Middlebury College symposium explores issues of Christianity and social justice Nov. 9-15
MIDDLEBURY, Vt. - Beginning Thursday, Nov. 9, and continuing through Wednesday, Nov. 15, the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, a Middlebury College student organization, will host a series of events for a symposium titled “Challenging Complacency: Do Christians Care about Social Justice.” The events, including lectures and discussions, a workshop, and a concert are free and open to the public. The symposium is part of Religious Life Awareness Month at Middlebury.
According to student organizers, the symposium is designed to foster thoughtful discussion and raise questions, such as the following: What does the life of Jesus have to offer the world as we grapple with issues of poverty, disease, environmental destruction, racism, hatred and violence? What is justice, and how and why should we seek it? What does social justice look like when thought about and acted on from a Christian perspective?
“Throughout its two thousand year history, Christianity has shaped the world in incredible and often contradictory ways,” said student organizer and Middlebury College senior Andrew Haile. “There has been war and peace, oppression and liberation, bigotry and compassion - all in the name of Christ. From within the church have come both the cruelties of the Crusades and the non-violent visionary leadership of the civil rights movement. Today America is a nation angrily divided over the politics of family values and the role of religion in public life, yet we believe that the Christian faith can and does inspire people who work for love, peace, justice and equality in the world.”
On Thursday, Nov. 9, at 4:30 p.m., in Dana Auditorium, Shane Claiborne will deliver the keynote address, titled “Living the Revolution of Love: Christianity as a Way of Life.” Claiborne is a founding partner of The Simple Way, a radical faith community that lives among and serves the homeless in Kensington, Pa. Claiborne has spent time working alongside Mother Teresa in Calcutta, and he visited Iraq as a member of the Iraq Peace Team (IPT). He is a graduate of Eastern University in Pennsylvania and Princeton Theological Seminary. He writes and travels extensively to speak about peacemaking, social justice and Jesus, and is the author of the forthcoming book “The Irresistible Revolution,” about his part in a radical faith community.
On Friday, Nov. 10, at 12:30 p.m., in the Harmon Periodicals Room of the college library, the symposium will provide lunch during a lecture by Sylvia Keesmaat, a biblical scholar, professor, homeschooler and gardener. She holds a doctorate from Oxford University and is currently adjunct professor of biblical studies at the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto. She is the editor of “The Advent of Justice” (1994), author of “Paul and His Story” (1999), and co-author with her husband, Brian Walsh, of “Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire” (2004). Keesmaat patterns her lifestyle after Christ’s principles of peace, justice, love and non-consumerism and lives on an organic, solar-powered farm in Cameron, Ont.
At 4:30 p.m. in Mead Chapel, Ron Sider will deliver a lecture titled “Christian Faith and Global Poverty: What Christians Are Actually Doing.” Sider, a professor of theology and culture and director of the Sider Center on Ministry and Public Policy at Palmer Seminary at Eastern University, is president of Evangelicals for Social Action, an organization he founded in 1978. He earned a master’s in divinity and a doctorate from Yale University. From the beginning of his career he sought to apply a biblical perspective to issues of social injustice, racism, international conflict and other social and political issues. Sider’s work began as a challenge to his fellow evangelicals but later focused on coalition building around issues of social concern with other Christians, as well as people of other faiths. He has spoken on six continents, published 26 books and more than 100 articles. His classic, “Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger,” was published in 1977 and, now in its fourth edition, has sold more than 400,000 copies.
On Saturday, Nov. 11, at 1 p.m., a panel of Middlebury College alumni will discuss “Life after Middlebury: Pursuing Social Justice.” The panelists include alumni who are involved in Christian social justice and they will share their experiences living with the world’s neediest people. The event will take place in Room 220 of McCardell Bicentennial Hall.
At 4 p.m. in the Château Grand Salon, Lamont Hiebert, lead singer of the rock band Ten Shekel Shirt of New Haven, Conn., will present “Justice through a Guitar” and discuss how the arts can speak for those society has robbed of a voice. Hiebert returned from a visit to South East Asia in 2002, and he and bandmates launched Justice for Children International, an organization that raises funds for the prevention, rescue and care of sexually exploited children. The band continues to use their concerts to raise awareness and support for such children across the globe.
