Spring 2023 Events

Each year, the Robert Nusbaum Center (NC) sponsors educational initiatives that both engage the campus community and reach beyond the University to invite the larger public into exploration of religious, racial, and ideological differences.

Many events are arranged in collaboration with local organizations and faith communities, and through partnerships with various Virginia Wesleyan departments and student organizations.

Speakers’ perspectives are intended to invite civil discussion and dialogue, but don’t necessarily reflect the policy or position of Virginia Wesleyan University. Please join us for these special opportunities to build bridges of understanding between people of different worldviews.

All NC events are free, open to the public, and are held on the VWU campus unless otherwise noted.

Ukraine, Code Pink, Global Exchange, and a Life of Activism

Monday, February 20
7:00 – 8:15 p.m.
Blocker Hall Auditorium
Sponsored in partnership with the Norfolk Catholic Worker and Pax Christi Hampton Roads

Medea Benjamin

While the United States continues to send billions of dollars’ worth of military weapons to Ukraine, talks of actual peace solutions remain elusive. Medea Benjamin addresses why this is a mistake at a presentation of her new book, War In Ukraine: Making Sense of a Senseless War, co-authored by Nicholas J. Davies.
Without in any way excusing Russia’s tragically mistaken and destructive intervention in a sovereign state, Benjamin points to the way a diplomatic solution can be used to end a war that is creating enormous suffering—most intensely inside Ukraine but also across Russia and around the planet.

An advocate for social justice for 50 years, Madea Benjamin is the co-founder of the women-led peace group CODEPINK. She is also co-founder of the human rights group Global Exchange and the Peace in Ukraine Coalition. Described as “one of America’s most committed—and most effective—fighter for human rights” by New York Newsday, and “one of the high profile leaders of the peace movement” by the Los Angeles Times, she is the author of 10 books, including Drone Warefare: Killing by Remote Control, Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the U.S.-Saudi Connection, and Inside Iran: The Real History and Politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Religion, Spirituality, and Social Good in a Conflicted United States
Nexus Diversity Dialogue

Thursday, February 23
7:00 – 8:30 p.m.
Blocker Hall Auditorium

Sponsored in partnership with the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities and the Art of Living Foundation Hampton Roads

Religion and spirituality can be powerful catalysts for shaping how a person engages in the world. Most religious and spiritual traditions call for people to live in love and show compassion for others, but what does that mean? How do different religions and spiritualities understand the relationship between faith and social action? How might their beliefs, sacred texts, or spiritual practices influence their public life? In a world in which polarization and division over issues relating to immigration, racism, abortion, gun control, and immigration are eroding civil society, how do people of faith respond? This discussion reflects both on healthy differences between people of faith and the common ground they share in seeking to create a better world.


  • Rev. Dr. Nicole Charles, Chief Executive Officer of Edgar Cayce’s Association of Research and Enlightenment
  • Dr. Antipas L. Harris, Dean of the Urban Renewal Center in Norfolk and Ordained Presbyterian Minister
  • Uday Khambhammettu, Program Director and Faculty, SKY Breath Meditation, Art of Living Foundation, Hampton Roads
  • Saher Mirza, Host of Coffee with a Muslima, and Community Outreach Coordinator for the Muslim Community of Tidewater
  • Dr. Michael Panitz, Rabbi of Temple Israel in Norfolk and Co-founder of the NEXUS Interfaith Dialogue series at VWU
  • Teresa Stanley, Coordinator of Interspiritual Empowerment Project of Virginia Organizing and former Social Justice Minister in the Catholic Diocese of Virginia

Hollywood, Teach Us to Pray
Film Screening

Tuesday, February 28
6:30 –9:00 p.m.
Susan S. Goode Fine and Performing Arts Center


6:30 - 6:45 p.m. Preview of student film Life is a Cabaret by Erness Anne Deseo
7:00 - 9:00 p.m. Feature Film Hollywood, Teach Us to Pray and discussion with filmmakers Dr. Terry Lindvall & Dr. Stu Minnis

Hollywood sometimes delivers the unexpected. In their new documentary, VWU Professors Terry Lindvall and Stu Minnis combed the last century of Hollywood movies that modeled the holy ritual of prayer on the big screen. From the silent films of Charlie Chaplin to Ricky Bobby's iconic Talladega Nights prayer addressed to “Dear 8-pound, 6-ounce, newborn infant Jesus,” Hollywood has inadvertently taught moviegoers how to pray. This film investigates what these prayers are about, what they say about us, and how they may even teach spectators to pray. A brief discussion with the filmmakers will be held after the film.

