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Interfaith Lecture Previews

Author Jennifer Eberhardt to Expose Hidden Prejudices and Biases in Penultimate Interfaith Lecture

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Eberhardt

Jennifer Eberhardt believes that in order to overcome bias, it must first be embraced.

“Bias is not a trait but a state,” said Eberhardt, an author and professor of psychology at Stanford University, in a March 2019 interview with NPR. “So, some situations make us more vulnerable to bias than others. And the more we understand this, the more powerful we are.”

With that understanding and power, Eberhardt said, people can begin to consider: “What are the situations where bias is more likely to come up?” And how can those situations be avoided?

Eberhardt grew up in an all-black neighborhood when her parents decided to move to a majority-white suburb. After they moved, Eberhardt said she noticed she was having trouble telling white faces apart from other faces.

“It’s like a precursor for bias, basically, because if your brain isn’t processing those faces, you’re not able to individuate the faces,” she said. “You’re thinking about those faces in terms of their category. Once you put a face in a category, then that can also trigger your beliefs and feelings about the people who are in that category.”

At 2 p.m. Thursday, August 22 in the Hall of Philosophy, Eberhardt will discuss being “Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do,” as part of the Week Nine Interfaith Lecture Series, “Exploring Race, Religion, and Culture.”

“Bias is not so much a stable trait,” Eberhardt said in an interview on “CBS This Morning.” “It’s something that can be triggered by the situations we find ourselves in.”

Eberhardt said she was on a plane with her son when she experienced racial bias from a surprising source.

“(My son) sees this guy, and he says, ‘Hey, that guy looks like daddy!’ ” she said. “I look at the guy, and he doesn’t look anything at all like daddy. It turns out he was the only black guy on the plane. I thought I was going to have a conversation about how not all black people look alike.”

According to Eberhardt, babies as young as 3 months old begin to show preferences for people of their own race.

“So this starts early,” she said on CBS. “It has to do with who we’re surrounded by. Our brains get conditioned to looking at those faces and being able to distinguish among them.”

Eberhardt said this conditioning comes from experience, and is therefore subject to the possibility of new experiences.

“If you have a social experience where we’re living with each other and we’re not living in segregated spaces … and we’re exposed to faces of other races all the time, then your brain gets tuned up to that,” she said on CBS. “It’s something that is wired in; but it’s a flexible wiring.”

Rt. Rev. Eugene Sutton to Reflect on 50 Years Since Assassination of MLK in Interfaith Talk

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Sutton

The Rt. Rev. Eugene Sutton thinks the United States has been given an incredible opportunity.

“We can show the world that the world can live in peace,” said Sutton, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese in Maryland, and director of the Washington National Cathedral’s Center for Prayer and Pilgrimage. “The world is coming to our shores. The world is here, in the United States. I want people to be left with excitement and hope at that fact.”

At 2 p.m. Wednesday, August 21 in the Hall of Philosophy, Sutton will declare that “The Dream Still Lives: 50 Years after Martin Luther King, Jr.” as a continuation of the Week Nine interfaith lecture series, “Exploring Race, Religion, and Culture.”

“I’m reflecting on roughly 50 years after the death of Martin Luther King Jr.,” Sutton said. “I’m really asking the question, ‘Are we where we have expected us to be, 50 years ago?’ If you ask most Americans that question, the answer would really be sobering.”

According to Sutton, in some areas there have actually been significant improvements to race relations in the United States.

“By some measures, we are better off — certainly in racial justice,” he said, “and especially in terms of the attitudes of white persons towards black persons. They’ve greatly improved as compared to 50 years ago. We don’t have separate bathrooms, restaurants, that kind of thing.”

Still, Sutton said that it doesn’t feel like “we as a nation are closer to being a more racially harmonious society.”

“In 1968, white supremacy, in an act of gun violence, shot a person of color because that person could not agree with his solution of a racially harmonious country,” he said. “What are we lamenting today? Still, white nationalist groups are shooting people of color, because they reject the vision of a racially diverse, multicultural society.”

One of the things that gives Sutton hope when confronted with that outlook is the plasticity of the U.S. Constitution.

“We have a system that can correct itself,” he said. “We can amend the Constitution. We have a system of justice and laws. In the main, what gives me hope is that we keep referring back to the ideals of equality and justice for all.”

Sutton’s advice for political leaders is simple: They ought to say less.

“Maybe they need to be more silent and reflective, rather than be reactive and just say whatever’s on their mind,” he said. “That moment of reflection — as a nation, we as a people can practice this.”

Adam Jortner to Shed Light on Social Reforms Relating to the Burned-Over District

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Thanks in part to the people of the Burned-over District, America is a country where women have the right to vote, slavery is illegal and the temperance movement effected policy change at the federal level.

Beginning in the early 19th century and fueled by the religious fervor of the Second Great Awakening, the Burned-over District encompassed a region of western and upstate New York where social and religious revivalism had reached a fever pitch.

“Protestant Christians, living in upstate New York and elsewhere, wanted to solve a bunch of different problems,” said Adam Jortner, an author, scholar of early American history and Goodwin-Philpott professor of history at Auburn University. “They wanted to use their faith to address social problems in substantial ways.”

At 2 p.m. Thursday, July 25 in the Hall of Philosophy, Jortner will give his lecture, “How the Burned-Over District Changed America,” continuing the Week Five interfaith theme, “Chautauqua: Rising from the Ashes of the Burned-Over District.”

“Every single person who’s talking this week is going to have a different idea about why the Burned-over District became what it was,” Jortner said. “I’m going to say it was all about organization. A guy named Charles Finney recreated the American revival and made it into what we know it as today — a highly organized and highly effective movement.”

According to Jortner, Finney stewarded Evangelical organizations for revival that were later used to conduct social reform.

“Frances Willard, president of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, used the basic revival model started by Finney,” he said. “Susan B. Anthony, in the suffrage movement, basically used that same revival model.”

In 2012, Jortner published his book, The Gods of Prophetstown: The Battle of Tippecanoe and the Holy War for the American Frontier.

“(The Gods of Prophetstown is) a hidden history about the Shawnee prophet Tenskwatawa, the brother of Tecumseh,” he said. “He probably organized the most significant resistance to U.S. control of Indian lands in the history of the U.S. … He essentially created a Native American city out there.”

