On October 3, Messiah College proudly welcomed New York Times journalist and PBS NewsHour commentator David Brooks to address “The Importance of Humility and Civil Discourse in American Life.” Brooks currently acts as an op-ed columnist at the Times, a position which allows him to explore the various aspects of politics, culture and society. In addition to his success at the Times and on the air, the celebrated columnist has also gained widespread recognition as an author with the release of his books “The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement,” “On Paradise Drive,” and New York Times best-seller “Bobos in Paradise.” (more…)
Archive for the 'Lecture' Category
Few were more suited to conclude Messiah’s yearlong lecture series, “Courage and Conviction for Challenging Times” than Leymah Gbowee, a woman whose personal courage, conviction and commitment to community-building played a pivotal role in ending Liberia’s civil war and in enabling Liberian women to become educated, empowered agents of peace and reconciliation.
A late winter snow storm was forgotten in Parmer Hall on March 18 as more than 400 students, educators and community members listened to Gbowee recall moments of courage and conviction in her life. Critical of the bystander culture that she views as pervasive in society today, Gbowee challenged, “The world awaits all of us to step out, to do something. The world awaits all of us to leave large prints. And God is on hand to strength all of us.”
Gbowee shared specific moments when she was convicted to respond to injustice. She recalled witnessing a teenage boy verbally abusing a middle-school-aged girl. She not only confronted the young man—a stranger to her—for his inappropriate behavior, but she also reprimanded the cluster of young girls who stood quietly by while their friend was harassed. “Sisterhood is for real; you just to have find real sisters,” Gbowee told the young girls.
Gbowee also recounted an instance of going toe-to-toe with a heavily armed Liberian war lord. He backed down; she did not. “Cowards get their strength from the weapons they carry,” she said. “Conviction and cowardly behavior are not companions.”
Gbowee’s leadership of the Women of Liberia Mass Mass Action for Peace—which brought together Christian and Muslim women in a nonviolent movement—played a pivotal role in ending Liberia’s civil war in 2003. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of Liberia, says, “Leymah bore witness to the worst of humanity and helped bring Liberia out of the dark.” In 2011 Gbowee, Sirleaf and Tawakkol Karman were honored as Nobel Peace Laureates for their advocacy for African women’s rights and peace-building work.
“Conviction opened a doorway for courage,” Gbowee recalled about the efforts of the Mass Action for Peace. Five women initially felt convicted to action. Soon the effort was 10,000 women strong. The boldness of these women to confront and forgive the soldiers who had raided their villages, pillaged their homes and raped them and their children is barely comprehensible.
Being bold in action and spirit, Gbowee is certain that courage and conviction are best paired with community. “I’m convicted; I have the courage, but I need companions,” she explained. “I am where I am because of who we all are,” she said of the importance of community.
Though she received the Nobel Peace Prize at the young age of 39 and seemingly could rest now on her past accomplishments, Gbowee said she is “too hyped up” to retire now. There are still girls who need access to education, who need rescued from prostitution and who need empowered to stand boldly against injustice in their communities. Gbowee is facilitating this type of work through her Gbowee Peace Foundation, an organization with efforts in West Africa and the United States.
As someone who has experienced God’s compassion in her own life, Gbowee is compelled to ensure her foundation can continue to “empower to inspire.” Recalling the need for companions in order to courageously follow convictions, Gbowee asked, “What impact can Messiah College have in this community?” Then she challenged, “Speak out, stand up and do something.”
Photos by Megan Dobinson `16.
On February 21, Messiah College warmly welcomed Geoffrey Galt Harpham as the keynote speaker for the College’s annual Humanities Symposium. Harpham currently acts as the president and director of the National Humanities Center in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina – the only institute in the world dedicated completely to the humanities. After being trained as a literary scholar, Harpham released several books, one of which guided his lecture at the Symposium. Among the many issues addressed in his book, “The Humanities and the Dream of America,” Harpham mainly focuses on how the humanities were formed and what role the American academy played in its formation.
Harpham began his lecture, “Melancholy in the Midst of Abundance,” by taking his audience back to a post-World War II America. Before this time, people viewed the humanities simply as a waste of time since, as they believed, nothing beneficial could result from such studies. However, following the war, American citizens began to experience a change of heart regarding the humanities. Instead of being viewed as a waste of time, they felt as if the humanities could represent the crowning achievement of a nation which just prevailed in war. This nation would build itself on such a foundation of economic, political, and social power, that citizens could turn their attention towards the humanities. People of this day started viewing a pursuit of the humanities directly related to the progression of the nation and of mankind. This new appreciation of the art guided the American academy and led to works such as the Harvard “Redbook”.
