Around 2010, a curious new term arose in obscure but energetic internet chatrooms: autonomous sensory meridian response. ASMR, as it was soon abbreviated, described a peculiar form of paresthesia experienced as a tingling that starts in the scalp and then moves down the back. It’s often triggered by specific sounds, like soft whispering or a paintbrush scraping canvas. Not surprisingly, those sensitive to ASMR sometimes found Bob Ross reruns to be a reliable source of the effect.
Examples include Charles Dickens’ writing room (above), Newt Scamander’s study (Harry Potter universe), and this strange collection of sights and sounds:
Mark Bailey is the President of Dallas Theological Seminary, where I was a student from 2002 to 2005. Dr. Bailey has served DTS as president for nineteen years, and will transition into the chancellor role on June 30. He will be succeeded by Dr. Mark Yarbrough on July 1, 2020.
On behalf of the seminary, Dr. Bailey issued a letter to the DTS family on Thursday, June 4 in response to events in my nation in these last days. He stated:
A Prayer and a Plea for Our Nation Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people. (Proverbs 14:34)
Dear DTS Family:
As we watch the news and see our city streets in turmoil, my heart, like many of yours, aches. We all yearn for righteousness and peace. All Christians should feel extremely bothered, hurt, and righteously angered over the recent tragic deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, not to mention all others who have needlessly died due to racial injustices and systemic racism. In many ways, the heart cry of the prophet Habakkuk expresses much of our current frustrations:
Racism is a grievous sin, resulting in systemic oppression, and does not display our Lord’s heart. It is demonic, and we, as the body of Christ, are called to stand against it. While equal treatment and justice are American values that we proclaim, too often they are not experienced by all people.
Jesus commanded each of us to “treat others as you would like to be treated” (Luke 6:31). Openly speaking up for the marginalized and mistreated is a mandate found throughout the Bible. Proverbs 31:8-9 states, “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” The abuse of power creates chaos at every level of a culture. The words of James 2 also echo in our ears, “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.”
Proverbs 29:2 explains, “When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan.” The world continues to witness the groans of hurting people. Throughout our history, those who should speak do not say enough in defense of those who are oppressed because of the color of their skin or their ethnicity. The unheard groans of oppression eventually lead to more suffering, grief, unrighteousness, and unfortunately, human vengeance. The family of DTS, as the body of Christ, collectively repents for the ways we do not honor Christ’s mandate and image Him well. We collectively mourn with our brothers and sisters who experience the damaging oppression of racism and live in fear as a part of their daily experience. We also join the voices of those protesting peacefully who have rightly denounced the violence and vandalism that distracts from the root issues.
If we want to see a decrease in social unrest, the church of Jesus Christ needs to lead out and speak up against all injustice and unrighteousness. “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, But happy is he who keeps the law.” (Prov. 29:18). We must model righteous anger and seek productive ways to join the protest against racism. We must seek the Lord and pursue innovative ways to bring change. History teaches us that God is honored, and change happens, when ministers and faith leaders are at the front of the charge, guiding the way. The prophet Jeremiah reminds us to “… seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”
Our words can’t adequately speak healing and comfort to the centuries of injustices people have faced here and abroad, but the Word of God can. Our apologies may come across to some as hollow and self-serving; our goal at DTS remains to teach truth and love well. We desire to continue to grow in love, to bear the image of Christ better, and to reach our neighbors with the healing and love the Gospel of Christ brings. Please continue to pray as we move forward as God’s instruments of healing and change.
Three of our distinguished alumni have recently spoken about the events happening in our nation. I invite you to listen:
I reflected on these same matters Friday in my eNewsletter. In 2002, my decision to attend Dallas Seminary was largely discerned in connection to my love of the Scriptures. I wanted to know the Bible, and DTS seemed to be the place where I could learn to do that best. I continue to value Dallas Seminary’s commitment to the Bible.
