On Thursday evening 25 September, the Christopher Dawson Society for the Study of Faith and Reason hosted Gerald Russello, one of the world’s foremost experts on the writings of Christopher Dawson. Speaking to a full house at the AHI’s headquarters, Russello provided a concise and perceptive sketch of Dawson’s personal and scholarly career, highlighting his central insight: “culture arises from cult, from the patterns of organized worship, and the society that disregards its spiritual foundations will collapse, no matter the level of its material well-being.”
After Russello concluded his brief remarks, he led a lively discussion of the evening’s common reading, Dawson’s 1960 lecture, “America and the Secularization of Modern Culture.” The audience, a diverse group that included Hamilton students and faculty and members of the local community, asked searching questions and offered trenchant comments. Participants pondered how the process of secularization has shaped American culture and religion since Dawson presented his essay. The discussion dramatically reinforced one of Russello’s main points: Dawson’s writings continue to demand our attention. For, as Russello points out, “Dawson revisited topics that had special resonance for America, and that continue to be central to public conversation: the proper definitions of progress and success; the role of technology in society; the relationship between economics and politics, and between politics and culture; and the necessity of protecting belief in an age dominated by an exaggerated devotion to efficiency and science.”
The AHI would also like to thank Jeffrey H. McArn, the Hamilton College chaplain, for transporting a large number of students to the event. The Christopher Dawson Society will next meet at the AHI on Wednesday, October 8th at 6:30 PM when it will discuss Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s 1978 Harvard University Commencement Address and his 1983 Templeton Prize Lecture.