By Kelsi Peace, Managing Editor
Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil challenged students to preach with more than just a “big stick” at the second Chapel forum in the Faith Alive forum series.
The true message, Salter McNeil said, is that of the cross – both vertical and horizontal relationships. And without the horizontal reconciliation of human relationship, the truth gets lost in translation, she said.
“All we’re preaching is just a big stick you use to hit people over the head,” she said.
Salter McNeil returned to the university as a speaker who has been on campus several times before. A keynote speaker at Urbana, a student missions convention, last winter, Salter McNeil hails from Chicago and addresses issues of reconciliation across racial, socio-economic, gender and other boundaries.
Using the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well from John 4, Salter McNeil levied a challenge: “If you want to know what reconciliation really looks like, just follow Jesus.”
She relayed her 10 principles for reconciliation, which come from her recently completed book, “A Credible Witness.” The principles include a real need, risk-taking, relinquishing power and reciprocity.
Salter McNeil told students one issue she often sees is that institutions often don’t know what to do with the diversity they have – and if they do, they aren’t leaving a comfort zone or allowing any reciprocity to occur.
“As opposed to getting people to come to us, we might have to ask ourselves how to go to them,” she said.
After trumpeting her desire to learn Spanish, Salter McNeil said some friends sent her to Mexico to lead seminars for weeks – and out of her comfort zone and intentionally in a Spanishspeaking environment, she learned. Much like her situation, Salter McNeil said those who wish to reach across divides must be intentional; they must go to the well where they know they will find the Samaritan woman.
“If you want a safe religion, I’m telling you, Jesus is not the guy,” she said. “He’s risky, and he’s asking his people to be more risky.”
Students applauded when she said the Kingdom is taken by force.
The seventh step in the 10 principles, relinquishing power, can be the most challenging, Salter McNeil said.
“This is where the rubber meets the road,” she said.
She challenged students to remember that education is power, and even in their early 20s, students must examine how they wield that power.
Speaking to a community that intently discussed racial reconciliation last spring after a Chapel speech raised questions of sub-communities on campus, Salter McNeil reminded students that someone must bridge the gap between communities, a job that is seldom simple, she said.
“Bridges get walked on,” she said. “It’s hard work.”
But hard work doesn’t divert Salter McNeil or her hard-hitting message. She challenged students to take action, tell the truth and take a stand.
“We cannot keep going on about ‘Who did what to whom?'” she said. “Get in the game.”