July 28, 2009
WOOSTER, Ohio - Can religion save the world? Or will it play an unwitting role in the planet's demise?
The College of Wooster's Fall Academy of Religion will ponder these questions and a host of others through its annual lecture series, which begins Sept. 16 and continues through Oct. 21. The lectures, which are followed by a period of open discussion, are free and open to the public. Each session begins at 7:30 p.m. in Lean Lecture Room of Wishart Hall (303 E. University St.).
"For religious peoples, a critical question is the role of religion and religious peoples in the context of the current global dilemmas," said Charles Kammer, the James F. Lincoln Professor of Religion at Wooster and academic dean of the academy. "As we look at the history of religion and its current practices, the picture is not clear. Religion has contributed to the destruction while also offering resources for change."
Indeed, religion has been both a positive and negative influence. The most obvious of religion's destructive effects is its role in the violence of the world today, particularly the notion of "Holy War" - fighting for God against the enemies of God. He also points out that much of the violence toward women and the persecution of cultural minorities throughout the world has its roots in the world's religious traditions. In addition, Kammer says that religious values supporting the dominance of humans over nature often lead to environmental destruction, while religion's focus on individualism can undermine notions of social responsibility. In addition, he says that apocalyptic religious beliefs often make people passive in face of social crises because of the assumption that such events are part of God's plan for the end of the world. "In all these ways, religion contributes to the crises we face and causes so much unnecessary suffering," he said.
On the other hand, Kammer argues that a constructive response requires a deepened sense of responsibility to others and the planetary future. It will also call for reductions in the standard of living of the affluent and greater generosity to the world's poor. "All of this will necessitate cooperation between peoples and nations on a level never before practiced in human history," he said. "The world's religions have long advocated the notion that all peoples are brothers and sisters; that life is best lived cooperatively and generously. Likewise the world's religions have cautioned against the danger of materialism and have advocated the need for greater spiritual awareness.
"The causes of the crises are structural, rooted in our forms of government, our economic systems, and our current technologies, but they are also rooted in human values and beliefs that are wedded to principles of materialism and individualism," added Kammer. "The problems are complex; there are no easy answers."
Kammer will be the first to address the situation when he opens the series with "The Dark Side of Religion: Religion's Contributions to the Global Crises" on Wednesday, Sept. 16. Donald Dunson, professor of systematic theology at St. Mary Seminary and Graduate School of Theology in Wickliffe will follow with "Suffer the Little Ones: Hunger, War, and the World's Children," at the second lecture on Sept. 23.
Linda Morgan-Clement, the Henry Jefferson Copeland Campus Chaplain and
director of Interfaith Campus Ministry at Wooster, will present "Religious Imagination: Gratitude, Interdependence, and Finitude" at the third lecture on Sept. 30, and Zeki Saritoprak, Nursi Chair of Islamic Studies at John Carroll University, will discuss "Nonviolence in Islam: Theory and Practice" at the fourth lecture on Oct. 7.
A trio of speakers - V. Elaine Strawn of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Wayne County, Thomas Gross, owner of Gross Construction Company, and Michael Jaeb, professor at the Cleveland Art Institute, will share the podium on Oct. 14 for a discussion about "Owing to the Seventh Generation: Spiritual Roots of Environmental Responsibility." Kammer will then wrap up the series with "Incarnational Religion: Living As If Creation Mattered" on Oct. 21.
Additional information about the Fall Academy of Religion lecture series is available by phone (330-263-2473) or e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org).
1189 Beall Avenue, Wooster, Ohio 44691. (330) 263-2000
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