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Just Citizenship

A Weekly Forum Seeking Renewal in Society and Politics, Spring 2017

This series has been organized by the Dean for Research and Scholarship under the Provost's Faith and Citizenship Initiative.

What does it mean for Christians to think deeply and act justly in this time of political uncertainty? How will the Church maintain its gospel witness if truth itself has given way to fake news and false political promises? How can religious citizens – in the US and elsewhere – promote actions that will bring renewal into people’s lives across the globe? If we want to answer these questions, we will have to transcend the divisions that separate political parties. We will have to find common cause in our calling to be image bearers of God and peacemakers amidst all strife. To paraphrase 1st Thessalonians, we will have to “test everything, hold onto what is good, and resist every form of evil.”

The issues of our day are complex, numerous, and rapidly evolving. No one person can stay fully informed about them all. And yet, as Christians who seek the flourishing of all people, we bear responsibility for paying attention to political realities at home and abroad. Social systems and policies may bring benefits only to some while neglecting the wellbeing of others. We must remain watchful. In order to keep an eye on all of the issues, we will have to rely on each other. We will have to talk to each other, to seek and share expert knowledge on various issues, and to think and deliberate and pray together about the possible courses of action that we might take within our churches and communities.

Such are the aims of Just Citizenship, a weekly series of events to be held at Calvin College during the Spring semester of 2017. Each Monday (see the schedule below), Calvin faculty and special guests will speak on a theme or issue of particular relevance for today’s world. While Calvin students, staff, and faculty will be one primary audience, guests from nearby churches, schools, and the wider community are welcome to attend; these events are free and open to all. Audiences can expect to come away from these events with the following:

  1. An appreciation for respectful dialogue. Faculty panelists, guest speakers, and audience members will be asked to approach all issues with grace and to engage with due charity when challenged by opposing ideas.
  2. An understanding of each issue in its context. Speakers will describe the issues, suggest ways of making sense of them in their historical context, and offer advice on what to expect in the future.
  3. Ideas for how to get involved. To the extent possible, speakers will give guidance on how people take constructive action and to make a positive difference in today’s society.
  4. Tools for discernment. These events will equip audience members with specific skills that will help them engage with future issues. Examples: principles for identifying fake news; steps to finding more information and what to watch out for; instructions on how to contact government offices and legislators; training for “in the moment” activism, especially anti-racism.

Join us each Monday at 3:30 in the Chapel for a time of learning and thoughtful discussion. Video recordings of these events will also be available online shortly after each event. Links to those videos will be posted here as they become available.


Event Schedule

All events will be held Mondays at 3:30 in the Chapel. Find out more about each event and the featured speaker(s) by clicking on its title.


February 6, 2017

“Public Professions: How Should We Then Speak?”
Kick-off Address by Matt Walhout (Dean for Research & Scholarship)

This is a time of political uncertainty, discord, and violence. It is a time that calls for patience, courage, and careful deliberation in the pursuit of justice and peace. The mission of Calvin College is to equip people to be Christ’s agents of renewal. How will we equip each other for the long haul? This kick-off address will provide a framework for the Just Citizenship series.

Watch the video:


February 13, 2017

“What Were We Thinking? Political Identity and Today’s American Electorate”
Panel discussion: Kevin den Dulk (Henry Institute, Political Science), Kristin Du Mez (History), Elisha Marr (Sociology & Social Work), and Mark Mulder (Sociology & Social Work). Moderated by Will Katerberg (History/Associate Dean for Programs & Partnerships)

The election of Donald Trump in 2016 took many experts by surprise. What made it possible?  What have we learned about the two-party system? About campaigns and the election process? About American values? How can citizens make constructive contributions in this time of transition?

Watch the video:


February 20, 2017

“Nationalism, Democracy, and Religion: Checking the Blind Spots”
Panel discussion: Christina Edmondson (Dean, Intercultural Student Development), Tracy Kuperus (International Development Studies), Bob Schoone-Jongen (History), and Micah Watson (Political Science). Moderated by Will Katerberg (History/Associate Dean for Programs & Partnerships)

The global rise of conservative governments is often attributed to a resurgence of nationalist ideologies. But what is nationalism? Does it have a natural connection with religion? What are some historical examples? What “lessons of nationalism” have been learned in the US and other countries?

Watch the video:


February 27, 2017

“Scramble for Syria: What’s Next in the Middle East?”
Panel discussion: Bert de Vries (History), Doug Howard (History), and Becca McBride (Political Science). Moderated by Bruce Berglund (History)

Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in the ongoing civil war in Syria. Millions have fled their homes, nearly half of them departing for other countries as refugees. Why does the war continue? What are the interests of Iran, Iraq, Israel, Palestine, Russia, and Turkey? Is there real hope for a lasting peace?

