First Lecture 2014
Every year, one faculty member is chosen by Westmont's President, Dr. Beebe, to give what is known as the First Lecture during Orientation. The First Lecture was inaugurated in 2008 and serves as a transition between a high school and college learning environment. This year's distinguished faculty member is Dr. Thomas Knecht, Associate Professor of Political Science. Dr. Knecht has chosen Steve Monsma's Healing for a Broken World to lecture on. All new students are expected to read this book prior to arriving for Orientation.
Do today's believers know how to be not simply good citizens but good Christian citizens? Are they ready to respond to contemporary public policy issues such as genocide, global AIDS, global warming, and human trafficking according to Scripture rather than any particular political agenda? A growing segment of them are, even if they aren't quite sure how to accomplish it. This book is for them.
Getting to Know the Lecturer
What are your hobbies/favorite things to do in Santa Barbara?
I love to surf, golf, hike, watch Westmont sports, and to go to the beach with my family. Santa Barbara has a lot to offer someone with these passions. I enjoy the year-round good weather of Santa Barbara all the more because I grew up in cold weather climates.
What were the best things about your first year in college?
In college I was exposed to a lot of diverse people and diverse ideas. I found these ideas intellectually stimulating and challenging at times.
What advice do you have for the first-year students?
Sleep. I think students stay up way too late (you should go to bed by 10:30). On a more serious note, I want to encourage students to grapple with issues, to think deeply about what they are studying, and to be more concerned with gaining knowledge than with getting good grades. I hope that students learn to balance two competing goods. First, that they are intellectually curious, cognitively flexible, and talk with people who think differently than them. This requires that we must be open to the possibility that what we previously thought could be wrong—not an easy task. Second, I want students to stand firm in their beliefs and convictions. We should all have a set of core beliefs that we are committed to and form the essence of who we are. These two ideas—being open-minded yet committed—seem like incompatible goals. I’m not so sure. My talk will focus on how we can do both well.
Why Healing for A Broken World?
Steve Monsma is a scholar, a former politician, and a Christian. He was interested in how Christians should participate in politics. His book looks at scripture and focuses on the key public policy issues of today. It serves as a guide for Christians as we navigate important political, social, and economical issues.
I find the book interesting, provocative, and thoughtful. My students have enjoyed it in the past and it provokes good discussion. It also challenges me, personally, to think of integrating more of my faith into politics.
What should students keep in mind while reading?
My hope is that students can read the book with a critical eye and use the themes to reflect on their own values, beliefs, and opinions. I hope they challenge Monsma on some points, while being open to change on others. In short, I want students to reflect on what how their faith intersects with their politics.