Dear Dr. Nelson.

According to this article in yesterday’s Toronto Star, President George W. Bush will be giving a talk at an upcoming Tyndale University College & Seminary event where he shall “address the subject of Christian higher education.”

I would encourage fellow Tyndale students (past, present and future) who are concerned about President George W. Bush’s appearance at this event to also write Dr. Nelson (President of Tyndale UC&S) to respectfully give voice to your concern. You can email him here: gnelson@tyndale.ca

———————

Dear Dr. Nelson,

I’m writing to you as a proud and supportive Tyndale University College graduate (Graduating Class of 2006). I’ve always been grateful for and treasured my four years at Tyndale and see them as a truly formative experience in my life. That said, I’m concerned about Tyndale’s apparent willingness to have President George W. Bush speak at an upcoming fundraising breakfast next week. That a Christian University would pursue this sort of relationship with a man who was openly deceitful on a global stage and waged an unjust war in Iraq killing countless thousands of innocent men, women and children utterly baffles me. I’m baffled because I find myself unable to hold in tension the ways of President Bush with the ways of Jesus, who perpetrated no violence against creation but the violence of love and who, in fact, suffered violence and even death at the hands of this very creation. This is the God-man in whom Tyndale claims to have rooted their educational paradigm. Yet, in light of our more recent affiliation with President Bush I fear I cannot help but wonder if we have forgotten the ways of Christ and embraced rather the death-dealing ways of the Bush Administration. As a student of Tyndale I feel it my responsibility to voice these concerns and to take action. I leave you with two questions:
1) The Toronto Star article in which I first learned of this event (NB: I’m curious as to how, as an Alumni, I heard no word of this before the Star article and can seem to find no word of it on the Tyndale website as of 1:00pm on Tuesday, September 13th) says that President Bush will, “address the subject of Christian higher education.” If this is indeed what his talk will address my question is then, precisely how is President Bush qualified to give such a talk?
2) As a graduate and donor to Tyndale I must ask precisely how much it is costing Tyndale (and presumably Tyndale’s donors) to have President Bush come and give a talk?

I suppose you knew in advance that graduates and students would have an adverse reaction to this news. I suppose time will tell if it was worth it.

Grace and peace,

Jonathan R. Turtle.
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24 comments
  1. Amy MacDonald said:

    Hi Jonathan,

    You may want to read the Toronto Star article again.

    I work in fundraising, so I have a bit of an understanding how these things work.

    First of all, it sounds like a donor of Tyndale, Prem Watsa, is arranging and will be funding the breakfast (if you don’t know who Prem is, you may want to Google him). It’s very likely that Tyndale did not initiate this, and that Prem wanted to do this to bring awareness to Tyndale and Christian Higher Education among his colleagues and potential supporters in Toronto. Personally, I think it would be rude and irrational to turn down such a generous opportunity.

    Second, if you look through the Old and New Testament, God chooses to use many different types of people to bring honour and glory to His name. Perhaps he’s using Bush to bring needed attention to Tyndale and Christian Higher Education, among an audience that otherwise wouldn’t hear about Tyndale or the need for Christian Higher Education. An audience that could offer incredible financial and influential support to Tyndale. That support translates into a better University/Seminary, better faculty, better programs, better graduates, and with enough support – more accessible tuition.

    Third, if we silence all those we don’t agree with, we would be living in silence. I agree with Nelson that dialogue is critical. We need to engage in conversations with each other – even if we don’t agree on everything – to find positive common ground where we can work together. Tyndale is a transdenominational institution. Some denominations represented are pacifist, some are not. Tyndale represents them all.

    I don’t agree with Bush’ war policies either. Or many of his other policies. But that doesn’t mean that Bush’s life and work can’t be used for the ultimate glory of God and the furthering of His Kingdom.

    I encourage all those opposed to this breakfast to articulate their views like you have done Jon (not just “I hate Bush) and to try to organize something as fruitful as what Prem is doing.

    Thank you for starting the dialogue about this!