At 8 p.m., Lamont Hiebert will perform a concert in the McCullough Social Space, located in McCullough Student Center.
On Wednesday, Nov. 15, at 7 p.m. in Mead Chapel, J. Philip Newell and Sam Guarnaccia will lead a Celtic Mass for Peace, which symposium organizers described as an expression of the longing for peace that is stirring in the human soul today. The poetry of the mass was written by Newell, a Scottish author, and the music was composed by Guarnaccia, a native Vermont musician. This event is co-sponsored by Middlebury College’s Charles P. Scott Center for Spiritual and Religious Life and the Department of Music.
The Intervarsity Christian Fellowship believes that faith should and does impact the way we live in the world, and that the Christian faith has something unique to offer to a dialogue about social justice. “We want to move away from partisan politics and towards loving all people,” said Haile. “We want to challenge people to think about spirituality and the church in a new way, and to learn what the life of Jesus and examples from church history can teach us about self-sacrifice, solidarity, and hope. We want to create dialogue about what Christian faith can offer in Middlebury’s pursuit of a more just, peaceful and loving world.”
Several Middlebury College organizations are co-sponsors of this symposium, including the Newman Club, Christian Orthodox Association, and Charles P. Scott Center for Spiritual and Religious Life. For more information, contact symposium organizer Andrew Haile at 802-443-3893 or email@example.com.
To follow is a schedule of events:
Middlebury College Symposium:
”Challenging Complacency: Do Christians Care about Social Justice”
Thursday, Nov. 9
Keynote Address: “Living the Revolution of Love: Christianity as a Way of Life”
Claiborne will discuss how Christian faith is not fundamentally about holding correct intellectual ideas of God or the world, but about living one’s life in openness to God and service to others. Jesus’ life redefines “success” as a lifestyle of service rather than achieving wealth and power.
Dana Auditorium, Sunderland Language Center, College Street (Route 125)
Friday, Nov. 10
Lunch and lecture: “Christianity, Consumer Culture and Empire: The Biblical Story as Witness Against Social and Environmental Injustice”
Keesmaat will discuss how the biblical story consistently challenges the practices of the various empires of the ancient world. The story provides a basis for the Christian community to practice an alternative lifestyle in the face of social and environmental injustice. Lunch will be served.
Harmon Periodicals Room, College Library, Lower Level, located on Storrs Avenue off South Main Street (Route 30)
Lecture: “Christian Faith and Global Poverty: What Christians are Actually Doing”
Ron Sider, a professor of theology and culture and the director of the Sider Center on Ministry and Public Policy at Palmer Seminary at Eastern University, will set forth a biblical perspective on social justice and a series of practical recommendations for relieving poverty.
Mead Chapel, located on Hepburn Road off College Street (Route 125)
Saturday, Nov. 11
Panel Discussion: “Life after Middlebury: Pursuing Social Justice”
Middlebury Alumni Panel
Middlebury alumni involved in Christian social justice work will share from their experiences in living with the world’s neediest people. They will discuss what they have learned and present opportunities for current students.
Room 220, McCardell Bicentennial Hall, located on Bicentennial Way off College Street (Route 125)
Discussion: “Justice through a Guitar”
Lamont Hiebert, lead singer of the rock band Ten Shekel Shirt, will discuss how the arts can speak for those that society has robbed of any voice.
Château Grand Salon, located north of College Street (Route 125)
Concert: Lamont Hiebert
Lamont Hiebert, lead singer of the rock band Ten Shekel Shirt, will perform.
McCullough Social Space, located in McCullough Student Center on Old Chapel Road off College Street (Route 125)
Wednesday, Nov. 15
Celtic Mass for Peace
J. Philip Newell and Sam Guarnaccia
Spiritualist author J. Philip Newell and Vermont musician Sam Guarnaccia will lead a Celtic Mass for Peace, meant to express the longing for peace that is stirring in the human soul today.
Mead Chapel, located on Hepburn Road off College Street (Route 125)
All events are free and open to the public. For more information, contact symposium organizer Andrew Haile at 802-443-3893 or firstname.lastname@example.org.