Page 1

Vox Clara

at Stanford

Vol. III, Issue 1 | Autumn 2009

The Kindness Of God Did They Make It Up? An Analysis of Jesus and the Gospels

Faith Takes Action

William Wilberforce and the Abolition of the Slave Trade

Historical Kindness

The Saints and their Understanding of Kindness

“Love is patient, love is kind...� -1 Corinthians 13:4

President C.E. Caruthers ‘11 Editor-in-Chief Allen Huang ‘10 Designer-in-Chief Steven Puente ‘10 Events Coordinator Tara Guarino ‘12 Finance Cameron Mullen ‘11 Public Relations Christina Littler ‘10 Section editors Caroline Chen ‘12 Madison Kawakami ‘11 Rachel Kelley ‘12 Nic Reiner ‘10 Heidi Thorsen ‘12 Staff writers Brian Berseth ‘10 Elizabeth Clair ‘11 Samantha McGirr ‘11 Production Madison Kawakami ‘11 Board of Advisors D.G. Elmore Steve Stenstrom Andrea Swaney



Historical Kindness


Brian Berseth


Why Take the Gospels as History?


“Love is Patient, Love is Kind”

Pete Sommer

Elizabeth Clair


Faith Takes Action: William Wilberforce and the Abolition of the Slave Trade


Social Justice in the Light of Heaven


Sarah White

Darren Hsiung




Prayer of the Fallen


O Aspiration


Bright Lights


Estelle Luk


Shannon Wong Eric Ho

Iheoma Umez-Eronini


Our Vision Letter from the Editor Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness


Get Involved


Letter from the President


Closing Thoughts

4 5

Samantha McGirr

Our Purpose Vox Clara seeks to provide a platform for believers and nonbelievers at Stanford to engage in dialogue that inspires a lasting response to the Gospel message. We espouse the importance of addressing issues of faith in the University community. As Jane Stanford’s words on the wall of Memorial Church warn: There is no narrowing so deadly as the narrowing of man’s horizon of spiritual things. No worse evil could befall him in his course on earth than to lose sight of Heaven. And it is not civilization that can prevent this; it is not civilization that can compensate for it. No widening of science, no possession of abstract truth, can indemnify for an enfeebled hold on the highest and central truths of humanity. ‘What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?’

which we live. Vox Clara seeks to express to the Stanford community that religion is not a set of rules that threatens our freedom or creativity but rather is the hope that pervades our entire lives. Simply put, we are trying to provide an account of the hope we cherish within us. We wish not to impose our belief but to propose our views to everyone at Stanford who is searching just as we are—searching for purpose, for truth, and for Love. As we seek collectively, we will strive to speak with a clear voice and voyage together, elevating each other’s lives in the process. From different Christian traditions and each with our own experience, we at Vox Clara have come together to explore how faith illuminates life and how life enriches faith. We invite all to join us in this important conversation.

We find spiritual truth in Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, who became man, died, and rose again for the salvation of all. Through Him we interpret and understand the world in

Vox Nostra A note on our name In the words of C.S. Lewis speaking on Christianity, “it is We at Vox Clara celebrate this voice of Jesus Christ and at her centre, where her truest children dwell, that each believe that His is the true voice. It forms the foundation communion is really closest to every other in spirit, if not in of our hope and strength. For this reason, we have chosen doctrine. And this suggests that at the centre of each there “Vox Clara,” a Latin phrase meaning “clear voice,” as the is something, or a Someone, who against all divergences name for this organization. of belief, all differences of temperament, all memories of 4 Vox Clara, Vol. III, Issue 1 mutual persecution, speaks with the same voice.”

Letter from the Editor Kindness usually has connotations of goodness and benevolence, but there’s more to learn from its etymology. It’s a word having to do with classification, like when we ask, “What kind of apple are you eating?” The original meaning of kind means nature or origin. Think of the word “kin.” Kindness is often an ideal for which we strive, but the origins of the word imply that it’s a lot more about who we are, or who we were originally meant to be. That’s what it means to be kind, to be who we were created to be. We’ve fallen short, and we’re trying to get back home. Many religious traditions have precepts that are supposed to make us more kind. They are also known to strive for some standard of godliness. Christianity is no different when it comes to these things, but the center of our faith is Jesus, God who became a human. He became our kind. And we celebrate him for being very kind for doing that. But why is the Incarnation so important for us? Everyone has fallen short. Each person has made the wrong choices. We see everyday how individually and collectively our actions are making us more inhumane, less human, less of our kind. Someone needed to bring us back to our original greatness. Our Creator knew best what needed to be done, and sent Christ on that mission. He preached messages that taught people how to be more benevolent and humane. He healed people’s bodies, because humans are made to be healthy. He exorcised demons, because every person should have the freedom to be himself and not be possessed by a malevolent spirit. But at the end of his life, Jesus died a gruesome death on a cross. Christians interestingly see this as God’s supreme act of kindness. He gave it all. He sacrificed his life for all the times that humanity did not live up to what we were supposed to be.

In doing so, this act of love is one efficacious for us, but also one that we can carry on in our daily lives. Every act of kindness we commit, especially those that involve sacrifice, continues the work of the cross in our world. We show that the greatest love is to lay down one’s life for a friend. Most of the time it will not involve death, but we can die to our own needs in how we live our daily lives. When we give our time and resources to good causes, even as students with little means, we are being Christ’s hands. When we spend time with a hurting friend even when we have much schoolwork to do, we’re doing Christ’s work. When we speak the truth even when it’s not popular, we carry on the work of the cross. Every small action makes our communities more into the heaven that Christ won for us. Vox Clara stives to be a voice of God’s kindness on campus. We don’t speak it perfectly, but it’s our hope to illustrate that every word and act of kindness is a reflection of the divine origins from which we come.

Allen Huang Editor-in-Chief, 2009-10

Vox Clara at Stanford P.O. Box 12109 Stanford, CA 94309 |

Cover Photo: Steven Puente

Forum of Christian Thought and Action at Stanford




Brian Berseth

Even when we do not feel it, and even when we do not understand it, God is always kind. As Psalm 103 proclaims, the Lord is “abounding in kindness… the Lord’s kindness is forever.” This kindness manifests itself in many ways, but in a special way we witness God’s kindness through the words and deeds of saintly people throughout history, in their generosity, their caring, and their friendliness towards others. Nicholas of Myra, for instance, is an excellent example of kindness in the early Church. Born in the village of

especially in the form of unique acts of generosity. For example, Nicholas gave many gifts in secret, such as placing coins in the shoes of others. Another account tells of a poor father who had three daughters. Due to the family’s poverty, the daughters were destined to be sold into slavery. Mysteriously, on three separate occasions, bags of gold were said to have appeared in the family’s home. The bags were thrown through the window, landing in the girls’ shoes or stockings next to the fireplace.

however, ultimately traces back to God and His kindness, because it was God who inspired and gifted St. Nicholas with a heart of love. Kindness, in one sense, is simply a particular manifestation of love. It is the part of love that is gentle and caring, generous and comforting. It is like a sweet and loving mother, or the ideal of motherhood; like Mother Teresa, who writes: “Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.”

