The 2010 DBU Paideia Conference – Part 1 Tom Kimmell & James K. A. Smith

Every Paideia Conference begins with a concert, and every year I wonder if I feel like traveling across the metroplex in rush hour to get there – but I always do. This year’s musician was Tom Kimmell and he made it well worth my time. (I hate traffic, so that’s not a compliment to be taken lightly.)

From the moment his show began I felt like I was really in the presence of a great American songwriter. (Which is appropriate, since he has written songs for famous musicians like Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash.) His music tells stories in the beautiful songwriting craft that is so hard to find in musicians today. (I don’t think it’s too cynical to say that the craft mastered by people like Paul Simon and Bob Dylan seems to be lost.) Tom told stories, read poems (I liked the one about the cat), and charmed all of us with his humor and his excellent musicianship. I really felt like I had seen the last of a certain type of musician. It’s very difficult to find people like Tom Kimmell anymore, and seeing him in concert was a real privilege.

Our speaker for the entire weekend was James K. A. Smith, who is a proponent of something called ‘Radical Orthodoxy.’ (I haven’t studied radical orthodoxy much, but I hope that it turns out to be something I like, because it’s a much cooler name than “fundamentalism” or “supralapsarianism.” It’s about time someone gave one of these things a good name.)

That light behind him didn’t come on until he raised his hand like that. True story.

Smith told us about a lot things. He’s the kind of guy who can show you scenes from indie films in between discussions of Heidegger and Derrida in order to make sense out of modern theology. Very cool stuff. He was very approachable and loved answering questions from the audience on a variety of subjects with each lecture. Also, according to this discussion of Augustine (written by Smith and Dr. David Naugle – the guy who organizes these conferences) it appears that Smith and I read some of the same books.

Pictured: Radical Orthodoxy.

Smith’s views are very relevant. They address issues that Christians are asking today and Smith himself is a person people enjoy knowing. But most importantly, I didn’t throw anything at him when he insulted my Dallas Cowboys. That means a lot. (Although, I didn’t promise not to pick on him through the photo captions on my blog. No one is safe…)

Very few people can open their cupboard and find the honorary coffee mug we give our keynote speakers; we’d better not see those things on Ebay.

(Click here to read part 2!)

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