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Harder says community is key to life calling

Cherie Harder, president of Trinity Forum, speaks in chapel Nov. 30. (Photo by Anne Richoux)
Cherie Harder, president of Trinity Forum, speaks in chapel Nov. 30. (Photo by Anne Richoux)

JACKSON, Tenn.Dec. 5, 2012 – A calling should affect all aspects of life and can only be fulfilled in community with others, according to Cherie Harder, president of the Trinity Forum in Washington D.C.

“(God) calls all of you — not just what you do, but who you are, who you love, what you love, how you spend your time, how you order your life, who you spend time with,” Harder said in a Nov. 30 chapel address at Union University. “Calling is ultimately not about being all that you can be individually, but rather, it’s inherently community-oriented. It’s involved in building up a community of faith.”

The Trinity Forum is a nonprofit organization designed to equip leaders to renew culture and promote human freedom. The forum’s programs and publications in the United States and the United Kingdom discuss Christian leaders from the past and ideas that shaped Western civilization.

Harder, a Harvard graduate, served in the White House as a special assistant to President George W. Bush and director of policy and projects for First Lady Laura Bush, before joining the Trinity Forum. She also worked for several legislators.

Harder said as a U.S. Senate staffer, she experienced the impact a small community could make on the culture at large.

An initiative Harder and a small group led resulted in a study by the Federal Trade Commission that discovered 70 percent of R-rated movies, 80 percent of M-rated video games and 100 percent of music with a parental advisory sticker were being marketed to children, she said.

When a Christian billionaire who owned one third of all the movie theaters in the United States read the study, he decided his theaters would strongly enforce R-rated movie age requirements, Harder said. The move discouraged production of many teen-marketed, violent R-rated movies, she said.

“And so, today, 12 years later, it’s not like our popular culture is awash in truth, beauty and goodness, but one thing that you can say is that there are very few teen ‘slasher’ films around now,” Harder said. “That tiny little cultural change came about because a bunch of friends started thinking and praying together, and because that expanded as other people of faith started thinking more critically about how they do their work and what they’re called to do.”

At the beginning of her career, Harder said she and a few colleagues studied the example of William Wilberforce, the leader of the abolition of the slave trade in the 1700s and 1800s.

At 24, Wilberforce had concluded that God had placed two great objects on his heart: the abolition of the slave trade and the reformation of manners and morals, Harder said. By his death 50 years later, he had helped to pass the act abolishing the slave trade, founded a Society for the Suppression of Vice and led many other initiatives promoting a more honorable culture.

“This was not just Wilberforce alone,” Harder said. “This was Wilberforce deeply embedded in the community known as the Clapham Sect.”

The sect was a group of friends in Clapham, England, who shared Wilberforce’s goals of reformation of society and the abolition of the slave trade.

Lady Margaret Middleton, a dynamic woman almost lost to history, used her talent for hospitality to host parties and form the gatherings that became the intellectual birthplaces of the abolitionist movement, Harder said. These gatherings birthed many of the strategies Wilberforce used to pass important initiatives in Parliament..

“Community provides us an arena to exercise our gifts to build up others,” Harder said, “but also through doing that helps us discover who we are, what our giftings are and what God would have us to do with our lives.”

Harder’s address can be viewed at new.livestream.com/uu/chapel.

By Samantha Adams ('13)


Media contact: Mark Kahler, news@uu.edu, 731-661-5215

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