‘Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.’ – Mother Teresa

Patara near the end of the third century to a wealthy family, Nicholas was raised as a devout Christian. Due to an epidemic, his parents died when he was still a very young man. Following this tragic loss, Nicholas dedicated his life entirely to Christ, using the money that he inherited to generously serve the suffering, sick, and needy. The kindness of Nicholas became renowned throughout the land,


As a result of his devotion to others and to God, Nicholas was made Bishop of Myra, and after his death, was canonized as a saint. Saint Nicholas, through stories and legends told about his life and deeds, thus became the model for Santa Claus. Even to this day, the memory of St. Nicholas inspires gladness and cheer in our world, particularly during the Christmas season. This inspiration,

Vox Clara, Vol. III, Issue 1

Along with MotherTeresa, Saint Francis de Sales also famously demonstrated a “living expression of God’s kindness.” Born in France to a noble family, Francis was fortunate to be educated in the best schools and universities of the time. After receiving his doctorate in both law and theology, he decided to give his life to Christ by becoming a priest. Francis was known for his gentle character, which attracted many people

Photo: Madison Kawakami

to Christianity. He exemplified his own teaching: “A spoonful of honey attracts more flies than a barrelful of vinegar.” Surprisingly, though, St. Francis de Sales is a sign of hope for those who feel they lack kindness, because despite his reputation as a man overflowing with good nature and gentleness, he struggled with a quick temper. According to his own account, it took him over twenty years to truly conquer his temper. As a result of this inner triumph, today he is known as the “Gentleman Saint.” Francis writes: “The person who possesses Christian meekness is affectionate and tender towards everyone: he is disposed to forgive and excuse the frailties of others; the goodness of his heart appears in a sweet affability that influences his words and actions, presents every object to his view in the most charitable and

pleasing light.” The ultimate source of these saintly examples of Christian kindness is again found in God’s very kindness. Throughout history, it is God and His goodness that spurs great saints to a life of charity. In the Old Testament book of the prophet Isaiah, we witness the Lord’s kindness in the prophet’s description of God’s saving deeds, which mirror the Incarnation in Christ that is to come: “The favors of the Lord I will recall, the glorious deeds of the Lord, because of all he has done for us; for he is good to the house of Israel, he has favored us according to his mercy and his great kindness. He said: They are indeed my people, children who are not disloyal; so he became their savior in their

every affliction. It was not a messenger or an angel, but he himself who saved them. Because of his love and pity he redeemed them himself, lifting them and carrying them all the days of old.” This passage encompasses God’s kindness from past to future, the goodness of God toward the people of Israel in “the days of old,” and the promise of God to come again, not sending a “messenger or an angel,” but coming Himself to save His people. And it is in Jesus Christ that the kindness of God is fully revealed. So, with St. Paul we might say, “be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.”

Brian Berseth is a graduate student from Minnesota studying Management Science & Engineering. He enjoys golf, snowboarding, and traveling. Contact him at

Forum of Christian Thought and Action at Stanford


Prayer of the Fallen Soothe my sorrow to erase my pain and hope to wake th’morrow. Shining forth into the rain, blinded by the roar of stars--eyes open, heart alight--I find I’ve fallen yet too far; give me Strength and Might, give me Wisdom and Clarity to love and to serve with Patience and Charity; though my path will swerve into darkness---I pray You be with me on this day.


Vox Clara, Vol. III, Issue 1

Shannon Wong

O Aspiration

Eric Ho

O aspiration, thou fair child of Hope, Wings of mind, pure and simple, Bear my thoughts to heights unseen, O lofty seedling of childhood dreams, Planted in Life’s dawn; seasoned by hope and scorn, Grow and unfurl great branches, as a water droplet explodes into a spherical wave Yet adorn thy sturdy boughs with a necklace of twigs and diadem of leaves, For the ants, that they may shelter in thy Hide And the migratory birds, that they may rest for the night, To bear fruit to feed the disenchanted, To bear flowers that bloom in the spring light To spread new seeds of purpose, wind borne to populate new lands, And spawn new oaks of persons, to perpetuate the spirit of man.

Photo: Madison Kawakami

Why Take the Gospels as History? Pete Sommer

Photo: Paul Zaich

1. The ancient tradition of memorization For the early Christians, memorizing the Gospels would have literally been child’s play (Craig Blomberg, lecture at Stanford April 7, 2009). Greek schoolboys memorized the Iliad and the Odyssey; Rabbis memorized the Torah, and often the whole Hebrew Scriptures (Blomberg, “Jesus of Nazareth,” 2008, p. 14); candidates for the Chinese civil service memorized the classics; many early Muslims memorized the entire Qur’an (A Muslim’s Heart, Hoskins, p. 7, 2008). Memorizing texts was not the challenge. But if the writers could remember the Jesus-story accurately, and had the incentive to do so, how can we know they succeeded? 2. Social history – the Gospels are spot-on about the social setting of Jesus. The Gospels reflects intra-Jewish tension between various factions (Pharisees, scribes, Sadducees, Zealots). This tension collapsed in favor of Zealots with the outbreak of the Jewish Revolt of 66 AD. If the Gospels were completed after that time, we have to credit the writers with reliable recall of the pre-war situation. See for instance Jesus and the Rise of Early Christianity, Paul Barnett (1999), but most forcefully put in Redating the New Testament, John AT Robinson, 1976, pp. 13-30. 3. Geography – recall of the details of Jerusalem, destroyed in AD 70. Geography. Archaeology confirms that the references in The Gospel of John to the physical layout of Jerusalem, all of which were wiped out in the AD 70 destruction. Now scholars are faced with the fact that John preserves both the latest and the earliest memories about Jesus! See the solid popular summary in Cahill’s Desire of the Everlasting Hills (2002). This means that if John were written late, the means of handing on information was solid. John was right on sociology and geography; why can’t he be right in his recall of Jesus’ teaching?


4. Cultural dissonance or “embarrassment” about Jesus – The writers include many details that seem to weaken their case. We would not help our case for a religion in the GrecoRoman world, were we to create an image of a Messiah who: a. was Jewish. Anti-Semitism of the culture was powerful and occasionally lethal. The Anguish of the Jews, O’Flannery (1964), pp. 3-24, Why the Jews? Prager and Telushkin (1983), pp. 83-89, and above all the two-volume work of Martin Hengel, Judaism and Hellenism (1974), pp. 147254. b. was born out of wedlock, a shameful origin (Matthew 2 and Luke 2). c. was baptized by another leader (all four Gospels). d. couldn’t do miracles when he was opposed (Mark 6:1-6). e. was rejected by his own leaders. f. was condemned by a Roman official, in a culture that saw Roman law as particularly just (Hengel, Crucifixion,1977, pp. 1-38). g. was crucified – the most disgraceful possible end to a life, a sentence never inflicted by Romans on Roman citizens (idem, pp. 39-89). For example: “Because the large strata of the population welcomed the security and the world-wide peace which the empire brought with it, the crucified victim was defamed both socially and ethically (p. 88).” h. displayed anxiety at the prospect of his death, unlike the heroes of myth, warriors, and martyrs like Socrates. i. had women disciples – a scandal to the Jews and most Gentiles alike. j. had the report of his resurrection depend on women, whose testimony was disallowed or minimized in both Jewish and Gentile courts. k. had disciples who misunderstood, disobeyed, and failed him repeatedly, exposing him to constant dishonor. This is the Messiah? 5. The unique self-concept of Jesus. Where did it come from if not from Jesus himself? Jesus’ idea of himself has no precedent or parallel. Did the

