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Interfaith Lecture Preview

In keynote lecture, Fr. Richard Rohr to explore capacity for evil in humans

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Father Richard Rohr, Says “A Vast Amount Of The Human Race Has To Hit The Bottom Before It Goes Up,” During His Series “Falling Upward” On Tuesday, July 16, 2019 In The Hall Of Philosophy. MHARI SHAW/DAILY FILE PHOTO

In 2019, people flooded the Hall of Philosophy to see Fr. Richard Rohr in person during his week as chaplain and speaker for the Interfaith Lecture Series. Director of Religion Maureen Rovegno remembers Chautauquans’ fervor for religious programming that week, which centered around Rohr’s book Falling Upward.

“We ran out of worship books in the morning for worship, and we needed more people for the Service of Blessing and Healing, and they just came to experience Chautauqua to the fullest,” Rovegno said.

Rohr will deliver his first lecture for the week at 2 p.m. EDT on Monday, Aug. 17. While tackling the concept of evil throughout Week Eight for the Interfaith Lecture Series, Rohr will discuss how to deal with the capacity for evil in humans in his keynote lecture, “What Do We Do With Evil?”

“The Biblical stories, especially of creation, talk about the fall of humans — that we fell from grace, so to speak, and we saw whatever reality was in a new way,” Rovegno said.

Rohr is a Franciscan mystic of the New Mexico province, a theologian and an author of several books, including his most recent work The Universal Christ, and the founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque. He has been featured several times on Oprah’s SuperSoul Sunday segments (they are also good friends). He also spoke on an episode of Krista Tippett’s “On Being” podcast called “Growing Up Men,” has been mentioned in opinion articles for The New York Times, and has been profiled in The New Yorker.

“(Rohr is) really very good at getting us to look that deeply into ourselves, recognize our own goodness and discern when we fall short of that goodness by the things we choose to say or do — the ways in which we act, especially toward one another or to the Earth,” Rovegno said.

Rovegno said that Rohr’s work commonly makes the connection between humanity and the divine, while also exploring themes of suffering within the human experience.

“He’s very much in tune with human suffering, and he talks about it a lot — … the recognition of suffering, the walking through suffering, the being in suffering,” Rovegno said, “which is what is happening with the world. Our whole way of life has been disrupted, and it’s given us time to think about what it means to be human and what all of humanity is.”

Rovegno said that after reaching out invitations for four years to Rohr, who had a conflict due to an annual conference, he was able to come to Chautauqua for the first time last year. Rohr drew people from all over the world for his week at Chautauqua in 2019. Rovegno recalls meeting a pair who had met online and were fans of Rohr.  One traveled from Mexico, and the other came all the way from Australia. They met in-person for the first time when they came to Chautauqua to see Rohr speak.

“He was loved (at Chautauqua) before he ever set foot here,” Rovegno said.

This program is made possible by the Eileen and Warren Martin Lectureship for Emerging Studies in Bible and Theology & The Strnad Family Fund.

The divine on Earth: Kainat Felicia Norton and Muinuddin Charles Smith describe Sufi perspective on creation

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For 20 years, Kainat Felicia Norton and Muinuddin Charles Smith have led Sufi meditations in Chautauqua’s Mystic Heart Program. But Aug. 14 marks their first time discussing Sufism on an Interfaith Friday with Vice President and Senior Pastor Gene Robinson. They’ll join him at 2 p.m. EDT Friday, Aug. 14, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform.

Sufism is a form of Islam that grounds the divine in the living world, rather than a separate dimension. Norton and Smith lead the Inayati Sufi Order as senior Sufi teachers, retreat guides and interfaith ministers.

After studying under Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan until his death in the 1970s, Norton and Smith founded the Light of Guidance Center for Sufi Studies in New York City and continue to run it today.

Hazrat Inayat Khan, who brought the Inayati Order to the West in 1910 and was the father of Pir, led with a universal perspective. As a result of “undogmatic Sufism,” Norton and Smith learned Hindu, Tibetan Buddhist and other religious practices, as well through studying with the Inayat Order.

“It honors all the world’s traditions at one altar,” Norton said.

