Westminster/Wesleyan Lifelong Learning Institute: Fall 2021 Schedule

Please see below for the Fall 2021 Course Catalog for the Westminster/Wesleyan Lifelong Learning Institute.  Copies of the catalog are also available in Westminster-Canterbury Resident Services or on the WC Resident Hub at residenthub.org.


Course 1 - Brain Health Matters for Everyone

Presented by: Dr. Scott W. Sautter, Adjunct Professor in Psychology and Consulting Neuropsychologist to the Athletic Training Staff at VWU; Diplomate, American Board of Professional Neuropsychology; Board Certified Neuropsychologist, Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Clinical Director at Hampton Roads Neuropsychology

Course Description: This class is intended to help people strengthen their cognitive and emotional functioning to improve adaptation and coping. In a series of three lectures Dr. Sautter will provide insight from some of the most respected scholars and from their most recent research on how the brain functions to help us live our best lives.

Dates and Weekly Topics:

Lecture 1: A Grateful Heart and Healthy Brain

Tuesday, September 21, 2021 at 1:30 p.m. in the Penthouse Lounge
Participants will learn how our thoughts change our brains.

Lecture 2: Mental Fitness and Resiliency

Tuesday, October 19, 2021 at 1:30 p.m. in the Penthouse Lounge
Engaging in a healthy brain lifestyle leads to mental fitness and resiliency.

Lecture 3: Overcoming the Holiday Blues

Tuesday, December 21, 2021 at 1:30 p.m. in the Penthouse Lounge
Depression and anxiety during the holidays is more common than you think.


Course 2 - A Study on the C. S. Lewis book The Problem of Pain

Presented by: Dr. Benson P. Fraser, Westminster-Canterbury Fellow for Religious Studies and Lifelong Learning

Course Description: Why must humanity suffer? In this elegant and thoughtful book Lewis seeks to understand how a loving, good, and powerful God can possibly coexist with the pain and suffering pervasive in the world and in our lives. We as human beings might expect the world to be just, fair, and less painful. But it is not. This is the problem of pain, and this is the challenge this work brings to us.

Dates and Weekly Topics:

Lecture 1: Introduction

Tuesday, September 7, 2021 at 3:00 p.m. in the Anderson Bayview Room
A personal note! Guest lecture by the CEO of Westminster Canterbury J. Benjamin Unkle, Jr. This first week we will have the privilege of hearing from someone who not only knows a lot about C.S. Lewis but who’s life has been greatly influenced by Lewis’s book The Problem of Pain. You won’t regret hearing Mr. Unkle speak on this important work

Lecture 2: Divine Omnipotence

Tuesday, September 14, 2021 at 3:00 p.m. in the Penthouse Lounge
Is God powerless in the face of suffering?

Lecture 3: Divine Goodness

Tuesday, September 21, 2021 at 3:00 p.m. in the Penthouse Lounge
Was it "good" for God to make a world that was destined to lead to human suffering?

Lecture 4: A Human Wickedness

Tuesday, September 28, 2021 at 3:00 p.m. in the Penthouse Lounge
If there’s a God and He’s all powerful and all loving, why does He want me to change?

Lecture 5:  The Fall of Man

Thursday*, October 7, 2021 at 3:00 p.m. in the Penthouse Lounge
If we are wicked at our core, then how could we have ever come from the hands of a good and loving God?
*Note onetime change of day.

Lecture 6: Human Pain

Tuesday, October 12, 2021 at 3:00 p.m. in the Penthouse Lounge
What part does pain play in correcting our wicked nature?

Lecture 7: Human Pain, continued

Tuesday, October 19, 2021 at 3:00 p.m. in the Penthouse Lounge
Six additional propositions regarding his argument concerning human pain.

Lecture 8: Hell

Tuesday, October 26, 2021 at 3:00 p.m. in the Penthouse Lounge
If the ultimate goal of pain is to redeem us and make us more like Christ, what about those who are not redeemed by pain?

Lecture 9: Animal Pain

Tuesday, November 2, 2021 at 3:00 p.m. in the Penthouse Lounge
Why do animals experience suffering and pain, and what, if any relation, does this have to human pain?

