During the 2023-24 school year, a familiar face has been missing from the classroom in the Religion & Philosophy department. Professor of Philosophy Cristian Mihut, Ph.D., has instead spent the year researching and writing a book manuscript as a recipient of the Templeton Fellowship through the University of Notre Dame.

Throughout the fellowship, Mihut has been focusing on the “lowly virtue” of gentleness. His topic was partially inspired by his recent book on forgiveness. Along with the fact that gentleness is an attribute that Jesus uses for himself and that there is little work on the topic, Mihut believes that forgiveness and gentleness are traits that support one another.

“You often see Jesus surrounded by people that today we would call marginalized, at the outskirts of society, and He imparts healing and restoration to these people,” Mihut explains. “I thought we need to think about this, especially in a cultural moment when it seems like a rhetoric of violence and harshness dominates a lot of our social spaces and political discourse, and sometimes even
our theological discourse.”

His first three chapters are well underway. As he develops content for his book, Mihut is refining ideas by taking part in a weekly cohort with other fellows and presenting at various conferences around the world.

One of the unexpected delights that Mihut has experienced was the opportunity to speak twice in his home country of Romania. He said that he was pleasantly surprised by how much the concept was needed in the context of the country’s cultural changes.

“I was surprised by how starved people were for thinking and reflecting on gentleness, but also looking for ways to appropriate it within their own lives,” Mihut says.

He is incredibly thankful to Bethel, the University of Notre Dame and the John Templeton Foundation for the opportunity of this fellowship year, and he looks forward to returning to the classroom refreshed for the 2024-25 school year. He expects that students will benefit from his year of study, as he hopes to be more attuned to his students’ vulnerabilities and to come alongside them with more support.

“For such times as ours, gentleness is an appropriate virtue to think about and also to instill and deepen,” Mihut says.