“Most people are thermometers that record or register the temperature of majority opinion, not thermostats that transform and regulate the temperature of society.” This is an excerpt from a sermon recorded in Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s book, From Strength to Love (1963). The aphorism still resonates. I work significantly hard in my vocation to encourage thermometers to become thermostats. The following is one small, interwoven example of this process of becoming a thermometer at work.
At George Fox University there is a student group called Quaere Verum (QV for short) that meets weekly during academic semesters. In English, the name means “seeking truth.” I have been able to be faculty advisor for this group now for eight years which has allowed me to come alongside some amazing students on their journeys. Since its outset, QV has had two to three leaders each year as this tends to create synergy, distribute the workload, and further facilitate community. One QV student leader, Nick Ogle, has recently graduated and it’s a small bit of his story that I want to tell.
Becoming a thermostat rather than a thermometer takes time and making good use of time. Though Nick’s journey is naturally much larger than what is noted here, I have been privileged to:
- work with Nick as he walked through the QV leadership—each week cooking soup and baking bread for people to eat together before they began the evenings program and coordinating the programming for each week’s QV
- see him off to study in Oxford for a semester
- bring him on a peacemaking journey to Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo
- travel with him last summer to visit other QV leaders working at a farm cooperative in Washington, called Tierra Nueva, that focuses on blessing the migrant worker community in the area and also on employing post-incarcerated persons for their organic coffee roasting business
- also travel with him last summer to visit Tom and Christine Sine of Mustard Seed Associates—long-standing Christian persons of wisdom focusing on simplicity, community, ecological sustainability, and the like
- stay at his home as we attended a large social justice festival this last summer
- have him ask to further partner as a volunteer coordinator facilitating the work that needs to get done as we plan to go again this coming summer on another peacemaking visit to Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo
- see him apply for, write for, attend, and present at a major conference on the French philosopher Jacques Ellul who cared very much about treating people with dignity and care
- currently see him partnering with some colleagues in starting a brand new Catholic Worker House in Seattle
I hope that you now see why I wanted to share a bit of Nick’s story with you. It’s inspiring! He is an encouraging example of a person that has let and is letting himself be formed by the refining fire of God’s love. We need all kinds of Nicks in the world doing all kinds of things, seeking to change the world like thermostats rather than just registering its current conditions like a thermometer.
Such temperature changing work is often slow and notoriously difficult. However, it is less the change that we need worry about and more simply to seek to live out lives in faithfulness to the One who calls us. “And what is it the Lord requires of me? But to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God” (Micah 6:8). I suppose a current colloquial version of this might be, “if you want peace, work for justice.”
Nick wants peace; so, he is peacefully working for justice. I hope that through my sharing a bit of the example of his life you might be further encouraged to continue in the path of seeking peace that you are already on. Or maybe you might more thoroughly decide to choose peace and justice for your life and start making small changes now so that sometime later someone like myself might be able to tell your story in a piece like this, too.
Contributed by Clint Baldwin, director, Center for Peace and Justice; director, Center for Global Studies; assistant professor, International Studies, George Fox University