Jortner said his book was about both Tenskwatawa and William Henry Harrison, a U.S. territorial governor and ninth president of the United States who led a military strike against Prophetstown.

“It’s looking at those two men, and how religion influenced how they saw the world and what they did,” he said. “Ultimately, I think it’s about how the War of 1812 was actually really important, and we just don’t remember it because we lost to Canada.”

But for Jortner’s lecture today, he said his primary goal is to discuss the gradual shift of social movements, as opposed to rapid change.

“These are changes that took a century to take place, sometimes,” he said. “I think that’s a valuable lesson. It was all locally done work by people who were excited about their faith. They worked at it and worked at it. A lot of them lived and died and never saw the broad changes that they initiated. But the changes did happen.”

Spencer McBride Dives into History of Burned-Over District and its Chautauqua Connection

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Historian and documentary editor, Spencer McBride speaks about how western New York gre to be named the Burned-over District, during his lecture “The Origins And legacy of the Burned-over District” on Monday, July 22, 2019 in the Hall of Philosophy.
MHARI SHAW/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Chautauqua was founded 14 years after the Burned-over District ran its course. Many may think that Chautauqua has no connection to the Burned-over District, but Spencer McBride, a historian, author and editor for The Joseph Smith Papers, said that solid connections exist between the two.

On Monday, McBride opened Week Five’s interfaith theme, “Chautauqua: Rising from the Ashes of the Burned-Over District,” in the Hall of Philosophy with his lecture, “The Origins and Legacy of the Burned-over District.”

The Burned-over District, McBride said, was an early 19th-century movement, in which religious revivals became popular nationwide, and locally in Western New York.

It took place, McBride estimated, between 1790 and 1860, and it was a part of a national development termed “The Second Great Awakening,” which was a revival of religious fervor that drove Americans to churches. The movement spanned as far as Britain, and as close as local cities and regions in New York, including Buffalo, Albany, Rochester, the Finger Lakes and Chautauqua.

McBride said this deep religious fervor in the 1790s doesn’t imply that there was no religious presence in America prior to that. Before this Burned-over District, in the Revolutionary War era, there was a “very rational approach” to religion by preachers who were predominantly from the elite class. In stark contrast, coming into the 1790s, religion was growing more personal and influential.

“What we see in the Second Great Awakening,” McBride said, “is this move for people to experience religion, to become converted through a spiritual experience that they felt.”

Because of those “spiritual experiences,” many entered ministry claiming it was their calling. They were called by the spirit to serve in ministry, which completely destroyed the commonly held belief among preachers that one had to be from the elite class to preach. So, throughout the country in the 1790s and into the 1800s, many who felt a calling studied the scriptures and became ministers.

“And the driving engine of all of this is the revival meeting,” McBride said. “Often held outdoors, a revival meeting would take place over several days, and you’d have preachers preaching enthusiastically, encouraging their congregations to seek salvation, to be saved, to have that spiritual experience of conversion that ultimately changes their lives.”

The meetings were so effective, McBride said, that church membership rapidly grew throughout the country — from 2 million in 1790, to over 20 million in 1860. The number of preachers tripled — instead of one minister for every 1,500 Americans, there was a preacher for every 500 Americans in 1850.

Even though this change was nationwide, some areas experienced religious fervor more intensely than others. So, McBride asked, why was Western New York a highly concentrated area of religious fervor? One answer, McBride said, is termed the Yankee Invasion.

“There is a huge population in Western New York following 1790,” he said. “One of the results of the American Revolution, and one of the reasons some people felt inclined to fight against the British, is King George and the third parliament had declared after the Seven Years’ War that there could be no white settlement west of the Appalachian Mountains. Well, after the revolution, a settlement west of the Appalachian Mountains opened up and many were anxious to get there between the years 1790 and 1820.”

In this 30-year period, a flood of people left New England for Western New York. This meant that about 10% of the American population was on the move. McBride said that, in addition to being a large group, 60% of the people moving were under the age of 25. What this meant was that a lot of families in New England were sending their children off to New York.

And, as a cautionary measure to keep their children from losing religion during this move, families sent missionaries — who knew that when one is young, it is easy to question or reconsider one’s religion — to New York to encourage their children to continue attending church.

“We don’t often use the word ‘marketplace’ when we talk about religion,” McBride said. “But if we think about it in terms of a marketplace, there were more religious choices than ever, and here was a large group of people anxious to consider those choices. And so, this demographic shift makes New York a prime spot for religious revivalism.”

So, how did the name, “Burned-over District,” come about? McBride said the religious fervor from 1790 to 1860 was not necessarily constant, but there were actually surges of religious intensity that would last a couple of years before dying down.

For example, Charles Finney — one of the best known revivalists, who was remarkably famous for his preaching — arrived in Oneida County in 1826 to preach. But not many people showed up to listen to him talk because he had arrived at the tail-end of a wave of revivalism, and people didn’t want to hear him.

“And so, Charles Finney wrote a letter, quite frustrated, in 1826,” McBride said. “And he said, ‘I found that region of the country, what in the western phrase would be called a burnt district. There had been a few years previously, a wild excitement passing through that region, which they called a revival of religion. And it resulted in a reaction so extensive and profound as to leave the impression on many minds that religion was a mere delusion.’ ”

Finney termed Western New York the “Burnt District,” and McBride said the name eventually evolved into the “Burned-over District” because of a young historian from Harvard University, named Whitney Cross, and his dissertation adviser, who both felt that the “Burnt District” didn’t sound right.

Western New York stands out as part of the Burned-over District, McBride said, because there was a large number of new religious movements in the area.

“The Shakers originally came from New England, and they come to a settlement just outside of Albany called Watervliet,” McBride said. “You get the rise of the Mormons, … the Oneida perfectionists … (and) spiritualists.”

Some of this religious revivalism coincided with social reform, McBride said.

Examples of these social reforms are abolitionism, the temperance movement, the women’s rights movement and a great number of political reforms heading toward stronger democracy.

“Now, this is not to say that all of these reforms were necessarily religious reforms,” McBride said. “You could be an abolitionist without being a devout Christian. You could fight for women’s rights without being a devout Christian, so on and so forth. But we also see, in other parts of the country, religion being used to confront or battle these reform movements.”

