over-simplification, but I do think they might have seen in their parents and grandparents sometimes the firm center, hard edges: “We’re going to stand for our rights, and we’re going to knock down those who don’t agree with them.” The intention was good – we want to hold true to that which is right and not back down. But [it caused] a swing of the pendulum the other way to say, “No no, we’re going to be much more relational, and we’re going to be much kinder,” but in a way that sometimes the center becomes a little bit spongy. Sometimes we do that in such a way that we kind of give a pass on our convictions on these deeply held beliefs, because we want to form relationships, and we want to exercise Christ’s love. So what’s been the reaction? Especially in this political age, I imagine you’d either get some raised eyebrows or smart remarks when you say, “Yeah, I just wrote a book on kindness.” I think people are quick to mistake kindness as a random act and not a radical life. Leaders don’t have the time to pencil
Photo courtesy of Biola University.
N HIS FIRST BOOK, Barry Corey, president of Biola University in La Mirada, California, and vice-chair of the CCCU Board of Directors, challenges readers to rediscover the power and importance of biblical kindness – a brave, daring, revolutionary way of life that challenges us to be authentic and vulnerable with those with whom we disagree. Recently, Corey discussed the book with Morgan C. Feddes, managing editor of Advance and the CCCU’s communication specialist. The interview has been edited for length.
Published on May 13, 2016