April Forums

Not of This World
Faith, Culture, and Christian Responsibility

By David Romanik

In his book American Jesus: How the Son of God became a National Icon, historian Stephen Prothero makes two seemingly contradictory claims: that American Christianity “has been formed by Christians and non-Christians alike,” and that “the varieties of American religious experience have been shaped by the public power of the Christian message.” Prothero’s argument is intriguing because it suggests that Christianity has both influenced and been influenced by non-Christian traditions. Moreover, it assumes that “American Christianity” exists somewhat independently of its theological origins: that faith is, at least partially, a product of the culture that surrounds it. There is something unsettling about this claim. Both Scripture and the Christian tradition are somewhat ambivalent about engagement with the world. In fact, based on some interpretations of the tradition, it would be easy to assume that a faithful life requires us to eschew the broader culture in favor of a pure expression of piety. At the same time, it is virtually impossible and probably inadvisable for us to remove ourselves completely from the influence our secular society. How can the Church respond to the culture even as it fulfills its responsibility to transcend it? Our Spring Forum Series will explore this question. We will examine some of the ways that faith and culture influence each other and consider how this contributes to our understanding of the gospel and our Christian vocation.

April 8
Faith on the Small Screen

Over the past 70 years, few mediums have more thoroughly encapsulated our culture than television. Television has been a touchstone of our common life, the locus of many shared experiences: from political upheaval, to sporting events, to sitcom finales. Perhaps unsurprisingly, television has also functioned as a barometer for how Christianity is understood in the wider culture. Join David Romanik as he explores the ways depictions of faith on television have evolved over time and how they can help us understand our responsibility as Christians.

April 15
The Enchantments of Mammon

In Luke’s gospel, Jesus tells an incisive parable about a poor man named Lazarus who lives at the gate of a rich man’s house. Jesus is unsparing in his criticism of the rich man, not necessarily because he is rich, but because wealth warps his understanding of the world and his fellow human beings. In many ways, this parable is part of a long tradition. The Church has long challenged the societal assumption that money is the solution to every problem. Join Eugene McCarraher, professor of history at Villanova University, as he explores this tradition and considers the ways it can shape the lives of contemporary Christians.

April 22
The Believing Bard

In a skeptical review of several recent “updates” of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, the critic Adam Gopnik commented, “Shakespeare believed in fate, order, and forgiveness; we believe in history, justice, and compassion--three pairings so similar as to sometimes seem the same, though they are not.” Gopnik’s penetrating observation reveals that the world Shakespeare inhabited is, in many ways, entirely distinct from our own. Specifically, Shakespeare’s worldview was rooted in and shaped by a powerful sense of God’s providence, while our secular society has difficulty seeing beyond what is immediately apparent or useful. Though our outlook has changed, Shakespeare’s work continues to have deep relevance to the human condition. Join Shakespeare scholar Dr. Anne Hall as she examines the Christian themes in Shakespeare’s plays and explores how they speak to us today.

April 29
Shakespeare’
s Spiritual Sonnets

Despite the way they are usually characterized, Shakespeare’s so-called “love sonnets” contain lurid allusions to lust, hatred, recrimination, crudity, venereal disease, love triangles, betrayal, adultery, sexual blackmail, and threats against an ex. Nowhere are these prurient themes more evident than in his “Dark Lady Sonnets” to “the woman coloured ill.” In the midst of these tormented and obsessed texts, Shakespeare pens three “spiritual sonnets,” which shed light on the entire sonnet sequence. Drawing on themes from the Book of Common Prayer and the traditions of the Anglican Church, these “spiritual sonnets” are key to understanding Shakespeare’s life and work. Join Dr. Glen Skoler, a clinical and forensic psychologist, as he explores how Shakespeare attempts to find a “spiritual solution” to his own unhealthy love obsession by using the Renaissance metaphors of the Anglican Church.

Last Published: April 3, 2018 3:04 PM