She said the interfaith focus that Sufism instilled in the couple kept them coming to Chautauqua Institution after they were first invited to help lead meditations in 2001.

Norton and Smith also continue Hazrat’s founding of the Ziraat Concentration of North America. Norton and Smith’s book, An Emerald Earth: Cultivating a Natural Spirituality and Serving Creative Beauty in Our World, is written through this Ziraat perspective, which looks at the inner life through lessons in agriculture.

“It’s written in the language of cultivation, which is a language that’s understood across all cultures and religions,” Norton said.

Their lecture was pre-recorded on Thursday, Aug. 6, in their New York home. Norton said that in terms of the story of creation in Sufism, the Qur’an describes God saying that he created humans because he was alone.

“In Sufism, the relationship between God and humans is out of love,” Norton said.

Since God granted responsibilities to humans on Earth, it puts humans hierarchically above angels, Norton said, because humans have more potential on Earth to fulfill God’s divine call. However, everything created by God is sacred, from rocks and plants to rivers. The Qur’an describes Earth as sacred, as a green, spreading prayer carpet given by God before humans were created.

“We were loved before we were even created,” Norton said.

This program is made possible by the Eugene Ross McCarthy Memorial Fund.

Islamic Society of North America president Ingrid Mattson to bridge differences in religions, communities in interfaith lecture

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Ingrid Mattson is many things — among them an author, advocate, professor and president — but Chautauqua Institution’s Director of Religion Maureen Rovegno has an overarching title that embodies them all: “bridge-builder.”

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“We can’t judge the depth of someone’s belief, or even our own, in many cases, but we can try to improve our encounters and our actions to the point that there is less of a disconnect between what we say we believe and how we are in the world,” Mattson told Krista Tippett in an episode of her podcast “On Being.”

Mattson, the London and Windsor Community Chair in Islamic Studies at Huron University College at Western University in Canada, will present her lecture “Be in this World as if You are a Traveler” at 2 p.m. EDT on Thursday, Aug. 13, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform. The lecture is in keeping with the Interfaith Lecture Series Week Seven theme, “The Spirituality of Us.”

It struck me, really, like a thunderbolt,” she told Tippett. “I mean, this awakening of, I would say, an almost childlike wonderment at the beauty and glory of creation, and the sense of majesty, the sense of the universe being pervaded with meaning and purpose. That’s really what the Qur’an brought to me before anything — it was this awareness of God before it gave me any specific guidelines for how I should live my life as a Muslim.”

Mattson grew up in a large Catholic family in Ontario, Canada. According to Rovegno, Catholicism has a “mystical component to it,” so the religion served as an “early foundation that opened her up.”

“I’m able to appreciate what Catholic schools gave me in terms of an education and a vision of social justice that certainly the nuns in my community had,” Mattson said in “On Being.” “So that, you know, people talk about my ability to bridge different communities.”

At the age of 23, Mattson converted to Islam. She went on to earn a Ph.D. in Islamic studies at the University of Chicago, and become a professor of Islamic studies and director of Islamic chaplaincy at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut, as well as director of the Macdonald Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations.

“Once she moved into the teachings of the Qur’an, it lifted her up to God in a way like never before,” Rovegno said. 

Her writings, both academic and public, focus primarily Qur’an interpretation, Islamic theological ethics and interfaith relations. Her 2007 book, The Story of the Qur’an, is an academic bestseller and was chosen by the United States National Endowment for the Humanities to be included in its “Bridging Cultures” program. 

To have a sense of the scripture, Mattson said she began studying the Qur’an and Arabic even before she converted, and was astounded by how the “beauty of the message came through.”

“It struck me, really, like a thunderbolt,” she told Tippett. “I mean, this awakening of, I would say, an almost childlike wonderment at the beauty and glory of creation, and the sense of majesty, the sense of the universe being pervaded with meaning and purpose. That’s really what the Qur’an brought to me before anything — it was this awareness of God before it gave me any specific guidelines for how I should live my life as a Muslim.”

In 2001, Mattson was elected vice president of the Islamic Society of North America, the largest Muslim organization in the nation. In 2006, she became the first woman, the first non-immigrant, and the first convert to serve as president of the Islamic Society, a role she said nothing could have prepared her for. 