Lecture 10: Heaven

Tuesday, November 9, 2021 at 3:00 p.m. in the Penthouse Lounge
What is the ultimate answer to the problem of pain? Heaven!


Course 3 - Hollywood Fights World War II

Presented by: Dr. Dennis Bounds, Writer, Author, and Adjunct Professor at Virginia Wesleyan University

Course Description: During every war there are those who comment on the war to the folks back home. Tales of daring exploits and tumultuous battles made their way through epic poems and theatrical dramas. World War II was different only in the media used: film. In this short lecture series, we will identify four types of war films – Drama, Comedy, Family, and Documentary – and examine how each type reflected a particular reaction to war. Clips from the films will be shown and each session lasts 60 minutes—with plenty of time set aside for questions at the end.

Dates and Weekly Topics:

Lecture 1: Mrs. Miniver (William Wyler 1942)

Friday, September 24, 2021 at 11:00 a.m. in the Penthouse Lounge
Plot: A British family struggles to survive the first months of World War II. In this session, we will examine this family as it deals with war and its effect on love, family, patriotism, and loss. We will further discuss the careers of stars Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon, and Teresa Wright as well as the reception of the film by audiences both here and in England.

Lecture 2: To Be or Not to Be (Ernst Lubitsch 1942)

Friday, October 1, 2021 at 11:00 a.m. in the Penthouse Lounge
Plot: During the Nazi occupation of Poland, an acting troupe becomes embroiled in a Polish soldier's efforts to track down a German spy. In this session, we will examine the film To Be or Not to Be, directed by the great Ernst Lubitsch and starring the amazing Jack Benny and Carole Lombard. Produced in 1941 but released just as America entered the war, it was developed to encourage our country to move out of isolation by showing – in a comedic way – what was at stake.

Lecture 3: From Here to Eternity (Fred Zinneman 1953)

Friday, October 8, 2021 at 11:00 a.m. in the Penthouse Lounge
Plot: In Hawaii in 1941, a private is cruelly punished for not boxing on his unit's team, while his captain's wife and second-in-command are falling in love. Unbeknownst to anyone, the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor looms in the distance. In this session, we will examine why many in the industry thought the source novel was unfilmable and why it was dubbed "From Here to Obscenity." And we will discuss the actors Burt Lancaster, Deborah Kerr, Frank Sinatra, Montgomery Clift, and Donna Reed (as the euphemistic "nightclub hostess").

*Note: We need to skip the week of October 15, 2021*

Lecture 4: Why We Fight (Frank Capra & Anatole Litvak 1942) & Let There Be Light (John Huston 1980)

Friday, October 22, 2021 at 11:00 a.m. in the Penthouse Lounge
In this session, we will examine two documentaries. The first, Why We Fight, is the official World War II US Government film statement defining the various enemies of the Allies and why they must be fought. In the second film, Let There Be Light, A group of mentally traumatized veteran patients is followed as they go through psychiatric treatment. Though filmed toward the end of the war, this film was suppressed by the Army as being potentially demoralizing. It was finally released in 1980—some 30 years later. We will see various clips from both films that highlight their different and similar purposes and arguments.


Course 4 - World War II and Genocides

Presented by: Dr. Sara Sewell, Professor of History at Virginia Wesleyan University

Course Description: This eight-part lecture series examines the history of World War II from the mounting international tensions following the tenuous treaties of World War I through 1945. In addition to discussing the War’s major battles, this program also investigates develo p.m.ents on the home fronts, including the roles of civilians in the War and the changing status of women around the globe. Our discussion necessarily leads to an analysis of the War’s genocides, including Germany’s genocide of Jews, Poles, Russians, and Roma and Sinti. It also includes an analysis of Japan’s genocide of the Chinese as well as other atrocities it committed. The first four lectures will take place in fall 2021 and the second four will be held in spring 2022.

Dates and Weekly Topics:

Lecture 1: International Tensions and the Outbreak of War in Asia

Friday, October 29, 2021 at 11:00 a.m. in the Penthouse Lounge
The treaties that followed the First World War silenced the guns, but they left a host of issues unresolved and created an array of new problems. This lecture focuses on the critical international tensions that grew considerably in the interwar years. It additionally examines the outbreak of War between China and Japan in 1937.