    Amy

    • jt* said:

      Amy,

      Thanks for taking the time to respond and for shedding some insight from your position in Tyndale’s fundraising department.

      I saw that Mr. Watsa was sponsoring the event (is he paying for the whole thing? Is it costing Tyndale money to bring Bush in?). Whether or not the event was initiated by Tyndale is a non-factor. It’s an event that Tyndale has endorsed and Tyndale will be the benefactors of whatever funds are raised. So, it’s a Tyndale event. It would hardly be rude to turn down such a generous offer although it most certainly could be viewed as irrational (depending, of course, on who gets the authority to decide what is rational). I would imagine that not every financial gift is worth jumping at, but I’m no fundraiser.

      Perhaps you’re right and God is using Bush to highlight Tyndale. Or, perhaps those with the power to make such decisions at Tyndale couldn’t see past the potential revenue? Who knows? I’m not in the position to be able to say what’s what. The question still remains if the ends justify the means. Do new wealthy donors justify embracing a man who has made no attempt (that I’m aware of) to repent of the lying and deceit that enabled him to wage an illegal war that led to the death of thousands of innocent Iraqis? Perhaps if the cheques are big enough, then yes.

      I’m not talking about silencing those we don’t agree with. I’m talking about not embracing those voices which are counter to the truth, even if it means missing out on some cash. I’m talking about not embracing lying and deceiving voices which work against the cause of Christ Jesus our Lord, if it means we can retain our integrity as those called to be makers of peace. Dialogue may be critical, but endorsing all voices is not. Whether or not some denominations represented by Tyndale are pacifist misses the point. No denominations represented by Tyndale can embrace a regime that wages war based on deceit. No denomination Tyndale represents can embrace the killing of Iraqi children for the cause of “freedom” or “democracy”.

      Anyways, I do appreciate your response Amy. This is nothing personal, I just seriously question Tyndale’s reasoning leading up to this decision.

      JT.

      • Paul Robertson said:

        Hi Jonathon…
        I was just wondering if you read George W. Bush’s biography?
        Paul

  2. Amy MacDonald said:

    Thanks Jon,

    I see your position. It seems like your argument hinges on whether Bush’s actions were consciously based on deceit. And whether Bush was deceitful or whether it was others who were working for the Bush administration?

    A President isn’t the one who collects all the info, does all the research, writes all the recommendations and makes all the decisions. He has a team of advisor’s for that. I don’t want to be seen as someone defending Bush, but I am someone who wants to defend against jumping to conclusions. There are few people out there who have the vast knowledge of what Bush really knew or thought and why he led the US into war. I am as big a conspiracy theorist as the next guy, but I also know from friends in politics/military that there if far more going on then the public will ever know.

    Did Bush legitimately think what he was doing was the right thing or not? I don’t know.

    If I knew for sure that Bush consciously acted out of deceit to kill Iraqi children to advance of US freedom and democracy, I would also be opposed to him representing a Christian educational institution. Also, I believe that if there existed irrefutable evidence to this effect, he should have been charged with war crimes, no? Well, that opens a whole other can of worms… ! (ps: agree with your points on accountability as Christians to retain our integrity in such matters, just think that we need to know our facts before we take a stand).

    Your thoughts? Do you have links for articles/resources on how Bush deceived everyone?

    Thanks,
    Amy

    ps: I really do respect your opinion and like our healthy dialogue!

  3. Spencer Johnston said:

    Hi Jon and Amy:

    Jon, thank you very much for that post. I am equally conflicted by the choice to have Mr. Bush speak at Tyndale. I find myself perplexed by a number of aspects.

    Like you, Jon I would have liked to have heard something about this from a source outside of the Toronto Star. However, if Amy’s insight is correct here, then it may have been something organized as a somewhat ‘last minute’ event by an outside party. In which case, I understand how this could have happened very quickly. I have a few deeper concerns that I would like to get both of your thoughts on, and depending on that I may end up expressing these in a more formal manor.

