posted December 20, 2006

Veritas Forum to Consider Modern-Day Idolatry

 The challenge of modern idols will be the focus of the sixth biennial Veritas Forum at Hope College, being held on Thursday-Sunday, Jan. 11-14.

This year's forum is titled "American Idols: Losing Our Address on the Way Home." The event will feature three keynote addresses, two panel discussions, an evening literary/music event, a concert by Derek Webb and Jars of Clay, and a culminating worship service.

Although the Veritas Forum has been planned for the campus community, the public is invited. Admission is free to all events except for the concert.

According to Dr. Marc Baer, who chairs the Veritas Forum's planning committee, the forum understands idolatry as "anything that comes between us and true worship of God."

"We all know we struggle with idols," Baer said. "They're different than the ones in the Bible, but if anything they're more troublesome because we think we're smarter."

In planning the forum, the organizers asked Hope students to identify some of the idols of 21st century life. The responses ranged from wealth to self-image, individualized spirituality, pop culture and American nationalism.

The Veritas Forum began at Harvard University in 1992 as a way to get students to think about what the school was founded upon: the Veritas, or truth, of Jesus Christ. Since then, dozens of campuses in the United States and abroad have emulated the Harvard model and held forums of their own.

The Hope Veritas Forum is designed to include the arts, ideas, theology and popular culture, so as to listen to how God works in the lives of writers, musicians, social activists, educators and artists. This year's program is the sixth presented at Hope through the forum, which has run every two years since its 1997 debut on campus.

The subtitle of this year's event," "Losing Our Address on the Way Home," is inspired by a passage in G.K. Chesterton's 1910 book "What's Wrong with the World," which lamented the state of modern mankind by noting that "he has always lost his way; but now he has lost his address."

The opening keynote, "Losing Our Address," will be presented by Sam Wells on Thursday, Jan. 11, at 7 p.m. in Dimnent Memorial Chapel. Wells is Dean of the Chapel at Duke University, where he is also a research professor in Christian ethics at the Divinity School. His numerous publications include books on Christian ethics as well as articles in a variety of academic and popular journals.

Singer-songwriter Derek Webb will speak during the college's chapel service on Friday, Jan. 12, at 10:30 a.m. in Dimnent Memorial Chapel.

A panel discussion focused on "Challenging Celebrity" will take place on Friday, Jan. 12, at 4 p.m. in the Maas Center auditorium. The panelists will include Webb; Charlie Lowell and Steve Mason of Jars of Clay; and Kristen Odmark, wife of Jars of Clay band member Matt Odmark.

The forum's second keynote address, "Finding Our Way Home," will be presented by author Lauren Winner on Friday, Jan. 12, at 7 p.m. in Dimnent Memorial Chapel. She has written the books "Girl Meets God," "Mudhouse Sabbath" and "Real Sex: The Naked Truth about Chastity," and has had articles in publications including "The New York Times Book Review" and "Christianity Today."

An informal mix of live music, open discussion and free coffee, titled "Which Way Is Home? Cultivating Our Campus Address," will follow on Friday, Jan. 12, at 9 p.m. in the DeWitt Center Kletz.

The activities on Saturday, Jan. 13, will open with the keynote address "Staying Faithful" by author Donald Miller at 10 a.m. in Dimnent Memorial Chapel. Miller's books include "Blue Like Jazz," "Prayer and the Art of Volkwagen Maintenance," "Searching for God Knows What," "Through Painted Deserts" and "To Own a Dragon," about growing up without a father.

Miller's talk and the messages of the previous two days will be the focus of the panel discussion "Reflections" on Saturday, Jan. 13, at 11 a.m. in Dimnent Memorial Chapel. The panelists will include Miller; Winner and her husband Griff Gatewood; and Jars of Clay members Dan Haseltine and Matt Odmark.

Derek Webb and Jars of Clay will perform on Saturday, Jan. 13, at 8 p.m. in Dimnent Memorial Chapel. The concert will mark Jars of Clay's second appearance during a Hope Veritas Forum. The Christian band also performed at the college during the 2003 forum.

Tickets for the concert are $20 for the general public, and $10 for Hope students and members of the college's faculty and staff, and are available at the ticket office in the front lobby of the DeVos Fieldhouse, which can be called at (616) 395-7890. Tickets will be sold on Thursday-Friday, Dec. 21-22, from noon to 5 p.m.; on Wednesday-Friday, Jan. 3-5, from noon to 5 p.m.; and on Monday-Friday, Jan. 8-12, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Veritas Forum will conclude with the college's weekly Sunday evening worship service, "The Gathering," on January 14 at 8 p.m. in Dimnent Memorial Chapel. Trygve Johnson, who is the Hinga-Boersma Dean of the Chapel at Hope, will present "The Seductive Voice." The messages and themes of the forum will also be highlighted during subsequent weekday and Sunday evening worship services at the college throughout the spring semester.

The DeVos Fieldhouse is located on Fairbanks Avenue between Ninth and 11th streets. The DeWitt Center is located on Columbia Avenue at 12th Street. Dimnent Memorial Chapel is located on College Avenue at 12th Street. The Maas Center is located on Columbia Avenue at 11th Street.