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Grawemeyer Award Given For Research on Religion and Race

An associate professor of theology and black church studies at Duke University is the recipient of the 2015 Grawemeyer Award in Religion, presented jointly by the University of Louisville and the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

The award was announced Thursday evening.

The Rev. Willie James Jennings is being recognized for his book "The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race." 

WFPL's Rick Howlett interviews The Rev. Dr. Willie James Jennings

Jennings argues in the book that Christianity has often fallen short in its attempts to heal racial division. 

“Not because of a kind of weakness of will, but because of a deep, what I call, diseased social imagination that shaped us to think about life together in very distorted ways," he said.

He said Christians should strive to lead the way to have people come together.

“We are people who ought to care very much about the earth and about neighborhoods, and so the way we imagine our lives should be based on a very serious intentionality to be with other people very different from ourselves," he said.

Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary professor Shannon Craigo-Snell, who directed the award, said in a statement: “His book contains brilliant flashes of insight into Christianity and racial oppression. He also sheds light on how Christianity has the potential to foster more just and respectful relations between religious and racial groups.”

Rick Howlett was midday host and the host of LPM's weekly talk show, "In Conversation." He was with LPM from 2001-2023 and held many different titles, including Morning Edition host, Assignment Editor and Interim News Director. He died in August 2023. Read a remembrance of Rick here.

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