This morning I got a chance to do something new. I gave a talk about history, the humanities, and civility to the staff of the Messiah College Office of Development. It was entitled “Beyond Glenn Beck: The Public Responsibility of the Christian Historian.”
I was invited to speak to this group at their annual retreat to discuss my recent run-in with Glenn Beck and talk about my vocation as a historian. Since the folks on the fundraising side of the college had to deal with a lot of angry phone calls in the wake of the Beck incident, Jon Stuckey, the Director of Development, wanted his staff to put a name to a face and hear some of my thoughts on the relationship between humanistic learning and civil discourse in a democratic society.
First of all, the fundraising and alumni relations staff at Messiah College are a great group of people. I had a lot of fun being with them today. During their informal breakfast together they watched a tape of a recent Messiah alum competing for cash and valuable prizes on The Price is Right!
Second, I definitely saw the value in doing this kind of thing. During the Q&A I got to learn a little bit about the challenges that the Office of Development faces in raising funds for the college. And I hope that they realized that professors who write controversial articles, op-eds, and blog posts are real human beings who can be passionate about the mission of Messiah College.
I think faculty at smaller colleges need to do these kinds of things more often. It turns out that I had a lot in common with our fundraising staff. I even learned about another book by Henri Nouwen, one of my favorite spiritual writers.