According to Harpham, the Harvard Redbook was an influential work that supported the spread of the humanities. In fact, this book was known to be a symbol of renewal as it revolved around the idea of cultivating the humanities and society as a whole. Harpham also spoke about the stances made in the Redbook on the goals of education. According to the book, education should produce unity and character in American society, but the most important aim is for education to cultivate a proper vision of humanity; one in which citizens are unified by wisdom – creating what Harpham coined as “the whole man.” But, just what is the “whole man?” As Harpham described, whole men are those who appreciate the arts and humanities, and those who are reflective and curious about such topics. In addition, these men possess freedom as well as a strong sense of citizenship. This, in essence, is the purpose of education: to produce whole men and women. And, by achieving this goal, it was believed that one could experience a freer and more abundant life.
In today’s society, it is important to remember how the study of the humanities was formed and shaped by our nation’s past. In addition, as Harpham stressed, it is equally important to realize where the humanities is headed and to aid in its advancement. According to Jimmy Carter, the former president whom Harpham quoted multiple times throughout his lecture, “We must stress how limited our sense of national purpose is, indeed how imperiled our civilization is, if the humanities are exiled to a peripheral role of irrelevance.”
Story by Jessica Kern `15.
Best-selling author Eric Metaxas shared a compelling story of courageous Christianity with an overflowing audience at a Nov. 7 lecture. Metaxas spoke on his latest book, The New York Times #1 best seller “Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy,” a “biography of uncommon power” that frequented many 2010 Book of the Year lists and earned numerous awards for excellence in biography, non-fiction and evangelism.
The lecture, sponsored by the Messiah College Honors Program, was planned as part of this year’s annual lecture series: “Courage and Conviction for Challenging Times.” President Kim Phipps introduced Metaxas as a credible speaker for such a theme, explaining that his own life has been “characterized by courage and conviction throughout the course of a very eclectic career.”
Metaxas began by sharing snapshots of his own journey, a winding road that took him from Yale University back to his parents’ house, from writing Veggie Tales scripts to meeting two U.S. presidents. (more…)
As Tony Dungy took the stage at Messiah College on April 24, he admitted to his initial curiosity upon receiving an invitation to speak from Messiah. “I read the letter and thought, why did we get invited to a school without a football team?” he joked, and then joined the audience in their laughter.
However, despite his many years as a player and coach in the NFL, Dungy’s message wasn’t exclusive to a locker room full of football players. He spoke to all young student athletes, and his advice actually discouraged a mindset confined to the locker room. (more…)
Jim Wallis, founder and CEO of Sojourners magazine, and Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, engaged in an educational debate about the morality of capitalism on Nov. 9. The debate was a part of this year’s college lecture series, “To Change the World,” that explores the promise and challenge of being a faithful presence in contemporary society.
Peter Greer, the president and CEO of Hope International and ’97 Messiah graduate, introduced the evening’s debate to an audience of over 1,000 with a glimpse of the current state of our national economy. Greer described our country’s state of economic crisis in which our employment rate has reached 9 percent, and Occupy Wall Street demonstrators protest the fact that 24 percent of our nation’s wealth resides in the hands of the top 1 percent of Americans. Greer then recognized the market’s ability to open jobs to alleviate poverty.
Greer opened the floor for civil discourse which he described to be “as important as the topic we’re discussing.” He welcomed Wallis and Brooks, two prolific authors, professors, book writers and men of conviction, character and deep faith. Both presented their stance on the morality of capitalism before engaging in interactive debate.
“Is capitalism moral? Of course it isn’t,” Brooks boldly stated, momentarily lifting eyebrows of a surprised audience. “Only people are,” he explained. Brooks argued that people are moral creatures by design, and moral arguments beat material arguments every day. Economists forget this, but our nation’s founders knew it when they wrote the Declaration of Independence and chose to exclude the privilege to property in our unalienable rights, substituting it with the pursuit of happiness.
Brooks believes that the key to happiness is earned success, not money. He shared statistics that support this theory, stating that the number of people who report that they are happy hasn’t changed even though our nation and individuals have become massively richer over the last 40 years. Instead, people crave earned success, and capitalism is a system which supports that. “Free enterprise pairs people’s skills with passions,” Brooks explained. “It’s a system that rewards not envy, but aspiration.”
Jim Wallis, on the other hand, argued that our economy is “unfair, unstable and making people unhappy.”
“We come from a polarized, paralyzed society stuck in ideology,” Wallis began. “Ideology says ‘either or,’ but solutions say ‘and.’” He immediately encouraged the audience to open their minds to comprehensive solutions: “don’t go right, don’t go left, go deeper. This isn’t about winning a debate, but it’s about solving massive economic suffering.”
