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“On the Edge of Apocalypse”
The Inaugural Convening of “On the Edge: New Directions in the Interdisciplinary Study of Religion”
Elon Center for the Study of Religion, Culture, and Society
Elon University (NC)
Feb. 9-11, 2017
“On the Edge” is a bi-annual symposium at Elon University that brings together scholars working at the theoretical and methodological boundaries of those fields that have a stake in the critical analysis of religion—law, history, psychology, anthropology, literature/textual studies, philosophy, art history, political science, classics, and gender studies. “On the Edge” aims to exercise a self-conscious attention to methodological advances that can be made through interdisciplinarity. Its proceedings contribute to a richly contextualized and multi-layered understanding of the role of religion in societies past, present, and future.
Guide to the End Times: Theology after You’ve Been Left Behind
Pugh, the Maude Sharpe Powell professor of religious studies at Elon University, needed only recount his life as a college sophomore, a time when he became entranced by Hal Lindsey’s “The Late Great Planet Earth” and later joined an apocalyptic cult, then called The Children of God, before abandoning what he calls “the peculiar world of Rapture culture.”
Those personal experiences have been melded with his vast theological scholarship into “The Homebrewed Christianity Guide to the End Times: Theology After You’ve Been Left Behind,” Pugh’s latest book published this month by Fortress Press. It’s part of a series sponsored by the popular Homebrewed Christianity podcast that takes a unique approach to helping delve into key Christian concepts, figures and ideas. Pugh reflected on some of his experiences and research in this conversation facilitated by Brian Pennington and Lynn Huber, faculty in the Religious Studies department.
The Face of the Syrian War
Elon University’s Center for the Study of Religion, Culture and Society (CSRCS) welcomed Najib Ghadbian to Elon on September 7, 2016. Ghadbian is a special representative for the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces to the United States and United Nations.
Ghadbian spoke to the Elon community about the current state of the Syrian civil war, the war-torn country’s future, and the effect of the crisis on the entire global community.
Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God
On Thursday, April 21, 2016 Kelly Brown Douglas presented on the subject of her most recent book: Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God.
After Trayvon Martin’s death and the acquittal of his killer, theologian Kelly Brown Douglas was plagued by the questions: “Why is it becoming increasingly acceptable to kill unarmed black children?”, “Why are they so easily percevied as a threat?” and “How are we to keep our black children safe?” She writes, “As the mother of a black male child, I find these to be urgent questions. The slaying of Trayvon struck a nerve deep within me. After Jordan [Davis], then Jonathan [Ferrell], then Renisha [Marie McBride] I was practically unnerved. I knew that I had to seek answers. This book reflects my search for those answers.”
Dr. Douglas presented how she answered those questions and helped the Elon communitiy engage in dialogue about the crisis that continues to shape our public sphere.
Seeing Israel, A Real Life Nation Through a Theological Lens: A Reflection on Jewish and Christian Perspectives
On Thursday, April 7, 2016 world renowned theologian Rabbi Dr. Irving (Yitz) Greenberg explored the tensions and risks in how the State of Israel is imagined by contemporary Jews and Christians, how the conflicts over Israel have led to controversy and distrust in Jewish-Christian dialogue, and how such dialogue might be improved.
Greenberg is a celebrated scholar, author, and rabbi with a PhD from Harvard University. He has served as Professor of History at Yeshiva University; founder, chairman, and professor in the department of Jewish Studies at the City University of New York; President of CLAL: the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership; President of the Jewish Life Network/Steinhardt Foundation; and Chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council Museum.
Greenberg’s many books include For the Sake of Heaven and Earth: The New Encounter Between Judaism and Christianity.
His visit was sponsored by Jewish Studies at Elon; Religious Studies at Elon; the Elon Center for the Study of Religion, Culture and Society; Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences; the Lori and Eric Sklut Emerging Scholar in Jewish Studies Endowment; Wendy and Lee Pake; the Jewish Federation of Greater Charlotte; and the Greensboro Jewish Federation.
Sharing the Burden: A Panel Discussion
On March 8, 2016 the CSRCS held a panel discussion of a new book by Elon’s Dr. Geoffrey D. Claussen. Sharing the Burden: Rabbi Simhah Zissel Ziv and the Path of Musar (SUNY Press 2015) analyzes the rich moral traditions of the 19th-century Musar movement and Simhah Zissel’s ideal of compassionately loving one’s fellow human beings. Panelists included:
- Dr. Andrea Dara Cooper, Assistant Professor and Leonard and Tobee Kaplan Fellow in Modern Jewish Thought and Culture, UNC Chapel Hill
- Dr. Rebecca Todd Peters, Professor of Religious Studies, Elon University
- Dr. Christian Miller, Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Character Project, Wake Forest University
- Dr. Jeffrey Pugh, Maude Sharpe Powell Professor of Religious Studies, Elon University
- Dr. Geoffrey D. Claussen, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and Lori and Eric Sklut Emerging Scholar in Jewish Studies at Elon offered a response.
The Hijabi Monologues
On February 26, 2016, stories by American Muslim women were offered in a space where Muslim women could speak openly about their experiences as women, humans and Americans. With drama and humor, the Hijabi Monologues bring to life the diversity of Muslim-American experiences, and engage issues of race, gender and religious tolerance through stories that also challenge violence and hatred.
Hijabi Monologues have performed at colleges and universities throughout the United States and Europe, and they lead storytelling and identity workshops that empower others to tell their own stories.
Islamophobia: What Are We Really Afraid Of? Lecture by Dr. Todd Green
Religious Studies scholar Todd Green from Luther College presented the H. Shelton Smith Lecture on the subject of “Islamophobia: What are we really afraid of?” on February 25, 2016.