    First, (and this goes to your first question Jon) why is Mr. Bush speaking on Christian higher education? So far as I am aware, all of Mr. Bush’s higher education was from private, secular American universities. He has no formal training in education theory, and I am not aware of him written or spoken on this particular theme outside of his presidential platform. Now, obviously being president requires him to have an important role in setting American education policy, so I’d be willing to assume he would have some ideas about education in the American context (That may be optimistic). However, this seems to me to be the wrong theme for him to be addressing. He should be speaking on something related to living out one’s faith in the public area or the intersection of faith and politics, or some area where he is highly qualified to speak on, regardless what we may all think about how successful he was in those areas. So I am curious as to why this topic was chosen.

    Second, I am concerned about what kind of image this creates for Tyndale. Amy, just so I am clear, do you work for Tyndale, or is your marketing experience from a more general background? I think it is a useful point to be reminded that God uses people from all kinds of life to bring honour to His name, the concern here is with what kind of image this gives to Tyndale and its students, alumni (of which I am one) etc. Dr. Nelson’s comment in the second last paragraph of the Star’s article show him trying to put distance between himself and other, more conservative evangelical schools. In many of the circles I travel in, (I live in Europe, spent the last two years in the Netherlands, and currently reside in the United Kingdom) the mere mention of Mr. Bush’s name in connection with a religious organization will suggest (or even imply…sadly) to people that they support Mr. Bush’s position, and that they fall into a very conservative, evangelical tradition, often connected with some pretty strong anti-intellectual and very twisted views. Now, I agree that this is biased, unfair, narrow minded etc. (And I think it important to point out, these are very educated individuals who draw such inferences, which is disturbing.) However, my concern is that this isn’t the kind of publicity I would want to have connected with my alma mater. I know there is a saying that all publicity is good publicity (I do not know if that is actually true of marketing theory) but I really do think in this case, this isn’t the right kind of publicity for Tyndale. It seems that this opens up natural allegations that we are connected with various ‘right wing’ platforms, positions etc. Again, Tyndale clearly isn’t, but the amount of time, effort, money etc, that would be required to disentangle the school from these kinds of perceptions do not strike me as worth whatever publicity we seem to be getting. After I post this, I will look at the comments on the Toronto Star’s article, and see if it confirms the fears I listed above.

    Third, Mr. Bush has, shall we say, a questionable reputation when it comes to his honesty, integrety, and respect for various policies and treaties that the United States government claims to stand for and signed in good faith (I’m thinking here in particular of the grounds for the invasion of Iraq, the treatment of captured combatants in both Afganistian and Iraq as well as aspects of his domestic policy), it is not clear to me why Tyndale would want to be affiliated with this person. (this was taken from my comment on FB, if your wondering why it is verbatum Jon)

    Fourth, Amy, can you confirm if at least one member of the Tyndale facuilty has resigned over this decison?

    Blessings, and thank you both for your reflections and ideas.

  4. I graduated in the class of 99. I received an outstanding education from Tyndale, and started in a year that teetered on the edge of financial destruction. Brian Stiller and Winston Ling steered the school back onto the road. Sadly the cuts resulted in one of the school’s greatest professors (Dr. Rob “the moustache” Hiebert) being felled by the savage sword of Ling.

    After graduation I walked away from the faith I studied, but retained an excellent education. I didn’t just learn about Hermeneutics from Heib; I learned how to be human from Hinton. Dr. Penner made Greek II a funnier stage than Yuk Yuk’s and Steve Thompson Esq. taught me how hair may be used as a sensual gravity. Volman was vicious on my vocabulary and Dr. Duez taught me that love is strength and humility is where you will find your most fertile soil.

    The above list would just be a few of the exemplary men and women that taught me at Tyndale. In full honesty I can say that I am a wiser, kinder and more romantic (I’m looking at you Thompson) man because of the tutelage I received from such a legendary group of righteous instructors.

