Lyceum Project 2021 

David Zahl 

9 April 2021 


Midtown Campus 

If you wander the halls of the Academy, you’ll find this especially among our dialectic and rhetoric classrooms, you’ll note a significant amount of sound coming therefrom (actually, it might just be my classroom). Sure, some of this noise is just the ambient sounds of middle schoolers and their various noises. But more often, you’ll find that there is a lively, bright discussion about some paragraph or passage or pericope. Our classrooms are set a table, offering a place of freedom for our students to share their beliefs, loves and voices. Our classrooms are opportunities to find again that lost great art of disputation. Our classrooms, in short, are a reviving of the salon, of the public house, of the dinner table. We long to remind students of the civility and joy of a vigorous debate and of a communal search for the true, the good and the beautiful.  

The Lyceum Project is the Academy’s attempt to take what we do in our classrooms and turn outward to our community, to continue a bright, lively conversation, to engage culture with the hope and truth of the Resurrection of Christ. We attempt each year around Eastertide to bring the best speakers available to lead much needed public discourse on topics of concern to the broader OKC community. Past speakers include Esther Meek, James K.A Smith, Eleonore Stump, Alan Noble and Carl Moser offering important conversations on issues relating to the nature of humanity, human knowing, life in the political, suffering and being disruptive witnesses in a secular age. 

This year we welcome, David Zahl, founder of Mockingbird Ministries. Here’s a sense of his work he’ll offer us for further consideration.

Turns out, humans are religious. Some express this religiosity more formally than others, but all are, indeed, religious. The impulse is strong and unavoidable. There was a time when the dominant religious impulse in the Western world was aimed at Christianity. Not so much these days. With the rise of secularism, Nons and the spiritual-but-not-religious, church attendance has steadily declined. Formal religion seems to be on its way out. But. What if it’s the case that, rather than this decline in formal attachment to religion signaling a decline in religious devotion per se, the religious impulse simply found something else to attach itself to, a veritable barnacle glomming onto whatever ship is passing in the night? What if, that is, religion didn’t go away but transformed. ‘Alas,’ writes David Zahl, ‘if our current cultural climate tells us anything, it’s that the needs addressed by Religion—for hope, purpose, connection, justification, enoughness—haven’t diminished as churches have become taprooms and theaters. The psychic energy involved hasn’t evaporated. It can’t. It has to go somewhere.’ It turns out, then, that we humans haven’t become less religious (despite the promises of religion’s cultural despisers); ironically, it just might be that we’ve become even more religious. The impulse hasn’t abated, it’s reoriented, recentered around a new set of secular (rather than sacred) objects: career, parenting, technology, food, politics and romance.