New Year’s resolution: remember Scott Becker

January 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.

George Scott Becker


  1. Thank you for letting me know about Scott. It's nice that his blog is still up. I have no doubt his impact on those he knew was great. If you know where one could read some of his writings (other than in his blog) I would appreciate knowing.

  2. Drew: I don't know of any other online sources of Scott's writing. His former colleague Richard Dahlstrom at Bethany Community Church (churchbcc.org) might have access to sermons etc. that Scott wrote while at Bethany. Likewise, Scott's adviser at Fuller (whoever he was) might be willing to share his unfinished dissertation with interested readers. Good luck.

  3. Thanks. Wonderful entry.

    I was “the voice of Scott” at his memorial service.
    You mention the tears. I have to tell you, I rehearsed those readings at least 30 times before I could get through them without breaking down.

    I miss him every day.

    Todd Becker

    • Todd, I’m really glad I was able to write something that seems meaningful and appropriate to you. I still tear up when I hear “The Rainbow Connection.”

  4. I have nearly all of Scott’s writings in a portfolio I keep on my bookshelf. If anyone would like, I can easily email or post any or all of them.

    Todd Becker

    • I for one would be interested to see these writings. If they seem OK for public consumption and get posted somewhere, I’d be happy to link to them.

  5. I think of Scott a lot. He was my fellow friend and classmate up in Susanville, CA. He was very creative and thoughtful. He was into justice and non-violence, very much into breaking up a fight rather than watch it. When I found out that he has the same kind of cancer that would later, possibly, take out my dad who taught him Spanish in high school, I was so hoping and praying for a miracle that would turn things around for him, but, apparently, God had other plans for him. What he taught me is, if you have 4 stage bile duct cancer, find other ways besides the conventional methods.

  6. Thank you again for this. It’s 15 years since our brother died. Your thoughtful essay succinctly captures Scott’s theological work at the end of his life. Sadly, he did not live to finish his book. But it looked to me like he was burning so brightly from within during his final year as he worked with Glen Stassen on his project. All that you wrote about him warms my heart, and it is a treasure for our other siblings. Lynne Becker Bragan

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