    It is because of these found feelings that I am having a hard time swallowing the news today that W. is coming to town. Dr. Nelson says that part of the problem the church is facing is
    “inability to dialogue” … but we only have one week till George W. is here. This seems like short notice for his “Lightning Rod Figure”. Could it be that maybe this is about inability to dialogue. George is in a room with 150 people and yet the event is being held under Tyndale’s banner? If Dr.Gary Nelson wants to see his name in the paper maybe he should earn it rather that jumping on W’s back with150 other Pharisees. #EPICFAIL #LAME

  5. jt* said:

    @Amy, there can be no divide between the President and the Administration. As Head of State, everything rests on you. The buck stops with the President, so to speak. As President of the United States of America Bush would have had access to all of the knowledge that would have been available to the Administration. He has to, after all, the decisions come back to him. There can be no denying then that he knew full well there were no WMDs in Iraq before he invaded, or that the US was engaging in acts of torture in Guantanamo etc. The President may not be the one who collects info and does the research but when he signs off on something it becomes his responsibility. There are 10+ years of resources on how Bush blatantly lied about the reasons for the war, feel free to research it.

    @Spencer, you raise some good points. You should consider writing to Dr. Nelson and respectfully voicing your concerns.

    @Hezekiah, thanks for your comment. I too took much from my Tyndale education and was greatly shaped by some of the outstanding faculty there. Sorry to hear about the downside of your experience there. What have you been up to since you left Tyndale?

    Grace and peace.

  6. There is no downside; only change.

    Since Tyndale I have grown in wisdom and manliness.

  7. AmyG said:

    Hi Jonathan,

    Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

    I, too, am a Tyndale alumni, and I just wrapped up my MA in Political Science at U of T. While I view Mr. Bush in a more positive light than you do, I still can see why this would be of concern. If I recall correctly, Mr. Bush’s visit to Calvin College was controversial, and that was an *American* college. By and large, it seems that in Canada Mr. Bush is seen as an evil villain; and while I disagree with this characterization, I’m not sure Tyndale’s testimony will be helped by associating itself with him. Now, granted, our purpose in life is not to cater to the world’s opinion, and it might be a worthy project to have Tyndale students (and others) rethink Mr. Bush’s legacy. I can also see how Mr. Bush’s visit could open opportunities to discuss the truth of Christianity, including a Christian approach to mercy and justice, etc. On the other hand, we are to “be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody” (Romans 12), and I assume that most Canadians learning about Mr. Bush’s visit would probably jump to unsavory conclusions about Christianity and Christian higher education. So I’d be cautious before inviting such a controversial figure to be associated with the school.

    That being said, should Gary Nelson call off the breakfast meeting, it would hardly be appropriate to leave the former president without a meal. So anyone who wishes to write to Dr. Nelson can assure him that I will be glad to personally treat Mr. Bush to breakfast anywhere in the city, on my dollar. 🙂

    Amy

  8. hoot said:

    The first things people think about when they hear Bush’s name is Iraq and/or waterboarding. But he oversaw a lot of other things while President. One important thing, in the context of the discussion above, is his work on starting the Faith Based Initiatives Office (I think it has a longer name, but that’s the gist of it) that has carried over into the Obama administration. Bush was very instrumental in reshaping the role that private, faith-based organizations play in the public realm. (Now this too was controversial but mostly because “the left” thought it infringed on separation of church and state.) I think Bush would actually have something interesting to say to Tyndale given his experience in that arena.

    If Tyndale is going to be a genuine university then people are going to have to get used to controversial people coming and speaking here. Heck, in the late 90s the University of Toronto gave the elder Bush an honorary doctorate and there were lots of protests. But Toronto has a lot of people that believe a lot of different things and the place for all these views to come together is at a university.

    I’m just hoping that next year they’ll bring in Obama (assuming he’s not in office) to see how everyone reacts. Guantanimo is still operating under his watch, wars are still being fought, deportations are occurring regularly, and Obama even ordered a high-profile assassination in a country the US wasn’t authorized to operate in to boot. (And I guess we’ll leave aside all the additional children that were aborted thanks to his reversal of various anti-abortion laws.) Something tells me we’d actually see that event on the Tyndale website and there wouldn’t be many proposed protests by alumni.

  9. jt* said:

    @AmyG, Oh, I can suggest a great greasy-spoon. Perhaps I’ll join y’all!

