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Ben Shahn (1898-1969), American

Engraved by Stefan Martin (1936-1994), American

Martin Luther King, ed. 6/300, 1966

Originally commissioned for the cover of Time magazine, March 19, 1965

Wood Engraving

Collection of La Salle University Art Museum, 66-G-42

In REL240: Contemporary Religious Thought, we adopted “The Quest for Our Shared Humanity” as the narrative theme, the hermeneutic lens through which students and teacher engaged in what Paulo Freire calls “authentic thinking, thinking that is concerned about reality.”

Recognizing the prophetic call to “stand in the gaps” of our time, the course provides a space to encounter a variety of figures whose faith commitments motivate them to become prophetic witnesses of hope in their day, as well as the religious and theological frameworks and concepts they used to both resist social structures of oppression and to envision new ways of being human together while overcoming division and indifference. The Catholic intellectual, spiritual and social teaching traditions provide ground for our study along with a robust encounter with the thought of theologians and practitioners from other religious traditions.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of the towering figures, living out his prophetic call, to stand in the gap. His preaching and teaching appear at different points in the course. The visit to the Art Museum was an opportunity to “see” King and other figures through art, attending to different learning styles and strengths. The Shahn print and expressions of other prophetic women and men displayed during the class visit assist students to make different connections to course content. For many students, the Art Museum is an unfamiliar territory. Still, the short visit ignited some discussion, some wonderment.

One student reflects: “We visited the La Salle Art Museum to investigate how the themes of the course—solidarity, social justice, and societal indifference— manifested itself in art. This work … displayed the power of King’s voice while at the same time depicting his head in a cloud, foreshadowing how his message of love is divorced from his message of nonviolent political resistance in our time. Overall, our visit helped me and my classmates see how these themes can be depicted and felt through mediums other than words.”

Ernest J. Miller, FSC, D. Min.

Vice President for Mission

Adjunct Instructor, Department of Religion and Theology

Broader Identity

  • 2. Reflective Thinking and Valuing

Effective Expression

  • 9. Creative and Artistic Expression

Active Responsibility

  • 10. Ethical Understanding and Reasoning

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Collection of La Salle University Art Museum; Copyright: Art © Estate of Ben Shahn/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY;