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CWC Turns 30

The founders of "Christianity in Western Culture" (L-R) Neil Lettinga, Kevin Cragg, Daniel Taylor, and Michael Holmes in a planning meeting during Interim of 1986.

In the interim of 1986, four Bethel faculty members—Michael Holmes, Kevin Cragg, Neil Lettinga, and Daniel Taylor—met to develop a brand-new general education course. The course was launched that spring semester as a foundation for the liberal arts focus of the College of Arts & Sciences. It was designed to be a western civilization course charting the philosophical, theological, political, and artistic evolution of the beginning of western society from the ancients to the present.

Named “Christianity in Western Culture” it was quickly shortened in typical Bethel style to CWC. As the largest course offered at Bethel, thousands of undergraduate students have experienced CWC during the last 60 semesters. There is also an online version of the course offered to students during summer term.

Last month, a “CWC30” celebration took place in the Bethel University Library. Current co-directors of CWC—Professor of History Chris Gehrz and Assistant Professor of History Sam Mulberry—hosted the event in late-night talk show format. Fun interviews of past and current course instructors along with recorded testimonials from former course faculty chronicled the course from its early days to its current iteration. Professor of English Dan Ritchie talked about his years teaching the course and the spin-off course for students in the humanities. “The teaching of how Christians interact with culture is so fundamental to students coming into Bethel that you’ll see that in both courses,” says Ritchie.

Even in the last 30 years, the core of the curriculum has remained intact, including the musical entertainment written and performed by faculty to engage students and help them remember critical content. The event concluded with a live performance by Gehrz of the revised version of the “St. Augustine Rap,” now known as “Confessionz.” Watch the recording of the library event.

As historians, Gehrz and Mulberry have compiled several archives related to CWC course history, including a project centered on the teaching assistants who have worked for the course. As a 5-semester teaching assistant himself during his student years at Bethel, Mulberry contacted more than 160 former teaching assistants and built a 25-year digital oral history of their memories and experiences.

This spring, Mulberry has been sharing with faculty a CWC class devotional lecture each week that includes a recording from the early years of the course. These audio recordings have been archived into the full CWC collection of the Digital Library.

Watch the 2007 video of “Confessionz.” Follow the CWCRadio channel on YouTube.

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