Vox Clara, Vol. III, Issue 1

fishermen make it up? Was Jesus a bad teacher? or did they correctly recall these astounding claims? The sayings on which we base this are (i) unique, (ii) attested by multiple sources, (iii) coherent, and (iv) rooted in his native language. Some readers will recognize the famous fourfold criteria often used to judge the authenticity of gospel texts. In fact, the following sayings are actually supported by this method. These sayings show us what Jesus thought of Jesus. a. “Truly, truly, I say to you.” No rabbi spoke this way because it posits authority in the speaker. Rabbis were careful to quote only Scripture and other rabbis. Mark 1:27, John 5:24-28, etc. See also “But I say to you,” in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7. b. “In my name.” Matthew 7:2;, 18:5, 20; 24:5; 28:19. Luke 9:48f, 10:17, 21:8; 24:47. John 14:13f, 15:16, 21; 16:23f. Again, this is a dramatic, self-referential claim to authority, and completely unique in Judaism, except for God himself. c. “The Son of man.” This is an ambiguous, Semitic, context-dependent title. 1. This title is almost unknown in other early Christian writing, which is evidence that it was not invented, but rather deliberately preserved. That said, the context is not hard to establish once one reads a single Gospel: sayings are not about the humanity of Jesus but refer to functions exclusive to God: Mark 2:10 (forgiving sin), 28 (determining the Sabbath); 8:31, 38 (returning to rule the world); 13:26; 14:62 (returning to judge the world), Matthew 25:31 (deciding who is in or out of the Kingdom of heaven), etc. These clearly rest on Daniel 7:13-14, where the Son of man is the divine ruler of the nations. a. The Gospels say that it was his use “Son of man” that got Jesus condemned for blasphemy at his trial. d. “I am.” John 4:26; 5:17f; 6:35f; 8:12, 58; etc. See also Matthew 14:27. While Matthew’s use here is usually translated “It is I,” the Greek construction ego eimi is identical to John, where it is rendered “I am.” This of course is the Divine Name itself, appropriated by Jesus from Exodus 3. Of course the authenticity is highly contested but actually meets the criteria of the critics, and would be beyond daring for a writer who had no basis at all for ascribing it to Jesus. e. “Come to me, all who are weary, and I will give you rest…take my yoke upon you, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:27-30. “Whoever loses their

life for me and the gospel will save it.” Mark 8:35. No other founder of a major religion, least of all Moses, and certainly no rabbi, claims “I will give you rest,” as Jesus does here. 6. Literary forms, concepts, and “hard sayings” in the Gospels “Virtually all the parables of Jesus have to be accepted. Why? Because they are a Semitic form not from the Hellenistic world. No later Christian writings took the form of parables. Virtually all the kingdom sayings of Jesus have to be accepted. Why? Because the balance of the kingdom “now here” yet “still to come” was a complete contrast to Judaism, yet also from the early church writings, which largely ignored this. Also, the sayings cohere with the parables, which are mainly about the kingdom of God. All the “hard sayings” of Jesus in three areas should be accepted: a) his concern for the poor, sinners/tax collectors, women, lepers, Samaritans, Gentiles, b) his stringent demands for discipleship, hating parents, selling everything, and c) his controversies with the authorities over the interpretation of the Old Testament. Why? These sayings either reflect Semitic language and customs or are more radical than early church writings grasped. Jesus use of the term Abba for God must be authentic. Why? It is of course Semitic language, and it was unparalleled in its intimacy. Judaism knew nothing of such a claim.” – All these sayings are shocking to the point that again, we’re forced either to say that there was a genius named Jesus, or a genius who invented Jesus. 7. Refusal to invent a “contemporary” Jesus. Finally, the early church had urgent concerns – none of which are addressed in the Gospels. The writers of the Gospels were in awe of Jesus, and did not dare alter or add to his teaching (Matthew 12:36, Mark 8:38). The Church nearly split over the question of circumcision; it had controversies over speaking in tongues, women’s leadership, and church organization. It would have been SO convenient if Jesus had sayings on these! The Gospel writers exercised their own creativity within careful limits. What do we have in the Gospels? Good history of the setting, actions, and sayings of Jesus. Either there was a genius who invented Jesus, or a genius named Jesus, who said and did the things recorded there.

PeteJEonathan Sthan ommer Kung (MDiv Scrafford is a Fuller Bioengineering isSeminary) a senior graduate isfrom the author of Do What You HaveWichita, student. Heard:He Kansas, Bible is often Studies studying doingfor useless Biological Timothy things Sciand like Titus and Getting Sent (bothences climbing InterVarsity andonto Spanish. Press). rooftopsHeoriswill catching campus get married wildlife. pastor for to InterVarsity Grad Fellowship at Diane Stanford. SantosHeinlikes Junehis and four will grandkids, enter medical National League Baseball, and the latest schoolmusic, next “fall. ’cause it always reminds me, there’s nothing like Bach.”

Forum of Christian Thought and Action at Stanford


“Love is Patient, Love is Kind” Elizabeth Clair

Photo: Madison Kawakami

While love is often considered to be the greatest of human emotions, the true significance of this passage is illuminated by another word. One of the Bible’s most recognized passages, 1 Corinthians 13:4 proclaims the supreme devotion of God, defining love as “kind.” Kindness resonates as a truly human characteristic that is a direct gift from God to us. John writes that God is love (1 John 4:8). In Aristotelian agreement, if God is love and love is kind, then kindness and God are equivalent. The expectation of human kindness is an expectation of humanity, that humans will act with reciprocal decency and courtesy. Even the Golden Rule of kindergarten instructs children

kindness, however, is an act of charity in the sense of doing good to another. As a result, Aquinas concluded, kindness is the greatest effect of love. By extension, however, kindness seems to pertain to both sides of a relationship; is it your own action, materially lending something to a stranger, or conceptually lending a shoulder to a friend? Or is it the receivers’ gratitude and recognition of your exertion? Kindness, for the unequivocal reason of expressing God’s love and humanity with no expectation of reciprocation, is the essence of true humanity. Luke 6:35 asks us to “love our enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping

is no one who does good, not even one,”) if you believe that God saved us as a result his own kindness (Titus 3:4-5) and that we are, as Genesis 1:27 famously proclaims, created in God’s own image, then Romans 3:12 is simply positioning that our humanity is but a challenge for us to overcome. In fact, later in Romans 3:21 humanity is proclaimed to be saved by having faith in Jesus Christ. As all of humanity have sinned and fallen short, every soul is freely redeemed through God’s sacrifice. The Lord sacrificed His Son with love to save our souls through kindness. If humanity reflects God and God is love and love is kindness, then ultimately acting in kindness is expressing God.

...through kindness we emulate God and share His love with the world and His spirit with humanity.

to expect quid pro quo for their actions. Unfortunately, this expectation ultimately defeats the heart of kindness. But what is kindness? In his Summa Theologiae, Thomas Aquinas questioned the heart of kindness: “Is it an act of charity? Are we bound to be kind to everyone? In being kind to others are we bound to prefer those who are more closely connected? Is kindness a special virtue?” Aquinas concluded that kindness cannot be an act of charity as it is ultimately directed to God, and we cannot be kind to Him. Showing


for nothing again; and our reward shall be great.” But this reward of which he speaks has little to do with material possession, public recognition, or even personal hubris. Rather, it is the philosophical and spiritual understanding that through kindness we emulate God and share His love with the world and His spirit with humanity. While Romans 3:12 and much of our modern media might suggest that true, selfless human kindness is illusory and futile (“All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there

Vox Clara, Vol. III, Issue 1

Traditionally and rhetorically, kindness has maintained a variety of interpretations but remains a direct gift from God and the ultimate human emotion. From a position of semantics, what is it about the modern connotation of the word kind that differs so substantially from any understanding in the past? Contemporary kindness is attributed either to those who actively go out of their way to be helpful, charitable, and considerate or to those who are vaguely representative of something, but not actually qualified enough to be deemed

worthy of the full title, for example “kind of.” Kindness does not evoke the modern comprehension of the argot du jour, “compassion,” “sympathy,” or “empathy.” Perhaps it is the secondary definition, the homonym, that proves destructive

about sharing material possessions, although the representation of kindness is often through material or at least corporeal action, rather than the solely metaphysical. World Kindness Day is annually

peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Celebrate the holidays of thanks and love and celebrate kindness as a gift from and for God. According to C.S.

