On Friday September 7, the Honors College had the privilege of having Rev. Dr. Charles Howard speak at Honors Forum. where he delivered a lecture titled “Loving our Neighbors in an Interfaith Cosmopolitan World.” Rev. Dr. Howard is the University Chaplain at University of Pennsylvania, and his writing has been featured in such publications as Black Arts Quarterly, Black Theology: An International Journal, Sojourners Magazine, Christianity Today’s Leadership Journal, Chronicle of Higher Education, The Huffington Post, and Slate. He is also the editor of The Souls of Poor Folk, The Awe and The Awful, Black Theology as Mass Movement, and Pond River Ocean Rain. His wife, Dr. Lia Howard, is the beloved Executive Director of the Philadelphia Commons Institute, an organization associated with the Templeton Honors College. Jesse Whiteman (’19), wrote the reflection below on how Rev. Dr. Howard’s work and lecture ties into Jesse’s own experience in the Honors College.
While sitting in a Templeton class pondering the works of great Western thinkers, a student can easily be lulled into a sense of security and comfort among the spires of the ivory towers. Certainly there is nothing wrong with the contemplative nature of what we do in Templeton; I have seen my friends’ lives and my own life transformed by the thinking we do together. However, sometimes we spend so much time reading, discussing, and writing that we forget the people who walk outside our immediate circle.
This is why Rev. Dr. Charles Howard’s Honors Forum presentation on “Loving our Neighbors in an Interfaith Cosmopolitan World” was such a welcome topic to me and many current Templeton students. Dr. Howard shared his experience and learning working as the University Chaplain for a diverse student population at the University of Pennsylvania. He captivated his audience with stories of interfaith dialogue, respect, and deep friendship. He dwelt on the importance of relationship-building as the basis for Christian love and explored the perceived tension between love and evangelism. Although expert on the topic, he displayed great humility by admitting he does not always know how best to show love in complex interfaith situations, and I was personally challenged by his prayerful submission before the Lord when faced with such situations.
In short, Dr. Howard brought to life deep questions many Templeton students have asked themselves by rooting the conversation not on ideals but on relationships. He reminded us that it is impossible to love your neighbors if you do not even know who they are, and he challenged us all to get off campus, get into the city, and interact with people who do not look like, talk like, think like, or believe like we do. It is through these relationships and understanding of the lives of those outside of our community that our faith can truly grow, and our readings, discussions, and conversations can reach new heights.
Jesse Whiteman (’19) is a Templeton Scholar studying Economic Development. Jesse is passionate about building strong communities, whether it be by serving as a Resident Assistant and a member of the Student Government at Eastern University or by encouraging his church to be an active participant in local community development efforts and social change.