For example, Angelina Grimké, a prolific writer and women’s rights activist, wrote about Christians in the South who were using the Bible to defend slavery, and people who used Christianity to defend the idea that men should have more power and more rights than women.

“This is an important caveat,” McBride said, “because … people walk away thinking that those who are actively involved in their religion and their religious community will always push for social reform, but that’s not the case, and it’s important for us to recognize that.”

Despite the disagreements among the people inside and outside the reform movements, the Burned-over District is essential to the national history of religious revivalism and social reform because those who were in New York during the Burned-over District took all of the religious views, practices and social ideas with them when they moved west, McBride said.

“Chautauqua actually falls outside the chronological boundaries of the Burned-over District, which ended in 1860,” McBride said. “Chautauqua was founded 1874, so, what’s the connection?”

During the Burned-over District’s surge, religions like Protestantism, Baptistism and Methodism experienced extreme growth.

“Prior to 1790 in the United States, we’re talking about a total population of fewer than 10,000 Methodists,” McBride said. “You get to over half a million, and approaching a million, Methodists by the time you’re in 1850.”

After the Burned-over District smoldered out, Methodist Sunday school teachers began setting up camps at Chautauqua, which marked the beginnings of the Institution that serves as a “bastion for educating as many people as can be educated,” McBride said.

McBride concluded his lecture with some thought-provoking questions for the audience.

“Do we see social change influencing or changing religion in our own time?” McBride asked. “Similarly, what role is religion currently playing in present-day reform movements, and on what side of the reform movements do different people’s religious views place them? On a personal level, how does our faith drive us to real action to make our communities better, … stronger … (and) safer?”

As a historian, McBride said, the one question to hold onto throughout the week is, “How does the history of the Burned-over District, of religious and social change, influence the way you understand the world today, and how will it affect the way you build the world of tomorrow?”

Rabbi Deborah Waxman to Delve into Jewish Perspective on Divine Justice for Interfaith Friday

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Rabbi Deborah Waxman

She’s the first woman rabbi to lead both a Jewish seminary and congregational union, and the first lesbian to have risen to the level of national and professional Jewish leadership she currently enjoys.

Her name is Rabbi Deborah Waxman.

“We’re trying to find the richest possible expressions of the collective experience of the Jewish people,” said Waxman, the Aaron and Marjorie Ziegelman Presidential Professor and president of Reconstructing Judaism, a rabbinical college and the central organization of the Jewish reconstructionist movement. “We are looking to create a sense of wholeness for people. We have a conviction that Jewish wisdom and Jewish living enriches and supports us in our efforts to be human.”

At 2 p.m. Friday, July 19 in the Hall of Philosophy, Waxman will give Chautauqua’s fourth Interfaith Friday lecture on the problem of evil and on progressive expressions of Judaism. Waxman will be joined in conversation by the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Chautauqua’s vice president of religion and senior pastor.

I have both a rabbinical degree and a doctorate in American Jewish studies,” Waxman said. “I went to rabbinical school because I wanted to be with people in times of joy and in times of sorrow. I wanted to be in a position to help them create meaning in their lives.”

And according to Waxman, becoming a rabbi was her way of helping to “build communities that would support and sustain people.”

“The reconstructionist approach allows me and every individual to bring our own aspirations and our own questions to that rich tradition,” she said. “I thought, when I was in my 20s, I was choosing between becoming a rabbi and getting that Ph.D. In the end, I was just sequencing it. I’m glad I did the rabbinical piece first because I feel like it cracked my heart wide open.”

As president of Reconstructing Judaism, Waxman has spearheaded progressive initiatives like “Evolve: Groundbreaking Jewish Conversations,” which she said reflect her organization’s tagline: “Deeply rooted. Boldly relevant.”

It’s a project I feel is really expressive of reconstructionist commitments,” Waxman said. “ ‘Evolve’ is a project of writing and conversation that draws deeply on traditional Jewish teachings and approaches. It looks to bring those insights to pressing issues of the day in a way that promotes civil discourse.”

Waxman said she believes her position as president has enabled her to “draw on the full breadth of (her) interests and capacity.”

“For about two years I’ve been hosting a podcast on Jewish teachings of resilience called ‘Hashivenu,’ ” she said. “That’s one of the ways I get to grow and encounter people in new ways. I interview rabbis, teachers and community leaders about how best to cultivate resilience in their communities and in their own lives.”

In her upcoming lecture, however, Waxman wishes to impart broader lessons on her audience.

I’d like people to have an understanding of both Judaism and progressive expressions of Judaism,” she said. “I’d like people to know about how some liberal Jews think about divine justice, and about how to have a personal relationship with a non-personal God.”

Eric Meyers to Discuss Jesus’ Commitment to Judaism, Stronger Than Once Believed

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Eric Meyers

It’s an archaeological portrait of everyday life that Eric Meyers wants to paint in his interfaith lecture — a portrait of lower Galilee, the area where Meyers said Jesus Christ grew up.

“Literary and archaeological material has shown definitively that there was a strong culture of Jewish life established in Galilee,” said Meyers, a Biblical scholar, archaeologist and Bernice and Morton Lerner Professor Emeritus of Judaic Studies at Duke University.

In 1981, Meyers was part of the team that discovered the oldest known piece of an ark of the covenant while digging in the Israeli town of Nabratein, coincidentally the same year the movie “Raiders of the Lost Ark” was released.

At 2 p.m. Thursday, July 11 in the Hall of Philosophy, Meyers will present “Jesus in Galilee, A Jewish Perspective,” as part of Week Three’s interfaith theme, “What Archaeology Tells Us About Biblical Times.”

Other students of the life and ministry of Jesus had thought and concluded that the Galilee was deeply Hellenized, Greek-speaking and influenced by outside culture,” Meyers said. “Recent research has shown that was completely erroneous. There were virtually no known Greeks in the Galilee in the first century, except in the pagan Roman cities that surrounded it.”

According to Meyers, evidence from the hundreds of former Jewish villages and from his own expeditions has given him indications of “a Torah-led, Biblically inspired everyday life (in Galilee).”

