A call to divest

It is with great interest that I read about President Le Roy’s inauguration as well as his dedication to confront Calvin’s challenging financial situation.

Michael Van Denend detailed Le Roy’s desire for a transparent and aggressive financial strategy that will be up for board approval in May of 2014. Van Denend claimed “the plan is participatory and open; there will be opportunity for all voices to be heard and options to be put on the table for consideration.” Le Roy, according to Van Denend, desires this financial plan to be sustainable, affordable and strategically focused. I would assume this plan would include a campus audit of buildings, procedures and practices during this time of financial challenge. I would also assume, as a Christian college with the biblical mandate to seek justice and protect the vulnerable, Calvin would examine where their financial investments lie to ensure the school is not profiting from environmentally and socially destructive companies.

As a school with a mission to develop students to be “agents of renewal,” I would conclude that Calvin desires its investment holdings to be in line with that mission. Therefore, I call on Calvin College to immediately freeze any new investment in fossil-fuel companies, and to divest within five years from direct ownership and from any commingled funds that include fossil-fuel public equities and corporate bonds. I believe such action on behalf of Calvin will not only be a sound decision for its financial portfolio, but also for the well-being of its current and future graduating classes, who deserve the opportunity to graduate with a future not defined by climate chaos and with an education not funded by environmentally destructive companies.

By January 2013 there were 210 public and private universities pressuring their schools’ administration to divest. I commend the current Calvin students who created a petition to divest at gofossilfree.org, and I urge all alumni and current students to sign the petition.

I also call on Le Roy to sign the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment on behalf of Calvin.

I know climate change denial exists, but this is not about climate change rhetoric. This is about physics. Two thousand twelve was the warmest year on record and the second most extreme year for weather-related events. The scientific consensus is clear and overwhelming; we cannot safely burn even half of global fossil-fuel reserves without dangerously warming the planet.

It is with a hopeful heart and a respectful tone that I submit this letter. It is my desire that Calvin truly be a place of “minds of the making” (not a place of minds made up or minds disinterested) and a vibrant, engaged institution educating for shalom.

Ann Wiersma Van Zee ’01
Chicago, Ill.

Grateful to Calvin

I would like to say thank you for being so faithful in sending us the Spark in spite of not always being faithful in making donations towards this magazine. Thanks for keeping us informed.

I received a “spark” in 1961 when my brother took me on a tour through the old and new campuses. This experience convicted me to return to school and get my high school education and start on the road to a degree in education. I graduated in 1968. After 33 years in the teaching profession, 20 of those in administration as well—in Immanuel Christian, Lethbridge, Alta.; Shannon Heights Christian, Langley, B.C.; Delta Christian, Ladner, B.C.; and Gibsons Christian, Gibsons, B.C.—I thank Calvin College for my education.

Since retiring in 2002, my wife, Gerda, and I have volunteered at Haggai Institute on Maui and at Barnabas Family Ministries on Keats Island. We have just moved to a lovely and quiet acreage with our daughter and son-in-law and their three lovely children. We have four kids and 12 grandchildren.

Jake Lieuwen ’68
Langley, B.C.

Facing financial reality

The acknowledgment that the financial terrain is sobering is hopeful. Just acknowledging the issue exists can be a blow. My hope would be from the leadership down to the first-year student that the reality would have been staring us right in the face by this point. The reality is our policies as a country are failing: Americans are not educated in how success is achieved, and prosperity is dim for most when reliance on government exists.

Solutions to this should be to engage the local business leaders in the January Series. The featured list is disappointing with the few exceptions. All speakers this year should have been chosen based on their business and Christian background, discussing the economy that we as a country and college face as a result of the current policies.

Jon Vasquez ‘91
Bagram, Afghanistan

Study Bible as product of its culture

From the Spark (winter 2012) which I just received, I'm reading that there is an “all-campus Bible study (which) annually gathers students, faculty and staff in many groups … to study the same text” and for this go-round it is the Sermon on the Mount.

Having just skimmed those chapters (Matt 5, 6, 7), I’m recognizing verses that have been resounding in my head over the decades, and verses I’ve quoted as back-up to my written thoughts over the years.

Indeed, I can’t quote right now from a learned historian to back me up, but it’s just conventional wisdom that these passages in Matthew are one of the intellectual pillars of Western Civilization, especially its legal systems. Thank God the Calvin community was not invited to read chapters containing the dreaded “seven passages” or verses regarding “servants obey your masters, for this is right.” But even in these oft-cited chapters in Matthew there is weirdness and attention to strange and to us moderns, irrelevant detail.

So I hope that the Calvin students will read those three chapters in Matthew and will digest all of the wisdom, both human and divine, that is found there. But I see that Matthew and all of our cherished Bible is a product of the culture of its time, containing some universal truth and some nonsense. 

As Karen Armstrong writes in The Bible: A Biography (2007): “From the first, the biblical authors contradicted each other, and their conflicting versions were all included by the editors in the final text.”

Harold Bontekoe ‘62
Hawthorne, N.J.