Professor Berry Billingsley
Big Questions about Life, the Universe and Everything
How can schools prepare young people for questions we’ve never before had to ask? ‘Can, would, should a robot ever fall in love?’ ‘Could a robot one day be a better judge of character than a person?’ In the UK and internationally most teachers of science feel uncomfortable about venturing off-piste. But finding ways to teach young people the epistemic insights they need to see beyond sensationalist headlines has never been as important as it is today. This talk will describe research exploring these issues and will offer a selection of ideas and pedagogies that are being developed and tested for use in schools.
Equipped with a degree in physics, Berry's first career was with the BBC creating science stories for Tomorrow's World, Blue Peter and Science in Action. This prompted what has become a lifetime interest in the impacts of science communication and education on how people think about the relationships between science and religion. The LASAR (Learning about Science and Religion) Research Project was set up in 2009, led by the University of Reading in collaboration with the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion. LASAR's new home is Canterbury Christ Church University where Berry is now Professor of Science Education. For more about LASAR see www.lasarproject.com.
Professor Robert Beckford
Is God a White Racist?: Contesting Discrimination in Theological Education
A struggle exists over the utility of the Christian faith for African diaspora communities in Britain. Despite the celebrated numerical growth of West African Christianity in Britain, African Caribbean Christianity continues to experience a decline in adherents. Will African churches experience a similar falling away? And what can be done to contest the African Caribbean decline? In this paper, Professor Beckford argues that a starting point for engaging with the decline is an honest debate in theological education of Christianity’s collision with racial terror, and the imbedded radicalised categories of thought in mainstream Christian theology.
Robert is the Professor of Religion and Culture in the African diaspora in the Department of Theology at Canterbury Christ Church University. Robert has written several books intersecting the fields of theology, popular culture and politics. He is also a BAFTA award winning documentary filmmaker and has written and presented over twenty films for the BBC, Channel 4 and Discovery USA. His most treasured film, 'Empire Pays Back,' (2005), was instrumental in raising public awareness of Britain’s debt to her former slave colonies. His current research, 'The Jamaican Bible Remix' is a multi-media project intersecting theomusicology, and urban music and video production. The album is released in February 2017, and is free to download.
Dr Anna Strhan
Public Faith and Everyday Evangelicalism
What does it mean to ‘do God’ publicly as an evangelical Christian in Britain today? In recent years, different evangelical groups have generated very diverse forms of publicity. The positions taken by some British conservative evangelicals on a number of moral, political, and ecclesiastical issues – from opposition to women bishops to arguments that religious freedoms are increasingly under threat – have stimulated increasingly polarized media narratives of evangelicals as either a rising ‘religious right’ or an increasingly marginalized minority. At the same time, some other evangelical groups have generated contrasting publicity through their forms of social action responding to conditions of austerity following the financial crisis of 2008, for example, in running food banks. In this paper, I explore how these forms of media visibility and evangelical leaders’ desires to make faith public in a largely secular British context relate to the lives of members of evangelical churches, drawing on ethnographic fieldwork conducted with two London churches, one conservative evangelical and Anglican, the other open evangelical and Baptist. My paper explores the mundane hopes and habits of members of different evangelical churches in London, exploring individuals’ experiences in relation to their urban locations and their everyday processes of subject formation.
Anna is a Lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Kent, UK. Her research explores the interrelations between religion, ethics, meaning, and values. She is the author of Aliens and Strangers? The Struggle for Coherence in the Everyday Lives of Evangelicals (Oxford University Press, 2015), which was shortlisted for the BBC/BSA Thinking Allowed Ethnography Award 2016.