...the kindness of the Bible has been bypassed, bordered between a holiday of thanks (and food) and a holiday of love (and gifts). to its former glory as the ultimate gift and the supreme compliment. Unlike today, where the term kindness fails to actually express the significance of the trait, historically, three Greek words were used to convey the contemporaneously singular trait. The Greek terms differentiated between the moral and internal aspects from the external proclamations. Chresteuomai, as used in the translation of 1 Corinthians 13:4, is “to show one’s self mild, to be kind, to use kindness.” Chrestos, used in the books of Luke and Matthew are related to goodness, virtue and benevolence of individuals. The final translation of kindness is chrestotes, signifying moral goodness and integrity. This denotation was utilized in Romans and Titus among others. It would seem that the kindness of the Bible has been bypassed, bordered between a holiday of thanks (and food) and a holiday of love (and gifts.) Where has the selfless kindness gone? Kindness at its heart is part of your soul and is, in itself, a gift, granted by God for our own joy, which in turn returns the gift to Him to Him. It is a cycle of gift-giving. For a culture based on materiality, kindness is the ultimate present. But kindness, at its heart, is not

celebrated on November 13, but in the eyes of God, every day is world kindness day. The currently popular ARK movement (Acts of random kindness) similarly defeats the ultimate meaning of kindness. Ultimately, acts of kindness should not be random. By methodically choosing to live our lives for the greater glory of God, we are inherently condoning and actively supporting the essence of kindness as God intended. The essence of kindness is, as a result, worshipping and glorifying God through our fellow human beings. However, a random act of kindness is a redeemable commencement; perhaps beginning with a random act of kindness will lead to a life of kindness, as a kind life is not lived for your own self worth, but for the worth of God. In the Catholic Church, Saints Sylvia (mother of Gregory the Great), Nicholas (later Santa Claus), Ambrose and Charles Boromeo are specifically recognized for their acts of kindness, as is Blessed Mother Teresa. However, as kindness is inherent to the work of God, the title of Patron Saint of Kindness cannot be granted. Patron Saints, by virtue, exemplify the characteristic of true kindness. As Galatians 5:19-23 heralds, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy,

Lewis, “nothing except kindness is really good.” Kindness is doing something without expectation of reciprocation. Quid pro quo is not relevant in God’s eyes. God sent us His Son out of love, took His Son out of love and consequently, shared love and kindness with the world. Love is patient, and love is kind. Share your love, patience, and, ultimately, your kindness with the world, and share God’s love and greatest gift. Works Cited

Aquinas, Thomas, Summa Theologiae, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1964. Lewis, C.S. The Problem of Pain, New York: Harper Collins, 1996. vines/ greek/nas/chrestotes.html apologetics/ap0032.html h t t p : / / d i c t i o n a r y. o e d . c o m / c g i / entry/50126741?single=1&query_type=wo rd&queryword=kindness&first=1&max_to_ show=10

Further reading:

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis God and the World: A Conversation With Peter Seewald by Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI

JEonathan E than Kung SCcrafford is a Bioengineering a senior graduate from lizabeth lair is aisJunior majoring student. Wichita, He Kansas, is often studying doingspending useless Biological things Scilike in History. She enjoys time with climbing ences and onto Spanish. rooftops He or will catching get married wildlife. to friends, playing golf, and reading great litDiane in her Juneatand will enter medical erature.Santos Contact school next fall.

Forum of Christian Thought and Action at Stanford


What are the “fruits of the Spirit?” But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. Against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-25 The characteristics listed in Paul’s letter to the Galatians as “fruits of the Spirit” are, interestingly, characteristics that almost all humans desire. Inevitably, however, the reality of our humanness keeps us from perfectly reflecting these

characteristics all the time. The key difference in someone aspiring for these attributes and a follower of Christ is the latter’s realization that it can’t be done on his or her own. Christ, embodied as the Holy Spirit in an individual, is the agent of change. In the end, as the Spirit works to transform a Christian’s desires and attitudes, these attributes are not something Christians decide to do but become a part of who they are. Anyone can display these characteristics; the distinction for the Christian is that these attributes represent a natural outpouring of the transformed heart.

There Are No Small Actors: The Art of Kindness in Daily Life In the blockbuster “I Am Legend,” Will Smith stars as Robert Neville, a scientist who believes he is the last person on earth. A terrible virus has wiped out the rest of the human population, and Neville must fend for himself, foraging for food and other supplies from the deserted remains of New York City. Thankfully, no such mutant strain has actually ravaged our planet, but the survivalist mentality remains deeply engrained in our modern sensibilities. “Every man for himself”, the saying goes; only the strong survive and reach the top. How often, I wonder, do we forget that we share a world with six billion other people, each of them possessing thoughts and emotions as real and meaningful as our own? I, for one, often fall into a “me first” mindset. Kindness for me is strongly tied to convenience; in many cases, I do something nice for others only when it does not interfere with my plans or personal interests. A smile or cheerful word, donations to clothing drives at Christmas, toss in a little community service on the weekends, and I’m good, right? We’re busy people. Certainly God can’t expect us to do more? Kindness, it turns out, involves a lot more than throwing your spare change in the Goodwill bucket next to a bell-ringing Santa. Ephesians 4:32 tells us to “be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” God also calls us to show inconvenient kindness, extended not only to friends but to acquaintances, enemies, and even strangers. In some small, imperfect way, we imitate Christ’s sacrifice on the cross when we look beyond ourselves and seek the well-being of others through unconditional love.

Gretchen Rubin, a writer for Slate online magazine, recently began a column called “The Happiness Project,” identifying ways for people to improve their lives and communities. In her October 19th post, she asked readers to consider themselves not only as the star of their own life, but also as supporting actors in the lives of those around them. “It’s a very unsettling and interesting exercise,” she wrote, “to think about the people in my life and to imagine myself in a minor, supporting role. How do I fit into their fates? Am I helping?” The idea of accepting a “minor” role may initially seem disconcerting, but we should remember that “minor” is not synonymous with “unimportant.” In the parable of the Good Samaritan, for instance, a kindly foreigner literally stumbled upon a man who had been assaulted by robbers. Moved with compassion, the Samaritan “lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn, and cared for him” (Lk 10:34). He then left money with the innkeeper and promised to check on the man on his way back. The Samaritan entered the life of the injured man for only a few, fleeting moments, yet his “minor role” allowed another’s story to continue for a few more acts. Rubin, in the same post for Slate, relates the story of Mary Ann, a young girl who lived with a gruesome tumor on her face. Residing with Dominican nuns for several years in a free cancertreatment home, Mary Ann found her Photo: Madison Kawakami calling near the end of her life when 5-month-old baby Stephanie was brought to the center by her parents. Until her death, Mary Ann, who had always wanted a child, cared for Stephanie. Though it pained her mother greatly to give Stephanie up, she later acknowledged the important role her child played in another’s life: “Stepha-

They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength Be Kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, Ephesians 4:32 as God in Christ forgave you.

“God demands from us an inconvenient kindness, one extended not only to friends but to acquaintances, enemies, even strangers.” Romans 2:4

Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

“We affect each other’s lives in far-reaching, unpredictable ways; no man lives in a vacuum.”

