Faith Time: Alabama Literary and Religious History

Mobile, AL (WKRG)

Betty Stone with Dauphin Way UMC joins us to talk about the lecture series.  Here’s a look at our conversation:

Chad: Coming up is Dauphin way UMC’s annual Dill Lecture series–this year’s guest is Dr. Wayne Flynt–first who is Dr. Flynt?

Guest: Dr. Wayne Flynt is a renowned scholar and author of 14 books focusing on Southern culture and religion, Alabama history and politics, education reform and poverty. Dr. Flynt is a Professor Emeritus in the History Department of Auburn University, and he also is the Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of the online Encyclopedia of Alabama. Harper Lee considered him to be a “living authority on all things Alabama.”

Chad: When are the speaking events?

Guest: Dr. Flynt will deliver the sermon entitled “Who’s the Greatest” on Sunday morning, Sept. 24, in the sanctuary at 10:30. That evening at 5:30 he will speak in our Moore Hall about “The Faith Community and Social Justice.” Then, Monday morning, after coffee and registration at 8:30, we will have two talks in McGowin Hall… “Harper Lee and the Atticus Finch of To Kill a Mockingbird” and following a break and book signing, he will address “Harper Lee and the Atticus Finch of Go Set a Watchman.”

Chad: What will he talk about?

Guest: As a noted authority on the history of Alabama and as a widely read educator and citizen, Dr. Flynt will focus on the historical and literary legacy of Alabama. Because of his close friendship with Harper Lee, he has a special understanding and appreciation for her and her work.

Chad: What are some of the hallmarks of Alabama’s religious and literary legacy?

Guest: Dr. Flynt has noted that throughout the 20th century, Alabama has been blessed to have progressive leadership within the Church. Even here in Mobile, community church leaders and pastors have helped de-escalate potential conflicts and crises. Lessons of love, forgiveness, and compassion are also found in the literature. Harper Lee, Pulitzer Prize winner, authored TKAM, one of the most widely assigned works of fiction in recent history, according to a survey of English teachers. In 1991 American librarians voted the book the best novel of the 20th Century. The novel is also the most popular selection for citywide literature programs which ask residents to read a common novel during a year, according to the Library of Congress. The themes or that novel are as pertinent today as they were when it was published in 1960. In addition, we have storytelling masters such as Kathryn Tucker Windham, who was also a close friend of Dr. Flynt and Harper Lee.

Chad: Dr. Flynt will also talk about social justice and the church–what role do churches play in causes of that nature?

Guest: As we look back at the history of our country as well as AL specifically, we see many examples of opportunities for faith communities to impact life. Unfortunately, today in our society many divisions remain and have even become more intense recently. Churches have the power to influence and shape our society as we deal with differences that can easily become divisive. If we look at moral and ethical issues, we can learn from the scriptures and, in the Christian faith, follow the teaching of Christ. People of faith can model the commandment “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” and make the world a much kinder, more empathetic place.

Chad: As an English teacher yourself, what do you see as the most important contributions Harper Lee’s work made to Alabama?

Guest: Not only is TKAM an important literary work, having won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961, but it remains one of the most widely read novels of the last 50 years. The themes of this novel make it timeless. Wouldn’t we be a more tolerant people if we didn’t judge somebody until we walked in his shoes…as Atticus advised his children? Wayne Flynt identifies several moral values represented in the novel that as applicable today as they were in the 1930’s, the period in which the story is set. From Scout and Atticus, as well as the other major characters, we are reminded of concepts we value in our American democracy… tolerance, kindness, civility, charity, justice, and forgiveness.

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