    @hoot, thanks for noting that. I was unaware, so that’s helpful. That said, as you rightly note, “the first things people think about when they hear Bush’s name is Iraq and/or waterboarding.” Precisely. This is my point. Thus, is this really someone that Tyndale wants to associate with and use to generate profit?

    And let’s be really clear here, I’m not against “controversial” folks coming to speak and I’m not in any way, shape or form arguing that this event be shut down and Bush be shut-up. I’m all for free-speech, I’m just utilizing my free-speech to let the powers-that-be at Tyndale know that I question their decision making in regards to associating with this event in particular.

    Also, I’m not sure why people keep mentioning Obama (you’re not the first). We’re not talking about a fictitious scenario that involves Obama speaking at Tyndale but rather a very real event that involves Bush speaking at a Tyndale event. One that I think merits critique.

  10. SN said:

    Jonathan, thanks for the letter, it’s been posted on Tyndale.co

    Anyone else, please check http://www.tyndale.co to sign a petition and post responses to demand that Tyndale withdraws from the event with George W Bush

  11. Jonathan, thanks for the letter, it’s been posted on Tyndale.co

    Anyone else, please check http://www.tyndale.co to sign a petition and post responses to demand that Tyndale withdraws from the event with George W Bush

  12. chuck80 said:

    I am a graduate of Tyndale’s (BRS 1992) and have gone on to work in Canada’s intelligence community.

    I recall a 2004 event (Clinton Library opening) where Bill Clinton came on the stage and said “Am I the only person here that likes both Bush and Kerry?” because the crowd was very cold to Bush. In the same year, Clinton made it very clear that he always supported Bush’s war in Iraq and never once believed that Bush went there for oil but out of a genuine belief that it related to the security of the U.S. (see here: http://articles.cnn.com/2004-06-19/us/clinton.iraq_1_weapons-inspectors-iraq-war-iraq-thing?_s=PM:US)

    Now, even though Clinton could legitimately be accused of having the exact same moral culpability (in supporting Bush’s war in Iraq), I doubt very seriously that you would have mounted a similar challenge against him if he had come to Tyndale.

    Similarly, Obama is currently on the hook for continuing Bush’s policies in Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan. Many innocent people are still getting killed in those countries because of U.S. warring against terror. I can almost guarantee you would not mount a challenge to an Obama visit to Tyndale. Why? Because he has been framed by the Left as a “unifier” and other such warm qualifiers

    On September 11, 2001, George Bush was handed one of the heaviest weight of responsibility that any U.S. President could have imagined. Did he make mistakes? Surely. Could he have done things in a more “evangelical way”? Most probably.

    But other Presidents recognize that he was never the villain that Satan made him out to be.

    Perhaps you could cut him some slack. Even King David, on his death bed, asked Solomon to dispatch one of his enemies (Shimei) even though he had sworn on oath that nothing would happen to Shimei. How’s that for a “man after God’s own heart”? How’s that for an example of how to be an “evangelical”?

  13. AmyG said:

    I think hoot’s comment about Mr. Obama is, actually, relevant (and convicting) … in the sense that it begs the question of the way we, as Christians and as a Christian institution, allow ourselves to be shaped by others’ perceptions/opinions. I think we could agree both that Mr. Obama’s actions as president are at least as questionable as those of Mr. Bush and that, for some reason, Tyndale wouldn’t go up in flames if he were to be the guest speaker instead. Why?

    @Nathan, thanks for posting the link to the petition site. I must admit that I’m disappointed by the tone/style of the petition: it seems as though the complaint could have been presented more respectfully. As the discourse on this page alone suggests, many different evaluations (or lack thereof) can be made of Mr. Bush’s actions; I would therefore suggest that these opinions could be voiced using less emotive and, perhaps, insulting terms like “War Criminal.” Scripture tells us that our speech should be “full of grace.” I also recall Ex. 22:28 and Acts 23:5, which, while not directly applicable to this case, do seem to me to suggest that we ought to speak respectfully of authority figures. That being said, I realize such terms may represent the feelings and beliefs of Tyndale students, and it is their choice to voice their opinions in this manner. However, it inclines me to develop a counter petition….

