Theologian Dr. Sarah Coakley, who is retired from the Cambridge University faculty and currently holds appointments with St Andrews University and Australian Catholic University, will present the address “Sin, Racism and Perception: Is There a Cure for Spiritual Blindness in a Racist Environment?” as the 2021-22 Danforth Lecture at Hope College on Tuesday, Oct. 5, at 7 p.m. via Zoom.
Through the lecture, Coakley will consider contemporary American racism, which she argues is a perceptual problem. Starting from some of the disturbing examples of police violence in the U.S. in recent years, she asks what is at stake, and whether it is possible to do justice to the deeper issues without recourse to the theological category of sin, a category which she explains also brings the distortion of the sensual/perceptual realm in its wake. Drawing on the work of the 16th century John of the Cross, she then outlines a narrative of how the healing of the sensual and spiritual realms might be effected, and what this would mean as a reconciliatory project in the church and politics.
Coakley has retired from the Norris-Hulse Professorship at Cambridge University, in which role she served from 2007 to 2018. From 2018 she has been an Honorary Professor at the Logos Institute, St Andrews University, and from 2019 a Visiting Professorial Fellow at the Australian Catholic University (Melbourne and Rome). She is an Honorary Fellow of Oriel College, Oxford, an Emeritus Fellow of Murray Edwards College, Cambridge, a Fellow of the British Academy, and a member of the European Academy of Arts and Sciences. She holds honorary degrees from the Universities of Lund, St Andrews, Toronto (St Michael’s College), and London (Heythrop College).
Born in London, she was educated at Cambridge (BA/MA, PhD) and Harvard (Th.M.) universities. She held earlier academic positions at Lancaster University (1976-1991), Oriel College, Oxford (1991-93), Harvard Divinity School (1993-2007; Mallinckrodt Professor, 1995-2007), and a visiting Professorship at Princeton University (2003-4). She gave the Gifford Lectures at the University of Aberdeen in 2012.
Coakley is currently actively engaged in writing the remaining volumes of her systematic theology, and in editing her recent papers in philosophy of religion.
The Danforth Lecture is sponsored by the Hope College Department of Religion with support from an endowment established by the Danforth Foundation of St. Louis, Missouri. The program was established by the foundation “to deepen and enlarge the religious dimension of the campus family through speakers who can reflect on the broad, interdenominational and yet positive sense of the Judeo-Christian perspectives of life and existence.”
Some of the many distinguished scholars who have visited the campus through the program in the past include Dr. Lewis B. Smedes of Fuller Theological Seminary; Dr. Martin E. Marty of the University of Chicago Divinity School; Dr. Nicholas Wolterstorff of Yale Divinity School; Dr. Diana Eck of Harvard University; Dr. James VanderKam of the University of Notre Dame; Dr. Oliver O’Donovan of the University of Edinburgh; Dr. John Stratton Hawley of Barnard College; Dr. Timothy George of Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School; Dr. Ellen F. Davis of the Divinity School at Duke University; and Dr. Dale C. Allison Jr. of Princeton Theological Seminary.
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