After sharing saddening statistics about the poverty in America, Wallis dug into the challenge of finding solutions to the problems in our market today. “We can’t just say it’s good business,” Wallis said. “Slavery was once good business. Human trafficking or cheating people on credit cards is good business.” Instead, the market needs a moral framework.
For us as Christians, this means first looking to the Bible. Wallis drew his answer from Matthew 25 where God will one day tell us, “Whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Wallis explained that this is a judgment test to us as Christians, and he encouraged the audience to use Matthew 25 as their criteria for the evening’s economics conversation.
By adopting this title of “Matthew 25 Christians,” Wallis explains that we can break out of left and right and reach the poor. “Society is best judged of its righteousness or integrity by how it treats the poorest and most vulnerable,” Wallis said. “What do you do when the invisible hand lets go of the common good?”
Wallis proposed that Christians should “go to where the money is” in order to push for change and form a circle around the poorest and most vulnerable. “Are we ideologists or people who care about the metrics of the gospel?” Wallis challenged the audience.
Greer stepped in and questioned Brooks on how he responds to a system “that has potential to let go of the hand of the common good?”
“We don’t need less capitalism; we need better capitalists,” Brooks answered. The problem according to Brooks is capitalism without accountability. “It’s not enough to earn your success and walk away,” Brooks said, arguing that this is the moral imperative of an opportunity society. Brooks suggests that good capitalists need to promote social mobility by promoting “education, faith, family and community.”
Wallis responded by arguing that we are in a different period now where inequality is so great and immediate help for the struggling poor is needed. Wallis agrees that economic development is the long term solution, but at this point for the poor, “it’s not dependency, it’s survival.” Wallis went back to the Bible to reference Jubilee, the Biblical practice of freeing people of their debts nationwide, and suggested that this is the “Biblical corrective for the sinful tendency of the market.”
Wallis and Brooks responded to final questions by discussing specific changes in legislation that would help solve the current economic crisis. Brooks proposed cuts in subsidies and entitlements, explaining the immorality of entitlements to reward workers without looking at their income. Wallis echoed Brooks’ suggestions and also proposed a cut in military spending and a raise in levels of taxable income.
While both Wallis and Brooks differed on viewpoints of the best way to do it, they both shared a genuine desire to be a Christian in today’s modern world. Greer closed the evening in prayer, and Brooks, Wallis and the audience in Brubaker auditorium came together in their desire to ask tough questions and seek God.
Story by Mary-Grace MacNeil `13.
James Davison Hunter addressed a packed Hostetter Chapel Oct. 26 on what it means to be a Christian in our world today. Hunter, a distinguished professor of religion, culture and social theory at University of Virginia, shared his argument from one of his most recently published books, “To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World.” Hunter’s book inspired the theme of this year’s college lecture series, “To Change the World,” that explores the promise and challenge of being a faithful presence in contemporary society.
Hunter began by posing his central questions: “How can Christians be faithful in the world around them? How do we guide youth who want to give up their lives to change the world?”
Hunter outlined three paradigms that Christians use to culturally engage our world: “defensive against,” “relevance to” and “purity from.” He advocates that each model misconstrues the fundamental challenges that Christians face today. “Christians don’t know how to deal with pluralism,” Hunter said. “They see difference as danger or darkness, or they don’t see it all.”
According to Hunter, none of the current paradigms correctly address difference and disillusion, the two concepts that challenge Christian faith to its core. The struggle to overcome difference is a struggle to answer the question of how to be authentically Christian in a pluralistic world. Disillusion then comes into play when words are interpreted differently by each individual or denomination.
“If we look to Scripture, it offers a different approach to the world and word,” Hunter said. “God said and it was. There is a trust between word spoken and the world as it came to be.” This is seen throughout the Bible—in creation, incarnation and healing.
“This is a demonstration of God’s love as the word and the world come together,” Hunter explained. “Not because words describe the world, but because God’s word is always enacted.”
In the reality of that basic truth is Hunter’s answer to the central question of how to culturally engage our world as Christians. He proposes a new paradigm, “faithful presence within,” that is based off of God’s demonstration of his love for us.
“God pursues us, identifies with us and offers us life through sacrificial love,” Hunter said, suggesting that Christians should model their interactions with the world after God’s interactions with us.
First, Christians should be fully present to each other, imitating our creator by pursuing one another. “We were strangers to Christ, and our treatment of strangers is a measure of righteousness,” Hunter said. “However different we are, difference does not represent darkness or danger.”
Next, Hunter suggested that God intends for us to be fully present to our tasks. He referenced Colossians 3 where it is written, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart.” Hunter believes that a faithful presence in our modern world involves the pursuit of excellence in all of our tasks.
