Westminster/Wesleyan Lifelong Learning Institute: Spring 2022 Schedule

Please see below for the Spring 2022 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 - 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 developments 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 took take place in fall 2021 and the second four will be held in spring 2022.

Dates and Weekly Topics:

Lecture 1: Friday, January 21st, at 1:00PM in the Penthouse Lounge.

“The Turning of the European Theater.” In January 1942, one month after the U.S. had entered the War, Nazi Germany controlled a vast swath of territory, totaling 1.5 million square miles. But conquest concealed systemic weaknesses in Germany’s military strategy and capabilities. Meanwhile, with the mobilization of the US, British, and Soviet home fronts, Allied forces were rapidly gaining strength, punctuated by the U.S.S.R.’s defeat of Germany in the Battle of Stalingrad in February 1943. Despite military setbacks, however, Germany pursued its genocidal program with unwavering vehemence in 1942 when it erected death camps equipped with gas chambers to execute Jews and other civilian enemies.

Lecture 2: Friday, January 28th, at 1:00PM in the Penthouse Lounge.

“The Turning of the Pacific Theater.” In early 1942, Japan was at its peak of military conquest. However, during the Battle of Midway in June 1942, the U.S. defeated Japan, fundamentally changing the course of the War in the Pacific with the U.S. increasingly gaining military superiority. As the U.S. went on the offensive, it implemented a strategy of island hopping, moving from island to island and closing in on the Japanese mainland.

Lecture 3: Friday, February 11th, at 1:00PM in the Penthouse Lounge.

“Genocidal Carnage amid Allied Victory in Europe.” On the heels of its victory at the Battle of Stalingrad in 1943, the U.S.S.R. began to drive towards Berlin. Meanwhile, the Western Allies landed in northern France in June 1944 and began to push towards Germany from the west. As Germany was being squeezed militarily, it expedited its genocidal program, culminating in the deportations of 440,000 Hungarian Jews to death camps in summer 1944. In early 1945 when Germany was nearing collapse, the remaining Jews were forced to journey hundreds of miles under the most adverse conditions, which killed hundreds of thousands in the final weeks of the War.

Lecture 4: Friday, February 18th, at 1:00PM in the Penthouse Lounge.

“Allied Victory in the Pacific and a New Epoch of Nuclear Armament.” As the U.S. began to close in on Japan, it launched a massive bombing campaign from China and islands near Japan, deploying its B-29 “Superfortress” bomber with incendiary bombs. Japan’s response to the Allied ascendency grew increasingly desperate, evidenced not only in its deployment of kamikaze suicide pilots beginning in October 1944, but also in its brutal attacks on civilians under occupation, such as during the massacre in Manila in February 1945. The War in the Pacific culminated in the U.S.’s use of nuclear weapons in August 1945, which convinced Japan to surrender unconditionally.


Course 2 - Brain Health to Improve Your Life

Presented by: Dr. Scott W. Sautter, Adjunct Professor at VWU; Diplomate, American Board of Professional Neuropsychology; Board Certified Neuropsychologist & Licensed Clinical Psychologist.

Course Description: This class is intended to help people strengthen their cognitive skills. 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: Thursday, January 27th at 1:00PM in the Penthouse Lounge

“Cross Train Your Brain: Play Ping Pong” In this lecture you will learn about the neuroscience of a healthy brain and the amazing health benefits of playing Ping Pong. 

Lecture 2: Thursday, February 24 at 1:00PM in the Penthouse Lounge

“Cognitive Reserve” In this lecture you will learn how the neuroscience of aging effects cognitive functions, and how to increase cognitive reserve.

Lecture 3: Thursday, March 31st at 1:00PM in the Penthouse Lounge

“Healthy Brain Living” In this lecture you will learn about the neuroscience of a healthy brain lifestyle.


Course 3 - Part Two: The Question of God and the Challenges Freud and Lewis Faced in Their Later Years!

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

Course Description: This is the second of a two-part series that 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 the later 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 life. Each session will include a brief introduction, a video presentation, a short lecture, and finally a discussion of the video.

