Faculty at Appalachian State University encouraged the Rev. Robert “Rob” W. Lee IV ’15 to write – and to keep writing after he graduated.
Lee, a religious studies major while at Appalachian, has followed their advice with, well, religious zeal. He has become a popular writer and commentator on religious issues, having authored a book and numerous articles.
“We were writing all the time and that taught me what it meant to be a writer,” Lee said, crediting Appalachian for his success. “You write even when it’s difficult, and find hope between the lines.”
Lee might have added that you also speak out against racism and its symbols even when it, too, is difficult. He has spoken out on MTV’s Video Music Awards and The View, confronting his much-celebrated heritage in the process. Yes, Lee is the great-great-great-great-nephew of Confederate Army General Robert E. Lee, whom Lee has called “an idol of white supremacy, racism and hate.”
In 2017, Lee earned a Master of Theological Studies from Duke University Divinity School. He credits Duke with solidifying his belief, which began at Appalachian, that silence is no longer an acceptable response to racism. The church, and white Christianity in particular, Lee said, must speak out effectively against racism.
Lee’s writings include recurring columns in HuffPost and Statesville Record & Landmark, the newspaper of his childhood home. His book “Stained-Glass Millennials” (Smyth & Helwys Publishing, 2017) has made the greatest impact, Lee said, because of the conversation it has inspired on social media and invitations he has received to speak at churches and other groups. “Stained-Glass Millennials” proposes an alternative narrative to the one that has millennials leaving the church in droves.
Dr. Randall Reed, an associate professor of religious studies in Appalachian’s Department of Philosophy and Religion, inspired Lee to write “Stained-Glass Millennials.” Lee said, “Without working with him, I’m pretty confident my book would have never gone to press.”
In August 2017, Lee began working as an adjunct instructor in both Appalachian’s Department of Communication and Department of Philosophy and Religion.