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From Our Desk: On Beauty, Solidarity, and Education


From Alexander Carpenter, executive editor:

Greetings from the seventh annual Adventist Bioethics Conference in Loma Linda, California. Hosted by the Center for Christian Bioethics at Loma Linda University Health, the presenters and audience include many representatives from the Adventist health care community. This year, the focus is on issues of solidarity and equity (see the three-day schedule here).

During his talk on “solidarity through an altruistic lens,” Juan Carlos Belliard, MPH, PhD, cited the example of Father Greg Boyle, the legendary leader of Homeboy Industries. Belliard, who is an assistant vice president for community partnerships and associate professor at Loma Linda University, talked about his own upbringing among migrant communities and how we need to move from service to kinship. While temporary acts of goodwill can help, to truly transform our neighborhoods we must act on our interdependence. To get to that idea, Belliard shared a famous quote from Boyle’s 2010 book, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion.

No daylight to separate us. Only kinship. Inching ourselves closer to creating a community of kinship such that God might recognize it. Soon we imagine, with God, this circle of compassion. Then we imagine no one standing outside of that circle, moving ourselves closer to the margins so that the margins themselves will be erased. We stand there with those whose dignity has been denied. We locate ourselves with the poor and the powerless and the voiceless. At the edges, we join the easily despised and the readily left out. We stand with the demonized so that the demonizing will stop. We situate ourselves right next to the disposable so that the day will come when we stop throwing people away.

As I reflect on this radical concept of kinship solidarity, I sit in the shadow of the iconic Loma Linda University Health buildings—circular and rectilinear. The architectural landscape always provokes a Proustian memory. It takes me back to when my father taught here in the 1980s and I would happily hit tennis balls off the wall of the School of Nursing building where he taught. He is a lifelong educator—now retired, he still teaches semi-regularly just because he loves it.

As Spectrum kicks off a special celebration of five Adventist educators for Teacher Appreciation Week, my thanks begin with my father’s legacy of patient instruction to his kin and in his classroom. Beyond buildings and institutions, educators shape the future in ways that mimic the work of the triune divine. Like a pyramid, a good teacher provides structure and points to horizons beyond. This week’s focus is the brainchild of Associate Digital Editor Raquel Mentor, and we hope you enjoy a daily dose of inspiration as we celebrate five educators who limit the daylight between us all.

From Carmen Lau, board chair:

On Beauty

Artists call attention to what we may have overlooked. Van Gogh’s Starry Night transcends to something higher and deeper than astronomy and cycles of night and day. Beauty has a way to sneak past defenses. In a rushed world, if one allows it, beauty can give pause. What is beauty?  Artificial standards of beauty stifle; it is more than glitz and glamor. We know beauty when we see it. It involves form and function. A flower’s beautiful form is part of the function, not an add-on. The circle of life requires attracting pollinators. Lime green buds of fruit trees are beautiful, and the growth is part of producing fruit.

Spectrum steered toward beauty under Bonnie Dwyer’s editorial oversight. Alexander Carpenter has continued with the integration of art and thought, and he has built on this effort with a series of fabulous journals and by nurturing the birth of Spectrum’s new website. Leaving the age of production quotas and efficiency, wider culture has become suspicious of absolute truth, and the mantra of “we know what is good for you.” We live in a time of great integration of form and function.

Crosswalk Church lead pastor Timothy Gillespie emphasized this in a conversation a while back when he shared his vision for creating impactful worship for Adventists. Crosswalk attends to numerous details as it seeks to make a beautiful experience. Inventor Steve Jobs knew this when he envisioned what Apple products could do while being sleek and lovely. Walla Walla University’s motto feels relevant: “Excellence in thought. Generosity in service. Beauty in expression.”

Many Christians aspire to have a beautiful character. This is form melded with function. The visual form of the Creator God crucified by his creation functions as a saving story to show the ultimate function of selfishness. A journalist, reporting on the event, might have described the ugliness of the violent act. However, the icon of Christ crucified becomes something lovely when one sees the form of Christ on the cross as the truest depiction of who God is. Apologetics, exegesis, prophetic speaking, and moral certitude fall flat when one ignores the self-emptying model of Jesus’s life.

My journaling in 2023 has been topical; I assigned a concept for reflection for each day of the week. I designated Wednesdays to be the time to reflect on beauty. Looking back on the last four months, life has had a lot of beauty. “Beauty will save the world,” a sentiment uttered by Dostoevsky’s Prince Myshkin, resonates deeply today. Beauty is like oxygen for the soul. Breathe deeply.

See also:

– Rob Bell’s helpful thoughts on beauty.

– Brian Zahnd’s reflections on beauty saving the world.


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