Lutheran Heritage Lecture examines Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s theological confrontation with white supremacy March 16, 2017

On April 3, Dr. Reggie Williams, associate professor of Christian Ethics at McCormick Theological Seminary, will deliver the 2017 Lutheran Heritage Lecture, “Becoming Human: Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Theological Confrontation with White Supremacy.” The free public lecture begins at noon in the East Conference Room at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, 1100 East 55th St., Chicago. A soup lunch will be served. The Lutheran Heritage Lecture provides a contemporary perspective on the Lutheran tradition.

Experience in Harlem prepares Bonhoeffer to confront racism in Germany
Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor, theologian, and political activist in Germany during one of the world's most infamous political regimes. The context of his ministry included interaction with nostalgia for national greatness in post-WWI Germany. During that time, German Nazism was in its nascent stages when most non-Jewish Germans did not see it as dangerous.

The year that Bonhoeffer spent in Harlem in New York City changed the way he confronted the rise of Nazism in his native Germany. After his time as a student in the U.S., attending a black Baptist church, and studying the writers of the Harlem Renaissance, Bonhoeffer saw racism as a Christian problem. Upon his return to Germany, Bonhoeffer recognized that white racist Christians in Germany turned Jesus into a representation of ideal humanity, which is historically catastrophic, distorting humanity in all aspects of human social interaction. Rather than the idealized humanity of white supremacy, Bonhoeffer advocated that we see ourselves and others in the concrete reality, enabling us to love and live in real community, with real human beings.

About Reggie Wiliams
Dr. Reggie Williams joined the McCormick Theological Seminary faculty in July 2012. He has taught ethics at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and Practical Theology at Azusa Pacific University in Azusa, California. His research interests are primarily focused on Christological hermeneutics, and Christian morality. He has a particular interest in how the Western-world understanding of Christian has been calibrated to a false ideal that corresponds with racialized interpretations of humanity, morality, and Jesus. His current projects include an analysis of the developments within Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s theology and ethics, as a result of his experience in the Harlem Renaissance, 1930-31.

Williams received his PhD in Christian ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary. His dissertation was entitled: “Christ-Centered Empathic Resistance: The Influence of Harlem Renaissance Theology on the Incarnational Ethic of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.”

Download the event poster here.


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The Lutheran School of Theology (LSTC) is dedicated to bearing witness to the good news of Jesus Christ. Based in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, it is the leading urban Lutheran seminary training students for purposeful vocations in the global community. Aligned with its Lutheran heritage and built on a foundation of intellectual rigor, LSTC’s innovative, nationally recognized curriculum gives students skills for visionary Christian leadership in the public sphere.

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