Stephen Patterson, George H. Atkinson professor of religious and ethical studies, recently received a $100,000 prize and the 2020 Grawemeyer Award — an honor recognizing the most outstanding idea in religion, music composition, world order, psychology and education.
The University of Louisville and the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary jointly give the prize. Previous winners of the Grawemeyer Award in Religion include Pulitzer-Prize winning novelist Marilynne Robinson.
Patterson, who has authored or co-authored 10 books, said “the award came as a complete surprise” and is “quite overwhelming.”
He was given the award for his 2018 book, “The Forgotten Creed: Christianity’s Original Struggle Against Bigotry, Slavery and Sexism,” about an early baptismal creed embedded in one of the apostle Paul’s letters. The creed, possibly the earliest Christian creed, is a declaration of human solidarity spanning divisions of race, class and gender. Patterson shows how early followers of Jesus at first embraced the creed, but later abandoned it as too radical. He argues that Christianity needs this creed now more than ever.
Tyler Mayfield, faculty director of the Grawemeyer Award and the A.B. Rhodes professor of Old Testament at Louisville Seminary, said “Patterson’s well-written book proposes a fascinating way to think about those earliest followers of Jesus and their radical notion of human solidarity.”