»Still Speaking: Conversations on Faith
» The Inaugural Niebuhr Forum on Religion in Public Life
Elmhurst College marks the graduation centennial of two of its most esteemed alumni, Reinhold Niebuhr (1910) and H. Richard Niebuhr (1912), with Still Speaking: Conversations on Faith, a yearlong focus on interfaith engagement. The opening event, on Friday, October 1, was the inaugural Niebuhr Forum on Religion in Public Life.
The College created the forum to serve as a venue for nationally known scholars and public intellectuals in such fields as education, ethics, law, philosophy, political science, psychology, public policy, religious studies, science and theology to address issues pertaining to the role and impact of religion and religious discourse on the common good.
The inaugural forum took place in two parts: a panel presentation, in which a group of distinguished scholars discussed “The Persistence of Evil: Reinhold Niebuhr’s Message for Today’s World,” followed by the keynote address, given by New York Times columnist and political commentator David Brooks, on “Politics and the Influence of Reinhold Niebuhr.”
“We are proud to have an emerging reputation as an academic center for critical learning and debate on issues raised by interfaith engagement,” said Elmhurst College President S. Alan Ray. “The 2010 Niebuhr Forum on Religion in Public Life will no doubt make a strong contribution to that debate in the Chicago area and beyond.”
A distinguished group of thinkers from four religious traditions discussed the enduring relevance of Reinhold Niebuhr’s Christian Realism in the anxious opening decades of the 21st century. The moderator, R. Gustav Niebuhr, is an associate professor in religion and the media at Syracuse University and author of Beyond Tolerance: Searching for Interfaith Understanding in America. He is the grandson of the theologian H. Richard Niebuhr, the sixth president of Elmhurst College and a member of the Class of 1912; and the great nephew of Reinhold Niebuhr, Elmhurst College Class of 1910.
The panelists were Rev. Dr. Alice W. Hunt, president and professor of theology at Chicago Theological Seminary; Dr. Nancy Lee, Niebuhr Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at Elmhurst College; Dr. Eboo Patel, founder and executive director of Interfaith Youth Core; and Rabbi Herman E. Schaalman, adjunct professor of theology, Chicago Theological Seminary and Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary.
In the last century, Reinhold Niebuhr “was one of America's most profound writers,” says David Brooks. “He wrote sweeping books that helped readers to connect their historical situations with broad truths about God and human nature.” Today, Brooks himself is among the keenest observers of American life and a savvy analyst of politics and foreign affairs. He began his career at the National Review and spent nine years at The Wall Street Journal. He currently appears twice a week in the opinion pages of The New York Times and regularly on PBS and National Public Radio. Brooks believes our political and moral discourse could use the likes of Niebuhr again. “Our debates are small,” he notes. “Niebuhr's arguments were big.”