Matthew Simpson Lecture takes on hybrid form as in-person events resume

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Submitted to the Simpsonian

by Chase Thurston, Staff Reporter

Dr. Jennifer Harvey spoke at the 40th annual Matthew Simpson Lecture on Wednesday afternoon as in-person events resumed on campus. 

The lecture, which took place in Hubbell Hall, allowed a limited number of in-person attendees, as well as a Zoom webinar, which was open to the entire campus. 

Harvey is a professor of religion at Drake University and is the award-winning author of “Raising White Kids: Bringing up Children in a Racially Unjust America.”

The title of Harvey’s lecture was “Unholy Silences: Coming to Speech and Becoming ‘Undone’ in White U.S.-American Christianity.” Throughout the hour-long lecture, Harvey spoke about her personal experiences growing up in a community of white evangelical Christianity.

 “For us, white evangelicalism wasn’t just a belief or morality system; it was our deepest formation,” Harvey said. 

Harvey spoke on how she first noticed contradictions in the white evangelical belief system when she was at Westmont College in California. 

“The further I got in, the more cracks I started to notice,” Harvey said. “I would sit there, in a class of mostly men, and then suddenly the debate would turn to questions of whether or not women could be leaders in church. The absurdity of this moral positioning became almost intolerable to me.” 

Later in the lecture, Harvey addressed the many flaws and injustices of white evangelicalism, as well as its decline. 

 “I want to suggest that the role of white American Christianity in the civic crisis that has unfolded in our nation over the last five years represents a kind of undoing of the white church,” she said.  “And that the future of that very same church, with all the diversity contained in that term, the future of that same church is bound up in a willingness to face this. And in so facing it, to be open to being completely redone.” 

The lecture was hosted by Maeve Callan and the Simpson College women’s and gender studies program. 

The Matthew Simpson Lecture was founded in 1980 by the department of religion and philosophy. The Matthew Simpson Lecture precedes the upcoming Culver Lecture, which will be held virtually on Oct. 14.