Todd Green is the author of the book “Fear of Islam,” and his lecture explored why the West fears Islam and why this matters, including discussion of the increase in bias incidents and hate crimes against Muslims in recent years.
Race, Religion and the Changing American Electorate, lecture by Robert P. Jones
On February 4, 2016, Robert P. Jones, CEO of polling organization Public Religion Research Institute, columnist for The Atlantic, and author of many books on religion in American life, including the forthcoming “The End of White Christian America” visited Elon to discuss two critical factors in the upcoming 2016 presidential election: race and religion. In addition, he addressed the PRRI’s most recent polling data, released on Jan. 28 just ahead of the Iowa caucuses, which shows the declining influence of white, Christian voters in Iowa, a trend reflected even more starkly in nationwide surveys, according to Jones’ ongoing research.
Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, lecture by author Dr. Charles Marsh
On Nov. 11, 2015, highly acclaimed author Dr. Charles Marsh spoke to students and faculty at Elon University. Marsh’s 2014 book, “Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer,” has been reviewed in several prestigious venues, including the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. Many scholars have been drawn to Marsh’s work because of the unique insight and controversy his book provides into Bonhoeffer’s life and death in the Nazi regime and its impact on such ideas as religionless Christianity and the world come of age.
Marsh’s lecture at Elon provided further detail about Bonhoeffer’s life as he shares why Bonhoeffer continues to challenge us today as we struggle with how faith and politics intersect.
Kosher/Soul: Black-Jewish Identity Cooking, lecture and demonstration by culinary historian Michael Twitty
Being African American and Jewish is for many a combination that many can’t wrap their heads around. However, for thousands of Jews of color; having heritage, faith and family in both Diasporas—African and Jewish—and their many intersections means creating material, social and ideational lives that interweave identities and histories. For Michael Twitty, this includes food and the ways Black and Jews have mediated otherness and oppression using what they eat as well as the global stories Diasporic foodways have to offer. On Nov. 10, 2015, Michael Twitty demonstrated how he displays his complex identity through what he calls “Koshersoul” cooking.
Rugelach, Rummage Sales, Rabbis and Rosh Hodesh Groups: The Transformative Power of American Jewish Feminism, lecture by Dr. Shuly Schwartz
On Nov. 4, 2015, Dr. Shuly Schwartz, the Irving Lehrman Research Associate Professor of American Jewish History and Walter and Sarah Schlesinger Dean of Graduate and Undergraduate Studies at The Jewish Theological Seminary, offers insight to students at Elon about the history of American Jewish feminism with her lecture, “Rugelach, Rummage Sales, Rabbis and Rosh Hodesh Groups: The Transformative Power of American Jewish Feminism.”
Schwartz has led several different initiatives at JTS to strengthen JTS’s tradition of social justice engagement. She has also spearheaded the creation of the first MA program of its kind in Jewish Ethics.
Making Sense of Marriage Equality and Religious Freedom
Recent court decisions on marriage equality have sparked ongoing political debate about religious freedom, with some public officials refusing to recognize the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same-sex marriage, and some state legislators considering ways to protect public officials who refuse to grant marriage licenses on religious grounds. Similarly, some business establishments have sought to use religious freedom as a grounds for denying services to same-sex couples.
To complicate matters, the United Church of Christ, a progressive denomination, appealed to religious freedom in their recent legal challenge to North Carolina’s Amendment 1, which made it unlawful for the state to recognize same-sex marriage unions and for clergy to perform such unions.
Is marriage equality a challenge to religious freedom? Is “traditional marriage” under threat? What are the legal obligations of public businesses to serve same-sex couples or of public officials to grant same-sex marriage licenses? And what civil rights issues remain for the LGBTQIA community?
This panel on September 17, 2015 featured a discussion of these issues and more, as we tried to make sense of marriage equality and religious freedom, with the following panelists from our community: Enrique Armijo (Associate Professor of Law), Matthew Antonio Bosch (Director, Gender and LGBTQIA Center), Lynn Huber (Associate Professor of Religious Studies), Randy Orwig (Pastor, Elon Community Church) and Brian Pennington (Director, Center for the Study of Religion, Culture & Society).
Syrian National Coalition discussion: The Islamic State in Syria
On Feb. 25, 2015 Oubab Khalil and Bassel Korkor, spokespersons for the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces spoke with CSRCS Director Brian Pennington and students from Elon University. The pair offered a briefing on the civil war situation in Syria.
CSRCS Director Brian Pennington addresses Chapel Hill Shooting
Elon University held a vigil for Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, and Deah Shaddy Barakat the day after the shootings in Chapel Hill, NC on Feb. 12, 2015. President Leo Lambert, Chaplain Jan Fuller, and Center for the Study of Religion, Culture, and Society Director Brian Pennington spoke to students, faculty, and staff at a solemn assembly in the Numen Lumen Pavilion.
Inaugural Elon University Conference on Jewish-Christian Relations
A dozen leading scholars of religious studies visited Elon University in November for the inaugural Elon University Conference on Jewish-Christian Relations. The program, which was open to the public, took place from 1-6:30 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013 in the Numen Lumen Pavilion in Elon’s Academic Village. The Conference on Jewish-Christian Relations brought together students, scholars and members of the general public for an in-depth look at the history of the relationship among the world’s Jewish and Christian communities and offered an outlook for how that dynamic can be improved.
The Promise of Religious Diversity: Dialogue after Religion, Dr. John Thatamanil
“The Promise of Religious Diversity: Dialogue after Religion,” a lecture by Dr. John Thatamanil, associate professor of theology and world religions, Union Theological Seminary, took place on Tuesday, April 9th, 2013 in the McBride Gathering Space, Numen Lumen Pavilion. 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.