Spending her academic career teaching Islamic Studies and interfaith relations in historically Christian institutions, Dr. Mattson draws deeply from her well of personal spirituality, of which she was aware at a very early age,” Rovegno said. “I can think of no one who can better complete our week’s conversation on spirituality.”

“I mean, how did it come to this?” she said in “On Being.” “That’s why we have to say that God has his plan and we have our plan. And that is how I look at it.”

Rovegno said she is personally indebted to Mattson for her execution of a different role: Mattson founded the first accredited graduate program for Muslim chaplains in America at Hartford Seminary, which Rovegno said “continues to bless Chautauqua.” 

“It is from that excellent program that I annually invite the male Muslim Coordinators for the Abrahamic Program for Young Adults,” which Rovegno founded and has directed since 2006.

In a week focusing on the theme “The Spirituality of Us,” Rovegno said Mattson, a “bridge-builder in interfaith relations,” is the “perfect Muslim voice.”

“Spending her academic career teaching Islamic Studies and interfaith relations in historically Christian institutions, Dr. Mattson draws deeply from her well of personal spirituality, of which she was aware at a very early age,” Rovegno said. “I can think of no one who can better complete our week’s conversation on spirituality.”

This program is made possible by the Eugene Ross McCarthy Memorial Fund.

Author Kent Nerburn to share wisdom gained from years of working with Native Americans for Interfaith Lecture

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In 1988, when Kent Nerburn started working on the Red Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota, home to the Ojibwe people, he saw the job as a way to support his career as an artist.

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“It was a chance to work, (and) I needed work,” Nerburn said. “Sculpture is not a particularly lucrative profession.”

For two years, Nerburn worked with high school students from the reservation on an oral history project, interviewing Red Lake Ojibwe elders about their memories, traditions and values. Nerburn was amazed by what he learned.

“In the course of that time, I really had a look at the deep spiritual values of the Native people,” he said. “Giving voice to what I was finding out about the Native people to the general, non-Native population felt essential. I found something that felt like a calling.”

Nerburn traded sculpture for writing and spent the next 30 years listening to and working with Native Americans from the Ojibwe, Lakota and Nez Perce tribes. He has written 17 books on spirituality and Native American history and culture. His 1994 creative nonfiction work, Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder, was made into a film in 2016.

Nerburn will be speaking for Week Seven’s Interfaith Lecture Series, “The Spirituality of Us.” His lecture, “Quiet Voices, Important Truths: Life Lessons from the Native Way,” will air at 2 p.m. EDT Wednesday, Aug. 12, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform.

In his long career, Nerburn said he has become one of the rare non-Native writers who is largely respected by Native Americans. He credits this to his willingness to listen without judgment or debate, something he learned from his work in oral history.

I look upon creation as a symphony, and each tradition has the capacity to play a different part of the music of creation; each cultural tradition, each religious tradition can play a certain type of music uniquely and in its own fashion,” Nerburn said. “And I think that the Native American way of seeing a larger family, spirit in everything, a humility in the face of the created universe, respect for their elders and a desire not to dominate, but to understand — it may be time for that music to be played a little more loudly than some of the other instruments in the symphony of creation.”

“In oral history, your job is to listen; your job is to just absorb what is given to you and give it back in an articulate, cogent fashion,” he said. “I never had a need to impose myself or my value systems onto the task.”

A necessary part of this work is confronting and understanding how his own biases as a white man influence his worldview.

“I think that really becomes the task of anyone wanting to learn about another way of looking at the world,” he said. “We’re all caught inside our own frame of reference, and it’s become more and more essential to be aware of this over the years — and in the last few years, it’s become absolutely essential.”

The most transformative aspect of Native American spirituality for Nerburn has been the idea that humans do not exist to rule over or control the environment, but are just another moving part within nature.

“The value system for me, the key element among the Native people, is always (that) everything that lives has spirit, and everything out there is a teacher for you,” he said.

This de-centering of humanity is something Nerburn thinks non-Native Americans, particularly Christians, can learn from.

“We are not at the top of creation for the Native people,” he said. “We are the highpoint of creation in the Christian world, made in the image and the likeness of God, whereas for the Native people, we are part of nature — we are not at the top of nature. We were the last of creation to be made, … so everything else is there to teach us.”

