Abraham’s Whiteboard: The Historical Context of the Christmas Story Featuring Dr. Paul Williams
Thursday, December 2
6:30 pm – 8:00 pm CST
Zoom (Registration required)
Many Americans are familiar with some version of a Christmas story, whether it’s the story of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth or a whimsical tale about how Santa Claus came to be. But what historical facts underpin the origins of this major Christian holiday?
In this session, Dr. Paul Williams of the University of Nebraska Omaha will provide a deeper explanation of the historical context behind Christmas. Along the way, he will discuss traditional celebrations, a historical view of Jesus, and the relationship between Santa Claus and the founder of Christianity. In addition, he will make connections to another well-known winter holiday: Chanukah.
About Dr. Paul Williams
An Associate Professor of Religion and Philosophy at the University of Nebraska Omaha (UNO), Dr. Paul A. Williams was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and raised in both Congo and Texas. He earned a BA degree in Anthropology and Asian Studies (1978) from the University of Texas at Austin, a Master of Arts in Religion from the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest. At the University of Chicago, he studied the History of Religions, with an emphasis on African Religions, Anthropology of Religion, Buddhism, History of Christianity, and Theological Ethics, earning an MA in Religious Studies (1981) and a Ph.D. in History of Religions (2000). Based on research in the United States and the DRC, his doctoral dissertation was entitled “The Disciples of Christ Congo Mission (DCCM), 1897-1932: A Missionary Community in Colonial Central Africa.”
At UNO, Dr. Williams regularly offers courses in African Religions, History of Christianity, Islam, New Testament, World Religions, and other topics. He has served as the Chair of the Religious Studies department since 2011, and he is also the co-founder and Associate Director of the Goldstein Center for Human Rights in the College of Arts and Sciences at UNO. An ordained minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Dr. Williams has served congregations in Illinois and Wisconsin (1993 – 2001) and the Missouri River Valley (2009-2020). He worked closely with Project Interfaith and the Center for Faith Studies in programs regarding interfaith dialog and interreligious encounters. He is an active member of the Board of Directors of both Tri-Faith Initiative and also Education Congo, a non-profit organization with a primary focus on scholarship support and capacity building in higher education in the DRC.
Abraham’s Whiteboard is a monthly educational class led by Tri-Faith’s Education Director, Jeremy Fricke, on a wide variety of special topics, historical moments, and world religions. For example, a session could focus on definitions of religion or on non-Abrahamic religions like Hinduism or Buddhism. All Abraham’s Whiteboard sessions are open to all people regardless of background, but will connect the content to Judaism, Christianity, and/or Islam.
Tri-Faith Initiative events are recorded and archived on our YouTube Channel.
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