William Hatcher’s Letter to Yale University

A partial copy of this letter exists on the net, but this is the complete version:

Letter from William Hatcher to Dean Liston Pope
Yale University, Divinity School – May 21st, 1957

I am writing to inform you that, contrary to my previously expressed intentions, I will be unable to attend Yale Divinity School next fall. I do this with a feeling of grateful appreciation for your acceptance of my application and for your offer of a Grant-in-Aid of $400.00 which I accepted from you in my letter dated May 17, 1957. The reason for my decision not to enter Yale is wholly irrelevant to monetary considerations, and I would like to explain this to you.

Since accepting the Grant-in-Aid to Yale, I have become firmly convinced of the unanswerable truth of the Baha’i World Faith. During my four years as a student at Vanderbilt, I have been privileged to know and talk with some of the greatest leaders of Christianity in the United States and, to some extent, in the world. I have been in proximity, for the entire four year period, to Nels Ferre who, as you know, is one of the most creative theologians in Christianity today. The summer between my freshman and sophomore years I was fortunate enough to attend the full seventeen-day meeting to the Wold Council of Churches in Evanston, Illinois. There I was able to talk personally with some of the most dynamic spirits and the most creative thinkers the Christian world offers.

Not only have I been privileged to meet great thinkers and church leaders, but I have had the opportunity to engage in study adn thought on my own. I have become familiar with the history of Western thought, with the history of the Christian Church and contemporary thought, reading such philosophers as Soren Kierkegaard, Kal Jaspers, Gabriel Marcel, Jean-Paul Sartre, Richard Niebuhr, Nels Ferre, and Paul Tillich. Nor has my activity been solely intellectual. Last summer I served as part of “A Christian Ministry in the National Parks” at Crater Lake National Park in Oregon. I have done work in campus religious organizations and in the Church.

In all of my activity, I have found nothing which is in any way comparable to the Baha’i Revelation either in the dynamic qualities of the Spirit or in the satisfaction of the intellect. When one finds such deep and lasting satisfaction in an age so fraught with error and anxiety, he can do nothing else but follow it. Indeed, he would be a fool to do otherwise! I pray that I may be able to say, as other Baha’is have said, “and if something else comes along which is more satisfying than this, then I will follow it.” This is indeed the spirit of truth.

The people of this age are asleep. They have been unable to discern the signs of the time. The greatest minds and the most sensitive spirits are those who testify the strongest of despair, for it is they who most keenly realize how close we are to the very brink of disaster. The only thing capable of saving man is God, God as He reveals Himself and His will for this age. God has indeed done this through Baha’u’llah (The Glory of God). Baha’u’llah proclaimed Himself in 1863 to be the Promised One so long awaited by men of all faiths and foretold in unmistakable terms by Jesus in the 24th chapter of Matthew. It is this very issue, the Second Coming of Christ, which has long been ignored by the whole of liberal Protestant Christendom and which was the cause of disunity and disagreement at the Evanston meeting.

I met Baha’is for the first time as a freshman in college. During these four years of search I, like almost every other Christian, refused to consider seriously the claims of Baha’u’llah as the Promised One. The truly frightening thing is that Christian leaders simply refuse even to consider the claims of Baha’i. They are willing to study for years the detailed aspects of the Bible, historical and contemporary theological literature, and the history of the Christian church; yet they refuse to consider even the possibility that the claims of Baha’u’llah might be true.

You most probably encountered an article in the April 10th issue of “The Christian Century” by Marcus Bach entitled, “Baha’i: A Second Look.” “Christ and Baha’u’llah” and “The Promise of All Ages,” both by Canon George Townshend, are excellent works on the subject.

The world is on the brink of disaster greater than it has ever known. Christians must wake up before it is too late. Each day which passes without this awakening will surely sink the Christian world deeper in despair and confusion. The words of Paul echo through the centuries to this, the time of the Kingdom promised in Christ’s own prayer; “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?”

It is possible that in sharing my experience and my reason for deciding not to enter Yale some glint of interest in Baha’i will arise. It is with this very hope that I write.

