Dean's Update - January 16, 2023
Happy new year! Happy MLK Day! And with spring classes beginning tomorrow, welcome back to campus with all the promise of the semester ahead.
I’m recently home from a week of travel in Egypt in the company of noted Egyptologist and Old Testament scholar Jim Hoffmeier. We traipsed through ancient Egyptian archaeological sites and museums full of wonders. It will be some time before I come to terms with all we saw.
Today, on MLK Day, I’m mindful of the array of mummies displayed at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in Cairo. We looked upon the mummified body of Ramses II, whose ears heard Moses tell of God’s call to “Let my people go,” whose proud eyes borne of a hardened heart gazed upon Moses and Aaron, and whose mouth commanded the making of bricks without straw and the killing of the Hebrew baby boys. (And if the pharaoh of the Exodus is not Ramses II, but Thutmose II or Merneptah, we saw them too.)
The deliverance of the children of Israel out of Egyptian bondage joins the Abrahamic covenant and the giving of the law at Sinai as a defining encounter of the Hebrews with the Lord, the one “who brought [them] out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” The Exodus, and especially the Passover, thus shaped the faith Jesus’s first disciples, as it should ours too.
Yet the late Al Raboteau points out that not all Christians have thought alike about the Exodus, especially in American political history. While white colonists “represented their journey across the Atlantic to America as the exodus of a New Israel from the bondage of Egypt into the Promised Land,” black slaves’ experience was reversed: “the Middle Passage had brought them to Egypt land, where they suffered bondage.”
Brutally worked and inhumanly degraded, the latter, Raboteau argues, often practiced a Christianity more faithful than their oppressors’. The Exodus story figured prominently. They saw that a slave-holding “America stood under the judgment of God, and unless she repented, the death and destruction visited upon Biblical Egypt would be repeated here.” The Hebrews’ deliverance from pharaoh helped sustain their trust in the Lord’s providence, for they “applied the Exodus story, whose end they knew, to their own experience of slavery, which had not yet ended, and so gave meaning and purpose to lives threatened by senseless and demeaning brutality.” The story of Exodus also provided black Christians “their own sense of peoplehood,” giving them “a communal identity as a special, divinely favored people.”
In his last sermon, on April 3, 1968 at Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee, Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke simply and longingly. He, too, had the Exodus story in mind:
Like anybody I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. And I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the Promised Land.The next evening, James Earl Ray shot him and Rev. King passed away.
On this day, may we, like MLK, meditate honestly and soberly upon the freedom from bondage to which God calls all of us in Christ—freedom from sin, deliverance “from the hand of our enemies,” and freedom “to serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness all our days.”
Other news and updates for our attention include the following:
• In response to questions raised about ChatGPT and other AI resources that may be used to complete essay assignments in violation of the Honor Code, the Office of Academic Integrity has assembled a helpful list of Suggestions for Dealing with Artificial Intelligence (AI)-Produced Assignments.
• The Honors College has a new University Research Administrator (URA): Jennifer Morris. URAs, housed in the Office of the Vice Provost for Research, provide essential support for faculty who are applying for and administering grant-funded research projects, from proposal development and submission all the way to closeout. Jennifer stands ready to assist; reach out to her as needed at Jennifer_A_Morris@baylor.edu.
• The Center for Global Engagement has opened the application process for director of the Baylor in St. Andrews Program for Spring 2024. Qualifications, duties, and benefits, along with an application link, are available here. Honors College faculty have brought strong leadership to this marquee program in past years; even now, Eric Martin, associate professor of the history and philosophy of science in the Great Texts Program, is there leading the program this semester. Please consider this important opportunity.
• Speaking of the U.K., we’re proudly celebrating University Scholar Lauren Jarvis’s receipt of a 2023 Marshall Scholarship. News of Lauren’s award, one of only 40 given nationwide, is related here.
• Join me in congratulating Candi Cann, associate professor of religion in the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core, on the release of her new book, Death and Religion: The Basics (Routledge, 2022). We’re proud of this latest good work, Candi, and our high hopes go with you during your time as a Fulbright Scholar at Han Nam University this spring.
• Congratulations as well to David Corey, professor of political science in the Honors Program, for selection of one of his essays as Best of Comment 2022. The award-winning piece is "Politics, Friendship, and the Search for Meaning." Editor-in-chief Anne Snyder calls it “a tour de force through one of the most precious goods of human life—friendship—recovering its riches to dazzle even the most suffocating political frame.”
All the best,
Douglas V. Henry | Dean
Honors College | Baylor University
baylor.edu/honorscollege | 254.710.7689