Watch the video:


March 6, 2017

“Has Reason Been Eclipsed? Getting Past Fake News, Echo Chambers, and Propaganda”
Panel discussion: Randy Bytwerk (Communication Arts & Sciences), Garth Pauley (Comunication Arts & Sciences), Blake Riek (Psychology), and Kate van Liere (History). Moderated by Will Katerberg (History/Associate Dean for Programs & Partnerships)

A free press is one of the indispensable foundations of a democratic society. But many purveyors of news and opinion use that freedom irresponsibly. The proliferation of electronic media in recent years has created a bewildering cacophony of conflicting “news sources” and rancorous debates about what constitutes truth in journalism. How can we distinguish “real news” from “fake news” and truth from falsehood? Why is distorted reporting so prevalent and so popular? What hope is there for journalistic objectivity in this polarized climate?  

Watch the video:


March 13, 2017

"Finding the Essence of Christianity in America"
Special Religion Department lecture by Willie James Jennings (Yale Divinity School), author of The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race

Christianity in America has been deeply infected with racial logics and racial reasoning. Dr. Jennings will consider the work that Christian communities must do to perform a faith that matters at this turbulent moment. Willie James Jennings (Yale Divinity School) is a systematic theologian teaching in the areas of theology, black church, and Africana studies, as well as post-colonial and race theory. He is also an ordained Baptist minister. His book The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race (Yale, 2010) won a number of prestigious awards, including the 2015 Grawemeyer Award in Religion, the largest prize for a theological work in North America. Englewood Review of Books called the book a “theological masterpiece.”

This special event is sponsored by the Religion Department, and co-sponsored by the Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity and Politics and the Calvin Alumni Association.

Video from this event will not be publicly available.


March 27, 2017

"Elected to Serve: What Does a Faithful Public Servant Look Like?"
Panel discussion: Ken Bergwerff (Geology, Geography & Environmental Studies/Jamestown Township Supervisor), Emily Post Brieve (Kent County Commissioner), Winnie Brinks (State Representative, Michigan House of Representatives), and Wendy VerHage Falb (Grand Rapids Public Schools Board Member). Moderated by Douglas Koopman (Political Science/Former Congressional Aide)

A panel of political experts and elected officials reflects on what it takes to get things done in government. What are the biggest challenges faced by office holders? What kinds of skills are required for the job? What are the compelling issues that need attention?

Watch the video:


April 3, 2017

"Our Civil Actions: How Do We Move from Awareness to Activism?"
Panel discussion: Julio Cano Villalobos (Spectrum Health), Paul Haan (Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan), Kelsey Perdue (Grand Circus), Chris Smit (Communication Arts & Sciences), and Kevin Timpe (Philosophy). Moderated by Gail Gunst Heffner (Director of Community Engagement)

When it comes to the major social issues of our day, most people care, but few people act. What does action look like? When does caring require more of you than a vote or a monetary donation? What are some effective ways of advocating for particular causes? This panel will feature several voices of experience.

Watch the video:


April 10, 2017

"Welcoming the Refugee: How Can We Help a Stranger in Need?"
Panel discussion: Dana Doll (Community development worker), Kate Kooyman (Immigration organizer, CRCNA), Shadia Mbabazi (Refugee community worker), and Liz Balck Monsma (Immigration attorney)

A panel of local experts will report on the current situation and point out opportunities for those who want to get involved.

Listen to the audio recording
(Video is not available for this event. After small group discussion begins at 45:45, fast forward to 49:00 to begin Q&A.)


April 24, 2017

"Health Care Policy: Can We Strengthen Communities and Build a Culture of Health?"
Panel discussion: Kristen Alford (Sociology & Social Work), Mikael Pelz (Political Science), Scott VanderLinde (Economics) and Gail Zandee (Nursing)

The US health care system remains under scrutiny. What have been the contributions and failures of the Affordable Care Act? How has the ACA affected local communities? What changes are being proposed, and why? What effects will they have?

Watch the video:


May 1, 2017

"Climate Change and Human Rights: Making the Connection through an Equity and Social Justice Lens"
Special lecture by Dr. Robert D. Bullard, the Father of Environmental Justice

Climate change is the defining global environmental justice, human rights and public health issue of the twenty-first century. The most vulnerable populations will suffer the earliest and most damaging setbacks because of where they live, their limited income and economic means, and their lack of access to health care. Climate Justice means empowering vulnerable populations, identifying climate “hot-spot” zones and designing fair, just and effective adaptation, mitigation, and emergency management and community resilience strategies. 

Watch the video:


The Just Citizenship series has been approved for State Continuing Education Clock Hours (SCECH) credit in the state of Michigan.

For every forum you attend, you can earn one clock hour of SCECH credit for certificate renewal. You must attend a minimum of 3, but may earn up to 10 clock hours if you attend all of the sessions through the end of April. To receive credit, you must fill out an application form, and be sure to sign in and out of each session with a SCECH monitor. For details, and to turn in your application form, please contact Cindi Hoekstra.

Call for Proposals: Forum on Music and Christian Scholarship

The Forum on Music and Christian Scholarship seeks proposals for its upcoming annual meeting, which will take place at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan, from February 16-18, 2012.

View the 2011 Summer Seminars Photos

The 2011 Summer Seminars are completed. Information for the 2012 Summer Seminars will be posted in the fall of 2011.

2011 Summer Public Lectures

Missed a summer public lecture? Listen to the audio recordings here.