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,”
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
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.”