“We have ritual baths, we have half-a-dozen synagogues in the north and a dozen or so in the south, especially in a place called Magdala,” Meyers said. “So, painting this picture, we see that Jesus’ ministry focused on the rural communities in the Galilee in the north and avoided cities like Sepphoris that were deeply Hellenized.”

That assessment is in stark contrast to some other archaeological descriptions of Galilee, according to Meyers.

One (description) is a very Greek version of the Galilee,” Meyers said. “Another is a Jewish depiction of the background of Jesus that is backward, out-of-touch and not informed by Torah or Biblical law.

Through Duke University and his local Jewish Community Center, Meyers said he’s taken students to archaeological digs in the Galilee area for nearly 50 years.

Meyers said he’s also experienced violent resistance by Orthodox Jews in response to his excavations.

“We’ve been attacked, bullied and had our digs invaded by them,” he said. “They’ve smashed up artifacts and turned over columns, things like that. The Orthodox are against digging graves, which has set back scientific archaeological research greatly in the region. DNA studies know about all sorts of things relating to human disease and health that would be greatly advantageous for scientists and medical research to know about.”

But for his interfaith lecture, Meyers said he wants to focus on demonstrating that Judaism played a greater role in Jesus’ early life and in his community than was previously believed.

These new studies have shown Jesus and his followers’ deep commitment to the Jewish faith as it was in the early decades of the first century,” he said.

Audience members at today’s lecture can access slides that accompany the presentation from their smart devices at
chq.org/screen.

East and West: John Dominic Crossan to Speak on Biblical Images and Depicting Jesus

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John Dominic Crossan

John Dominic Crossan believes the only radical difference between the East and Western Christianity’s portrayal of Jesus Christ’s life comes from the historical imagery of his resurrection.

People don’t realize there’s actually no direct description or depiction of the resurrection in the New Testament, only its effects,” said Crossan, a historian and New Testament scholar. “That left a vacuum that forced artists to ask, ‘How do we depict this thing if there’s no description?’ ”

Crossan’s new book, Resurrecting Easter, deals with the historical differences in how the East and the West attempted to fill this literary gap with imagery and tradition.

At 2 p.m. Tuesday, July 9 in the Hall of Philosophy, Crossan will discuss tracing “Jesus: From Archaeology to Text,” and the significance of Easter imagery in collective historical consciousness.

Crossan’s lecture continues an exploration of the Week Three interfaith theme, “What Archaeology Tells Us About Biblical Times.”

“Eastern Christianity has an absolutely different image of Easter than the West,” Crossan said. “Otherwise, the East and West’s (Biblical imagery) is pretty much the same. There’s usually a crucifixion. But when it comes to the resurrection, because there is no direct description of it in the New Testament, the East and the West come up with radically different imagery.”

Crossan and his wife, Sarah, spent about 15 years on 20 expeditions traveling all over Eastern Christendom as part of the writing process for Resurrecting Easter.

In the West, according to Crossan, it’s more typical to see the resurrection depicted as Jesus rising from his tomb into heaven by himself.

But in the East, Jesus is often portrayed as grasping the hands of people around him.

Crossan said the significance of the differences in Easter imagery go back to Paul the Apostle.

Imagine someone saying to Paul, after he describes the resurrection in 1 Corinthians, ‘OK, Paul, we’ve all seen this crucifixion you keep talking about,’ ” he said. “ ‘We know what that’s like. Draw us a picture of the resurrection.’ Would he have drawn the Western image or the Eastern image? I think the Eastern depiction is in closer continuity to the New Testament.

In 1985, Crossan joined the newly formed Jesus Seminar, a controversial collection of critical Biblical scholars that measured the historicity of the stories surrounding Jesus Christ.

“The idea behind the Jesus Seminar was that scholars could discuss pretty much anything they wanted, no matter how radical it sounded,” he said. “Scholars could ask, ‘Did Jesus say this? Did Jesus do that? Did Mark make it up?’ We wanted to do (the Seminar) out in public.”

The Jesus Seminar wanted to use a public platform to show people how historians determined whether or not something in the life of Jesus Christ was historically accurate, or if it was a liturgical parable.

“For example, it’s said that Jesus was crucified, and crucified alone,” Crossan said. “And from that, we draw huge historical implications. The very fact that we can tell he was crucified and the rest of the 12 or 11 other disciples weren’t crucified in a row with him, tells me immediately that Roman judgement was that he was a nonviolent revolutionary. Not just a nonviolent nuisance. A nonviolent revolutionary.”

The story of Jesus’ crucifixion has led Crossan to believe that “the salvation of our species is nonviolent resistance.”

Otherwise, violence tends to spiral,” he said. “And it has been spiralling out for about 10,000 years. The only way to stop this spiral of violence is nonviolent resistance to violence. That’s the message and meaning I’m getting from this.”

NatGeo Archaeology Writer and Editor Kristin Romey to Trace ‘Footsteps of Jesus’

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Kristin Romey

The view of human history may be clouded by the passage of time — but because of people like Kristin Romey, it’s now possible for some to throw their gazes back through the fog of the “used to be,” and glimpse insights into antiquity.

“Unless you’re an emperor and you’ve got your face on a coin, archaeology is super difficult,” said Romey, an archaeology editor and writer for National Geographic, “especially when it comes to zeroing in on a single individual, and even proving that person’s existence.”

Romey has reported on archaeology for National Geographic since February 2016, and in 2017 wrote a feature for the magazine on “What Archaeology is Telling Us About the Real Jesus.”

At 2 p.m. Monday, July 8 in the Hall of Philosophy, Romey will bring clarity to the beginnings of Christendom as part of the Week Three Interfaith Lecture Series: “What Archaeology Tells Us About Biblical Times.” Romey’s lecture will walk “In the Footsteps of Jesus: A journalist’s quest into the origins of Christianity.”

When we set out to look at the archaeology of Jesus Christ, it wasn’t to say ‘he existed or didn’t exist,’ ” Romey said. “That’s not the point. What really interested me, with my background in the archaeology of the Classical world, is the chaos of the first century.

Oppressive Roman rule, squabbling Jewish factions and the antagonism between the two led to a “pressure-cooker of time,” according to Romey.

“So it’s kind of interesting to place this Jewish guy who lived in Roman Palestine into that whole mix,” Romey said. “The development of Christianity really comes out of this first century political pressure-cooker.”