He hopes that, if anything good is to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, it would be that more people begin to understand that they not only move through nature, but are moved by it.

“I think this is a wake-up call,” Nerburn said. “We thought that we were the masters of the environment. I hope this makes us all humbler, and more introspective.”

He is deeply concerned by current politics and the individual-first worldview he has seen grow more and more prominent in the last 30 years. He hopes that now more than ever,  his words can introduce more people to Native American spirituality. 

“I look upon creation as a symphony, and each tradition has the capacity to play a different part of the music of creation; each cultural tradition, each religious tradition can play a certain type of music uniquely and in its own fashion,” Nerburn said. “And I think that the Native American way of seeing a larger family, spirit in everything, a humility in the face of the created universe, respect for their elders and a desire not to dominate, but to understand — it may be time for that music to be played a little more loudly than some of the other instruments in the symphony of creation.”

This program is made possible by The Robert S. and Sara M. Lucas Religious Lectureship.

‘Holy Envy’ author Barbara Brown Taylor to speak on spirituality

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Chautauqua Institution Director of Religion Maureen Rovegno described the community’s chance to welcome back the Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor simply: as a gift.

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At 2 p.m. EDT Monday, Aug. 10, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform, the Interfaith Lecture Series will once again host Taylor for a presentation titled “Remember That You Are Stardust, and to Stardust You Shall Return.”

“Barbara has become beloved by the Chautauqua community over the many years that she has blessed us with her wisdom and inspiring spiritual voice,” Rovegno said. “Here at Chautauqua, Barbara is a spiritual treasure for us in every way, and we value her friendship as precious.”

Rovgeno’s description has some teeth. Taylor — an Episcopal priest, religions professor, and New York Times bestselling author — has been a staple in the Interfaith Lecture Series for years and has served as Chautauqua’s chaplain of the week five times. In 2016, the Institution awarded Taylor the President’s Medal — the highest recognition for what Rovegno describes as “exceptional service and inspiration to our community.” 

Taylor is a self-described “spiritual contrarian,” who boasts about saying “things you’re not supposed to say.” In her writing and upcoming lecture, Taylor said she will acknowledge and welcome the exploration of many religions. 

“My goal is to explore how a single religion may be too small all by itself to nourish spirituality that truly includes all of us — not just humans but all created beings — but in combination with other meaningful narratives, including the scientific creation narrative, we have a chance of glimpsing how deeply and truly related we really are,” Taylor said. 

Taylor is familiar with keeping an open mind in religion. In March 2019, Taylor released her latest book Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others. The book began as a “classroom memoir” about her time instructing a world religions course at Piedmont College in Demorest, Georgia. As she wrote, the book began to explore how teaching challenged her own faith. 

Although keeping her own religion in mind while writing, Taylor believes the work can be enjoyed by someone of any religion, or no religion. Taylor explored this sentiment on her website. 

“I hope it is a book that readers of any or no religious identity can enjoy, but I had Christians in mind when I wrote it — because holy envy is a difficult concept for people who have been taught there is only one way to God,” Taylor wrote. “Writing with that teaching — and others like it — is what this book is about.”

Since 1993, Taylor has written 14 books, garnering two New York Times bestselling titles and the Georgia Writers Association 2006 award for Author of the Year. Taylor was named one of TIME’s Most Influential People in 2014, and Georgia Woman of the Year in 2015. 

Taylor has taught at Piedmont College, Columbia Theological Seminary, Candler School of Theology at Emory University, McAfee School of Theology at Emory University, and the Certificate in Theological Studies program at Arrendale State Prison for Women in Alto, Georgia. She holds a bachelor’s in religion from Emory University, a Master’s of Divinity from Yale, and nine honorary doctor of divinity degrees. 

This program is made possible by the Nilsen Family Fund for Religious Programming.

With more deaths come more religious reporting responsibilities, says Columbia University’s Ari L. Goldman in upcoming interfaith lecture

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Reporters on any beat are going to write about death in a COVID-19 world, Columbia Journalism School’s Ari Goldman said, and he teaches his students how to do just that. Goldman said in a Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma webinar that understanding how to handle the subject matter of dying, and religious practices tied to it, is more important than ever.

