On Wednesday night Shanny Luft presented his research at the Ninth Annual University Evening.
Luft is an assistant professor of philosophy and religious studies at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point. His presentation, “In the Devil’s Church – The Christian Fight Over Hollywood,” centered on the evangelist hatred of theatre and Hollywood throughout history.
“There was a lot of unbridled hostility and rage toward Hollywood,” Luft said. “The evangelists had been bequeathed the long-standing bias against theatre. Particularly actors because in order to act one must embody a persona that is not their own, and evangelists saw that as lying. ”
Luft compiled his historical research into a book and plans to begin the publishing process soon. During the presentation he pointed out some of the facts and ideas that stood out to him throughout his extensive research process, offering as an example that theatres were built to look like churches and palaces in order to compete with places of worship.
“Fundamentalists saw the theatres across the street, and instead of people lining up to go to church on Sunday morning they were lining up to go to the movies,” he said.
Two main points driving Luft’s presentation were the questions “why?” and “so what?” He outlined why evangelists viewed the movies and theatre as they did and what could be learned from his research.
“I think religious studies has something to learn from this. Fundamentalists avoiding the theatre could be seen as a religious practice,” Luft said, concluding his speech.
Luft feels that his teaching credentials allow him to tap into other subjects of interest.
“I can stand in the center of everything with my degree in religious studies and reach out into other subjects. Religion is like a hub,” he said.
University Evening was introduced nine years ago as an “event in which the university community and Central Wisconsin community come together to celebrate the creativity and scholarship of the UW – Stevens Point faculty,” according to the pamphlet distributed at the event.
In order to present at University Evening, professors must apply to the University Evening Selection Committee in the spring. The committee, comprised of peer professors, then reviews all the proposal submissions and votes.
The members of the committee this year included: Susan Brewer, Timothy Halkowski, Paula DeHart, Kevin Russell and Leslie Midkiff DeBauche.
“This is meant to be an evening that has challenging ideas presented in an interesting and entertaining way,” said DeBauche, one of the original members of the committee. “It’s hard to choose just one presenter.”
Chancellor Bernie Patterson agreed wholeheartedly with the credo of the University Evening Selection Committee.
“This offers an opportunity for our students, university community and the community at large to experience the wonderful things happening in classrooms every day,” he said. “Not to share that would be criminal. This is a window into the classroom.”