We had a great crowd last night for Dr. Howard Miller’s lecture “Religious Conversion in Ben-Hur and in the Life of Lew Wallace.” We also streamed the lecture on Facebook Live, which was a popular option for those who couldn’t be with us in person.
If you were unable to join us or watch the live video, you can now watch the entire lecture and Q&A session here!
Lew Wallace spoke frequently about the conversation with Robert Green Ingersoll that led him to write Ben-Hur, and he maintained throughout his life that the experience of writing the novel led him gradually to accept the basic tenets of the Christian gospel.
Recent scholarly discoveries have called into question the talk with Ingersoll and we can never know one way or another if writing the novel converted the General to Christianity. But it is unquestionably true that Wallace’s “Tale of the Christ” contains several accounts of religious conversion, including the conversion of Judah Ben-Hur.
Religious conversion, of course, comes in many varieties and the experiences that Wallace describes differ widely. We will look at those conversion experiences and suggest ways in which they might enable us to evaluate more sensitively the General’s claim to have himself been converted by the experience of writing Ben-Hur. More generally, we will look at the novel as a way of better understanding the nature of Wallace’s Christianity.