The Religion & Culture Web Forum
Eagle of Power, Raven of Guilt: Conversations with Langdon Gilkey
by Jeff B. Pool, Berea College
This month, the Web Forum departs from its usual essay format to present an interview with the late Langdon Gilkey, Shailer Mathews Professor Emeritus of the Divinity School, who died last November at the age of eighty-four. The interview was conducted in December 2001 by Jeff Pool, Associate Professor of Religion at Berea College, Kentucky, and former student of Professor Gilkey. Pool used the events of September 11, 2001, as a focal point for his questions. In his wide-ranging response, Professor Gilkey reflected on history, theology, politics, and his own development as a scholar:
When I was going to Europe in 1939, a Junior in college at the time, I found a Britisher on the boat going over; and I hounded that poor guy—I think, with objectionable enthusiasm—about how evil the British Empire was. And I remember that the poor guy was running around the deck, and I’d follow him. Then, during the Vietnam War, when I was in Toronto, a Canadian came up to me and sat down while I was having coffee: he worked me over, in exactly the same way. I remember smiling to myself, as I held up my arms to withstand the blast, thinking of my innocent self-righteousness in 1939—because we [the U.S.] didn’t exercise power in 1939. That’s when I developed the thesis that the eagle of power has a buddy, the raven of guilt.
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