Love | Joy | Peace | Patience | Kindness | Goodness | Faithfulness | Gentleness | Self-control Photo: Madison Kawakami

nie was needed…this child (Mary Ann) with the bandaged face and a heart full of love needed her. God had given me a good husband, six beautiful children. This last child was probably the most special of them all, destined for something I knew nothing about.” We affect each other’s lives in far-reaching, unpredictable ways; no man lives in a vacuum. The kindness of Jesus, in this sense, was revolutionary; his compassion towards outcasts completely shattered the social norms of the time. Jesus associated himself with sinners, touched the diseased, and even protected the rights of the condemned. When the scribes and Pharisees brought before him a woman to be stoned for adultery, he defended her, saying “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7). Jesus teaches us that kindness cannot be exclusive, that is, we cannot choose to bestow it upon some and not upon others. We cannot be the priest or the Levite who chooses to help some mugging victims but not others. As Amelia Earhart noted, “A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.” Kindness is perhaps most powerful when it is least expected, when we “throw out roots” in rocky soil and watch a garden begin to grow.

Samantha McGirr is a junior from Stockton, CA, majoring in English and minoring in Human Biology. She enjoys tutoring, drinking coffee, and bargain hunting. Contact her at smcgirr@

We also cannot choose when to be kind, as evidenced by Jesus’ ordeal in the Mount of Olives. As Jesus was being arrested, one of his disciples struck the high priest’s servant with his sword, cutting off his ear. Jesus, in response, “said, ‘Stop, no more of this!’ Then he touched the servant’s ear and healed him” (Lk 22:51). Even at one of the most stressful moments of his life, Jesus reduced the suffering of another. Though he was a “minor” character in the life of that servant, his act of kindness was extraordinary. As busy students, it is easy to allow ourselves to be consumed by midterm exams, club meetings, and other commitments, and to limit our kindness to holidays and breaks. Jesus’ actions remind us that our social and academic obligations do not exempt us from our obligations to our neighbors. Kindness, in fact, grows more important in times of stress or hardship. Reflecting on Christmas, it is only natural to be excited for family and friends, for delicious meals and presents under the tree. Amidst the onslaught of Snuggies and JC Penney gift cards, however, we must not forget the gift that keeps on giving: kindness. Here’s to hoping that we, like Jesus, can make the most of the supporting roles we have been given, that our compassion might inspire others to new, Oscar-worthy heights.

Faith Takes Action: William Wilberforce and the Abolition of the Slave Trade Sarah White

Photo: Greg Witmer

Originally published in the Spring 2009 issue of The Dartmouth Apologia: A Journal of Christian Thought. On May 12, 1789, William Wilberforce gave arguably the greatest speech of his career. He had prepared little for this speech because he had been extremely ill, and he was still weak on that day. Nevertheless, he knew his subject well enough to speak for three hours from a single page of notes. The subject of Wilberforce’s passionate eloquence would largely define his Parliamentary career and later make him famous: the introduction of a bill to abolish the slave trade in the British Empire. As a champion of justice for British slaves, William Wilberforce is an excellent example of a person who followed Christ’s mandate to care for the downtrodden and bring freedom to the oppressed.1 It would be nearly twenty years before his goal was finally reached. For almost two decades, Wilberforce dedicated his time, energy and eloquence to outlawing The baseness and iniquity of such a traffic.2 Despite illness and discouragement, he refused to allow a practice that he saw as Contrary to every principle of religion, morality, and sound policy3 to continue uncontested. In 1791 he wrote Whatever [Parliament] might do, the people of Great Britain, I am confident, will abolish the slave trade… For myself, I am engaged in a work I will never abandon.4 Wilberforce did not begin his political


career as a dedicated reformer. He was born in 1759 to a prominent and successful family. As a young man, he was Everywhere invited and caressed5 by society, and his love for the pleasures of popularity and convivial society led him to pursue a political career upon leaving school.6 In 1780, at the age of twenty one, Wilberforce used his charm, family influence and fortune to secure the position of Member of Parliament for his hometown of Hull. During his first few years in politics, Wilberforce’s personality was characterized by vivacity, charm, and gregariousness.7 After his election, he moved to London and was quickly welcomed into Society and into political circles. He frequented the theatre, the opera and concerts, as well as joining a gambling club soon after his arrival.8 His voice was good, and he was often called upon to sing at parties. Wilberforce often played host to his friends at his villa at Wimbledon when he was not attending parties in London. His life was filled with pleasurable pursuits, and His wit, polish and generosity won him many friends.9 Wilberforce never joined a political party, and his early activity in Parliament was mostly concerned with advancing the needs of his constituency.10 Though his political career and popularity continued

Vox Clara, Vol. III, Issue 1

to advance, it took several years for Wilberforce to become truly committed to reform. In 1784, Wilberforce came into contact with his old schoolteacher Isaac Milner, whom he considered an intelligent and excellent friend,11 even though he disagreed with what Milner called vital Christianity. He treat[ed] with flippancy12 all of Milner’s attempts to talk to him about religion, but eventually Wilberforce agreed to read Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul by the English theologian Phillip Doddridge. Doddridge’s discussion of sin, the need for repentance and the joy that comes from accepting God’s grace forced Wilberforce to reevaluate the way he lived his life. Upon reading the New Testament in Greek with Milner, he came to the conclusion that he had been living without God and outside of the realm of true Christianity. As a member of the Anglican Church, he had considered himself a Christian, but he had never experienced a personal relationship with God. He participated in the outward forms of religion, but his life was not affected by the teachings that he heard. In his diary, Wilberforce wrote As soon as I reflected seriously upon these subjects the deep guilt and black ingratitude of my past life forced itself upon me in the strongest colours, and I condemned myself for having wasted my precious time, and opportunities, and talents.13 Upon returning to England, Wilberforce

struggled for several months with guilt and depression. He lamented the way he had spent his life in empty amusements and resolved that he would henceforth be humble and watchful.14 Having found that his past amusements could not bring him the satisfaction and peace that a true commitment to Christ offered him, Wilberforce made the decision to actively pursue his newfound faith and to make that pursuit the central focus of his life. It was at this time that Wilberforce began to ardently pursue political and social reform. In his book A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians, in the Higher and Middle Classes, Contrasted with Real Christianity, he urged Britain’s more prosperous citizens to examine the true doctrines of their professed faith and to live by them. He argued It is a truth which will hardly be contested, that Christianity, whenever it has at all prevailed, has raised the general standard of morals to a height before unknown.15 Rather than living his life in the pursuit of pleasure, Wilberforce committed himself to using his political career in order to bring about good. In the same book he wrote, Surely it must be confessed to be a matter of small account to sacrifice a

infinite love, that Christ should die to save such a sinner, and how necessary is it He should save us altogether, that we may appear before God with nothing of our own!18 He acknowledged that he and his supporters, who became known as the abolitionist coalition, could not accomplish reform unless it was God’s plan, and indeed their initial efforts came to nothing. Despite the acclaim that his first speech for abolition received, Wilberforce’s opponents convinced the House of Commons to delay voting on the bill to abolish the slave trade in order to hear witnesses on the subject. Meanwhile, rebellion was brewing in France, other matters arose and the interviews were put off until Parliament reconvened the next year. As the vote was delayed again and again, the political climate cooled toward abolition and Wilberforce lamented Alas, alas, how week passes unimproved after week!19 Nevertheless, he continued to work with his coalition to accumulate evidence in order to push through the bill, writing, Interested as I might be supposed to be in the final event of the question, I am comparatively indifferent as to

his coalition campaigned throughout the country, provoking petitions and boycotts of sugar on a local level. They also worked for the creation of a colony for freed slaves in Sierra Leone in order to prove that Africans could have a civilized, Christian community without being enslaved. Wilberforce meanwhile continued to collect evidence of the mistreatment of slaves. In his 1823 pamphlet, An Appeal to the Religion, Justice, and Humanity of the Inhabitants of the British Empire in Behalf of the Negro Slaves in the West Indies, he wrote The proofs of the extreme degradation of the slaves… are innumerable,21 further declaring all arguments to the contrary gross falsehoods.22 Some of his opponents, though admitting to the undesirability of the slave trade, nevertheless argued that its abolition would lead to the collapse of the British economy because it would remove the labor force and allow France to take over a valuable commerce. Wilberforce parried this argument by saying, I cannot believe that the same being who forbids rapine and bloodshed, has made rapine and bloodshed necessary to the well-being of any part of his universe.23 He further argued that the abolition of the slave trade would force slave owners to care for the slaves

