“Theology and Pop Culture” Series

This series will be on Theology and Pop Culture: The Gospel According to… with talks on The Matrix, Harry Potter, The Simpsons, and The Lord of the Rings.

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The Gospel according to The Matrix
March 2, 2004

Speaker: The Rev’d Patrick Gray

The MatrixWhat is The Matrix? And what does it have to do with the Gospel? The Matrix Trilogy by the Wachowski Brothers has proven to be fertile stomping ground for philosophers and theologians alike. Take the red pill, and come and see just how far the rabbit hole goes…

The Rev’d Patrick Gray is currently Curate at The Church of the Advent, Beacon Hill, Boston. He attended Gordon College in Wenham and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, and is currently a Th.D. candidate in historical and systematic theology at The General Theological Seminary in New York City. One of his recent articles appeared in the Spring 2003 issue of Anglican Theological Review entitled “Eliot the Enigma: An Observation of the Development of T. S. Eliot’s Thought and Poetry.” It is most appropriate that Fr. Gray is giving the lecture on The Matrix, because he bears an uncanny resemblance to Keanu Reeves’ sister’s husband’s best friend’s yoga instructor.

The Gospel according to Harry Potter
March 9, 2004

Speaker: Dr. David Cunningham

Harry PotterEven if you’re a Muggle, this session about Hogwarts’ star pupil is for you! J. K. Rowling’s phenomenally popular series is not just about magic, but about the all-too-human struggles faced by all who come of age, not to mention the struggle between good and evil.

Dr. David S. Cunningham is Professor of Religion and Director of the CrossRoads Project at Hope College in Holland, Michigan. He holds degrees in Communication Studies from Northwestern University, and in Theology and Religious Studies from the University of Cambridge (England) and Duke University. He has published widely in the areas of Christian theology and ethics, including two specialized books in Christian theology and two edited collections. His most recent book, Reading is Believing: The Christian Faith Through Literature and Film, makes his reflections available to a broader audience; it explores the central beliefs of Christianity through novels, plays, short stories, and films.

Dr. Cunningham was initiated into the world of Harry Potter by his now 8-year-old daughter, Emily Hittner-Cunningham. He has read the entire series of books aloud to her; and last year, while on a Humboldt Fellowship in Freiburg, Germany, he also read her the first three books in their German translation. He has seen both films more times than he cares to count, in several languages.

Dr. Cunningham is a stimulating and energetic speaker, employing an interactive style of communication that allows audiences to enter into dialogue on the topics at hand. He regularly offers lectures and workshops to a wide variety of audiences — in academia, in churches and church-related institutions, and for the wider public.

The Gospel according to The Simpsons
March 23, 2004

Speaker: Mr. Eric Hillegas

The SimpsonsWhat does America’s favorite family have to say about God? If you’ve followed The Simpsons over the years, quite alot indeed! And it’s not all Reverend Lovejoy and Ned Flanders. Come and find out why Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, calls The Simpsons “one of the most subtle pieces of propaganda around in the cause of sense, humility and virtue.”

Mr. Eric Hillegas was born in a golden state (California) and grew up in a rainy state (Oregon). He earned two undergraduate degrees from the University of Notre Dame (business & liberal arts). After college, he worked variously in politics (Washington, DC) and public accounting (Portland, OR). He followed those experiences with a two year stint in church ministry (Washington, DC) as well as a seven month stretch teaching at an orphanage (Cambodia). Eric landed on the North Shore of Massachusetts in the fall of 2001 and is currently in his third year of divinity studies at Gordon-Conwell. If you want to make Eric smile, share a glass of red wine or simply drop him Anywhere, U.S.A. with a pair of running shoes.

The Gospel according to Tolkien
March 30, 2004

Speaker: Dr. Liesl Smith

The Lord of the RingsJ. R. R. Tolkien has again captured the imagination of young and old alike due to Peter Jackson’s excellent film interpretation of The Lord of the Rings. What is it about this epic that continues to intrigue our culture, to seemingly speak to something in us that is at the core of our humanity? Why not come and find out?

After completing a doctorate in Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto, Liesl Smith moved to Boston to add to the body count of unemployed academics in the area. She has taught at both Northeastern and Suffolk Universities. Whether it is her academic specialization in Anglo-Saxon, her love of Tolkien’s work (both academic and creative), her own mixture of creative and critical writing, or the fact that she uses funny words like “hagiography” on a regular basis that led Father Gray to ask her to speak on J. R. R. Tolkien she does not honestly know.

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