Lecture 2: Nazi Germany on the March

Friday, November 5, 2021 at 11:00 a.m. in the Penthouse Lounge
On 1 September 1939, Nazi Germany invaded Poland, bringing war once again to European soil. For three years, Germany’s military was unsurpassed, as it rapidly defeated Poland, Denmark, Norway, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Belgium, and France. Germany then launched air attacks over Britain. From the start of the War, Germany targeted civilians with both Blitzkrieg and genocide. This lecture examines Germany’s military victories, which gave the country carte blanche to kill civilians en masse.

Lecture 3: Invasion of the Soviet Union and the Escalation of Genocide

Friday, November 12, 2021 at 11:00 a.m. in the Penthouse Lounge
With its stunning victories in western Europe, Germany set its sights on the Soviet Union, invading the country in June 1941 under the code name Operation Barbarossa. Once again, Germany experienced tremendous success, rapidly advancing hundreds of miles. Military triumph, however, resulted in a dramatic increase in Germany’s genocide of its perceived racial enemies. This lecture explores Germany’s victories and its uncontested annihilation of civilians.

Lecture 4: Japan’s Military Drive

Friday, November 19, 2021 at 11:00 a.m. in the Penthouse Lounge
Japan’s military campaigns throughout Asia faced little significant resistance, which enabled it to conquer much of China, Korea, Burma, Siam, French Indo-China, Malaya, the Dutch East Indies, the Philippines, and numerous Pacific islands, reaching the height of its power in early 1942. This lecture focuses on Japan’s military drive, including its attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941.


Course 5 - Lessons from the Pandemic: Where Are We Headed?

Presented by: Dr. Timothy G. O’Rourke (Ph.D., Duke, Political Science) served as Vice President and Provost at Virginia Wesleyan University from 2007 to 2019.  Dr. O’Rourke is now Vice President Emeritus at Virginia Wesleyan University

Course Description: The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed both strengths and weaknesses in our governing arrangements. This five-part series asks, with a view to both our past and future, what have we learned about that state of our institutions and leadership. In the process of answering these questions, the series will consider important, recent controversial books that provide insight into our predicament. These include, among other titles, Christopher Caldwell’s The Age of Entitlement: America Since the Sixties (2020); Joshua Mitchell’s American Awakening: Identity Politics and Other Afflictions of Our Time (2020); Niall Ferguson’s Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe (2021); and Michael Sandel’s The Tyranny of Merit (2020).

Lecture 1: How do catastrophic events fundamentally reshape our politics and lives?

Monday, November 15, 2021 at 1:30 p.m. in the Penthouse Lounge
Without Shays’s Rebellion, the Constitutional Convention of 1787 might not have occurred. The Civil War produced, says Eric Foner, a “Second Founding” that “remade the Constitution.” The Great Depression gave birth to the modern welfare state. Christopher Caldwell contends that public grief over JFK’s assassination led to the “Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts” that laid the foundation for a “new Constitution.” In our own time, the Covid-19 pandemic has spurred massive new government spending and policy initiatives that promise permanent changes in our system of government. How do disruptive events remake our politics and are we too much the creatures of crises?

Lecture 2: Is America becoming more or less democratic?

Monday, November 22, 2021 at 1:30 p.m. in the Penthouse Lounge
Various commentators have rightly described the January 6th Capitol riot as a threat to our democracy. At the same time, turnout (as a percentage of the eligible electorate) in the 2020 presidential election was the highest in the last hundred years. So, amid the bad news and good news, what can we say about the overall health of democracy in America—and, importantly, what are the metrics by which we can evaluate that health?

Lecture 3: Does Congress still work?

Monday, November 29, 2021 at 1:30 p.m. in the Penthouse Lounge
The Constitution puts Congress first, giving to it, in Article I, “all legislative powers.” Crisis times especially seem to shift initiative and power from the Congress to the President. Moreover, a recent issue in National Affairs (Summer 2021) argues that Congress no longer functions as a truly representative, law-making body: it doesn’t deliberate, and, by formal delegation or by inactivity, it has given away its law-making authority to the executive and judicial branches. Is this indictment accurate and, if so, what might be done?