Terry Lindvall, Ph.D., has served at VWU as the C.S. Lewis Endowed Chair in Communication and Christian Thought since 2006. Stu Minnis, Ph.D., has taught at VWU since 2001, currently serving as Professor and Chair of Communication.

Jesus Hanging from a Poplar Tree: The White Jesus, "The Black Christ," and "Christ Recrucified"

Thursday, March 2
7:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Blocker Hall Auditorium

Rev. Claude Atcho
Rev. Claude Atcho

Voltaire famously wrote, “On prétend que Dieu a fait l'homme à son image, mais l'homme le lui a bien rendu,” which means “It is said that God made man in his image, but it is really man who created God in their image.” In a world in which so many people have grown up with a picture of a White Jesus on their wall, Claudo Atcho invites us to combat the distortions created by that image by turning to the writings of the famous Harlem Renaissance writer Countee Cullen. His poems “Christ Recrucified” and “The Black Christ” call us to look more carefully at Jesus through the lens of the lynched and despised. How is Jesus to be understood? Join Atcho as we look together at how Jesus has been portrayed and at why the lynching of Jesus can't be ignored.

Claude Atcho, MTS, is pastor of Church of the Resurrection in Charlottesville. He has taught African American literature at the collegiate level, has written for Christianity Today, Christ & Pop Culture, The Gospel Coalition, and The Witness: A Black Christian Collective, and is the author of Reading Black Books: How African American Literature Can Make our Faith More Whole and Just.

Protecting Abortion Rights as a Jewish Religious Imperative

Thursday, March 9
7:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Blocker Hall Auditorium

Rev. Claude Atcho
Rabbi Rosalin Mandelberg

The overruling of Roe v. Wade last year brought many Jews across the country to speak about not just Jewish perspectives related to reproductive and religious freedom, but also the scripture that underlies those beliefs. Frequently they quoted the same scripture that some Christians were using, but interpreting it in very different ways, when reflecting on women's rights and when life begins.

What are Jewish ways of understanding reproductive freedom? What shapes those views? Why is scripture important in thinking about these issues? How can we understand each other’s faith in helpful ways?

For the last 18 years, Rabbi Rosalin Mandelberg has served as Senior rabbi at Ohef Sholom Temple in Norfolk. Rabbi Roz is recognized throughout Hampton Roads, building community in the local Jewish and interfaith communities. Recently she has served as co-leader of such interfaith groups as HUBB (Hands United Building Bridges) and Sacred Spaces of Hampton Roads. In 2022 she was recognized by her alma mater—Hebrew Union College—with the degree of Doctor of Divinity, honoris causa.

Rising Tides, Rising Tensions Art Exhibit

March 6 – April 28
Barclay Sheaks Gallery, Hofheimer Library

Many neighborhoods in Coastal Virginia that have long suffered from the effects of redlining, exclusionary zoning, discriminatory lending, public housing policy, highway construction, hotter summer temperatures, and underfunded public schools are now some of the same communities that are most vulnerable to the impacts of recurrent flooding. As flooding in these marginalized communities increases, so do tensions surrounding socio-economic inequalities. Created by local artist Renee Calway, the Rising Tides, Rising Tensions exhibit reflects on positive aspects of our region, as well as stories of historic injustice that continue to impact marginalized communities throughout Hampton Roads.

Thursday, March 23
Rising Tides, Rising Tensions
Student Presentations
10:30 – 11:45 a.m.
Susan T. Beverly Hall, Hofheimer Theatre

The traveling installation is supported by curriculum and programming that combines research, creative expression, and public discussion to examine the past, evaluate the present, and consider a future in which all people who call Hampton Roads home are elevated to equal ground. This semester, Calway is working with Batten Honors College students enrolled in a course on art and society. Please join us as the students reflect on their research, present their artistic creations, and engage the audience in discussion about how race has shaped and continues to shape the landscape of the region.

