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Thompson Lecture 2017: Examining Religious Consciousness

Students and faculty alike gathered in Kalamazoo College Dalton Theater on Thursday for the annual Thompson Lecture. The event, hosted by the Department of Religion, opened with a screening of the PBS documentary “An American Conscience: The Reinhold Niebuhr Story”. Following the film was a discussion with theological experts Dr. Jeremy Sabella, author of the companion book to the film, and Dr. Gary Dorrien, Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Social Ethics at Union Theological Seminary and Professor of Religion at Columbia University.

The film—directed, written, and narrated by Martin Doblmeier—examines Reinhold Neibuhr’s life and theology, specifically in relation to its impact on political leaders in the United States. The documentary examines the minister’s life progression: his childhood, family life, and theological education. He began gaining prominence as a political thinker when he was invited to teach at Union Theological Seminary, where Dorrien currently teaches, despite never having received a PhD—a controversial issue within the institution.

The film was followed by a Q&A panel with Sabella and Dorian, in which they responded to audience questions and discussed among themselves the relevance of Reinhold Neibuhr’s theology in today’s increasingly politically polarized society.

“The film was eye-opening and offered me a new perspective on the way that theology impacts politics in America, which I had never considered before,” audience member Ailih Weeldreyer ‘19 commented.

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Thompson Lecture 2017: Examining Religious Consciousness