On November 3, 2018, a memorial service was held in Chicago to celebrate the life and contributions of a larger-than-life figure in Christian-Muslim dialogue, the Rev. Lewis R. Scudder, Jr. who passed away a year ago in his beloved Cyprus.
Rev. Scudder came from a long line of Reformed Church in America missionaries who served in various parts of the world stretching back to 1819. His own unique contribution arose out of his rootedness in the culture of the Arabian Gulf having been born and raised in Kuwait where his first schooling was in an Arabic medium school. His mastery of the Arabic language and culture led him in his later years to serve as a translator for the Beirut-based Middle East Council of Churches, but perhaps his greatest contribution was translating Arab culture to American Christians who knew (and continue to know) little about what is uniquely inviting and intriguing about the Arab world with its rich history and storied (and at times conflicted) cultures.
From 2004 – 2012 Lew wrote a monthly series of articles reflecting on various topics of interest arising out of current events and historical realities for Middle Eastern peoples. He called these monthly musings “Morning Land Meditations.”
Once a week this blog will feature one of Rev. Scudder’s insightful reflections. The full collection can be found here:
MORNING LAND MEDITATION: AUGUST 2004
John Hubers, a good friend, has been urging me to embark on a regular series of compositions more or less on the model of Alistair Cooke’s unique weekly event on BBC radio entitled, ‘Letter From America’. (Mine, of course, will be ‘Letter from the Middle East’, and I imagine that makes at least one ocean and a whole sea of difference.) Cooke, an expatriate Englishman who adopted America, did a magnificent job during a
career spanning well over a fifty-years. There were those of us who would set aside other engagements simply to hear his dry voice wheeze out another of his droll rambles replete with pithy aphorisms, observations on history, home-grown wisdom and personal anecdotes. It was, perhaps, to be his last poetic exclamation that, within days of his swansong broadcast, he died.
He was, when all is said, a brilliant journalist. More to the point, he was a sensitive and insightful human being, and he loved his subject — America. For all the times I heartily disagreed with him, he was my image of that archaic species of individual we once knew as a ‘Christian gentleman’. America never had a more credible, eloquent, persuasive and committed ambassador, even though our government, to my knowledge,
never paid him a red cent for it. He was a bridge person in an age of barrier building and deceptions with smoke and mirrors. We shall all miss him now that he is wheezing out his good advice before the Throne of Grace.
I make no pretense of matching Cooke. But I do have a few credentials. I am, for instance, an expatriate American who has adopted the Middle East. Or perhaps it was that the Middle East adopted me. I do not know. But I do love it, and those who know me know I’ve some stories to tell.
So, with some trepidation, here goes!