Finding ourselves in holy discomfort: 12-28-16
Religious issues confronting us in 2017: 12-30-16

The day Duke became Duke: 12-29-16

Yesterday here on the blog, I wrote about an essay written a few decades back by a man who today teaches at Duke Divinity School, which, of course, is part of Duke University in Durham, N.C.

Duke_University_LogoWhat I didn't know when I wrote that entry is that today, by coincidence, marks the date in 1925 that Trinity College changed its name and became Duke University in light of a $40 million endowment fund given to the school (and the state) by one James B. Duke.

The history of Duke is quite interesting. The school's roots go back to 1838 when Methodists and Quakers started a little subscription school. The Quakers eventually gave their support to a different school.

But several name changes later, Duke, an institution that still has a United Methodist identity, now is internationally known -- and not just for basketball nor just for the fact that one of my sisters spent much of her nursing career working at Duke Medical Center (though she was never asked to play on the basketball team).

Its Divinity School is widely known and respected for such thinkers as not only Will Willimon, whom I mentioned yesterday, but for Stanley Hauerwas and others.

The Duke story is a reminder that many schools around the nation began with support from religious groups. It took quite a long time in the history of the United States for public education to become a reality, so many of the early schools -- particularly institutions of higher education -- were formed by faith communities.

In Kansas City, for example (not even counting our several seminaries, which I just wrote about here), Avila and Rockhurst (and St. Mary in Leavenworth) universities and Donnelly College are Catholic Institutions, not to mention Baker University in Baldwin City (with presence in the metro, too), an institution with deep Methodist roots. And there are Christian, Jewish and Islamic schools that go through high school.

In short, though I'm a strong proponent of public education, the educational landscape in this country would look quite different and quite impoverished without school with religious roots.

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Pope Francis, though wildly popular among many Catholics and non-Catholics, has made plenty of enemies. This analysis piece in the Globe and Mail from Canada offers some thoughtful reasons why: "With startling nerve he has humanized the papacy in a way only adumbrated by John XXIII and John Paul I; he has stripped it of its baroque obsessions and replaced them with his own passion for simplicity; he has modeled a ministry of leadership and unity that demystifies the office. He has, in fact, subverted the centuries-old notion of a monarchical papacy and that is the primary reason why he has created more opposition than any of his 20th-century predecessors." There's more to the story, but that's a good start.

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P.S.: I hope many of you can come to my 9-11 a.m. talk on Saturday, Jan. 14, at Second Presbyterian Church in KC called "Doubts and Hard Questions Pave the Road to Faith." Tickets (inexpensive) may be obtained here. I'll be drawing from my new book, The Value of Doubt.


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