Acclaimed author and essayist Eric Metaxas to lecture at WestConn
Danbury native to deliver Macricostas Lecture on new biography “Bonhoeffer”
DANBURY, CONN. — Acclaimed author, essayist and cultural commentator Eric Metaxas will share lessons and insights drawn from his new biography of the 20th century German theologian and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer as he delivers the annual Macricostas Lecture on Friday, April 16, at Western Connecticut State University.
Metaxas, author of the newly published work “Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy,” will discuss the life of the Christian theologian whose active participation in the anti-Nazi “Confessing Church” movement and the anti-Hitler German Resistance before and during World War II ultimately led to his arrest and execution in April 1945. His lecture will be presented by the WCSU School of Arts and Sciences as part of the Macricostas Lecture Series, funded by a grant from the foundation of Brookfield industrialist and philanthropist Constantine “Deno” Macricostas and his wife Marie.
Metaxas will speak at 7 p.m. in Room 125 of the Science Building on the university’s Midtown campus, 181 White St. in Danbury. The author will sign copies of his new book at a reception immediately following the lecture in the Science Building Atrium. Admission will be free and the public is invited to attend.
His lecture will mark a homecoming for the Danbury native who attended public schools in the city during the 1960s and 1970s before embarking on an undergraduate education at Yale University and an eclectic career in writing, editing and commentary over the past three decades. He has earned international acclaim as a cultural and religious commentator, humor essayist, poet, reviewer, children’s book author, national radio show editor, and nonfiction writer. His previous books include “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About God (But Were Afraid to Ask)” and two sequels, and the New York Times bestselling biography “Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery.”
Metaxas’s humor writing, essays, reviews and poems have appeared in a wide range of publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Christianity Today, National Review Online, and Books & Culture. He has written more than 30 children’s books including “It’s Time to Sleep, My Love,” cited among the Top 100 books on Barnes & Noble.com in October 2008, and has served as an editorial director for Rabbit Ears Productions and writer and narrator for Veggie Tales. A frequent commentator on CNN and Fox News, he served for two years as writer and editor for Charles Colson’s nationally syndicated radio program “Breakpoint,” and his humor pieces include “Don’t You Believe It!” a book-length parody of the Ripley’s “Believe It or Not!” books.
WCSU Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences Dr. Linda Vaden-Goad said Metaxas’s remarkably accomplished and diverse resume of professional experiences — complemented by a lively intellect, quick wit and talent for public speaking — made him an ideal choice to address a theme in harmony with the “Cultures of the World” focus that is part of the Macricostas Lecture Series. She noted Metaxas’s roots in the Danbury area and gift for connecting with college audiences also are well suited to the vision of Deno Macricostas, who has known the speaker since his childhood and will introduce him at the lecture.
“I love the fact that he grew up here,” Vaden-Goad said. “It’s good for our students to be able to hear him and meet him. The more they meet people who write books like these, the more they will believe it is a real possibility for them to achieve this as well.”
Metaxas expressed pleasure at the opportunity to speak before a Danbury audience. “Nothing could make me happier! I’m thrilled,” he said. “I grew up in Danbury, and my 30th Danbury High School reunion is this summer.”
Metaxas noted in a recent interview that Bonhoeffer’s story “haunted me for years, not least because my mother is German and lived through the war in Germany, and because my grandfather was killed in the war at age 32, reluctantly fighting for a regime he hated.” In writing the biography, he gained rare access to interviews that had been conducted with Bonhoeffer’s relatives and friends during filmmaker Martin Doblmeier’s production of his landmark 2003 documentary on the theologian’s life.
Vaden-Goad observed the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer holds immediacy and relevance for a contemporary audience at a time when war, international conflict and human rights still confront Americans with difficult policy and moral choices.
“Bonhoeffer’s life story will resonate with our students, our faculty and our community,” she said. “It will be very inspirational.
“War, violence and humanity — these are themes we need to talk about,” she added. “We know there are wars going on in many places, but it is not in front of us all the time. This lecture asks that we do some thinking about these issues, at both a personal level and at an academic level. It is important as a university that we invite these tougher topics to be discussed in a respectful setting.”
Bonhoeffer’s leadership of Christian opposition to the Third Reich and willingness to defend human rights and religious freedom at grave personal risk provide an extraordinary model for combining a deep personal faith with public action in the cause of social justice — a theme that recurs frequently in Metaxas’s writings. As Bonhoeffer remarked shortly before leaving Union Theological Seminary in New York in summer 1939 to return to his homeland, “I must live through this difficult period in our national history with the people of Germany. I will have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trials of this time with my people.”
The author said Bonhoeffer’s life provides a reminder today that “faith in God, and obedience to God, are the only solution to true evil.” For Bonhoeffer, he observed, “one’s life must be one’s theology, and one’s theology must be one’s life. If you don’t live the things you claim to believe, you don’t really believe them at all.”
Metaxas’s previous biography of Wilberforce — the British politician of the late 18th and early 19th centuries who led the successful campaign in Parliament over several decades that abolished slavery in the United Kingdom — also focused on his protagonist’s uncommon determination and skill in putting his Christian faith into the fight against the most profound social injustice of his day. “Far beyond abolition, Wilberforce and his friends had a monumental impact on the wider British culture and on the world beyond Britain, because they succeeded not only in ending the slave trade and slavery, but in changing the entire mindset of the culture,” Metaxas wrote for the Web-based magazine Fermiproject.com. “The idea that one should love one’s neighbor was brought into the cultural mainstream for the first time in history, and the world has never been the same.”
Vaden-Goad credited members of the area Greek community including Plato Demos, president of the Danbury chapter of the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association, for recognizing Metaxas and his work on the life of Bonhoeffer as an inspirational selection for this year’s Macricostas Lecture.“We agreed that a talk about Bonhoeffer would be wonderful because of the different cultures he crossed during his own life,” she said. “Particularly now in these times, this lecture will be very important.”
For more information, contact the Office of University Relations at (203) 837-8486.
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