  14. jt* said:

    Paul, no I have not read his biography. I’m sure it’s interesting though.

    chuck80, I’m sure President Bush is a nice enough fellow. I have no desire to portray him as pure evil. In fact, I’m sure I’d enjoy sitting down for a beer with him. So this letter should not be mistaken with an attempt to start some sort of smear campaign against Bush. Quite frankly, I don’t think you have the necessary information to be able to “guarantee” what I would or wouldn’t do if Clinton or Obama were invited to speak at Tyndale, so I find the conclusions that you draw in that regard premature and unfounded and thus urge you not to make such hasty assumptions.

    AmyG, see above response to chuck80.

  15. chuck80 said:

    Jt,

    Funny how you react to how someone else is making false assumptions about you. Maybe this can give you a glimpse as to how you are coming across with this attempt to solicit others to your cause.

    • jt* said:

      Well the reality of the matter Chuck is that not everyone is pleased with the fact that this is occuring and that any “solicitation” that you see taking place is aimed at these folks, encouraging them to simply give voice to their concern. If you are supportive of this event I have no desire to change your mind, simply to voice my concern. Surely you can appreciate that, yes?

  16. Joel Bernard said:

    What does the Bible say about uneven balances? My daddy has always said “There will be many surprises for all of us when we get to heaven”

    So, JT, some of us can read very well through rhetoric. Consider yourself read!

    • jt* said:

      Joel, I’m having a hard time deciphering what exactly it is you’re saying here. Care to elaborate? Or not.

  17. Amy MacDonald said:

    FYI The breakfast has been cancelled.

    (Aside: I don’t work for Tyndale – just read it in the Star)

    • jt* said:

      I saw that, thanks Amy. There wasn’t a whole lot of info so we’ll see if more follows.

  18. Joel Bernard said:

    JT,

    Here is what I am saying. As a child of God, evil things should offend us and holy things should bless us. If you are troubled by Bush’s visit, why then are you silent when other Presidents visit? I know a lot of Christians who had no problem voting Liberal when they proposed legalizing gay marriages. However, these same Christians are offended with Bush’s actions of the past. Would you be one of those? Just asking.

    If you were honest, but you are not, your words would have been balanced. In other words, your text could have given us a hint that you are offended at all American Presidents because they are all ungodly at one time or another. Suffice to say that I don’t buy your rhetoric. Can you digest this? Or not. 🙂

    • jt* said:

      Joel, while I appreciate your interaction and comments on this matter I have tried to be as clear as possible about what I am and am not talking about here as I give voice to my concern. This will be my last attempt at trying to reasonably differentiate for you precisely what I’m talking about with the hope that you hear me and then, well, I’ll just leave it be.

      What I am voicing concern about here is not some imagined visit by some other President other than Bush to a Tyndale sponsored function. I am also not talking about more general Presidential visits to the country of Canada. What I am talking about is this proposed visit *in particular* by President George W Bush to a Tyndale sponsored breakfast. So, you needn’t worry about me being “silent when other Presidents visit” because I’m talking about this particular incident and not some other incident, real or imagined (and as far as I know no other President has visited Tyndale, am I wrong?).

      I am also confused as to why you need to bring up the Liberal platform with regard to same-sex marriage. To answer your question, no I am not “one of those” who voted Liberal and am offended with Bush’s past actions. In fact, for your information I only became a Canadian citizen in 2009 and have not had much of a chance to vote at all (generally though, I participate in active non-voting or spoil my ballot, but that’s another topic all together).

      To finish, I reject your conclusion that I am being dishonest by not being “balanced”. My intention in writing this letter was not to give hints at my displeasure with “all American Presidents” (come on, this is almost laughable. In order for me to voice my concern with Bush at Tyndale you really expect me to also voice my offence at *every* US President?!) but to voice my displeasure with Tyndale in regard to this particular decision.

      Over ‘n out.

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