“Wilberforce believed that only through God could men find the strength to fight against the injustices in their society.” little worldly comfort and prosperity, during the short span of our existence in this life, in order to secure a crown of eternal glory, and the enjoyment of those pleasures which are at God’s right hand evermore!16 Wilberforce believed that he should use the influence of his political E than Kung is a Bioengineering graduate position to Do credit to [his] Christian student. He is often doing useless things like profession.17 climbing onto rooftops or catching wildlife. On November 28, 1785, Wilberforce wrote, True, Lord, I am wretched, and miserable, and blind, and naked. What

the present decision of the House… Never, never will we desist, until we have wiped away this scandal from the Christian name.20 Disappointingly but unsurprisingly, the first bill for abolition was solidly defeated in the House of Commons, and Wilberforce and the other abolitionists continued their campaign through a variety of other methods. Wilberforce introduced a bill that would boycott sugar from the West Indies in hopes of damaging the profitability of the slave trade, but when that bill failed, he and

they already had, thus strengthening the labor force in the colonies rather than destroying it. He dismissed the French threat as well, arguing that Britain should lead the way24 toward abolition, rather than incurring the twofold guilt of knowingly persisting in a wicked trade ourselves, and…of inducing France to do the same.25 In fact, however, France was to abolish the slave trade many years before Britain did. Furthermore, Wilberforce confronted the claim that the slave trade provided a place to train sailors for the British navy, citing

Forum of Christian Thought and Action at Stanford


evidence that More sailors die in one year in the slave trade, than die in two years in all our other trades put together.26 In the 1790’s, the French Revolution and England’s subsequent war with France distracted Parliament from the issue of abolition, as well as damaging the cause because of its association with the liberalism of the Revolution. The years went by, and the abolitionists continued to propose bills for abolition

before his death. In 1818, Wilberforce wrote in a letter to the King of Haiti, “But, whatever may in some few instances be the effects of natural benevolence or of moral probity, or of professional honor, long and large experience in life has convinced me, that religion alone can be depended upon for enabling men with spirit and perseverance to

Though he had been a Christian in name as a member of the Anglican Church, Wilberforce’s whole way of life was changed when he made a personal conversion to Christianity. His perseverance in the fight for freedom and social justice and his faith in God’s ultimate control over its outcome exemplified the way a true Christian is called to live.

“We must learn to press forward, humbly depending on God’s help for the success of our labours and resigned in all respects to His sovereign will.” – William Wilburforce in a variety of forms and degrees during each session of Parliament, though their bills were consistently defeated in either the House of Commons or the House of Lords. Finally, nearly twenty years after Wilberforce’s eloquent introduction of the first abolitionist bill, on February 4, 1807, the House of Commons ratified the Slave Trade Act by a vote of 100 for and only thirty-six against.27 Despite his triumph, however, Wilberforce did not relax his ardor for reformation. Throughout the years of his struggle for abolition, as well as in the years after his victory, Wilberforce campaigned for causes such as workers’ rights, the abolition of the death penalty for minor crimes, the prevention of cruelty to animals and education for women and the poor. He never gave up his work to further limit the practice of slavery in the British Empire, and his faith was rewarded when Parliament accepted the Bill for the Abolition of Slavery on July 26, 1823, just a few days

discharge a course of laborious duties.” 28 Wilberforce believed that only through God could men find the strength to fight against the injustices in their society. As long as he had the strength, he never stopped working for reform. On the day that the Slave Trade Act was passed, Wilberforce’s first reaction was to ask his friend, Well…what shall we abolish next?29 In another letter he wrote, “We are all of us apt to be unreasonable in our expectations of the progress we are to make in the Christian course…but then let not this produce in us…an acquiescence in our present state…we must learn to press forward, humbly depending on God’s help for the success of our labours and resigned in all respects to His sovereign will.”30

Sarah White is a junior at Dartmouth College from Chapada dos Guimaraes, Brazil. She is studying English and Russian Area studies and enjoys Irish dancing and reading a good book.


Vox Clara, Vol. III, Issue 1

Works Cited

1 Holy Bible: Parallel Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995), Luke 4:18. 2 Stephen Tomkins, William Wilberforce: A Biography (Oxford: Lion Hudson plc, 2007), 82. 3 Ibid, 94. 4 Ibid, 95. 5 Ibid, 14. 6 Robin Furneaux, William Wilberforce (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1974), 12. 7 Ibid, 14. 8 Ibid, 16-17. 9 Ibid, 21. 10 Ibid, 19. 11 Ibid, 43. 12 Ibid, 33. 13 Ibid, 35. 14 Ibid, 36. 15 William Wilberforce, A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians in the Higher and Middle Classes Contrasted with Real Christianity (Boston: Manning & Loring, 1799), 258. 16 Ibid, 274. 17 Ibid, 275. 18 Furneaux 37. 19 Tomkins 91. 20 Ibid, 95. 21 William Wilberforce, An Appeal to the Religion, Justice, and Humanity of the Inhabitants of the British Empire, In Behalf of the Negro Slaves of the West Indies (London: Ellerton and Henderson, 1823), 9. 22 Ibid, 7. 23 Tomkins 81. 24 Ibid. 25 Ibid. 26 Ibid. 27 Ibid, 167. 28 William Wilberforce, The Correspondence of William Wilberforce, ed. Robert Wilberforce and Samuel Wilberforce (London: John Murray, 1840), Vol. 1, 370. 29 Tomkins 171. 30 Wilberforce, Correspondence 43-44.

Movement Estelle Luk This summer, I had the opportunity to live and serve in inner-city Los Angeles for six weeks. Despite having learned so much about economic and social disparities since coming to Stanford, I spent much of that time absorbing this vastly different way of life and reflecting on how much I had not known about the dynamics of the inner-city. The experience I relate here involves an interactive art installation I attended that explored the Beatitudes in our modern context. The dark shape moving mournfully across the floor. A woman. Barefoot, she wears all black, covering her features with a black veil. She carries a heavy rough brick across the room, straining to lift it, dropping it to the ground when the weight becomes unbearable. The sound it makes as it collides violently with the floor pierces my eardrums. It is a dull, somehow resounding thud, but in breeching the silence it also breeches my comfort, challenges my position as observer, as someone who avoids hardship, inconveniences of any kind with the instinctive alacrity of a fugitive. Her obvious suffering is a threat to me, her pain threatening to contaminate and overwhelm my sanitized existence. I look away, not wanting to sort through my ambivalence and deep-seated fears, only wanting to be gone, done with this moment, wanting to push it far from me. But the sounds of the brick, the sounds of her grief pervade my consciousness. When I finally look again in her direction, my eyes following the signals my ears had to hear, I see a friend of mine helping her with her burden, walking alongside her and lifting the brick with her and sharing the pain with her and all of a sudden— I’m too busy I don’t know her—that’s not my business She’s supposed to be doing that—it’s her job What will people think of me if I do that? —all of a sudden all the excuses I’ve ever made for not helping someone when they needed it went flying out of my hands: I was standing before the Lord and had nothing to say to Him. He was hungry and I gave Him nothing to eat, He was thirsty and I gave Him nothing to drink, He was a stranger and I did not invite Him in, He needed clothes and I did not clothe Him, He was sick and in prison and I did not look after Him (Matthew 25). Who was I to disown the pain, sickness, suffering, devaluation, disenfranchisement, abuse and exploitation of other people as separate from me and therefore “not my problem”? Looking away was a self-protective mechanism, but it only denied me from fully seeing and experiencing God. How do I move from seeing and hearing to believing? From knowing about someone to caring about them? From watching to participating and intervening? I don’t do it on my own, but I choose to do it. Only God can stir my frozen heart, only Jesus can break into that tumultuous and traitorous land, only he can summon from its depths a light and a warmth that suffuses me and spreads outwards. What sustains me is love that speaks into my heart. The conviction that others are loved by him as much as I am loved—I am loved!—moves me beyond thinking, beyond sitting, and into action.