Dates and Weekly Topics:

Presentation 1: Tuesday, January 25th at 2:30PM in the Penthouse Lounge

Love Thy Neighbor. Can we really love our neighbor? Does this ethic spring from a human source or is it a divine command? Freud and Lewis took different views on this topic. Freud believed that religious pursuit is man’s greatest illusion. While Lewis stood against the secularism sweeping the academia in writing The Four Loves where he discusses the nature of the four Greek words that are translated “love,” including “agape” (selfless love).

Presentation 2: Tuesday, February 1st at 2:30PM in the Penthouse Lounge

The Human Condition. How can a person explain the evil in the world? In the midst of the horror of World War I and the death of his daughter and grandson, Freud implores people to cast away their self-deception and realize that religion cannot truly console. How do we account for evil in our world? Both Freud and Lewis address this perplexing questions.

Presentation 3: Tuesday, February 8th at 2:30PM in the Penthouse Lounge

Moral Law. What is the source of right and wrong? Lewis defends the Christian faith in his British radio broadcasts and in the publication of Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, and The Problem of Pain, maintaining throughout these works that the human conscience and morality itself exist because of God. On the other hand, Freud saw religion as just a “wish fulfilment” and an illusion.

Presentation 4: Tuesday, February 15th at 2:30PM in the Penthouse Lounge

Suffering and Death. How do you equate an omnipotent, all-loving being with the evil and pain we experience in our lives?  Freud was fighting cancer yet was able to escape to England, were he speaks out against the Third Reich, continues his work on the unconscious mind, and dies, an atheist, with no last-minute appeal to God. Lewis faced the biggest spiritual challenge of this life following the death of his wife Joy. Yet, he concludes that God, not always understood, is still there for his people. It seems we cannot escape suffering and death, yet we do not need to face it alone.


Course 4 - Abortion and the Constitution: What Will the Court Decide?

Presented by: Dr. Timothy G. O'Rourke (Ph.D., Duke, Political Science) is Vice President Emeritus at Virginia Wesleyan University.

Course Description: On December 1, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case that raises the question “whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional.” At issue is a Mississippi law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. In asking the Court to uphold the state’s law, Mississippi advocates overturning Roe v. Wade (1973)—which guarantees a virtually unfettered right to abortion prior to fetal viability (24 to 28 weeks)—and almost 50 years of abortion jurisprudence. Whatever, the Court rules, probably in June or July, its decision will spark enormous controversy, only months ahead of the 2022 congressional elections. A four-part series examines the implications of Dobbs and the Court’s role in our constitutional system.

Dates and Weekly Topics:

Lecture 1: Friday, February 25th, at 1:00PM in the Penthouse Lounge.

Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization. This presentation looks closely at the positions of the contending parties, including the Biden Administration, which urges the Court to rule against Mississippi (and for the existing right to abortion). The lecture revisits the December 1st oral argument, which featured lively exchanges between and among the justices and attorneys.

Lecture 2: Friday, March 4th, at 1:00PM in the Penthouse Lounge.

The Basis of the Court's Authority. Mississippi's brief in Dobbs makes much of the fact the Constitution does not expressly provide for a right to abortion. There are, of course, many consequential rights not specifically set out in the document; the 9th Amendment even refers to unenumerated rights. Where do these rights come from and on what authority does the Supreme Court establish such rights?

Lecture 3: Friday, March 11th, at 1:00PM in the Penthouse Lounge.

Major Cases Reconsidered. The Court is no stranger to controversy and this lecture considers some of the Court's most hotly contested past decisions, in areas such as school prayer, suspects' rights, same-sex marriage, and one-person, one-vote.

Lecture 4: Friday, March 18th, at 1:00PM in the Penthouse Lounge

Anticipating the Impact of Dobbs. Predicting how the Court will rule is risky, but this lecture considers the Court's options and looks ahead to the possible effects of the Court's decision on the 2022 congressional elections.


