At the 2015 Augustine Collective Retreat, James K. A. Smith presented a framework for understanding our cultural moment as a secular age. This notion of secularism is not synonymous with atheism. Rather, the distinctive characteristic of this moment is an experience of cross-pressure as we live in the knowledge that no set of beliefs can be taken for granted but all—religious, irreligious, or areligious—are subject to challenge. Moreover, our cultural secularism is shot through with glimpses of and longings for transcendence. In light of this, among our other appeals to the hearts and minds of our peers, we must present them with compelling images of living and thought that takes the possibility of God seriously, to point to the skylights in the brass ceiling.
Your task: Choose a culturally significant work of literature that reflects an openness to God. Craft an essay to persuade a secular peer of the plausibility of this open stance and of the shortcomings of a reductionist reading of the text. In other words, show your reader how it is necessary to “try on” a believing perspective in order to fully understand and appreciate the work and what would be lost by rejecting such a perspective. Essays will be evaluated by the editors of Fare Forward for intellectual rigor, clarity, audience appropriateness, and potential to provoke dialogue.
Essays must be no fewer than 2,000 and no greater than 3,000 words in length. To be considered for the prize, essays must be published in a student journal. Fare Forward will present a prize of $300 to the author of the best essay. Augustine Collective will present a $1,000 prize to the publishing journal.
Email submissions as .doc or .docx files to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include the author’s name, class year, school, and indicate which issue the article appeared in (Spring 2015 or forthcoming Fall 2015 only). All entries must be received by December 1, 2015.
The winner will be announced at next year’s retreat, to be held in Boston on January 22-24, 2016.