Dr. Phillip Jenkins, photo courtesy of Christianity Today

Hartwick NEH Visiting Speakers Series Continues With Jenkins

January 11, 2016

Dr. Philip Jenkins will present a lecture titled “The Great and Holy War: WWI, Religion, and Violence in the Modern World,” the next installment of the 2015-2016 National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Visiting Speakers Series at Hartwick College. The presentation will be held at 7 p.m. on Thursday, January 21 in the Celebration Room, Shineman Chapel House, on the College campus.

The theme of this year’s NEH Visiting Speakers Series is “War and Social Change: Reflections on the Centennial of the First World War.”

Only 100 years ago, Europeans and Americans were deeply involved in what both sides saw quite sincerely as a Holy War, and we can only appreciate that conflict if we acknowledge those passionately felt religious dimensions. The disappointed hopes and moral compromises that followed the war also shaped the political climate of the rest of the century, giving rise to such phenomena as Nazism, totalitarianism, and communism. Religion shaped the Great War, and in turn, the Great War created the religious world we know today.

“Religious and mystical imagery was a dominant theme in the rhetoric and propaganda of the First World War era,” said Jenkins. “Thanks to the emergence of modern media, a steady stream of patriotic and militaristic rhetoric was given to an unprecedented audience, using language that spoke of holy war and crusade, of apocalypse and Armageddon, of angels and visions. Later generations tend to dismiss this as empty propaganda used by cynical ruling elites in order to mobilize their subjects to fight in a bloody and futile war, but closer examination suggests a quite different picture. Not only is there wide evidence that ordinary people did accept the spiritual interpretations they were offered, but they went much further than their superiors in deploying mystical and apocalyptic approaches.”

Jenkins is a Distinguished Professor of History, and co-Director for the Program on Historical Studies of Religion, Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University. He is also Emeritus Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Humanities at Pennsylvania State University. He earned his Ph.D. in history from Cambridge University in 1978.

Jenkins is a contributing editor for The American Conservative, and writes a monthly column for The Christian Century. He has also written articles for Christianity Today, First Things, and The Atlantic.

Future events in the monthly series will include (schedule subject to change):

  • March 10, 2016 – Dr. Regina Sweeney, associate professor of History, Dickinson College
    “The Value of a Good Pair of Ears: The Meaning of Sounds and Singing for Combatants on the Western Front”
  • April 14, 2016 – Dr. Barbara McCloskey, professor and chair, Department of History of Art and Architecture, University of Pittsburgh
    “Teach Your Children Well: George Grosz, Art, and the Militarization of Childhood between the World Wars”

For more information on the NEH Visiting Speakers Series, contact Department Chair/Professor of History Dr. Cherilyn Lacy at (607) 431-4885 or lacyc@hartwick.edu.