Estelle Luk is a senior from Palos Verdes Estates, CA. She enjoys hearing and using words; she likes the shape they give to her experiences and desires and thoughts and musings but recognizes that she often uses too many, when a few would have sufficed. Contact her at Forum of Christian Thought and Action at Stanford


Bright Lights

Iheoma Umez-Eronini

Jesusians are peeking and thinking perhaps scripture has meaning beyond that which I’m reading and that which seems easy to do When we sit for a bit in our wi-fi enabled cafes and then take a crack at our Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth it just might be worth opening to the NT’s very 1st in the 5th chapter right before the 15th verse we seek to explore the reason we, can’t see, anymore If the world is dark and you and I are set apart then why can’t your candle be seen When to the highest hills you cling Perhaps God is searching for your light in Hil-and Park but as it turns dark your flashlight shines in Beverly Hills I think he uses his word and tells by the hearts that have heard Who walks in his light and whose batteries flicker at night When Energizer proves only God is eternal and you realize the only everlasting light is not the external seek out Psalm 119 and to 105 cling Lamp to my feet light to my path my footsteps take trips and uncomfortable dips Till they end on the steps of my modern day barn slash depot The harvest stored here is fancy chinawares and dresses marked made in Newfoundslaveland The chair in which I sit, has a newly developed hitch and that aromatic new item smell of undeveloped countries At my table I sit and take in a whiff of the best international cuisine Korean BBQ, Chipotle, China Wonder, Yoshi’s, Darbar, Estrella, Soul. Oh their food is the best, of the people I can say less those, I didn’t think to befriend Beside my many overflowing plates are the addresses and names of the places I said I have to go. you reach them by plane, luxury car over flat terrain and across countless freeways in the outskirts of cities.


Vox Clara, Vol. III, Issue 1

The mail that I sort is more of the same catalogs, brochures and compliments of the devil’s advertising campaign Each day new mailings I see In a world where mercy and mail have been superimposed Also in this place are closets full space containing car keys, cell phones, macbooks and quick looks at electronic gadgets It always surprises me how much better seems the 2009 from the 2008 latest thing The blackberry and ipod classic, lay abandoned with cases and attachments in spaces Which long ago were empty but now are filled. Thoughts of greed I scorn for my hip is adorned simply with the latest phone 3G Back before I was self-employed I had this terrible job of a steward Room, board and meals were free but the tasks given to me cost far more than the perks I enjoyed Establishing justice and being about racial reconciliation Requires a stature, humility and patience that I didn’t want to give, much less a place I don’t want to live I saw in the call, to live one for all a sharing of power and my racial privilege More importantly here and even present there was the constant fear, that he didn’t quite care wouldn’t financially prepare and of my needs be aware When I saw their dilapidated houses families missing one or both spouses always waiting for a bus and never paid at work quite enough Something deep inside perhaps sin or pride something deep within or the powers and principalities without in my head gave a shout that I unlike them must never fall in to the unfortunate trench of poverty and righteousness

A Note from the Author: I’ve been thinking a lot about poetry, how I really like Psalms, and the role of poetry in the Bible. Poetry captures in few words the meaning and emotions of experience, but these words are often far too few for the experience to be fully understood. Similarly, the Bible captures in few words (relative to the expanse of its significance) the essence and meaning of Christianity. I think, though, that to truly understand the Bible we have to not only read it but also live it. This summer I was able to experience a little of what the Bible mentions about justice. This is an excerpt of a poem I wrote. To read the rest of it, contact

Forum of Christian Thought at Stanford

21 Photo: Madison Kawakami

Social Justice in the Light of Heaven Darren Hsiung

Photo: Greg Witmer

Originally published in the Fall 2008 issue of To An Unknown God, a journal of Christian thought at UC Berkeley. It is a common perception, regardless of belief or background, that things are not the way they should be. A world filled with wars, economic meltdowns, poverty, and disease makes us yearn for something better. Perhaps this yearning, as we speak of justice, is an opportunity to consider heaven afresh. We may have heard of the one who is so heavenlyminded he is of no earthly good, but that may be a caricature of what it truly means to be heavenly-minded. It was C. S. Lewis who wrote in Mere Christianity, “Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.” Heaven is peace from above, surpassing earthly understanding, when everything is as it should be. More than just an ideal to inspire us in the present, it is a promised reality for the end of days. If we think of heaven as the very presence of God himself, the Bible shows it is not just in the future, but confirmed in the past with heaven’s intrusions on earth in real time and real space. We meet the most definitive arrival of the heavenly kingdom in Jesus Christ, in whom risen and to come again, we see the glory of heaven, on one hand strangely absent, on the other mysteriously present. It is this story of heaven that defines our story being written here on earth.


An Otherworldly Ethic The Black Eyed Peas hit single “Where is the Love?” lamenting a broken world might resonate with many, but one line doesn’t quite jive: “We only got (one world, one world); that’s all we got (one world, one world).” Yet Christians have reason to be far more optimistic, precisely because “one world” is not all we got: while we can sing the same tune as the Peas, recognizing the extent of the mess, we simultaneously hum another tune, a heavenly harmony interwoven with earthly discord, creating real hope. We might, in proper Pauline fashion, describe heaven as “already and notyet.” In Christ we straddle heaven and earth, living the paradox at the juncture between the age of conflict and the age of victory. The one we see with our eyes is passing away (1 Cor 7:31); the one we see by faith endures (2 Cor 4:7–18). The second century Epistle to Diognetus gives this account of Christians: “Their existence is on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven. They obey the established laws, and surpass the laws in their own lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all.” The earliest Christians, socially

Vox Clara, Vol. III, Issue 1

marginalized and occasionally persecuted, had no opportunity to transform structures and institutions. Instead, they practiced justice in their own situations. Men and women, slaves and masters worshipped together equally. They practiced generosity and hospitality, rescued abandoned children, and nursed the sick, even during epidemics. This was not accomplished by the methods of the world – by the sword, through coercion or legislation – but by those who did not seek their own earthly agendas, not even to preserve their own lives. They loved others and looked not for a city built by human hands, but one built by God (Heb 11:10). By living the reality of heaven, they changed the world. A Reality Check for World Changers In this day where Christians have a democratic voice in social structures, there is opportunity and responsibility to participate in worldly power to restrain evil and promote good. But worldly power cuts in ways even the best of us cannot contain. The day Christians gained civil power is also the day they became oppressors. How often have we heard that a system is “terrible, but ten times better than the alternatives”? This sort of futility should remind us of the not-yet aspects of heaven. Living in the light of heaven does not translate into the ability to manifest it perfectly, or even necessarily very well.

