The Rev. Dr. Donald W. Shriver Jr. will speak about his award-winning book that calls for the acknowledgement and repentance of the morally negative events of America’s past, on March 4 and 5.
Shriver is the winner of the 2009 Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Religion for his book, Honest Patriots: Loving a Country Enough to Remember Its Misdeeds, published in 2005 by Oxford University Press.
The award, named for H. Charles Grawemeyer, comes with a $200,000 prize and is given jointly by Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and the University of Louisville. Shriver’s book was selected among 67 nominations for the coveted prize, which honors creative ideas illuminating the relationship between human beings and the divine, and how that relationship might empower people and communities.
“The premise of Donald W. Shriver’s book is that both gratitude and contrition are necessary for honest patriotism,” said Dr. Susan R. Garrett, Professor of New Testament at Louisville Seminary and Coordinator of the Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Religion.
“Uncritical love of country – love that refuses to see and publicly acknowledge past errors – is destructive to the social fabric and permits continuing misdeeds,” she said. “By contrast, Shriver shows that public recognition and collective repentance for wrongs done promote mending of that fabric and open the way to a better future for all.”
Shriver contends that the United States particularly needs to acknowledge and repent of its historical treatment of African- and Native-Americans, and then try to repair and repay the debt for those past wrongs in public ways. He spotlights the pioneering efforts of Germany and South Africa to foster and express collective repentance.
“We like to acknowledge our virtues from the past; we do not like to acknowledge our vices,” Shriver said. America believes any flaws it has are in the process of being improved, but a flaw cannot be improved “until you rightly remember it.”
An honest confession is good for the soul, “and I believe that includes the soul of the nation,” he said.
Shriver will speak about his award-winning book at two events to be held on the Seminary’s campus. His lecture, “Doing Justice by Remembering Injustice,” will be presented on March 4 at 7 p.m. in the Frank H. and Fannie Caldwell Chapel, and he will preach, “Growing Strong Truth in the Land,” at the Thursday Chapel service on March 5 at 10:10 a.m. The public is invited to attend free of charge.
The Grawemeyer in Religion Award was first presented in 1990, and the most recent winners include Dr. Margaret Farley (2008), Dr. Timothy Tyson (2007), Dr. Marilynne Robinson (2006), and Dr. George M. Marsden (2005). Other Grawemeyer awards recognize excellence in music composition, education, ideas improving world order, and psychology.