Lecture 4: Does growing inequality threaten America future?

Monday, December 6, 2021 at 1:30 p.m. in the Penthouse Lounge
A Wall Street Journal (August 9, 2021) analysis shows that Black college graduates in their 30s now have only one-tenth of the wealth of their white counterparts, down from roughly two-fifths in the 1990s. The Journal study highlights a racial gap that contributes to a fierce debate about persistent “systemic racism.” As well, the study hints at more general patterns of growing income inequality across the entire population. What are the sources of expanding inequality and what can be done to alleviate it?

Lecture 5: What do both political parties get wrong (and right)?

Monday, December 13, 2021 at 1:30 p.m. in the Penthouse Lounge
Joshua Mitchell contends that Democrats are in thrall to the “dead end” of “identity politics” and that Republicans have “given us an untampered defense of purportedly free global markets, to the detriment of our middle class.” He concludes, “A renewed America will require more than either party can now provide.” Whether one accepts Mitchell’s particular critique, there is reason to wonder whether our parties, as currently constituted, are prepared to carry America forward to a safe and prosperous future.


Course 6 - The Question of God: Sigmund Freud & C.S. Lewis

Presented by: Dr. Benson P. Fraser, Westminster-Canterbury Fellow for Religious Studies and Lifelong Learning

Course Description: This class will examine the question: Does God really exist? By comparing the lives and work of Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis we will examine this question. Much of the class will be given over to watching a PBS video based on a book by the same title and written Harvard Professor Dr. Armond Nicholi. Through dramatic presentation of vignette from their lives of Freud and Lewis and by interviews with experts on their work and lives this video will challenge us to look more closely at our understanding of their lives and how we live our own. Each session will include a brief introduction and discussion at the end of the viewing session.

Lecture 1: Transcendent Experience: Science or Revelation?

Friday, November 26, 2021 at 11:00 a.m. in the Penthouse Lounge

Lecture 2: Exalted Father; Why believe? Miracles

Friday, December 3, 2021 at 11:00 a.m. in the Penthouse Lounge

Lecture 3: Love they Neighbor; the Human Condition

Friday, December 10, 2021 at 11:00 a.m. in the Penthouse Lounge

Lecture 4: Moral Law; Suffering and Death

Friday, December 17, 2021 at 11:00 a.m. in the Penthouse Lounge


Course 7 - Kierkegaard: His Life, His Work, and His Legacy

Presented by: Dr. Benson P. Fraser, Westminster-Canterbury Fellow for Religious Studies and Lifelong Learning

Course Description: Few scholars have captured the imagination of so many within the scholarly community as Søren Kierkegaard. Known as the father of existentialism, Kierkegaard is misunderstood by many scholars and theologians today. But that is about to change! Recent scholarship on him and his life is making his ideas more widely known and accepted. Like Einstein and Freud, he is one of those geniuses whose ideas permeate the culture and shape our world even when few people have read their works. This class intends to make him and his ideas understandable, even enjoyable to all who care to know about our culture and those who have powerfully shaped it.

Lecture 1: Kierkegaard the Man and his Life!

Tuesday, December 7, 2021 at 3:00 p.m. in the Penthouse Lounge
This lecture will introduce this Danish philosopher, poet and theologian in a way that is accessible to everyone. We will also address why we need to study this obscure philosopher as his influence pervades our culture.

Lecture 2: Kierkegaard’s Works and their Meaning

Tuesday, December 14, 2021 at 3:00 p.m. in the Penthouse Lounge
It is impossible to talk about all his writings, but I will focus on the most important for today and for our time. Particularly we will examine how he has shaped philosophy and theology today.

Lecture 3: Kierkegaard: What is Lasting about his Work and Ideas

Tuesday, December 21, 2021 at 3:00 p.m. in the Penthouse Lounge
Over a hundred years after he was born he is still relevant, and his ideas are being studies and shaping the social and intellectual understanding of our world.