But Romey said Jesus wasn’t the only one proclaiming he was the son of God during that time.

There were plenty of guys out there roaming the deserts and saying that they had a direct line to God,” Romey said. “Why we ended up with this one specific guy who was prosecuted and crucified by the Romans — at some point, we can’t explain what that is. There are accidents in history all the time.”

Part of Romey’s journalistic work has focused on the restoration of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, which contains what is said to be the sites of Jesus’ crucifixion and tomb.

“What I found out through my reporting was that at the time that Jesus was crucified, about 33 A.D. or so, the location of the Church of the Sepulchre was actually outside the walls of Jerusalem,” Romey said. “It was on a main road leading to the coast, between Jerusalem and the coast. That area had been an old limestone quarry that had been repurposed as a burial ground for wealthy Jews. The archaeology shows us all that.”

Romey has spoken to archaeologists who said the New Testament provided clues which, in turn, pointed to that burial site as being the most logical possibility for the location of Jesus Christ’s tomb.

Romey said National Geographic applies a way of approaching subjects for storytelling that can be applied to anything, not just the story of Jesus Christ.

National Geographic provides a very unique perspective on things,” Romey said. “I’d like to (give my audience) not only a background of looking at Jesus as a character in history, but also how the standard approach to reporting and storytelling that National Geographic does works equally well for Jesus as it does for snow leopards.”

Author and Cato Fellow Mustafa Akyol to Delve into Removing Moral Roadblocks in Islam

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Over the past two decades, Mustafa Akyol has studied the complexities of both Islamic theology and the arguments behind religious freedom.

I’m not doing theology for theology’s sake, I’m doing it for human rights,” said Akyol, a journalist, nonfiction author and senior fellow at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity.

And indeed he is — while Akyol has authored books like Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty, he was also arrested briefly in 2017 by Malaysia’s “religion police” while giving a lecture there on free will in religion.

At 2 p.m. Friday, July 5 in the Hall of Philosophy, Akyol will lead the second Interfaith Friday of the season with a lecture on Islam and the problem of evil. Akyol will be in conversation with The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Chautauqua’s vice president of religion and senior pastor.

Akyol is a regular contributing opinion writer for The New York Times and is currently working on his next book, titled Reopening the Muslim Mind for Reason, Freedom and Tolerance.

I’m writing a new book which delves into the theological conundrums of early Islam, which I believe are quite important today,” he said.

One key dispute in early Islam that Akyol said he’ll cover in his new book is the Euthyphro dilemma, a philosophical problem involving a view of morality and theism discussed by Socrates in one of Plato’s dialogues.

“It goes back to Socrates,” Akyol said. “It’s based on a question: ‘Does God order something that is objectively right and ban something that is objectively wrong, or do things become right or wrong based on God’s commandments?’ ”

By way of an example, Akyol said to consider the sixth of the Ten Commandments: “Thou shalt not kill.”

The Euthyphro dilemma, according to Akyol, asks if killing became morally wrong because God included it in the Commandments, or if it was already bad, and the Ten Commandments came about as a reminder of that.

This was a big dilemma for theologians, both in Christianity and Islam,” he said. “In Christianity, it ultimately led to the Divine Command Theory.

According to Akyol, the Divine Command Theory says that “whatever God does is right, and whatever God bans is wrong.”

“In Islam, (the theory) is represented by Ash’arism,” he said, referencing the theological school of Sunni Islam that employs an orthodox guideline in its teachings.

The problem with thinking in such a binary way, according to Akyol, is that it “doesn’t leave much room to discuss the problem of evil.”

The solution from (the Ash’ari) perspective is: ‘Whatever God is doing is good, so why are you even asking?’ That is a roadblock on moral reasoning,” he said.

While Akyol questions the moral frameworks of Islam and their social consequences in his books and lectures, he said he hopes attendees of his Interfaith Friday lecture will understand that Islam, Christianity and Judaism are fundamentally similar religions.

“They’re all different forms of Abrahamic monotheism,” he said. “That’s why the same theological questions that have been asked throughout history have bothered Muslims, Christians and Jews alike.”

In the 20th century, however, Akyol said the politics of modern life drive adherents to these religions apart — even though he said they have more in common than they might realize.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for instance, makes a lot of Muslims and Jews think that there’s a big rift between us,” he said. “That’s a political issue. There’s a world of faith and belief that should not be boiled down to politics.

Judy Shepard to Discuss Son’s Legacy and LGBTQ Progress

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Judy Shepard

Judy Shepard, co-founder of the Matthew Shepard Foundation along with her husband, Dennis, is an advocate for LGBTQ rights and a public speaker with a purpose.

Shepard’s son Matthew was brutally murdered in October 1998. The murder, an LGBTQ hate crime that helped to galvanize a new chapter in the gay rights movement, led to changes in policy at the federal level in the United States.

“In October of 1998, Matthew accepted a ride from a couple of young men who proceeded to rob him and beat him,” Shepard said in an interview on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” in 2009. “They tied him to a fence outside of Laramie, Wyoming, and left him there to die. He was found 18 hours later and passed away four days later.”

At 2 p.m. Tuesday, July 2 in the Hall of Philosophy, Shepard will discuss “The Legacy of Matthew Shepard” as part of the Week Two Interfaith Lecture Series, “Common Good Change Agents.” Shepard will be joined by reporter and co-founder of The Atlantic’s American Futures project, James Fallows.

James Fallows

“I became a sort of spokeswoman for the cause — we thought people would recognize Matt’s name and hear what we had to say and listen to us, and that maybe we could change hearts and minds,” Shepard told DeGeneres.

When the attack occurred in 1998, Chautauqua Institution’s Vice President of Religion and Senior Pastor, the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, was watching in horror along with the rest of the LGBTQ community.

Robinson is widely known as the first openly gay man to be elected bishop in the Episcopal Church.

“It hit (the LGBTQ community) hard because we knew it could’ve been us,” Robinson said. “The remarkable thing is that Judy Shepard, who is this shy, introverted person, turns the tragedy into the (Matthew Shepard) Foundation and this amazing work.”

When Shepard walks up to the microphone, however, Robinson said she looks “10 feet tall,” and speaks with the authority of a seasoned orator.

