From the Dean’s Desk

Harold W. Attridge

It is hardly news that the world is a violent place and since the terrorist attacks on the U.S. in September, 2001, we have been acutely aware of the intersection of religion and violence. The vision of zealots crying “God is great” as they crashed passenger jets into skyscrapers still haunts our collective consciousness. But Muslims have no monopoly on the religious grounding of violence, as we are reminded by the language of “crusade” that not infrequently has crept into our own discourse in response to the international terrorism. Violence on a massive, international scale in the early twenty-first century seems to characterize the fault lines between traditional spheres of world religions, in the Middle East, in the Indian subcontinent, in the former Yugoslavia. It also is a feature within those spheres, sometimes along other religiously defined lines such as that which separates Catholic and Protestant in Ireland, or between the secular and the pious in various parts of the world, including our own country. Violence is also endemic in situations not directly defined by religious convictions, on city streets and in marital bedrooms.

Christians Churches, both those committed to a consistent pacifism and those that espouse some form of “Christian realism,” have in recent decades generally borne witness against violence. The World Council of Churches, for instance, has dedicated the current decade to a campaign to eradicate violence. The current Pope has echoed calls of many of his predecessors for a commitment to peace. Yet violence promises to be with us for the foreseeable future and seems to be woven into the fabric of our social and symbolic structures.

Theological reflection on violence constitutes the subject of this issue of Reflections, a journal of opinion by the Yale Divinity School community, which returns to circulation after a hiatus of nearly ten years. For many years, this journal provided a forum for sustained consideration of contemporary issues from a theological point of view by the faculty, alums, and students of Yale Divinity School. During the past several years, the attention of the YDS community has been focused on internal issues: where to locate the school, how to configure its programs, how to recruit and support students, and similar concerns. We have not yet found answers to all of the questions raised about our enterprise a decade ago, but we have made substantial progress. Sterling Divinity Quadrangle has been handsomely renovated; new faculty have come aboard; student enrollment is strong; the school’s finances are in decent shape; Berkeley Divinity School and the Institute of Sacred Music, the Divinity School’s partners in theological education, are thriving. The time is ripe for the School to resume a robust involvement with contemporary issues, to engage our alumni, alumnae, friends, and the religious community more generally, in a serious and sustained conversation about the issues that confront church and society from a reflective theological point of view. That is the goal of Reflections.

The first issue of the revived journal addresses the topic of violence from the perspective of several theological disciplines, biblical, Systematic, liturgical, and practical. We hope that these contributions will stimulate further reflection on these issues by our alumni and friends and we welcome your responses to this issue.

In the future Reflections will appear twice a year, with commentary on contemporary issues in various forms, as an offering of Yale Divinity School to the wider world of theological education.