Finally, Hunter encouraged Christians to be fully present to the fears of social change. “As Christians, we need to seek the welfare of all, not only the house of God,” he said. “When all members of the body of God are engaged, the word becomes flesh! Our faith is then authentic because it is enacted.”
Hunter concluded that this is his vision for the entire church even in its diversity: “to enact the shalom of God through faithful presence.”
“Will that change the world?” Hunter asked. “Maybe… but it’s impossible to say. Christians won’t make the world entirely new, but we could possibly make it a little better.”
Story by Mary-Grace MacNeil `13.
From March 3-4 Messiah College was pleased to host Joni Eareckson Tada for a two-day visit that included a chapel message, personal interaction with students, and a public lecture.
Tada, a disabilities advocate, Christian radio host, artist, and author, encouraged Messiah students to enroll in the College’s new general education course, “Disability and Society,” applauded the Collaboratory’s efforts to provide mobility solutions to disabled individuals in Mali, and challenged students and members of the community alike to find ways to serve in the midst of their suffering.
March 3 chapel
In her chapel message, Tada called herself a “cheerleader for people like you to get energized to help the world’s most needy—people with disability.” She then shared how Jesus changed her own heart as he called her to life of serving people suffering with disabilities. It’s a passion for God, she said, that results in a passion for people.
March 3 meeting with Collaboratory students and students with disability
When planning her visit to Messiah, Tada specifically requested the opportunity to hear more about the work of the College’s Collaboratory for Strategic Partnerships and Applied Research. During an evening meeting, students involved in the Collaboratory’s development of assistive technologies to increase the mobility of persons with disability shared their work with Tada.
March 4 public lecture
Tada concluded her visit with a public lecture to a crowd of more than 600 people at the Grantham Church. Her message, “Serving in the Midst of Suffering: Partnering to Make a Difference,” included personal accounts of how the Lord has answered pleas for peace and closeness during times of physical suffering.
Top photo by Walter Calahan. Bottom photo by Scott Markley `12.
Speaking on the role of civility in public life, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities and former Iowa congressman James Leach delivered the keynote lecture Feb. 25 in Hostetter Chapel during the Spring 2011 Humanities Symposium, sponsored by Messiah College’s Center for Public Humanities. Leach’s lecture “Friendship in the Public Sphere: Civility in a Fractured Society” highlighted the symposium’s theme of friendship.
“Basic civility is how people interrelate in society,” said Leach, who served 30 years in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Regardless of intelligence, says Leach, everyone can learn something from one another because each person has a unique experience and perspective to share. Civility requires the ability to understand the views of others and come to a compromise.
During the lecture, Leach offered the audience 10 “two-minute crash courses in American public life” in which he covered such topics as political science, psychology, journalism, sports and physics. As part of his psychology “crash course,” Leach explained that when one person has a different view than another, each person thinks the other is immoral. In all areas, he said it was crucial to be able to put oneself in another person’s shoes.
Friendship that reaches across ideological and political difference means not just politeness, but an openness to listen, learn from and even collaborate with those with whom one disagrees. In the public life of a democracy, in particular, such friendships–when seen in their public expressions of courtesy, curiosity in the other person’s views and decency in the treatment of one another– builds up the republic and sets an example for the best in citizenship. Civility as a virtue equates to not only “good citizenship” but also a state of mind refined by a liberal education. As a result, Leach’s keynote address about civility as a form of public friendship proved beneficial to the audience both as citizens and as members of a liberal arts community.
Other symposium events held during the week of Feb. 21-25 included the chapel “Spiritual Friendship: Sowing an Ethic of Love,” the film series “The Wooden Camera: Friendship in Post-Apartheid South Africa,” guest lecture series “Literary Friendship: Henry James and Edith Wharton” and many other lectures and faculty-student colloquia.
Story by Sarah Fleischman’13.
There was “special significance” to inviting best-selling Christian author Philip Yancey back to campus, said President Kim Phipps when introducing Yancey at his April 7 lecture in Brubaker Auditorium. Between being incredibly well received when he delivered the 2007 Commencement address to writing numerous books that have “touched our souls and minds,” Phipps noted that Yancey was the perfect choice to deliver the last keynote lecture on the Centennial celebration’s calendar of events.
Power of prayer
Yancey, speaking primarily on the topic of prayer, began by examining prayers in the Bible, stating that he challenges any atheist to come up with an original argument against God that isn’t already included in a prayer in the Bible. Citing examples from the life of Job and David’s many psalms of lament, Yancey illustrates that many Biblical prayers offered by faithful believers were prayers of doubt and lament, not necessarily the “thank you, thank you” or “help me, help me” prayers that many believers and non-believers alike resort to today. The Biblical prayers were honest and sincere—qualities, Yancey says, that God desires from his people. (more…)