Formations 10.27.2019: Making Amends

2 Chronicles 34:15, 18-19, 25-27, 29-33

Recently, higher education representatives from across the country met in Cincinnati for a conference exploring racial inequalities in higher education. Called “The Academy’s Original Sin,” the conference delved into the legacy of slavery in higher education and how institutions can make amends.

Both Xavier University and the University of Cincinnati, hosts of the conference, were founded by slave-owners, but until recently this has rarely been discussed. University of Cincinnati archivist Kevin Grace explains the university community has had “a very simplistic view” of this aspect of their beginnings.

Xavier University has three strategies to continue the work of reconciliation that has begun in the past several years. First, they set aside a day to educate, reflect, and exercise discernment over the university’s history. Second, they’re expanding research on Xavier’s history, including offering grants to students, faculty, and staff to conduct their own research and projects. Finally, they are investing in a nontraditional study abroad experience that promotes racial healing.

Xavier President Father Michael Graham says that, now that they’re doing the work, they must keep at it. “Where you’re trying to shift culture,” he says, “it needs constant attention in an ongoing way because there are so many forces working against it.”

In ancient Judah, King Josiah also faced the daunting challenge of shifting his culture. The law of God had been neglected for generations, and the temple itself lay in disrepair. Workers rediscovered a book of the law in the temple, and when the king hears its message of dire punishments for unfaithfulness to God, he publicly mourns. Spurred on by a confirmatory word from the prophet Huldah, he inaugurates a wide-sweeping religious reform to get his nation back on track.

For many reasons great and small, Christians also fall short of God’s ideal. As individuals, churches, and denominations, we miss the mark much as Judah did, forgetting our heritage and neglecting God’s gifts. It is also possible that, like many institutions today, we have willfully hidden darker aspects of our history—perhaps even from ourselves.

Josiah’s acts of repentance and restoration offer us an example of a way forward. How can we set things right when we realize we have been in the wrong?

Ambriehl Crutchfield, “Founded on Slavery: How Does Higher Education Make Amends?” WVXU.org, 10 Oct 2019 <https://www.wvxu.org/post/founded-slavery-how-does-higher-education-make-amends#stream/0>.

Discussion

• What can be learned from facing the failures of our past?
• Is what we learn—or what we are forced to acknowledge—worth the pain of that revelation? Explain.
• How can we take the lessons of Josiah to heart in our personal lives?

Reference Shelf

Huldah the Prophetess

[Huldah is t]he name of a woman of Jerusalem who was a prophet during the reign of Josiah (639–609 B.C.E.). When the book of the Law was discovered in the Temple during the eighteenth year of Josiah’s reign, the king ordered his chief officials to “inquire of Yahweh,” in other words, to seek an oracle. Intercession with Yahweh was perhaps also expected because the provisions of the book had not been followed. It was to Huldah that they turned. Her oracle, as reported in 2 Kgs 22:15-20 predicts the downfall of the kingdom of Judah after the death of Josiah. The king himself was promised a peaceful death. Since the oracle is in Deuteronomic language some commentators attribute it to a later editor. However, there is reason to believe that Huldah may have been a part of a Deuteronomic circle centered in Anathoth. The oracle must have taken essentially its present form before the death of Josiah, since its predictions concerning his peaceful death were not fulfilled….

Huldah may have been a cult prophet. More likely she was an official royal prophet. Some scholars have alleged that the reform was carefully staged, and the officials turned to Huldah knowing she would provide an oracle that would be supportive. Huldah, with her husband, Shallum, keeper of the wardrobe (for palace or Temple?) lived in the area of Jerusalem built for Temple and palace personnel.

Wilda W. (Wendy) Morris, “Huldah,” Mercer Dictionary of the Bible, ed. Watson E. Mills et al. (Macon GA: Mercer University Press, 1990), 393–94.

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.

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