The Promise of Religious Diversity: Dialogue after Religion

A lecture by Dr. John Thatamanil, Associate Professor of Theology and World Religions, Union Theological Seminary

Tuesday, April 9, 2013 at 7:30 p.m. in the McBride Room, Numen Lumen Pavilion

Dr. John Thatamanil.Over the last three decades, an immense and still growing body of literature has demonstrated that our ideas about “religion” are relatively recent and Western in origin. Many of the traditions we think of now as religions only became religions rather recently. So, just what is “religion” and what are “the religions?” Most importantly, what does it mean to speak of some aspects of our lives as “religious” and others as “secular” and not religious? Do all cultures recognize this distinction between the religious and the secular? And how do our definitions and theories about religion/the religious shape (and perhaps distort) our efforts at interreligious dialogue? Is religion something that requires exclusive allegiance like marriage in a monogamous society? Can one learn from and be transformed by the resources of more than one religion? Is that kosher? In this lecture, Thatamanil argued that our ideas about religion, like our ideas about race, must be rethought from the ground up if we are to move into a richly pluralistic future.

John J. Thatamanil is Associate Professor of Theology and World Religions at Union Theological Seminary. He is the author of The Immanent Divine: God, Creation, and the Human Predicament. An East-West Conversation (Fortress Press, 2006). He is completing his second book, The Promise of Religious Diversity: Constructive Theology After “Religion.” Prof. Thatamanil is a past-president of the North American Paul Tillich Society (NAPTS) and Project Director of the AAR’s Summer Seminars on Theologies of Religious Pluralism and Comparative Theology. He teaches a wide variety of courses including “Process Theology,” “Tillich and the Future of Theology,” “Hindu-Christian Dialogue,” and “Comparative Theology.” He is currently working on figuring what “religion” is and how our notions about religion shape our attitudes toward other traditions and what we believe we can learn (or not) from them.

This event was made possible by the Elon chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the Religious Studies Department, the Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life, and Jewish Studies at Elon.

Video of Dr. Thatamanil’s talk

Community Activism and the Media: Partnering for Good

A lecture with Dr. Mary Landon Darden, Dean of Concordia University, San Antonio Center

Saturday, April 13, 2013 at 3:30 p.m. in the Community Life Center, Elon Community Church

The Elon Center for the Study of Religion, Culture, and Society invited students, faculty, staff, and community members to join us for a lecture with Mary Landon Darden. In addition to working in higher education for the past two decades, she has a past woven with community activism and the media. Darden wrote, hosted, and directed a daily regional television show for four years; developed and hosted a radio show on KWBU/NPR; and during her career, wrote a monthly column and many dozens of magazine articles. During those years, Darden lead a number of community and regional initiatives, including one to preserve the air quality in Central Texas and another that organized the regional churches to provide shelter and assistance to more than 500 evacuees of Hurricane Katrina. Darden used her media savvy to communicate with the public, promote the initiatives, as well as build support and momentum. Darden discussed the way she partnered with the various media sources to achieve maximal success with each of her initiatives for change.

Darden currently serves as the Dean of the Concordia University Texas San Antonio Center. She is the author of a book with the American Council on Education and Rowman and Littlefield titled Beyond 2020: Envisioning the Future of Higher Education in America.

View an event flyer

Jesus Had Two Daddies

Written and performed by Peterson Toscano

Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013 at 7:00 p.m. in Holt Chapel

In his newest play, comic performance artist, Peterson Toscano, explores the bizarre, quirky, and at times disturbing world of the Bible. Drawing on his skills as a character actor, unconventional Bible scholarship, and his own personal experience of trying to go straight for Jesus, Peterson presents a ridiculously serious look at scripture. Through the show he asks and answers the essential question, “How did I get trapped in a biblically induced coma?” His warm, hilarious, and insightful take on Bible stories will help you see how he ultimately woke up.

Co-sponsored with Spectrum, the LGBTQIA Office, Women’s and Gender Studies, Elon’s Multicultural Center, and the Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life.

Religion in the 2012 Presidential Election: National and Local Perspectives

A public lecture with Dr. Robert P. Jones , CEO and Founder of Public Religion Research Institute and Dr. Jason Husser, Assistant Professor of Political Science and Assistant Director of the Elon University Poll

Oct. 10, 2012 at 7-8:30 p.m. in Whitley Auditorium

Dr. Robert P. Jones.According to a 2012 report by the Pew Research Center, U.S. voters are growing increasingly divided over the role of religious rhetoric and prayer in politics. 38% of voters, the highest number in the past decade, said that politicians prayed and talked about religion too much, while 30% said that politicians did not talk enough about religion. While voters disagree whether religion should be part of candidates’ stump speeches and rallies, the candidates’ religious affiliations continue to be discussed and assessed, as various interest groups use the affiliations of the candidates (or supposed affiliations) as grounds for supporting or combatting their campaigns. Moreover, religious affiliation and religiosity (e.g. regular attendance at religious services) continue to be significant indicators in voter decision-making. This public lecture and discussion focused on the role of religion in voter decision-making.

Dr. Robert P. Jones is the founder and CEO of Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), a non-profit and non-partisan research and education organization dedicated to examining the intersection of religion, politics, public life, and values. PRRI’s provides research for publications as varied as the Washington Post and the Huffington Post. With a background in the study of religion and sociology, Dr. Jones is often tapped by news organizations (C-Span, Chris Matthew’s Hardball, etc.) to comment on the role of religion in politics and political decision-making. For example, he has recently appeared on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” Chris Matthew’s “Hardball,” and on C-SPAN.

Dr. Jason Husser’s research focuses upon partisan polarization in relation to religious behavior and political behavior in campaigns and elections. With his work at the Elon Poll, Dr. Husser will be able to offer a unique perspective on the intersection between religion and politics in North Carolina.