Raised in Norfolk, Renee Calway is a conceptual creative who utilizes unconventional materials to promote ecological and socio-political awareness. She teaches studio classes at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, and engages the community through The VIBE Arts District at the oceanfront.

Hampton Roads World Culture Festival

Saturday, March 25
11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Virginia Beach Convention Center

Rev. Claude Atcho

The World Culture Festival is a global event that aims to build a more compassionate and harmonious society by bringing people of the world together in celebration. In September 2023 the global WCF is taking place at the National Mall in Washington DC. In anticipation of that event, the Art of Living Foundation is hosting events in communities across the US. In Hampton Roads, the Nusbaum Center – along with other local partners – are joining with the AOLF to hold a variety of events to showcase the rich diversity of cultures in our region. The Hampton Roads World Culture Festival is a day-long extravaganza of music, dance, art, cuisine, and much more that celebrates the diversity of cultures in our community.

The Swastika and Extremist Iconography Today
Book Discussion

Thursday, March 30
7:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Zoom (please register by calling 757.455.3129)

Rev. Claude Atcho
Steven Heller

For the Center’s first book discussion, please read The Swastika and Extremist Iconography Today (Allworth, 2019; available on Amazon or at many booksellers) and join us on Zoom as we have the opportunity to ask questions of noted writer and design historian Steven Heller. What happens when a spiritual symbol—one that has been used for thousands of years—is transformed into an icon for hate? Is it beyond being redeemed? How do symbols and icons function in the world? Please bring questions and join us.

Steven Heller, author and editor of over 130 books on graphic design, satiric art, and popular culture, is the co-founder and co-chair of the MFA Designer as Author program at the School of Visual Arts, New York. For over 40 years he has been an art director for various underground and mainstream periodicals, having been an art director at the New York Times for 33 years. He is editor of AIGA VOICE: Online Journal of Design; a contributing editor to Print, EYE, and Baseline; and a frequent contributor to Metropolis and ID magazines. He is the recipient of the 1999 AIGA Medal for Lifetime Achievement.

Broken Worlds: Music to Heal or to Divide

Monday, April 3 and Thursday, April 6
7:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Brock Commons
Reception: Monday, April 3  6:15 – 7:00 p.m.

Rev. Claude Atcho
Robert Shoup

In a world that seems to be defined by conflict and seemingly endless divisions, music continues to function as a steady thread through our individual and shared experiences. While music’s capacity to heal is well-known, is it possible we unwittingly contribute to the climate of divisiveness by the ways we listen, sing, or play? From political and religious animosities to racial and cultural contentions, music has long had a role in both binding and opening of wounds. In environments as varied and perhaps surprising as the Virginia Symphony Orchestra and The Norfolk Street Choir Project, Robert Shoup has long sought to deploy music as a vehicle for meaningful human connection.

In addition to the many choirs he has led and the numerous international orchestras he has conducted, Robert Shoup has been Chorus Master and Staff Conductor for the Virginia Symphony Orchestra since 1997, serving as a leader in commercial recording projects, international tours, and multiple collaborations with Virginia Arts Festival. In 2016 he founded the Norfolk Street Choir to engage individuals experiencing homelessness. He is a founding board member of the National Alliance for Music in Vulnerable Communities, and Music Director for Second Presbyterian Church of Norfolk.

Israel, Palestine, VWU Students, and the Art of Waging Peace
Study-Away Presentation

Thursday, April 13
12:00 – 1:00 p.m.
The Lighthouse, Clarke Hall

Kelly Jackson ‘84, Carley Tantlinger ’23, and Kai Trehan ‘24

With an eye toward the street art of Banksy, art major Carley Tantlinger discusses the power of art to inspire social change. Kai Trehan, a political science and international studies major, looks at groups such as the Parents Circle Families Forum, a joint Israeli-Palestine organization that brings together in dialogue people on both sides who have lost a family member due to the conflict. Kelly Jackson examines how Bethlehem Bible College, a Christian Palestinian institution, equips students to work for peace and justice.

