New Year’s resolution: remember Scott BeckerJanuary 8, 2008
Scott Becker died of liver cancer in September. I went to a memorial service for him and cried a lot — not so much for my personal loss, but for the world’s loss. He was that special: an unusually eloquent speaker and writer whose actions fully embodied his words.
Before his life ended, Scott was completing a dissertation on Christian Ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena. This was not to be an esoteric academic exercise but rather a basis for catalyzing practical, fundamental changes in church communities. As Scott explained in his blog, “I hope to help Evangelical pastors teach their congregations how to ground social and political commitments in basic biblical affirmations concerning Christ’s life, teachings, crucifixion and resurrection, so that they might promote such kingdom values as economic justice, interethnic reconciliation, nonviolence and care for creation.”
Scott was fond of paradoxes. I think the scholar in him enjoyed attempting to make sense of seemingly nonsensical circumstances, and the teacher in him enjoyed challenging others with problems lacking simple, pat answers. It was said at his memorial service that he enjoyed teaching the Book of Ecclesiastes precisely because it’s so confusing.
Perhaps it’s appropriate, then, that I remember Scott’s personality as a paradox in and of itself. He was uncompromising and unapologetic in his beliefs and principles, yet unfailingly kind and generous to those who did not share them. When I asked him to officiate my (nonreligious) wedding ceremony, he politely declined because he did Christian weddings, period, and that’s not what I wanted. Yet again and again he found the time to talk with me — someone to whom he had no professional obligation whatsoever — about religion, its intersection with politics, and life in general. His faith in Christ was absolute, yet it was a faith that encouraged him to respect and enjoy the company of nonbelievers like me.
In a world of people divided by differences large and small, real and imagined, Scott’s example is a good one to remember. May we carry it in our hearts this year and beyond.