He hath made from one blood all peoples of the earth…
This is the line that the Founder of Berea College, John G.Fee, lifted out of Paul’s famous speech on Mar’s Hill and made the defining spirit of what the College was all about. It is prominent on their campus and in their publications and always current in campus life. Just this weekend there were Tibetan monks on campus doing their reknowned sand paintings. By the way, it is beautiful on campus at spring time.
For Fee, it had a very ” real and present “meaning that put his very life in danger. It meant as a missionary that he was here at the invitation of Casius Clay to start one of the first schools for black students in the nation. The time was just before the outbreak of hostilities that would lead to war and Kentucky, this part of Kentucky, was just about as divided as divided could be; reaching down into the homes of prominent families and setting brother against brother, or father against son. It was the worst of times to start such a venture. Fee was one of those Bravehearts however and he was here to right a great injustice, one black student at a time, and this he firmly believed was his mission from God. This is one of America’s great stories and I want to say something about it in the future because it has a lot to do with this e4unity blog.
Blood brothers and sisters. Fee’s take on the Apostle’s original meaning in that Mar’s Hill statement was exactly what he discerned was at issue in the nation’s life at that moment: these were fellow americans, fellow human beings, and in fact “blood relatives”. Do you see the awful irony? Because they were not able as rational creatures to admit this basic reality, a terrible war was fought in which much blood was shed and often it was literally relatives killing relatives. And here is the line that is the most tragic of all: both sides did not hesitate to call God Almighty Himself into the frey, insisting of course, that He was on their respective side. The “Battle Hymn of the Republic”, when it is seen in this it’s orignal context, is one of the saddest of all the hymns we sing, inside or outside the church.
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord, he is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored; he hath loosed the fateful lightning of his terrible swift sword; his truth is marching on.
I’m tempted here to ask what kind of Christianty, what kind of understanding of the biblical narrative allowed Julia Ward Howe to write those words in 1861, but I just can’t go there now. I will simply suggest that the same New England theology was common to both John G. Fee and to Julia Ward Howe. I simply don’t know what she meant by those words in the context of the stuggle of which the nation was going through- my guess is she saw the “terrible swift sword” literally as so evident in the conflict, as the instrument of the wrath of God. Whether she meant that as indicated above to mean that the Lord was using the Union swords as wrath against the sin of slavery, I don’t think is the point. I think it is evident that her words have a defintite “double meaning”, even a prophetic meaning in the fact that undoubtedly, this terrible war between “blood relatives” was simply the consequence of God’s ordered world working it’s law: Whatever you sow, that you shall also reap…if it’s to the flesh, then of the flesh you shall reap corruption, destruction.
Returning now at last to those original words spoken into the human race at a point in time on Mar’s Hill, I think if we would go on to read the entire speech (ACTS17)and I hope you do, we would discover a double meaning perhaps in what Paul was saying to those god seekers in his day. The rest of the statement with which we began, is this -”…to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, just as some of your own poets have said ‘For we are also His offspring.’”
He then went on to introduce Jesus Christ, as the “Man whom He has ordained” to heal the nations by his death and resurrection. The double meaning to me is obvious though I’ll have to borrow the words from another Apostle:
“You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; For You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation…”
This my dear readers is what I keep referring to as the Mega Narrative of the human race and I firmly believe it is ultimately the only hope of all the nations.
* Be sure to check out the College Links such as The Mission Statement
Another Peace-making success story that has a direct link to Berea College, see ONEIDA INSTITUTE story