– By Jo Kadlecek
In a society that seems increasingly polarised, can understanding history play a role in shaping our future? Which stories of our shared past could enhance our current civic discourse?
These questions comprised the focus of ADM’s 2018 Annual Public Lecture, “Beautiful Lies? History, Religion and Our Common Life” featuring historian Dr. Meredith Lake. Over 200 people gathered for Dr. Lake’s lecture Thursday, 8 November at St Andrew’s Cathedral in Sydney as she explored how stories from our history can help us reimagine Australia today.
A 2017 ADM Senior Research Fellow, Dr. Lake drew in part from the award winning book she completed during her Fellowship, “The Bible in Australia: A Cultural History” (NewSouth: April 2018) as she discussed the power of stories in this era of ‘fake’ news and tribal politics.
“I’ve been concerned lately about the way our public conversations have been happening. We’re facing enormous issues, from the future of our common home to the way we do family life and the ways we deal with political and cultural differences,” Dr. Lake said. “What often happens when these issues are debated is that people, in their outrage, don’t listen to each other. We need a language and a sense of stories to address these issues as neighbours that can bring us together.”
With research interests in the social and cultural aspects of religion, Dr. Lake is an Honorary Associate of the Department of History, University of Sydney, whose primary focus is on how stories affect our common life. Her lecture reinforced ADM’s commitment to fostering rigorous and thoughtful discussion around Christian themes in the public square, and was co-sponsored by the Centre for Public Christianity. Just a month after her lecture, Dr. Lake was appointed as a commentator for ABC Radio National program on religion, replacing Rachael Kohn’s long-running The Spirit of Things.
“ADM’s Annual Public Lecture provides a platform for Christian women who demonstrate outstanding talent and leadership in their field, and who model a distinctive approach to Christian public engagement,” said Dr. Annette Pierdziwol, ADM’s Director of Public Engagement. “In past years we’ve hosted international speakers, but in 2018 we were delighted to have one of our own alumna Dr. Meredith Lake give the Lecture and explore such a crucial topic for us today.”