I’ve been off my blogging game for the last month-or-so, so I didn’t get to announce the 2014 Schrag Lecture at Messiah College, sponsored by the Sider Institute for Anabaptist, Pietist, and Wesleyan Studies. Our lecturer this year was Dr. David R. Swartz, a historian from Asbury University and the author of the fantastic Moral Minority: The Evangelical Left in an Age of Conservatism. His talk was titled, “Anabaptists, Evangelicals and the Search for a Third Way in Postwar America.”
Those of you who know about the Schrag Lectures know that they’re named for Martin and Dorothy Schrag, former Messiah College faculty members and advocates of Anabaptism within the Brethren in Christ Church. In their honor, the Schrag Lectures typically focus on some aspect of Anabaptist history, theology, or biblical studies.
As you can probably tell from the title of this year’s lecture, Swartz’s talk focused on a topic that’s near and dear to my heart: the relationship between Anabaptists and Evangelicals. (Long-time readers will know that I wrote my master’s thesis on this topic, using the Brethren in Christ as a case study.)
It was great to finally meet David Swartz — he and I connected online while I was working on my master’s thesis, as my treatment of Brethren in Christ theologian Ronald J. Sider had some natural parallels to David’s own work. David is a great guy and a fantastic scholar, and I’m grateful for his willingness to serve the Sider Institute as our lecturer for this year.
I found David’s lecture fascinating — as did, I think, the 70+ people who crowded into Alexander Auditorium on Messiah’s campus to hear him speak. His talk was followed by a response from John Fea, professor of history and chair of the History department at Messiah, which posed some further questions for thought. David also fielded several questions from the audience afterward, and had some one-on-one conversations with folks as well.
David Swartz’s Schrag Lecture on Thursday night was very well-received by the 70+ members in attendance in Messiah College‘s Alexander Auditorium. Swartz’s lecture, “Anabaptists, Evangelicals, and the Search for a Third Way in Post-War America,” focused on some of the main themes of his book Moral Minority: The Evangelical Left in an Age of Conservatism. Swartz talked extensively about how the so-called “Evangelical Left,” represented by Ron Sider, Jim Wallis, Doris Longacre (author of the More-With-Less Cookbook), John Howard Yoder and others, struggled to navigate a middle ground between the Christian nationalism and free market principles of the Religious Right and the secularism and pro-choice stance of the Democratic Party in the 1970s.
The audience was filled with people interested in the history of Messiah College, Anabaptism, evangelicalism, and the Brethren in Christ Church. Their questions focused on the relationship between the Evangelical Left and the largely secular New Left, the role that the Internet is playing in strengthening the followers of the “third way,” and how many evangelical pastors such as Bruxy Cavey and Greg Boyd are either finding a home in Anabaptism or seriously considering moving in that direction.
It was fascinating to chat informally with some members of the audience after the lecture. So many of them had lived through the early days of the Evangelical Left. They followed Jim Wallis and the Post-American (laterSojourners) community, supported Ronald Sider’s Evangelicals for Social Action, or used the More With Less Cookbook. They had come to hear Swartz, a young historian from Asbury College, treat their 1970s evangelical world as a subject worthy of historical investigation. It was a great night. . . .
It was great to finally meet David Swartz. I am so glad that Devin Manzullo-Thomas, the director of the Sider Institute, invited him to deliver this year’s Schrag Lectures on Anabaptism. Both of them hit a home run on Thursday night and I was glad to be a part of it.
Thanks, John! (Read the full post here.)
Readers: Were any of you at the lecture? What did you think? Post your comments below!
I’d encourage everyone to pick up a copy of Swartz’s book. Moral Minority has much to say to Brethren in Christ audiences. It devotes an entire chapter to Sider and his efforts to articulate a religious faith that comfortably held both Anabaptist and Evangelical elements. Furthermore, the book helps to make sense of contemporary Brethren in Christ folks like Bruxy Cavey and Kurt Willems, who are unabashedly Anabaptist and also very popular among Evangelicals.