Veninga Lecture on Religion & Society

Jim Veninga, former UW-Marathon County dean, religious studies professor and a founding father of WIPPS, created this annual lecture series to help engage people on religion and its relationship to society. The upcoming lecture will be our tenth, and for this occasion, WIPPS proudly welcomes the Rev. Dr. Jennifer Elisa Veninga, daughter of the late Dr. Jim Veninga.

The Rev. Dr. Veninga will speak on “Citizen as Witness: A Theology of Grief and Solidarity for a Wounded World.”

Drawing on research for her current book project and her recent experience as a hospital chaplain, she will speak on how we are called to bear witness to the historical and present collective trauma and suffering of others. As a way of seeing, remembering, and truth-telling, this witness presses us to expand our ability to grieve, not only for our own losses but also for those of others— human and non-human —outside our immediate circles.

Witnessing in this way prompts us to ask questions including, What can our grief teach us? What knowledge does it impart to us about ourselves? What does it teach us about which lives we deem to be grievable in the first place?

Citizenship-as-witness is crucial as our global community continues to grapple with losses caused by the pandemic and the reality of climate change. This witness has the potential to encourage solidarity across differences, to inspire resistance to injustice, and to provide opportunities for individuals and collectives to move toward healing and hope.

Jennifer (Jenny) Elisa Veninga has served as a professor in the Department of Religious and Theological Studies at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, for over a decade. The author of Secularism, Theology and Islam: The Danish Social Imaginary and the Cartoon Crisis of 2005-2006 (Bloomsbury, 2014), her research and teaching interests include Søren Kierkegaard and existentialism, Scandinavian religion and politics, religious pluralism, and feminist and queer theologies. Her current research explores the intersections of collective memory, trauma, and witness, including the 22 July tragedy in Norway and ongoing trauma in Palestine and Israel, as well as collective grief resulting from Covid-19, racial injustice, and climate change. An ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, she works with ecumenical and interfaith initiatives and has recently served as a hospital chaplain.

The Tenth Veninga Lecture on Religion and Society will be May 23, 2022 at 7pm. To stay up to date, sign up here for our email list to receive more information when it’s available.

Veninga’s vision was to bring nationally acclaimed experts in the field to address topics that often are emotionally charged. Although he died in January 2014, his vision lives on through all of WIPPS programs, but most especially through his namesake religion and society lecture series. His hope was that people “learn from some great scholars who have thought deeply and written widely about the connections between religion and society, at home and abroad. “I am hoping that the Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy and Service will pull from the presentations key ideas and help circulate those ideas to citizens across the state.”

The Veninga Lecture is made possible through the support of Bremer and Trollop Law Offices, UW-Stevens Point at Wausau, Mark and Ann Bradley, Christine and Paul Bremer Muggli, Linda and Lane Ware, and Wisconsin Public Radio.

A Sampling of Past Veninga Lectures

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