“The fact that she could do that is just amazing,” he said. “It’s like her personal tribute to Matt and to what she did as a mom, to change this unspeakable tragedy into something good for so many people.”

Robinson said he wanted Shepard to lecture at Chautauqua because he thought she fit Week Two’s “Common Good Change Agents” interfaith theme well.

But the prevention of hate crimes like the one that took Matthew Shepard’s life is also on Robinson’s mind.

“The most important agenda item for the future is passing the federal Equality Act,” he said. “At the moment, every state has a different set of protections for LGBTQ people. But 29 states have none. So in a majority of states, you can be fired for being gay. You can be refused an apartment, you can be thrown out of a restaurant. Until we get a federal law that covers all 50 states, LGBT people are going to be at risk.”

James Fallows to Speak on Underreported Optimism of Small Towns in America

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James Fallows

James Fallows understands America.

After visiting and reporting on dozens of small towns and cities all across the country, he’s witnessed first-hand both the trials and triumphs of communities that tend to be overlooked by traditional news media.

And he understands that the ticking, whirring gears that come together to make up the country’s unique social and political landscape are wound tight.

At 2 p.m. Monday, July 1 in the Hall of Philosophy, Fallows, a national correspondent for The Atlantic and co-founder of the publication’s American Futures project, will begin Week Two of Chautauqua’s Interfaith Lecture Series with “Is Common Good a Lost Cause? Sources of Strain, and Re-Connection, in Modern America.” The lecture is one part of the Week Two interfaith theme, “Common Good Change Agents.” All this week, Fallows will be in conversation with people making changes in their own communities, including with Judy Shepard on Tuesday; Chuck Yarborough on Wednesday; and Emily and Stuart Siegel on Thursday.

In addition to writing for The Atlantic since the late 1970s, Fallows’ work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The New York Review of Books and Slate Magazine, among others.

Truly, in the decades that I’ve worked for The Atlantic, the question for me has been: Is America going to make it?” Fallows asked.

The answer to that question sent him and his wife Deborah — a writer and fellow at New America, a nonpartisan think tank — on a roughly four-year plane trip to smaller towns and cities throughout the United States.

“I think for me, the biggest takeaway from the project was how much is going on at the local level,” Deborah Fallows said. “What we thought was unusual or remarkable at the beginning, at the first town or so, eventually became an expectation of some version of the same.”

She said she also was surprised that public libraries across the country had changed into “the heartbeat of the communities.”

When we were growing up, the library was just a place to get books,” Deborah Fallows said. “Now, it’s a core institution of the communities. They’re filling in the gaps that towns discover and speaking to the wants and the needs of the community, whether it’s education or access to technology or civic and social questions that need addressing.

Fallows said the impetus for American Futures originated after he returned from China, where he was reporting internationally for The Atlantic.

“We moved back from China in 2011,” Fallows said. “In China, my wife and I had mainly been (reporting) in small towns. We felt as if it was time to apply the same perspective we had there, here.”

Instead of asking small town residents their views on national politics, Fallows said their strategy for American Futures was to instead ask about local issues that weren’t as likely to be polarizing.

“In everything we do as journalists, we try to convey things we have seen that might be of interest to people, things that we think might be new,” he said.

The decision to start the American Futures project, according to Fallows, was “part intent, but mainly an accident.”

It was supposed to last two months, but ended up turning into four years,” he said.

Fallows said his goal for his lecture is to give people a “tangible, realistic and optimistic sense of what can be done in this country.”

Amy Brown Hughes to Open Interfaith Fridays with Evangelical Perspective

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Amy Brown Hughs

Amy Brown Hughes was hesitant to start on the path of becoming a theologian.

With an age-old narrative that largely excluded women from the field, her classrooms lacked the representation she needed to envision her own success. But, Hughes refused to sit this one out. Instead, she decided to write a new narrative.

At 2 p.m. Friday, June 28 in the Hall of Philosophy, Hughes, assistant professor of theology at Gordon College, will open Chautauqua’s Interfaith Friday Series with “With One Eye Squinted: God, Evil, and Suffering.”

Hughes originally went to school to become an English literature teacher, but said it quickly became clear she needed to pursue what she was really good at: theology. With a lack of female representation in the profession, she said it was initially difficult to justify the switch.

“I did a theology degree without knowing what I was going to do with it,” Hughes said. “I had a lot of encouragement to do missions work, but not so much to be a clergy person, so it didn’t even occur to me that I could be a theologian as a woman. I wasn’t actively told in my degree that was the case, but it was just the narrative. … I had biblical studies professors who were women, but I never had a theologian.”

After graduating from Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma, Hughes went to Texas to work for a missions organization, and shortly after starting, she realized it was not something she wanted to do as a career. Instead, she decided to go to Wheaton College, a Christian liberal arts college in Wheaton, Illinois, to earn her master’s degree so she could teach.

It was at Wheaton that she took her first class with a female professor and gained the inspiration she needed to move forward in her program. 

“It was some really awesome mentors there that said, ‘Hey, you should really pursue this, you should write a thesis, you should teach my class, you can do this,’ ” she said. “Having a woman as my professor really helped. I could see myself doing the job.”

One of those mentors encouraged Hughes to stay with Wheaton to earn her doctorate. When she was working on her dissertation, her adviser asked if she knew of any other Evangelical women doing work in theology.

“I sat there and I felt stupid because I couldn’t think of a single one,” she said. “After about 30 seconds, he put me out of my misery and told me there isn’t anyone. I am the first woman to graduate from the Ph.D. program at Wheaton College.”

In 2015, Hughes started teaching at Gordon, a private Christian college in Wenham, Massachusetts. After almost four years, Hughes said the experience has been better than she could have ever imagined.

“I was made to do this,” Hughes said. “I find it to be challenging in really good ways.”

According to Hughes, Gordon stands out due to its ability to make theology accessible to everyone.

“Theology is not just about what you think about things, or having a position on something, or just being able to argue your point,” she said. “I bring to the table a real commitment to an accessible understanding of what theology is. Just watching these students realize that they can participate in the broader, really important conversations is super rewarding for me.”

As a representative from the “broader Evangelical tradition,” Hughes is going to discuss how to think about difficult questions, specifically questions about instances of suffering around the world.

