CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Garry Wills, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and historian, will examine the role of human beings on the planet when he delivers the Marjorie Hall Thulin Lecture in Religion. The annual lecture, sponsored by the University of Illinois department of religion, is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. April 21 in Room 141 in the Loomis Laboratory of Physics Building, 1110 W. Green St., Urbana.
The lecture, titled “Earth, Our Home: A Theology of Nature,” is free and open to the public. A reception will follow the lecture.
In his lecture, Wills will discuss the theological idea – culturally established for much of Western history – that it is appropriate and legitimate for human beings to dominate nature. Modern science has called into question this idea about the place of human beings in nature, and Pope Francis’ recent encyclical letter provides religious grounds for rejecting a theology of human dominion over the earth. The pope’s letter also suggests an alternative conception of the human role on the planet, and it challenges us to think afresh about what that role should be.
Wills, who earned a Ph.D. from Yale University in 1961, is a professor emeritus of history and a cultural historian at Northwestern University. His many books include studies of George Washington, Richard Nixon, the Kennedy family, Ronald Reagan, and religion in America.
His 1992 book, “Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America,” won the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction and the 1992 National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism.
Wills won the 1979 Merle Curti Award from the Organization of American Historians and the 1978 National Book Critics Circle Award for General Nonfiction for his 1978 book, “Inventing America: Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence.”
Wills has also been awarded the National Humanities Medal, and he was inducted as a laureate of The Lincoln Academy of Illinois and awarded the Order of Lincoln.
His most recent book, published in 2015, is “The Future of the Catholic Church with Pope Francis.”
The Thulin Lecture in Religion is named for Marjorie Hall Thulin (1910-2009), a 1931 graduate of the University of Illinois who wanted students to understand how religion grows and functions in a complex society, especially Christianity in America. Through her endowment, the religion department brings an internationally known scholar of religion and contemporary culture to campus each year.