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“Today, everyone is an obituary writer,” Goldman told his students. “Whether you cover fashion or business or the arts, you’re going to have to write an obituary.”

Goldman’s lecture, “From Church Stories to Obituaries, Journalists Need Religious Literacy,” will air at 2 p.m. EDT Thursday, Aug. 6, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform as part of the Week Six Interfaith Lecture Series theme, “Lessons in the School House.” Audience members can submit questions through the www.questions.chq.org portal or on Twitter with #CHQ2020.

After 20 years of bylines in The New York Times, where he covered religious topics and obituaries along with New York City news beats, Goldman is the director of Religion, Journalism, and the Spiritual Life for Columbia University’s Scripps Howard Program. But he still writes for major news outlets including The New York Times, Salon, The New York Jewish Week, and the Forward.

He most recently wrote an opinion piece in The Washington Post calling for everyone, self-described writers and non-writers alike, to keep a journal. He keeps a pen and a blue notebook by his bed.

“Sometimes, it is just ‘I took a shower’ or ‘S and I played Scrabble’ or ‘Tuna, again,’” Goldman wrote. “Other times, I note the markers of this strange journey. ‘Stopped walking in Riverside Park’ or ‘Trump says we’ll be out by Easter’ or ‘started wearing a mask outside’ or ‘played duets with J’ or ‘Fauci says November’ or simply ‘prayed.’”

Before COVID-19, he led study abroad trips where Columbia students have covered religion in India, Russia, Ukraine, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, the West Bank and most recently Israel in spring 2019. But last semester, his students covered religious responses to COVID-19 across Christianity, Sikhism, Islam, Judaism, Native American faith practices, and Vodou.

In the Dart seminar, which took place in April, Goldman said there is a distinction between obituaries and news stories steeped in COVID-19 deaths. Obituaries, while still requiring reporting, handle details with a layer of sensitivity.

“Obituaries are not about death,” he said in the seminar. “You’re writing about life. One little fact in it is that this person passed away. If it’s about death, then this is a news story.”

This program is made possible by the Elizabeth Elser Doolittle Endowment Fund for Adult Programming.

Linda K. Wertheimer to point to signs of hope in U.S. religious education

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In 2016, instances of racial and religious bigotry were on the rise across the United States.

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Fast-forward to 2020, and though our country is still polarized by hate, Linda K. Wertheimer said, she believes there are reasons for hope.

“There’s so much more discussion now about the need to deal with racism in the U.S.,” said Wertheimer, a veteran journalist, essayist and award-winning education writer. “But it’s important to remember that we’re still a country that has a lot of problems with racism, and that we’re also a country that has a lot of issues of religious bigotry — whether that’s prejudice against Jews, Hindus, Muslims or Sikhs.”

On the other hand, Wertheimer insists that we still “don’t have to lose hope.”

“We can fight religious bigotry through the power of education,” she said. “We have a chance in making a dent in it if we can teach the next generation not only about world religions and the basics of religious literacy, but also about stereotypes.”

Wertheimer mixes investigative reporting and personal experience in Faith Ed: Teaching about Religion in an Age of Intolerance, a book that takes a hard look at how U.S. public schools teach religion in class.

At 2 p.m. EDT Wednesday, Aug. 5, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform, Wertheimer will deliver a lecture titled “From Fear to Hope: Childhood Experiences with Anti-Semitism/How to Teach Respect,” as part of Week Six’s Interfaith Lecture Series theme, “Lessons in the School House.”

As part of her research for Faith Ed, Wertheimer, who is Jewish, decided to return to the K-12 school system she attended decades ago.

“I still clearly remember kids calling me slurs, and dealing with a lot of anti-Semitism throughout my childhood,” she said. “At the same time, when I went back, the same people weren’t going to be sitting in the school. And I was also going as a journalist, and it was a little strange to be reporting on my own history.”

One of Wertheimer’s old classmates had become a history teacher at the middle school, and in talking to them, she learned the class recently took a trip to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

“I was blown away — that kind of thing didn’t happen at all when I was there,” she said. “We learned about the Holocaust in a few paragraphs in my textbook. It ended up overall being a good experience, because what I found was that everyone was much more worldly than when I was there, because of the Internet.”