Course 5 - The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis: An Exploration of the Themes in Lewis' Classic Work

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

Course Description: Lewis’ classic and often comical allegorical tale where a man takes a bus ride on a vacation or a “holiday” away from Hell to visit Heaven, where he and those traveling with him are invited to stay forever. What’s the catch? Come and find out as we investigate the various characters and themes found in this imaginative novel which is so full of social, religious, and moral issues. (I suggest that you purchase or borrow this book (only 146 pages) and read along each week before the lectures. You can easily read the weekly assigned section in one or two hours.)

Lecture 1: Tuesday, February 22nd at 2:30PM in the Penthouse Lounge

Background and Introduction. In this imaginative novel Lewis presents spiritual and moral challenges faced by characters inhabiting the afterlife. The plot is actually straightforward. Lewis appears to be the protagonist and narrator guiding us through a series of events taking us from hell to heaven. In the process we are faced with considering some very serious questions about how we understand the afterlife.

Lecture 2: Tuesday, March 1st at 2:30PM in the Penthouse Lounge

Preface, Chapters 1 and 2. In the opening of the book, Lewis on what he believes we all should know—that you cannot have both Heaven and Hell at the same time. We cannot cling onto the vices and values that are destructive and expect them to have no effect on our lives.

Lecture 3: Tuesday, March 8th at 2:30PM in the Penthouse Lounge

Chapters 3 and 4. The bus ride eventually moves beyond the dingy grey town and into a new land. As the travelers arrive and exit the bus, some are overwhelmed and return back to the safety of the bus while other bravely huddle together and press forward. The reader is faced with questions about the nature of heaven and what is real? The people coming off the bus (the Ghosts) are now confronted by the solid people of Heaven.

Lecture 4: Tuesday, March 22nd at 2:30PM in the Penthouse Lounge

Chapters 5 and 6. The fat, cultured Ghost, with whom Lewis was discussing spirituality on the bus, loves to debate—especially when it come to spiritual matters. Upon arrival and disembarking from the bus he immediately begins an intellectual and stimulating conversation with the Spirit sent to help him. In his pursuit of religious truth, he abandons the one truth that would allow him to stay in Heaven.

Lecture 5: Tuesday, March 29th at 2:30PM in the Penthouse Lounge

Chapters 7 and 8. In these chapters we are confronted with Ghostly vanity. In the eigth-chapter Lewis begins to doubt Heaven and the good intentions of those who are there. Here Lewis confronts the reader with the situation of a person questioning God.

Lecture 6: Tuesday, April 5th at 2:30PM in the Penthouse Lounge

Chapter 9. After witnessing a variety of conversations and actions between Ghosts and Spirits, Lewis (the protagonist in the story) is confused, miserable, and somewhat fearful. Finally, his is approached by his guiding spirit, who is none other than author, poet, and Christian minister George MacDonald.

Lecture 7: Tuesday, April 12th at 2:30PM in the Penthouse Lounge

Chapters 10 and 11. Lewis overhears a female ghost who on earth was a very frustrated wife devoted to advancing her husband’s career and shaping his life. She demands and then finally pleads with one of the “Bright People,” to return her husband to her so that she might continue to selfishly control him in the afterlife.

Lecture 8: Tuesday, April 19th at 2:30PM in the Penthouse Lounge

Chapters 12, 13 and 14. In this last section Lewis addresses the question of how the blessed in Heaven can be happy if they know that their loved ones are in Hell, cut off from the happiness they enjoy.


Course 6 - The Seven Deadly Sins

Presented by: Dr. Terrence Lindvall, C.S. Lewis Endowed Chair in Communication and Christian Thought and Professor of Communication.

Course Description: This class will be a hilarious and stimulating journey through the creation and development of the Seven Deadly Sins. Few people can explain such a serious topic and still make you laugh at the challenges these sins bring to the human condition. Whatever your religious background or lack thereof join Dr. Lindvall in this exploration of the challenges all humans face. However, be prepared to laugh and be moved by these lectures.