“I am going to talk about how we can discuss what it means to be a person of faith without alienating everyone around us,” she said. “Every major world religion has resources for how we as humans can think about difficult things and how we overlap with other people and other religions. How can we work together so that we can come alongside one another and walk with each other through those difficult times?”

Not only does she want to discuss how to work through the questions, Hughes also wants to use her lecture to help start conversations that will prevent additional conflict.

“You have to think about being with people in those moments of suffering, but also think about how we cannot continue finding ourselves in those situations,” Hughes said. “What are the larger conversations we need to have with one another to mitigate some of these larger issues and restrict those impulses by saying, ‘Hey, this thing that you are bringing into the world is actually causing other people to suffer’? It is so important that we learn to start these conversations so we can really start moving forward.”

Amy Laura Hall to Share Julian of Norwich’s Little-Known Story

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Amy Laura Hall

Amy Laura Hall nannied to pay her way through college and graduate school. As much as she enjoyed instructing children, her first time leading an adult Sunday school class is where she found her calling. Having the opportunity to teach, or re-teach adults, is why she calls lecturing at Chautauqua her “dream gig.”

At 2 p.m. Wednesday, June 26 in the Hall of Philosophy, Hall, Duke University’s Divinity School Associate Professor of Christian Ethics, will continue Week One’s interfaith theme, “Religious Moments That Changed the World,” with her lecture “Is Fear Your Only God? How a Medieval Visionary, Julian of Norwich, Teaches Courage, Still, Today.”

“What I absolutely love is watching people who are grown-ups learn new things,” Hall said. “They learn new things about themselves, new things about people they already thought they knew; things about history they thought they knew. Teaching groups of adults complicated questions that I can then try to help them figure out, it is what most makes my heart sing.”

When Hall started teaching at Duke in 1999, her first class was a group of 100 Christian ethics students. The syllabus only consisted of men. 

“That’s an embarrassing fact but it’s just true,” she said. “I’ve been a feminist since I could sing ‘I am woman, I am strong’ as a little girl so it was nuts that I had no women in the class. I started asking around for a woman in the tradition that I could assign as a basic text and several people said I should teach Julian of Norwich.”

Julian of Norwich was a medieval anchorite and the author of the earliest known book written in English by a woman, Revelations of Divine Love. Despite the numerous recommendations, Hall initially felt Julian’s words were naive and blatantly irresponsible.

“I had no interest in teaching a woman who wrote and thought that ‘all would be well,’ ” Hall said. “I didn’t see how that could possibly be helpful to anyone.”

In an effort to give Julian’s work a second chance, Hall started reading the text alongside the Penguin Classics translation.

“Adding a translation was an absolute game-changer,” she said. “It analyzed her text within the time period using lots of historical sources to explain how to get to the bottom of what she was trying to say. It changed my perspective about how significant it was that she had seen a vision of God’s all-lovingness at the time that she did.”

Hall went on to teach the translation alongside Julian’s two original texts for the next 20 years. Finally, she decided to tell Julian’s story in her own words with her latest book published in 2018, Laughing at the Devil: Seeing the World with Julian of Norwich, the inspiration behind today’s lecture. 

“Teaching her words to students at the Divinity School who are overwhelmingly Protestant, and many of them trained, as I was, to think that texts by men are more important than texts by women, changed everything for me,” she said. “It has helped me try to figure out how best to introduce seeing the world with Julian of Norwich to a general readership, how to claim that her words matter.”

Unlike Shakespeare, Julian wasn’t writing for royalty. Revolutionary for her time, she chose to speak to the masses, the reason Hall believes she fits so perfectly into Week One’s theme.

“That right there makes her a moment in history that really matters,” Hall said. “She was writing in the vernacular, she was writing in English. She was writing in the language of farmers in England, not of the chains in command. Reading her closely today can help people see the possibilities for defying the strictures of conformity, obedience and hierarchy.”

Macky Alston to explore role, responsibility of film in religious, social issues

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As senior vice president for prophetic and creative leadership at Auburn Seminary, and as an award-winning filmmaker, Macky Alston believes faith and film have a powerful connection.

But this connection, he said, has not been utilized in 21st-century filmmaking.

Macky Alston

“I’m a documentary filmmaker,” he wrote in his blog. “I have seen the power of documentary film to transform lives. I am also an organizer for justice in communities of faith. I have seen the power of communities of faith to transform lives. What I yearn to see is the full power of documentary films in communities of faith to transform lives.”

At 2 p.m. Wed., Aug. 22, in the Hall of Philosophy, Alston will discuss faith and film in his lecture, “Playing (with) God: Revelations from the Filmmaking Front about God, Good Storytelling and How to Do Right by Each Other as We Make Sense of Life.” Alston’s lecture is part of the Week Nine interfaith theme, “The Intersection of Cinema and Religious Values.”

Alston premiered his first film, “Family Name,” in 1997 at the Sundance Film Festival. The film followed Alston’s journey to uncover the history of his last name, a pursuit that led him from New York to Alabama. Along the way, Alston meets several African-American families with the same last name, all of which have a different story to tell. The film received Sundance’s Freedom of Expression Award.

Since “Family Name,” Alston has directed four more films, which have explored topics like economic inequality and LGBTQ+  issues like same-sex marriage.

“I have learned some lessons in my own work at the intersection of faith-rooted justice work and documentary filmmaking,” he wrote on his website.

Alston’s most recent film, “Love Free or Die,” tells the story of the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Chautauqua’s vice president of religion and the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church.

“The last film I directed, ‘Love Free or Die,’ told the story of the church putting its life on the line for LGBTQ justice, following Gene Robinson, the first openly gay person to be elected bishop in the high church traditions of Christendom, and the movement he was a part of that changed policy and culture in church and state in the U.S. and abroad,” Alston’s website reads.

The film was released in 2012, before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on marriage equality. Alston wrote in a blog post that before film production, he had worked on research at Auburn Seminary on how to shift the mindset Christian voters who were conflicted on the issue of same-sex marriage. He said the research focused on teaching people to support LGBTQ+ rights because they were Christian, and not in spite of it.

“During the year of our screenings, we used that research to equip those who attended the 400 screenings to engage their conflicted Christian friends and family in conversation to help them vote on the right side of history,” he wrote on his website. “We also worked with the state campaigns, in partnership with national LGBTQ justice organizations, to train leaders of faith to make the moral case for equality in public and in the press.”

