Dr. George Braswell, renowned Middle East scholar and Senior Professor of World Religions at the Campbell University Divinity School, gave graduates the benefit of 50 years of religious study and cultural understanding as he delivered Campbell's Commencement Sermon on Sunday, May 14. Advising the graduates to be "wise," "gentle," "curious," "civil" and "charitable," Braswell also asked that they adapt these age-old virtues to the world of religious pluralism and rapid change in which they live today. "In my generation, we liked Chevy Bellaire's and mama's fried chicken. China was just emerging as a communist power to be and India was just beginning to become a democracy. John Kennedy inspired us, and the Peace Corps sent young men and women around the globe to help people in developing countries have a better way of life," he said. Today, religious pluralism doesn't just mean Protestant, Catholic or Jew, Braswell noted, but a whole cafeteria of faiths many impinging on our own neighborhoods . One of the country's largest mosques is located in North Carolina and Hindus have purchased thousands of acres of land near Boone and established their own community, he pointed out. "As you think about your religious neighbors, have curiosity, civility, charity, wisdom, and understanding," he said. Curiosity led Braswell to become the first missionary appointed to Iran through the Southern Baptist Convention's Foreign Mission Board and to serve as a professor of English and Comparative Religions at the University of Teheran and associate director of the Armaghan Institute. During his tenure in Iran, the aforementioned virtues served Braswell well when he was invited to an Ayatollah's home who had just lost a child and a Muslim prayer meeting attend only by women. "To debate their belief in Mohammed, jihad and the denial that Jesus Christ is Savior and Lord would have kept the Ayatollah from asking me to pray for his family," Braswell said. "Nor would I have been able to gain a unique perception of what was on the hearts of the Muslim women. Let me urge you to go under-girded by the Word of God," he added, "to be wise and gentle with curiosity and understanding." Braswell is a 1958 Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Wake Forest University who earned a Bachelor of Divinity with majors in Church History and Missions from Yale University Divinity School. Returning to North Carolina, Braswell earned the Doctor of Ministry from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, then Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy degrees in Cultural Anthropology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He joined the faculty of the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1974. In 1998, he was named Distinguished Professor of Missions and World Religions, a prestigious chair he held until his retirement in 2004. Braswell joined the Campbell University Divinity School faculty as Senior Professor of World Religions in 2005.
Photo Copy: Dr. George Braswell, Senior Professor of World Religions at the Campbell Divinity School, delivers Campbell's Commencement Sermon on Sunday, May 14. (Photo by Scott Capell).