By Rev. Dr. Serene Jones
President, Union Theological Seminary
Many of you have written to me about my interview with Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times on April 21, Easter Sunday. Thank you for sharing your heartfelt responses to the piece.
As a Christian theologian who has devoted her life to exploring the intricacies and complexities of Christian traditions, I wish I could have expanded and nuanced my responses, as I have done for decades in my writings and teachings. But, in the short-answer format of the interview, I regret that some of my responses came across as dismissive of those who hold other views. That was not my intention at all, and I apologize for that with all my heart.
As with most theological conversations, the feedback I received varied greatly, from bemused questions to hurt and anger to delight and relief. As I sit with the range of responses, I am reminded of how important it has been, historically and still today, that Union Theological Seminary remain a place where many views can be expressed and heard and where collective study and rigorous learning are taken seriously so that, together, we might discover how to become better communities, leaders, and agents for change. This is the mighty task of theological education, at its best.
Personally, as a life-long member of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)– an American-bred, non-creedal, ecumenical branch of Christianity– I see the “virgin birth” story of Jesus as affirming the miraculous coming of God into the world in the womb of a woman – God among us, incarnate. Concerning the “bodily” resurrection of Jesus, I understand it as an affirmation of God’s radical no to death/the forces of evil and injustice in the world, and God’s all-encompassing yes to life, not just life in an abstract form but life anew in real bodies and communities and the earth, itself. These are deeply important Christian claims, and they are near and dear to my own heart and my own profession of faith.
When I reflect theologically, I recall St. Anselm’s remark that theology is “faith seeking understanding.” It’s a humbling endeavor because it requires a willingness to question yourself and the world around you, pushing constantly against the boundaries of what you think you know, in search of what the ultimate truth of love might be.
My prayer is that we all seek to know that love.