Over My Dead Body: Unearthing the Hidden History of America’s Cemeteries

Thursday, April 20
7:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Blocker Hall Auditorium

Rev. Claude Atcho
Greg Melville

What American cemeteries say about race, politics, sustainability, hero worship, and unspoken values is stunning at times. With a nod to three Virginia cemeteries (Jamestown, Monticello, and Arlington), Melville explores with us how, where, and why we bury our dead, and the ways in which cemeteries reflect so many conflicting values.

Greg Melville has worked as an environmental and outdoor journalist, a crime reporter, and a former editor at Men’s Journal and Sports Afield magazines. He has written for Outside, National Geographic Traveler, Men’s Health, Slate and the Boston Globe Magazine. Melville is a decorated veteran who served in Afghanistan and is in the Navy Reserve, where he is a public affairs officer with the rank of lieutenant commander. He is an award-winning instructor at the United States Naval Academy, where he teaches English and writing.

Greasy Rider: Two Dudes, One Fry-Oil-Powered Car, and a Cross-Country Search for a Greener Future

Rev. Claude Atcho

Friday, April 21
11:00 – 11:50 a.m.
Blocker Hall Auditorium

Greg Melville

Is it possible to drive coast to coast without stopping at a single gas pump? Journalist Greg Melville, who's in love with the idea of free fuel, sets out on an enlightening road trip with his friend, seeking to be the first people to drive cross-country in a car powered on vegetable oil collected from restaurant grease Dumpsters along the way. Join us for an upbeat, funny story about sustainability in the United States, about what we can do and where we’re going, through the lens of a very unusual journey.  

Generations Uniting to Address Climate Change

Friday, April 21
1:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Susan S. Goode Fine and Performing Arts Center
Sponsored in partnership with the VWU Joan P. Brock School of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, The Gunn Group, and the City of Virginia Beach

Around the globe, people are joining scientists, governments, and environmental organizations to understand and address climate change. The Generations Uniting to Address Climate Change Symposium aims to prepare our community to lead or support this effort. Activities include two panel discussions: a panel of experts from scientific and political backgrounds discussing the climate crisis’ evolution and impacts; and a panel with a variety of individuals who are making a difference. A career and volunteer fair featuring local environmental organizations is being held in the lobby of the Goode Center throughout the symposium. The symposium is free and open to anyone looking to be inspired by changemakers from across the generations. For more information, visit vwu.edu/climatesymposium.

Climate Choices: How Should We Meet the Challenges of a Warming Planet?
Student Led Deliberative Dialogue

Thursday, April 27
10:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
Brock Commons

While Americans are divided about some aspects of the climate-change issue, there is growing agreement that action is needed. In this deliberation, facilitated by trained VWU students, participants discuss the pros and cons of three options for addressing climate change that are based on the views and concerns of people from across the country. The three options offer a framework for deliberations that tackle tough questions: What should we do? What are the risks and potential trade-offs? What steps can we support and what might we be willing to give up? Where do we share concerns and priorities that point the way toward more effective action?

Noisy Religion as a Public Nuisance: Church Bells, the Muslim Call to Prayer, and the Challenges of Negotiating Sound

Thursday, April 27
7–8 p.m.
Blocker Hall Auditorium

Isaac Weiner, Ph.D.

Rev. Claude Atcho

Walking down the street, you might hear church bells ringing, ISKCON followers chanting, the Muslim call to prayer, or hymns played over digital synthesizers. In American society, religious individuals rarely keep quiet; they practice their religion out loud. This lecture focuses on how religious pluralism isn’t just about different beliefs but about how those beliefs are expressed in public in ways that inevitably impact others. Together we will focus on how conflicts about religious sound can be negotiated, and how those conflicts and resolutions affect us.

Isaac Weiner, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor and Director of the Center for the Study of Religion at Ohio State University. Since 2014 he also has served as co-director of the American Religious Sounds Project. Weiner’s research interests focus on religion in the workplace, pluralism, law, and sensory culture. The lecture this evening focuses on Weiner’s groundbreaking work, Religion Out Loud; Religious Sound, Public Space, and American Pluralism (NYU Press, 2014).