CHRIST AT THE CORE
Professor of Environmental Science Dr. Charles “Chris” Keil ’87 does much more than teach about scientific laws and environmental trade-offs. He does applied theology.
In a teaching career that has taken him from Bowling Green State University in Ohio to Ethiopia, Norway, Germany, Hungary, and Moldova, Dr. Keil got his start right here as an undergraduate in the 1980s, taking a course known then as “Third World Issues,” part of the Human Needs and Global Resources (HNGR) program.
All Dr. Keil wanted was to meet a general education requirement. What he got was a lifetime calling.
“That started me down a path of understanding what it’s like to be a global Christian,” Dr. Keil says. “It helped me understand the importance of resources and the great provision of the earth. Wheaton actually sparked some of the deep interest that continues to this day concerning how we live well within creation.”
So it’s no shock that Dr. Keil is more than a little enthusiastic about the College’s new Christ at the Core curriculum. He believes it will enable students to better integrate their chosen disciplines with other subjects and with their faith. Seeing those connections, he says, you can apply theology using almost anything—even textiles.
“The life cycle of a textile product is an environmental question and a social question,” Dr. Keil says, noting the conditions for the workers who produce textiles and the environmental impacts of the waste. “Over all of this comes our theological perspectives: what we need, how much we need, and how we care for the creation.”
Dr. Keil believes the Christ at the Core curriculum, including its shared courses and the dialogical seminar format of many classes, will encourage students, whatever their majors, to see similar connections in God’s world, much as he began to do as an undergraduate.
A question that helps turn the connections into applied theology for Dr. Keil is one addressed by Jesus: Who is my neighbor?
“We come to understand how we are using the resources God provides for our needs, and how we put our waste materials into this creation,” Dr. Keil says. “The impacts—especially in a globalized economy—don’t necessarily occur where we consumers live, but far away. So when we ask who our neighbor is, could it be the person in a sweat-shop or a mine in China, India, or Africa? I think Christ would say, ‘Yes.’”