Men in the Arena

Friday reminds me why HBU is a higher education: the school is doing things and not merely thinking about doing something, someday, somehow, if we just do another study. HBU is a place where leaders are encouraged to research, think, consider, but then act. Acting, drawing a line, doing something is impossibly hard for too many.  Schools “rinse and repeat,” natter and mutter, and repeat old slogans, rehash old debates because it is safe. Few may be inspired by putting old slogans in new fonts, but fewer still will be offended.

Everyone with an Internet connection  has a platform to speak, a good thing, and a great many of us are speaking, a mixed blessing. Most of us could do something, but too few of us act. The first may explain the second: potential critics abound to pick apart everything a man tries to do and a few of us retreat from doing anything to avoid criticism. If we act, then we might fail, surely a bit. We try hiding our errors by saying mistakes were made, but know that if mistakes were made we made them. Increasingly rare is the man who proposes, disposes, and reposes secure in having done his duty by doing his best.

Theodore Roosevelt understood:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

The public square continues hostile to Christians and many of our concerns. Old Constantinople was said to have market places dominated by careful theological discussions of the nature of Christ, but my local mall, even in Houston, has never heard a discussion of the two natures of Christ. We are becoming more like Old Rome where pagans excluded Christians of any name or background from serious consideration. Failure to discuss how to be a Christian in the world as it is today instead of the world as it was or the way we wish it to be is intellectual cowardice.

Friday night HBU hosts three very different Christians. Nobody, probably, will agree with all they have done or are doing. They do not agree on every aspect of how the Faith should be applied to the public square. They are theologically diverse and I doubt agree on every doctrine. What they have in common is that they have tried to apply their faith in three areas in the City of Man while remaining citizens of the City of God.

They are patriots, but under God. These three men in the arena obviously are notthe only way to practice the faith in public, but at least they give us a model to examine. They are interesting because they pray, they think, they act.

Marvin Olasky is a journalist and educator. He helps run an influential news magazine World that anticipated where the all news magazines have gone: investigative journalism, opinion, and news analysis. We get our minute by minute news fix online: we can get a Christian perspective on it from World. Not all Christians agree with Olasky’s take on journalism, he is willing to allow bias to show, but all Christians owe him for doing journalism instead of talking about doing journalism. He is a man in the arena of journalism.

Ted Cruz is a lawyer and the junior Senator of Texas. He is a plausible Presidential candidate in the next few cycles and he has gone to Washington with a coherent worldview that guides how he acts and votes. He is not an ideologue, but he is a thinker who acts on his thoughts. He is the most popular politician in Texas, but also the most polarizing. Many HBU students will not like his votes, many Christians will dislike his politics or style, but Cruz is an intellectual Christian who got into the arena.  He votes in the Senate after he thinks in the Senate. He is a man in the arena of political power.

I work for the third speaker Robert Sloan, theologian, educator, president. As a result, I will only say what I thought of him before I came and what I still think after seeing him at work for almost two years: he may be the greatest Christian educational leader of my generation. He matters, because he knows what he thinks and acts on those convictions. Everyone knows he is willing to act on his Christian convictions and as a result is subject to criticism that he would not receive as a beloved pastor (which he is) or theological educator  (which he is). He is a man in the arena of higher education.

Complain about the “mainstream” media or do journalism: Marvin Olasky. Curse ignorant politicians or run yourself: Ted Cruz. Decry the secular bias in higher education or lead a reformation: Robert Sloan. Learn how they did it here.  Now.


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