Installation Week | 3 questions with featured guest lecturer Dr. Wayne Flynt

The featured guest lecturer of Installation Week is a longtime friend of Harper Lee — and of Dr. J. Bradley Creed.

Dr. Wayne Flynt — one of the world’s most recognized and honored scholars of Southern history, politics and religion — will be the featured speaker at two events during Installation Week:

  • Lecture with Dr. Wayne Flynt | Monday, April 4, 7 p.m.: “What Harper Lee and Southern Small Towns Can Teach the World about Theology, History, Literature, Race, and Community.”
  • President’s Forum |Tuesday, April 5, 7 p.m.: A Public Conversation between Dr. J. Bradley Creed and Dr. Wayne Flynt

Both events will be held in Butler Chapel and are open to the campus community and public.

Flynt, professor emeritus of history at Auburn University, was a longtime friend of “To Kill a Mockingbird” author Harper Lee and gave the eulogy at her memorial service Feb. 22, 2016. He’s a notable writer in his own right, too. He was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for “Poor But Proud: Alabama’s Poor Whites.” He’s also the author of the memoir “Keeping the Faith: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives,” where he writes about his experiences with the Civil Rights Movement.

Flynt spoke to about his planned lectures at Campbell, how he knows Campbell University President J. Bradley Creed, and what it means for him to serve as the featured guest speaker during Campbell’s Installation Week.

3 Questions with Dr. Wayne Flynt

Why did you choose the topic “What Harper Lee and Southern Small Towns Can Teach the World About Theology, History, Literature, Race, and Community” for your talks at Campbell?

Because I believe that literature (whether the Bible, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” or “Go Set a Watchman”) provides the richest and most meaningful texts for moral reflection.

My discussion at Campbell University is designed to accomplish several tasks: help move students out of comfortable cubbyholes of meaning and knowledge (law, medicine, business, religion and ethics, literature, storytelling, sociology, history, political science) into a seamless way of thinking about the world.

I also have a handout I will use entitled simply “Home,” followed by an entire page of questions about what “Home” means to us. People? Parents? Generations? A house? A town? A way of thinking?

What happens when we move from the innocence of belief in what “home” means and teaches to the discovery of a flawed, contradictory, even evil “home”?

Obviously, one theme of both “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Go Set a Watchman” is race and reconciliation. Another is tolerance for people unlike ourselves. Yet another is what happens when generations collide and suddenly realize they don’t understand each other at all. All of these themes are pretty much universal in one way or another, and we all confront them.

What do you hope people get out of the lecture and forum at Campbell?

The body of knowledge I would like to see people take away is respect for people different from ourselves. The understanding that when children grow up they come to realize that life is more complicated than they imagined and much more morally compromised.

Usually, these passages of our lives are accompanied by disillusion with older people and the compromises they make with the reality of their lives. Young people (and older people as well) can be judgmental and self-righteous. They sometimes suppress these emotions and thoughts, but at other times confront older people whom they come to see as hypocrites.

Hopefully, these confrontations (as in “Go Set a Watchman”) can lead to forgiveness, acceptance and reconciliation. All this is particularly applicable to race relations in the South, a topic of great significance right now with what happened in Charleston, S.C., and with the presidential election.

How do you know Dr. Creed, and why was it important for you to be part of his Installation Week?

I know Brad Creed from his years as an excellent and respected provost at Samford University, where I graduated and now serve on the Board of Overseers. I also know him as a Baptist historian and an active member of the Alabama Historical Association.

And I know him as a personal friend. I consider the opportunity to present these lectures on this occasion to be one of the highlights of my career as a scholar, writer, and lecturer.

On Social Media: Installation Week 2016 So Far
[View the story “#CongratsDrCreed | Celebrating Dr. Creed’s Installation” on Storify]