Though she didn’t see evidence of any blatant bigotry while she was there, Wertheimer said that she did observe potential causes for concern during her trip back to the school system.

One such concern was the school’s Bible club, which Wertheimer said hadn’t existed when she went to school there.

“They were skirting that line between church and state, because the principal was reading scripture to that club,” she said. “He didn’t see a problem with that.”

This program is made possible by the Elizabeth Elser Doolittle Endowment Fund for Adult Programming.

Benjamin Marcus to speak on religious literacy education in public schools for Interfaith Lecture series

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The United States of America is often described as the great melting pot, home to many ethnicities, cultures and religions, the practices of which are a protected freedom within the U.S. Constitution.

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Though the coexistence of many different religions is a foundation of American society, religious prejudices and stereotypes often cause conflict, which many scholars attribute to a simple lack of understanding. 

Benjamin Marcus, a former Presidential Scholar at the Harvard Divinity School and a graduate of the University of Cambridge and Brown University is a firm believer in comprehensive religious literacy education. 

Marcus will present his lecture “Religious Literacy in Public Schools: Embracing Complexity and Tension” at 2 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, Aug. 4, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform. The lecture is in keeping with the Interfaith Lecture Series Week Six theme “Lessons in the School House.”

In the last few years, the religious landscape of the United States has become increasingly complex,” Marcus said. “Unfortunately, that complexity has been accompanied by destructive tension between people of various religions and none, evidenced by an increase in religion-related hate crimes and an increase in active hate groups that target religious minorities.”

Religious literacy is the knowledge of and ability to understand religion, including religions with which one may be unfamiliar. 

A specialist with the Religious Freedom Center of the Freedom Forum Group, Marcus has helped to develop religious literacy programs for public schools, universities, businesses, U.S. government organizations and private foundations.

“In the last few years, the religious landscape of the United States has become increasingly complex,” Marcus said. “Unfortunately, that complexity has been accompanied by destructive tension between people of various religions and none, evidenced by an increase in religion-related hate crimes and an increase in active hate groups that target religious minorities.”

Marcus believes that increased religious literacy education in schools will create a better understanding of all religions and have a positive effect on the interactions between people of varying faiths. 

“The complexity of the landscape can lead to productive tension,” Marcus said. “By educating people about religion in academic and Constitutional ways in American public schools, such as nurturing religious literacy, we can equip young people with the knowledge, skills and civic dispositions to navigate complexity in productive ways.” 

Director of Religion Maureen Rovegno is looking forward to Marcus’ lecture, voicing her support for increased religious literacy education in public schools. 

“Religious literacy is a social and civic good that seeks a deeper understanding of religion’s role in private and public life to improve personal conduct, ethical leadership, and professional effectiveness,” Rovegno said. “Benjamin brings very special insights to our conversation this week, and we could not be more grateful.”

This program is made possible by the Elizabeth Elser Doolittle Endowment Fund for Adult Programming.

Judy Beals will kick off week 6 of the Interfaith Lecture Series with a discussion on religious literacy and education

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The enhancement of public understanding of religion and the roles it can play in society has long been a goal of the Harvard Divinity School.

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In an effort to further this mission, the Harvard Divinity School’s Religious Literacy Project was created, and Judy Beals appointed the associate director. 

An experienced human and civil rights attorney, former legislative aid in the United States Senate, a former state Assistant Attorney General and a nonprofit CEO, Beals has a wealth of experience and knowledge regarding both education and religion. She will share her thoughts in her lecture “Teaching Religion Through New Eyes” at 2 p.m. EDT Monday, Aug. 3, kicking off Week Six of the Interfaith Lecture Series on “Lessons in the School House.” Chautauquans can tune into the lecture via the CHQ Assembly Video Platform.

“I am very pleased that Judy Beals is keynoting our interfaith lecture conversation on the theme ‘Lessons in the School House,’ in our week focused on education,” said Director of Religion Maureen Rovegno. “As associate director of Harvard Divinity School’s Religious Literacy Project, which was created to continue its legacy of enhancing public understanding of religion in its worldwide expressions through education, