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Hundreds expected to attend forum on Christianity, race

Emory+University+associate+professor+Andra+Gillespie+will+give+a+lecture+on+religion+and+race+at+the+Veritas+Forum.
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Emory University associate professor Andra Gillespie will give a lecture on religion and race at the Veritas Forum.

For the first time, Texas A&M’s annual Veritas Forum will focus on social justice issues with a lecture from Emory University associate professor Andra Gillespie as she delves into the place where religion and race collide.
The Veritas Forum is an international network of universities which began at Harvard University in 1992. The forum promotes intellectual thinking by creating a conversation between historic Christian doctrine and other religious belief systems. Texas A&M began participating in the forum with lectures primarily focused on scientific evidence for Christianity, but will shift its focus to societal challenges during this year’s lecture titled, “Christianity & Racial Justice: Does God Care? Do We Care.”
Gillespie’s research on racial and ethnic politics in the United States along with her past experience of working with the Veritas Forum will be displayed at Thursday’s lecture, which will focus primarily on what Christians’ positions are on topics regarding race and faith.
“We are talking about this idea of racial reconciliation and whether or not Christians have anything to say about that,” Gillespie said. “Historically Christians have been on both sides of issues related to race. If you look at the civil rights movement there were people who would have called themselves Christians who were segregationists and then there were Christians who were on the other side actively working to dismantle Jim Crow.”
Micah Green, associate professor of Chemical Engineering and president of the Texas A&M Christian Faculty Network, said the networkpartnered with Ratio Christi to choose the speaker, topic and date of the event. According to Green, they have high hopes for both the organization and Thursday’s forum.
“One of the biggest goals we have is to provoke meaningful, thoughtful dialogue,” Green. “The Christian Faculty Network is committed to prompting faculty and students to think through life’s big questions. The goal is not just to bring in a big name speaker to talk about an interesting topic. The goal is to start a conversation that will extend far beyond one night.”
Green said the recent issues pertaining to race at Texas A&M’s campus has made this forum especially relevant.
“It is an interesting coincidence because we chose this topic and this speaker in July long before all the events of last semester with Richard Spencer and the protest, so I think this is a very timely topic,” Green said. “Our goal is that students can look at the problem of racism and realize that it’s not just a societal problem, it’s a problem of the human heart and it’s a problem we would call sin. If we want to address that problem of racism in our society we have to get to those heart issues.”
According to Green, Christianity is an effective way of cutting into the issue of racism.
“People may base their identity on race, or base their identity on nationality. One of the things that Christianity does is it says all those things that you may use as a basis for identity don’t make any sense, because ultimately Jesus is the basis for our identity,” Green said. “So I feel like Christianity undercuts nationalism, it undercuts racism because it says those things are not ultimate.”
Zachary Lawson, biomedical engineering senior and president of Ratio Christi A&M, a student run Christian organization sponsoring this year’s Veritas Forum, said Ratio Christi and the Veritas Forum share similar goals.
“The main takeaway that we are trying to put across through the Veritas Forum and through everything that Ratio Christi does is that Christianity is true, Christianity is relevant,” Lawson said. “If you’re a Christian and you think your faith is just a thing you do on Sunday and it’s not relevant in the public arena we would like to challenge that. We have a very rich tradition of Christian thought that’s gone back thousands of years and it’s sort of incumbent on you to take that seriously and engage with the problems around you in your society.”
Gillespie said her aim in both her research and this forum is to provide people with applicable knowledge to work toward real change in the world around them.
“I definitely come at the topic as a Christian and I come as a person of color,” Gillespie said. “And I think one of the goals of scholarship is to create knowledge that is useful to people. I think in this day and age there needs to be more people making their scholarship useful and applicable to real life because these are real life problems that just aren’t going away in American society, so we need to think about how to address them.”
According to Green, last year’s forum packed the room with more than 700 hundred in attendance and he expects Thursday to produce a similar turnout. Gillespie’s lecture will be held at 7 p.m. Feb. 2 in Rudder Theatre.

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