Jesus spoke more directly to the heart’s condition than to external structures. Externals are not unimportant, and some political positions may prove more moral or effective than others. Yet Jesus never gave us a complete set of marching orders, nor have we a divine blueprint for a sociopolitical order, except perhaps an obsolete Old Testament theocracy, though even that was imperfect (cf. Heb 7:18; 8:13). We must learn wisdom and the complexities of this world just like everyone else. Hopefully, that will encourage us to be humble to the fact that we are as likely to get it wrong as much as anyone else. L. Nelson Bell, missionary to China and father-in-law of Billy Graham, said this about those who

corruption or end suffering in accidents. Had schools been properly built to withstand the Sichuan earthquake, thousands of children might have been saved. But in the death of even one child, there will still be parents who must face immeasurable grief. Social Justice is Not the Gospel The problem with man’s utopian visions is that none can seem to agree on what that’s supposed to look like specifically. World peace sounds good on paper, but besides the absence of military conflict, when the rubber meets the road what will positively deal with our loneliness, jealousies, addictions, and selfishness? Often our

the one who became a curse that our own curse might be lifted. Christ bore injustice to ensure the accomplishment of God’s perfect justice. At this greatest injustice, as Holy God is put to death by sinful man, God displays his justice in full (Rom. 3:25). Now we who are wicked can be justified in God’s law court. This is good news for all, regardless of station in life. And here begins our approach to social justice. Our programs of fixes are at best limited and tentative, but the cross tells of a perfect restoration, striking at our root problem – sin and rebellion. We do not gain heaven through social justice but pursue social justice in light of the heaven already

We do not gain heaven through social justice but pursue social justice in light of the heaven already gained for us.

would use pulpits to weigh in politically: “First, they are not competent in that particular field. Second, they have no right to use the prestige of the Church in this matter. Third, we think their advice is dead wrong.”* Heavenly-mindedness neither divides our churches over differing social visions, nor does it lockstep us in political opinion. Instead, what a heavenly testimony it would be to see Democrats, Republicans, and others worshipping the same Jesus, side by side. In his 2006 Call to Renewal keynote address, Barack Obama acknowledged that government alone is insufficient for real change. When someone goes on a shooting spree, “we’ve got a moral problem. That young man has a hole in his heart – a hole that government alone cannot fix.” No amount of institutional transformation will solve the heart’s

portrayals of Jesus look suspiciously like ourselves. The call to follow Jesus becomes a call to measure up to the bar of our envisioned utopia. For those who discover that they cannot, this hardly qualifies as good news. In the midst of all our ideas of what a transformed and just world might look like, God himself stepped in and shows us heaven on earth in the most tangible way. It took the form of a broken man, dying on a cross. This is scandalous to those who think in terms of power and influence; it makes no sense to the great philosophical minds of the age. But God’s foolishness is wiser than our wisdom; the otherworldly ethic turns the thinking of this world upside down. At the cross, justice and mercy meet. Here, there is no bar of performance: the invitation is to come with nothing to offer but our sin and to look upon

gained for us. The Christian may be all the poorer if neglecting those less fortunate, but it is the Gospel that creates the Christian in the first place. As Christians, we take up common causes with others as sojourners, eyes fixed on heaven. Changing external situations may facilitate justice, but it is the Holy Spirit who changes hearts and creates real hope. So while we seek to feed the hungry, let that never eclipse feeding the hungry soul with the bread of life. If we seek to loose the chains of oppression and injustice, how much more should we seek to break the chains of sin within us? Fighting for the life and welfare of those who cannot fight for themselves is a worthy calling; how much greater to give the gift of the Gospel of Christ, the power of resurrection that   brings the dead into the unshakeable kingdom of eternal life.

arren Hsiung grew up in Nova Scotia JDonathan E than Kung Scrafford is a Bioengineering is a senior graduate from and is a fan of history, wushu, and gelato. student. He Wichita, Kansas, is oftenstudying doing useless Biological things Scilike He studied laser physics at MIT and UC climbing ences andonto Spanish. rooftops Heor will catching get married wildlife. to Berkeley, obtained his M.Div. at WestminDiane Santos in June and will enter medical ster Seminary school next fall.California, and is currently a licentiate in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

Forum of Christian Thought and Action at Stanford


The Augustine Project Vox Clara was inspired by The Augustine Project, which is a growing movement to establish Christian journals at colleges across the country. The Project’s goal is to be a “thoughtful witness to [Christian] faith in the modern university,” knowing that “Truth cannot be pursued in a vacuum.” The Augustine Project was founded by Jordan Hylden, a graduate of Harvard University.

Other Member Journals Include: • • • • • • • • • • •

The Harvard Ichthus Revisions (Princeton) The Beacon (William and Mary) To An Unknown God (Berkeley) Closing Remarks (Brown) The Pub (Wheaton) Religio (Duke) Wide Awake (University of Virginia) The Fish (University of Chicago) The Logos (Yale) The Dartmouth Apologia

The Augustine Project:

To An Unknown God:

The Dartmouth Apologia: 24

Vox Clara, Vol. III, Issue 1

Want to get involved?

Interested in submitting an article or other content? Vox Clara is currently accepting all types of student submissions, including research articles, opinion pieces, interviews, short stories, poems, and photography & art (please take into consideration that journals are typically printed in black & white). We also feature this content plus student music on the online version of our journal. The deadline for articles for the Winter 2010 issue is February 1st, 2010. We will still accept submissions after this date but they may be postponed to a later issue. Please visit our website for submission guidelines. We welcome any quality submissions, but works that fit with our winter journal theme - Goodness - will be given preference. Please submit your work to

Questions | Comments | Sponsor | Get Involved |

Letter from the President

A few weeks ago I started reading a book called Hearing God by Dallas Willard, a professor of philosophy at USC. Describing individuals who strive to live in companionship with God, Willard wrote, “The light that they radiate is not what they do but who they are.” When I read this sentence, the concept of kindness came to mind. I realized that the incredible kindness that I see in my friends at Stanford does not unfold on a whim but rather is the fruit of God’s transformative presence within them. I would never have thought of kindness in connection to this particular sentence had I not spent the past several weeks reading my peers’ writings about kindness in preparation for this quarter’s publication. Reading these students’ works has helped me notice God’s kindness in situations where I previously would have overlooked it. Realizing this has opened my eyes to the unique opportunity of engaging in Christian thought while in college. At Stanford, we are surrounded by peers who help us grow intellectually in a wide range of disciplines, but how often is our faith among these subjects? Do we challenge one another to grow intellectually in our understanding of God? By discussing faith with our peers, we can help each other expand our faith at the same time that we pursue knowledge in the fields of biology, literature, economics, or engineering. Rather than envision the spiritual component of our growth as something to pay attention to only in our post-Stanford years, we can encourage one another to let the study of God’s Word enrich and give meaning to our other studies. At Vox Clara we hope to offer a platform where students can do just that. We publish a journal each quarter, but we have also expanded this year to provide opportunities for students to have lunch with Stanford professors and learn about their experiences with the Christian faith. It’s exciting to see other universities pursuing the goal of providing a forum for Christian discussion. There are journals of Christian thought at places such as Harvard, Princeton, Duke, and Yale, and this quarter we published articles from the Christian publications at Berkeley and Dartmouth. One goal that we have at Vox Clara is to help strengthen the relationship between Christian journals such that we are not just aiming for similar goals but that we are working towards them together. Regardless of whether you are a believer, an agnostic, or an atheist, we invite you to join the conversation and hope that you will continue to explore Christianity in dialogue with your peers at Stanford and other universities across the country.

C. E. Caruthers President, 2009-10

Thank you for reading Vox Clara. It is our sincere hope that you come away enlightened about aspects of Christianity. Whether you are a skeptic, seeker, or believer, we encourage you to continue exploring the faith. We leave you with these closing thoughts.

Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? -Romans 2:4

What wisdom can you find that is greater than kindness? - Jean Jacques Rousseau

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. - Aesop - The Lion and the Mouse

Vox Clara - Autumn '09  
Vox Clara - Autumn '09  

The Autumn '09 issue of Vox Clara, published by a student-run Christian organization at Stanford dedicated to exploring the intersection of...