Amplifying Justice Podcast: “Nourished by Lutheran Tradition” at St. Olaf

Recently Lutheran Center director Deanna Thompson was interviewed for an episode of the Amplifying Justice Podcast produced by the Wendland-Cook Program in Religion and Justice at Vanderbilt University. In January 2021 the Wendland-Cook Program hosted four St. Olaf interns, and senior St. Olaf intern Anna Barnard interviews Deanna along with St. Olaf alum Aaron Stauffer ’10, the Louisville Institute Postdoctoral Fellow at Vanderbilt Divinity School in the Wendland-Cook Program.

As an ELCA-affiliated institution, St. Olaf aims to “be nourished by Lutheran tradition,” according to its mission statement. At the same time, only 23% of students from the class of 2021 identify as Lutheran, while 33% identify as non-religious. In their conversation, Anna, Deanna, and Aaron explore St. Olaf’s Lutheran identity and the challenges that St. Olaf faces in fostering a religiously inclusive community.

They discuss the role of the Lutheran Center on campus and its goal of articulating an interfaith vision of Lutheranism for the 21st century. They also discuss how Lutheranism is a predominantly white denomination, how white Lutheranism has shaped St. Olaf’s “Ole culture,” and how St. Olaf must create a community in which BIPOC students and faculty can fully belong and thrive.

Deanna and Aaron also explore how Lutheranism and other Christian denominations can be reclaimed as a movement for justice. They end their conversation by sharing their hopes for the Lutheran Center’s continued work and impact on the St. Olaf community.

Read more about the Wendland-Cook interns and their work.