Montana State University is pretty good about hosting events and activities around important days on our academic calendar, but they always outdo themselves for MLK Day Lecture. This year’s guest speaker was Chris Stedman. Because of my close relationship with the Diversity Awareness Office, which sponsored and hosted Chris’s event, I was lucky enough to go out to dinner with Chris and three other students who assisted in the coordination of the lecture. The dinner was right before the night’s event, so it was a quick affair, but I’m so glad I got the chance to go. Chris is an amazing person. His story is one of polarizing and life changing and life affirming encounters. Chris grew up in a secular household, but converted to Christianity just before his teenage years. In college, he majored in religious studies where we had the chance to critically examine his religious beliefs. He came to realize that the foundational principles of morality and service were what drew him to the Christian worldview; however, the theological elements were not. Though Chris is an atheist, he is a staunch proponent of interfaith collaboration and understanding of shared ideals. Chris is the Humanist Chaplain at Harvard University, where he is a community organizer and interfaith activist. Chris’s message that although we come from different faiths, or have no faith at all, our want to make a positive impact on other people in our world is the same.
Most people remember Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for his civil rights advocacy, but few remember him as an advocate for interfaith cooperation and tolerance (men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!)Chris’s work in our world today is much like Dr. King’s work in the 1960s. It is good to know that my generation is continuing the work of Dr. King in our day and age.