Dr. Bailey’s letter is thoroughly biblical. His response is rooted in the witness of the Word of God. I also received his words as being offered in humility, in grief, and in love. For that, I am deeply thankful. Dr. Bailey reminded me that as an ambassador for Christ I am called to live according to what is true and to evidence those commitments through love. As a minister of the gospel, I am called to do so with courage.
Acts of love include the commitment to pray and to listen. Prayer is not passive, but active, and is a first response. Listening, also, is an action.
But the question before us remains: “How do we serve as God’s instruments of healing and change?” What does God’s Word call us to do? How does the church exercise obedience to the command to love our neighbor as ourselves, and how does this take shape in our nation at this moment in time? That’s a matter for discernment. We need wisdom.
In Isaiah 1:17 we are commanded: “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” Micah 6:8 says, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
I find it significant that justice is described as something we are to seek and to do. Seeking leads to doing. But then, once done, seek. With justice, we are always on the way. Christian hope offers us a vision for what we are seeking, for on the day of Christ, our quest for justice will reach its end. Until then, we wait, we long, we cry out, we work. Pray. Listen. Discern. Act. Explore the options, consider them with God, and then do what is right. As an individual, act. Better yet, bind yourself to the church; let’s be the people God has always called us to be.
Michael Leas, stock controller, store number 351, Edna: My overnight crew, they’re just coming in, and it seems like they’re ready. They just ask me what I need them to do. I haven’t had very many complaints from the guys or anything. It’s been really nice. You can tell that they understand it’s not our fault; this is just something that’s happening.
Craig Boyan: We’re not in a super glamorous job. We have a lot of hard-working people doing hard jobs. But there’s a strong sense of pride at H-E-B. We describe ourselves as a purpose-driven company, and we’re at our best amid times of crisis. There’s a great sense among H-E-B partners that they’re doing what’s needed to take care of Texans, and that keeps the morale very high.
[ . . . ]
Tina James: It’s not lost on us that we are offering an essential public function, and it’s not lost on our partners, either. And they continue to come to work with a very positive attitude, and continue to serve above and beyond even their normal hours. That never ceases to amaze me. We are very fortunate in that H-E-B has a chief medical officer as well as a medical board, so we have resources at our fingertips to offer up medical advice and guidance to our partners. So we play a unique role in our partners’ lives that allows them to have some comfort and calm so they can turn around and take care of our customers.
[ . . . ]
Craig Boyan: The spirit of Texans and their treating H-E-B partners with the respect and pride that they do makes us feel fantastic. I drove by a church the other day in San Antonio that had a sign out front that said ‘Thank an H-E-B checker.” We’ve seen an outpouring of support for our partners and truck drivers that gives us a great sense of pride.
[A] distance runner on the Sul Ross track team named Jim Kitchen was fond of chugging up Hancock Hill when he was a student. This was 1979, and Kitchen was twenty. One of his campus jobs involved culling outdated dorm furniture. One day, an idea struck him. “I had made trails up that hill, cut cactus and made paths, and I was running it three or four times a week,” he says. “I thought, ‘It’d be really cool to have a desk up there.’ ” Kitchen picked out a desk, a heavy, stout thing, from the surplus pile and tried moving it by himself. He didn’t get very far before cajoling two friends to help him lug it to the top of the hill. “We did it at night,” Kitchen says. “I thought I’d get in trouble for stealing a desk. I never told anybody and told those guys, ‘You gotta be real quiet about this.’ ”
He stashed a notebook in the desk’s drawer so he could track his run times. He’d also, on occasion, feel compelled to jot down his thoughts on those pages. He showed the track team the desk, and they began visiting. Slowly, through word of mouth, others found it too. More people started writing in the desk’s journal. The first notebook ran out of blank pages. Then a second one and a third. “Whenever they’d get filled up, we’d take them away and put a new one in there,” Kitchen says. “It really surprised me, the things that were written—pretty moving stuff. This was all before the internet. We weren’t socially connected like we are now. But people were making a connection to nature and to each other in those notebooks. It became something pretty special.”