Reza Aslan '95 Visits SCU
After a full day of visiting classes and meeting with faculty, Religious Studies alumnus Reza Aslan '95 engaged an audience of close to 100 students, alumni, and friends on October 27. On campus to discuss his new book, An American Martyr in Persia: The Epic Life and Tragic Death of Howard Baskerville, Aslan's style of storytelling mixed with humor and compassion, immersed the audience in Baskerville's missionary service in Persia at the height of the 1907 democratic revolution.
In 1907, Howard Baskerville, a twenty-two-year-old Christian missionary, traveled from South Dakota to Persia (modern-day Iran) for a two-year stint teaching English and preaching the Gospel. Little did he know that it would be political activism, and not Christianity, that would define his life and lead to his death as a martyr in a foreign land. Baskerville’s role in the Persian struggle to become an independent and democratic society made him a hero in his adopted country. Back at home in America, however, his story is not well-known, and his legacy is not celebrated.
In this rip-roaring tale of his life and death, Aslan gives us a powerful parable about the universal ideals of democracy — and to what degree Americans are willing to support those ideals in a foreign land. Woven throughout is an essential history of the nation we now know as Iran — frequently demonized and misunderstood in the West. Indeed, Baskerville’s life and death represent a “road not taken” in Iran. Baskerville’s story, like his life, is at the center of a whirlwind in which Americans must ask themselves: How seriously do we take our ideals of constitutional democracy and whose freedom do we support?