The following is a prayer revealed by Baha’u’llah:

O my God! O my God! Unite the hearts of Thy servants, and reveal to them Thy great purpose. May they follow Thy commandments and abide in Thy law. Help them, O God in their endeavour, and grant them strength to serve Thee. O God, leave them not to themselves, but guide their steps by the light of knowledge, and cheer their hearts by Thy love. Verily, Thou art their Helper and their Lord.

william_hatcher_small
William S. Hatcher
1935 – 2005

  • http://kaweah.com/blog Dan Jensen

    Hi Baquia,

    This should be titled “William Hatcher’s Letter to Yale University,” right?

    I wonder whether his reasoning is sound. Are Baha’is discouraged from attending Yale U. Divinity School? I would suppose that they’d be encouraged, but perhaps that would be hazardously academic.

    -Dan

  • http://kaweah.com/blog Dan Jensen

    Hi Baquia,

    This should be titled “William Hatcher’s Letter to Yale University,” right?

    I wonder whether his reasoning is sound. Are Baha’is discouraged from attending Yale U. Divinity School? I would suppose that they’d be encouraged, but perhaps that would be hazardously academic.

    -Dan

  • http://www.bahairants.com Baquia

    Yes, thank you. Don’t know where that came from! As you can read from his letter this was a personal decision. He was planning on pursuing his studies at Yale Divinity school and then after discovering the Baha’i Faith, he changed his mind.

  • http://www.bahairants.com Baquia

    Yes, thank you. Don’t know where that came from! As you can read from his letter this was a personal decision. He was planning on pursuing his studies at Yale Divinity school and then after discovering the Baha’i Faith, he changed his mind.

  • http://kaweah.com/blog Dan Jensen

    [quote comment=""]As you can read from his letter this was a personal decision. He was planning on pursuing his studies at Yale Divinity school and then after discovering the Baha’i Faith, he changed his mind.[/quote]

    No big thing, Baquia, but it seems that he was trying to make it seem something more than personal. He makes it sound more like a crusade than a decision to spend more time with his family. That aside, I only meant to give voice to a minor question that he appears to leave unanswered: should Baha’is fraternize with theologians? ;-)

  • http://kaweah.com/blog Dan Jensen

    [quote comment=""]As you can read from his letter this was a personal decision. He was planning on pursuing his studies at Yale Divinity school and then after discovering the Baha’i Faith, he changed his mind.[/quote]

    No big thing, Baquia, but it seems that he was trying to make it seem something more than personal. He makes it sound more like a crusade than a decision to spend more time with his family. That aside, I only meant to give voice to a minor question that he appears to leave unanswered: should Baha’is fraternize with theologians? ;-)

  • http://bahaisonline.net/tcb Steve Marshall

    [quote comment=""]I only meant to give voice to a minor question that he appears to leave unanswered: should Baha’is fraternize with theologians? ;-)[/quote]

    He might have ended up more like Sen if he stuck with theology.

  • http://bahaisonline.net/tcb Steve Marshall

    [quote comment=""]I only meant to give voice to a minor question that he appears to leave unanswered: should Baha’is fraternize with theologians? ;-)[/quote]

    He might have ended up more like Sen if he stuck with theology.

  • Shadow of the Passing

    The letter sounds like the words of a young man who was full of spirit, but comes off a little arrogant and subjective. Because he didn’t find what he was looking for in Christianity, that means the Christian world is in “despair.” The thought that someone else could have the opposite experience doesn’t seem to cross his mind in this letter. But it really just sounds like the words of a young man who got a little carried away with his excitement about his new found faith.

  • Shadow of the Passing

    The letter sounds like the words of a young man who was full of spirit, but comes off a little arrogant and subjective. Because he didn’t find what he was looking for in Christianity, that means the Christian world is in “despair.” The thought that someone else could have the opposite experience doesn’t seem to cross his mind in this letter. But it really just sounds like the words of a young man who got a little carried away with his excitement about his new found faith.