With the start of the fall semester coming up in just a few weeks, we’re excited to announce our annual theme for the 2016-17 academic year: The Dynamics of Difference. Here’s Program Director Andrew Hansen, explaining the rationale and scope of this year’s theme:
American society is deeply divided. We’re more politically divided than in any time in our recent past, and the current election cycle is exposing how divided we are even within our current political parties. On a daily basis, we’re confronted with reports of violence and counter-violence, in places like Orlando, Dallas, Baton Rouge, and right here in the Twin Cities, that expose the deep racial, political, and cultural differences within our society.
And as the recent events in France, Syria, Iraq, and Germany make clear, violence arising from difference isn’t unique to the American situation. For better and worse, globalization puts me side-by-side (or, more often, tweet-by-tweet) with people from around the world who often have very different beliefs and cultures than my own. The possibilities for misunderstanding and conflict arising from difference seem more pronounced today in our pluralized world than ever before.
Must differences lead to conflicts resolved only through violence? Are there ways of understanding difference and reconciling conflicts that can help us chart a better path in a globalized world? How do the Christian faith and the “ministry of reconciliation” that the Apostle Paul says is given to Christians address these deep fractures that exist in our world?
These are the sorts of questions we’ll ask this coming academic year as we pursue an annual theme on “The Dynamics of Difference.” We’ll examine differences of many kinds: economic, historical, racial, cultural, religious, social, intellectual, to name just a few.
We’ll be hosting many different conversations related to this theme. The specific topics and forms of these conversations will vary, but here’s a preview of what’s coming up this academic year:
In September we’ll host a conversation with Dr. Chris Armstrong of Wheaton, author of Medieval Wisdom for Modern Christians. We’ll consider how recovering a very different kind of Christianity—from the Middle Ages—can help us identify our own cultural blindspots.
Also in September, we’ll be hosting Dr. John Inazu, author of the excellent recent book Confident Pluralism: Surviving and Thriving Through Deep Difference, which our director Bryan Bademan will be reviewing on our blog soon.
At the end of September, we’re throwing a party! Join us on September 30 for All Things, a fall benefit event at which we’ll be unveiling a new vision for the future of our organization—one based around our belief that in Christ, all things hold together. We’ll have delicious hors d’oeuvres, live music from Sara Groves, and compelling speakers like Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals.
In October and November, we’ll host a lecture on biblical foundations for conflict resolution and reconciliation, a talk by Jeff Van Duzer on why business matters to God, and a couple Luther-related events, commemorating the 500th anniversary of the start of the Reformation. And that’s just our fall semester! Check our fall events page for the latest announcements about our upcoming events.
Fall Reading Groups
Registration for our fall reading groups is now open! Here are a few of the books we’re planning to host reading groups on this fall:
- James K.A. Smith, You Are What You Love
- Jesmyn Ward, ed., The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race
- Readers of First Things
- Chris Armstrong, Medieval Wisdom for Modern Christians
- John R. Inazu, Confident Pluralism: Surviving and Thriving Through Deep Difference
- Bethany Hanke Hoang & Kristen Deede Johnson, The Justice Calling: Where Passion Meets Perseverance
- Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin
This Year’s Holmer and Anderson Lectures
This year, our Holmer and Anderson Lectures will both take place in the spring. We’re excited to announce that this year’s Holmer Lecture—our 21st annual—will be given by Yale theologian Miroslav Volf. That lecture will discuss themes from his 2015 book Flourishing: Why We Need Religion in a Globalized World. Volf will seek a way forward in a religiously divided world—a way that makes room for vibrant, convicted religious belief while rejecting violence as a means to resolve those differences.
This year’s V. Elving Anderson Lecture in Science & Religion—the fourth annual Anderson Lecture—will be given by Dr. Charmaine Royal, Associate Professor of African & African American Studies and Genome Sciences & Policy at Duke University. Dr. Royal’s work is wide-ranging and fascinating—truly interdisciplinary—exploring, according to her faculty page, the intersections of “ethical, psychosocial, and societal issues in genetics and genomics, primarily issues at the intersection of genetics/genomics and concepts of ‘race,’ ancestry, and ethnicity.”
If you’re interested in a reading group, check our reading group page, where we’ll soon be posting registration information.
We hope you can join us for what’s going to be an excellent year!