'Bend that arc'

05/07/13

Bend 'moral arc' toward justice, graduates urged

Minutes away from becoming Bluffton University graduates on May 5, 279 students were reminded that they have another test.

“That test is called ‘the rest of your life,’” said Dr. J. Denny Weaver, a professor emeritus of religion at Bluffton and the speaker at the university’s 113th annual commencement ceremony.

The test is “how well you invest the education you have acquired,” he said, urging the graduates to do so by helping bend the moral arc that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said is long but “bends toward justice.”

“King is telling us that progress toward justice may seem slow, but we should keep working away at it,” explained Weaver, a noted Mennonite theologian who retired in 2006 after 31 years at Bluffton. “Use your Bluffton University education to bend that arc toward justice.”

“Injustice comes in many forms,” he said, citing income inequality—“fostered by economic and tax policies that keep the poor poor while allowing the rich to get even richer”—as well as discrimination of various types.

“Our world needs people who are willing to confront these injustices and take risks for peace,” added Weaver, also an author and editor who has written extensively about nonviolence and religion.

He suggested that the graduates ask themselves how their careers can be “more than a mere way to earn money,” but also an avenue “to foster equality or to confront racism or to promote peace and justice.” In other words, he continued, “think about how you can use your career to promote the common good,” or what Jesus called working for “the least of these.”

“The way you spend the rest of your life will show how well you learned how to learn, to think and analyze and ask questions and engage in lifelong learning,” Weaver said. “When you promote justice and equality and work for the common good, when you work for ‘the least of these,’ you are helping to bend that moral arc described by Martin Luther King Jr.” 

Now a Madison, Wis., resident, Weaver remains editor of the C. Henry Smith book series. His most recent books include a second, revised and expanded edition of “The Nonviolent Atonement,” and “Defenseless Christianity: Anabaptism for a Nonviolent Church,” which he co-authored with Dr. Gerald Mast, a Bluffton professor of communication. His new book, “The Nonviolent God,” is forthcoming.

Also at Bluffton’s commencement ceremony, university President James M. Harder announced the granting of faculty emeritus status to Dr. Christine Nerad, who is retiring as an associate professor of interiors and fashion, retail merchandising and design.

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