Alston described this experience as enlightening and wrote that it showed him the influence — and responsibility — he has as a filmmaker to engage the public in pressing social, political and economic conflicts.

“Key to movement work, to faith traditions and to documentary film is (the)  right relationship,” he wrote. “Creating a practice and a world in which the full humanity of all is honored and the conditions needed for all to flourish exist.”

Friar Michael Calabria to discuss universal meaning in religious films

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The film “The Sultan and the Saint” tells a tale of an 800-year-old encounter between St. Francis of Assisi and the sultan of Egypt on a battlefield during the infamous crusades.

Centuries later, Michael Calabria, OFM, said this historical event is increasingly relevant.

Friar Michael Calabria

“Although it’s portraying a historical encounter 800 years ago, this film has enormous relevance and importance for conversations about interfaith relations and interreligious dialogue,” Calabria said.

At 2 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 21, in the Hall of Philosophy, Calabria will discuss the importance of this movie, his role in production and the intersection of religion and film during his lecture, “The Sultan and the Saint: A Franciscan Reflection on an Interfaith Encounter.” This lecture is part of the Week Nine interfaith theme, “The Intersection of Cinema and Religious Values.”

Calabria, founding director of the center for Arab and Islamic Studies at St. Bonaventure University, served as a consultant for “The Sultan and the Saint,” which was released in 2016. The Unity Productions Foundation film has been nominated for an Emmy Award and received 19 other accolades. “The Sultan and the Saint” will be screened at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 21, at the Chautauqua Cinema, and Calabria will participate in a talkback following the film.

Calabria said his role on set was to engage in conversation with director Alex Kronemer, an experience that gave him an inside perspective about the depth of the film. For his lecture, he said he will share his reflections with Chautauquans.

“I’m going to highlight and supplement some things about the film, so that when people see it, they have a little bit more information,” he said. “I want to really flesh out why this encounter continues to be so relevant.”

Though the film focuses on a historical religious event, Calabria said its purpose is not confined solely to religious discussion. He believes films like “The Sultan and the Saint” play a larger role in demonstrating the long and disputed struggle for tolerance, among other social issues.

“Very often, religious films are made because they are speaking to a contemporary issue or audience, even though they may be portraying a Biblical incident or a historical incident from the distant past,” he said. “So religious films can often speak to our contemporary experience of society, of politics and of various social issues, one of which is religion.”

Calabria has a personal history of interfaith work and teaches courses on Islam, the Quran, Christian-Muslim relations and Middle Eastern culture. He also serves as the special assistant for dialogue with Islam for the Order of Friars Minor.

In his role at St. Bonaventure, Calabria said his center targets four different disciplines: on-campus instruction, off-campus instruction, scholarship and community outreach. He said each of the center’s responsibilities targets a different aspect of interfaith work through Islamic studies.

On-campus and off-campus instruction includes lectures, courses and other educational opportunities, while scholarship and community outreach look toward impacting the larger community.

“Scholarship refers to the scholarship that I engage in in the field of Islamic studies, which involves presenting at conferences and things like publishing a newsletter,” Calabria said. “The community outreach refers to reaching out to the Muslim community locally, within New York state and internationally, as well.”

Filmmaker Daniel Karslake to speak on intersection of homosexuality, religion

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Daniel Karslake recalls his childhood at Chautauqua growing up down the hill from the Hall of Philosophy.

Dan Karslake

“The Hall of Philosophy was always my favorite building at Chautauqua because when I was really little I’d run up the stairs, run past the benches and run to go get bubblegum,” he said. “I later learned that was the place for interfaith dialogue at Chautauqua, and I tried to never miss those lectures. This is super deep in me, and it has been a place for conversation and looking at different ways of belief.”

Years later, Karslake will return to his favorite childhood place — this time on a different side of the podium.

At 2 p.m. Monday, Aug. 20, in the Hall of Philosophy, Karslake will discuss how filmmaking intersects with religion and social issues during his lecture, “For the Bible (& the Constitution) Tells Me So.” Karslake’s lecture is part of the Week Nine interfaith theme, “The Intersection of Cinema and Religious Values.”

Karslake’s 2007 film “For the Bible Tells Me So,” which was screened at the Sundance Film Festival, explores the intersection of religion and homosexuality. The film has been translated into more than 20 languages and has received numerous Best Documentary Audience Awards around the world.

During his lecture, Karslake said he will explore the influence the Institution had on production of his first film.

“As someone who grew up here, Chautauqua Cinema is my home theater,” he said. “The Cinema has always been a place that has had a mission of its own to have popular but very quality message films here. I was always very moved by virtually every movie I ever saw here. Everything comes back to Chautauqua.”

Karslake, who also produced a movie about hunger and poverty called “Every Three Seconds,” is also connected to Chautauqua through the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, vice president of religion. Robinson appeared in “For the Bible Tells Me So” to offer his experience as the first openly gay Episcopal bishop.

Upon the initial release of the film, Karslake said there was negative pushback from opponents who “clearly had not watched the film and didn’t understand its purpose.” More than ten years later, Karslake said the documentary continues to act as a catalyst for conversation about social change.

Unfortunately, he acknowledges that the conversation is not always positive.

“About three years ago, I started getting death threats again out of the blue,” he said. “I live in Berlin, so my husband and I weren’t tuning into what was happening in the United States at that time. The next day there was a Republican debate… and seven or eight of the candidates were saying some of the most anti-LGBTQ+ things I’d heard in years. I hadn’t heard that in public discourse in America in quite a long time.”

Despite negative pushback, Karslake said his role as a filmmaker is instrumental.

“What tends to come out of the film is much more understanding and hope for kids who are LGBTQ+  and who are growing up in religious environments,” he said. “It’s a message around the world that keeps resonating. The power of film is amazing, I’m in awe of it. It’s a huge responsibility, but I’m lucky.”

Karslake said the intersection of religion and homosexuality continues to be a contested issue, and he is currently working on a sequel film to “For the Bible Tells Me So” called “For They Know Not What They Do.”

At 4 p.m. today at the Chautauqua Cinema “For the Bible Tells Me So” will be screened.

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