NU Graduate Lecture and Discussion Series: Part III: Conversion Over Hot Chocolate: A Shipboard Interfaith Dialogue in the 18th century

April 14, 2017
06:00 PM - 08:00 PM (CDT)
Special Events
Congdon Shaffer Mansion (405 Church St. – Evanston)

6 p.m. - Check-in, refreshments, and mingling
7 p.m. - Program begins

In 1768, a young Lutheran Swedish merchant left his home in Sweden. As Thjülen tells it, his quest for true religion—a religion in accord with reason—had begun with his love of French philosophy and literature, particularly the writings of Voltaire. Through his stepfather’s commercial connections, he took up life as a merchant, and on a journey from the Spanish port of Cádiz to the French island of Corsica, he found himself among 1,200 Jesuits who, recently expelled from Mexico, were en route to their exile in Bologna, Italy.  The story that I tell here is one of encounter between religious “others.”  Thjülen had no contact with Catholics prior to his journey to Spain.  Similarly, the Jesuits who had been born in the Mexican Province had never met a Protestant.  Five weeks on board a ship proved to be a very close encounter, indeed. I will share what we can learn from reading both Thjülen’s conversion narrative and the expulsion narratives authored by several Jesuits from the Mexican Province, to understand the suppositions both the Swedish Lutheran and the Mexican Catholics brought to the encounter, as well as the surprises they experienced on board.  

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