By Meagen Rocio
Literary poet and playwright Robert Browning focused on religion and secularization during his lifetime.
These topics will be addressed at a symposium in the Armstrong Browning Library featuring three events to honor Browning’s 200th birthday.
The symposium is called “The Cross and the Book: Sacred and Secular in the Age of Browning” and will address the religion and secularization in a discussion panel and two lectures.
“It’s his 200th birthday, and we’ll look at the live issues that he raised and looked at, such as faith, science, education, and those are issues that are a great concern to Baylor and his [Browning’s] mission,” said Dr. Philip Jenkins, distinguished professor of history.
Jenkins said the discussion panel will begin at 10:30 a.m. Thursday in the Cox Lecture Hall of the Armstrong Browning Library. The panel will consist of three scholars.
“There’s going to be a discussion in the morning about faith and higher education because it was a big issue for Browning,” Jenkins said.
The three panel participants will be Dr. Stephen G. Alter from Gordon College, Dr. Susan Hanssen from the University of Dallas and Andrea Turpin, assistant professor of history at Baylor.
Turpin said the panel will discuss the secularization of education and the role of religion in higher education during the 19th century.
“Baylor University is concerned about the change in higher education,” she said. “American higher education went from being more evangelical Christianity to more heavily liberal Protestant in its orientation. It’s still in the Christian tradition, but it’s a different theological belief and a different level. Religion went from being part of the extracurricular to being optional. Role of religion was changing, but it was still prominent.”
Turpin also said the panel will focus on different universities to examine how the role of religion in higher education has changed over time.
“We’ll look at different universities, at Harvard, University of Chicago and then two women’s colleges, Wellesley and Bryn Mawr,” she said. “We’ll also look at the different types of religions and their role at the time.”
After the panel, Jenkins and Dr. Timothy Larson, professor at Wheaton College, will give separate lectures in the meditation room in the Armstrong Browning Library.
Jenkins’ lecture will begin at 2 p.m. and Larson will lecture at 3:45 p.m.
Jenkins said his lecture will focus on a poem by Browning titled “A Death in the Desert.”
“The poem is about the death of John the Apostle and looking at the authority of the New Testament,” he said. “That’s what I’m focusing on.”
Jenkins said the title of Larsen’s discussion is “The Victorian Crisis of Doubt” and he’ll speak about the issues of doubt and faith in the 19th century.
Turpin said she hopes the symposium attendees will learn about the role religion played in the country in the past and now.
“I hope the people interested in history will see how we got to the place we are in United States with the assumptions about the roles of religion in a college education, and that it will help audience members to think about what role religion should and should not have in college education,” she said.