Lecture 1: Friday, March 25th at 1:00PM in the Penthouse Lounge

Nothing New Under the Sun: The History of the Seven Deadly Sins. These seven cardinal vices, Pride, Envy, Wrath, Sloth, Avarice, Gluttony, and Lust did not spring out of the Bible, but found their way into the Christian tradition through desert monks, great popes, and rotund theologians.  We will trace their origins up through the Middle Ages and practice a few along the way.

Lecture 2: Friday, April 1st at 1:00PM in the Penthouse Lounge

Climbing through Purgatory: Seeing the Seven Deadly Sins and their Consequences through Dante. The seven deadly sins became more interesting as they snuck their way into the epic drama of Dante, with each sin having its own terrace and contrapasso.

Lecture 3: Friday, April 8th at 1:00PM in the Penthouse Lounge

Reading the Old, Old Stories: The Seven Deadly Sins as the Core and Clue to Classic Narratives. Following Dante, other authors and poets adapted the Seven Deadly Sins to construct a spiritual battle. Join the heirs of Dante in Chaucer, Spenser, and other literary (and mediated) narratives expanding on these vices.

Lecture 4: Friday, April 22nd at 1:00PM in the Penthouse Lounge

The Art of Sinning: Bosch, Brueghel, and Madison Avenue.  The next step in the evolution or public relations of vice came as painters engraved them into the imagination of the Middle Ages.  With vivid and often grotesque illustrations, wild artists, like Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Brueghel the Elder, made viewers stop, gaze, wonder, think, and laugh uproariously, wondering whether they were looking through a window or into a mirror.


Course 7 - Flannery O'Connor: A Strategy for Writing Sacramental Art

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

Course Description: This class will examine Flannery O'Connor's sacramental strategy in her sacred writings. In so doing we will draw heavily on both her fiction and non-fiction writings to express her philosophical and theological ideas. O'Connor ranks among the finest prose stylists our country has ever produced. As her writing suggests the good news of Jesus Christ is a subversive gospel, and following Jesus is a subversive act. Her writings were deeply informed by both her Southern context and her Christian faith. I should be clear to anyone who takes the time to carefully read her work that she has much to say to our culture today.

Lecture 1: Tuesday, April 26th at 2:30PM in the Penthouse Lounge

The Language of Grace. Drawing on the work of Peter S. Hawkins, this lecture will explore the problem of religious fiction today: how can writers portray the transforming action of God in our lives for readers who have lost touch with traditional religious symbols that help us understand the experience of God?

Lecture 2: Tuesday, May 3rd at 3:30PM in the Penthouse Lounge

Unmasking the Devil. Two works on Flannery O'Connor inform this lecture: Giving the Devil His Due by Jessica Hooten Wilson and Flannery O'Connor: Unmasking the Devil by Regis Martin. In this class we will discuss the central action of O'Connor's fiction—the violent breaking in of grace into lives barren of the awareness of God. Furthermore, we will examine how her work was shaped by her own faithful and cross-filled life.

Lecture 3: Tuesday, May 10th at 2:30PM in the Penthouse Lounge

Writing a Theology of Disabled Humanity. This lecture is built upon the important work of Timothy J. Basselin in his book, Flannery O'Connor: Writing a Theology of Disabled Humanity. O'Connor's work is populated with imperfect characters who are grappling with sin in a fallen world. Her writings sometimes border of the grotesque still they illustrate the startling visage of Christ in the face of suffering humanity. It may be that acceptance of suffering opens the floodgates of grace. She is unflinching in her writing as she asks the hard questions facing our society.

Lecture 4: Tuesday, May 17th at 2:30PM in the Penthouse Lounge

Praying with Flannery O'Connor. The Province of Joy: Praying with Flannery O'Connor, by Angela Alaimo O'Donnell is used as a major source for this lecture that provides a glimpse into the life and prayers of Flannery O'Connor. The concluding lecture of this series will offer understanding into the spiritual life and prayer practices of this gifted and grace filled author.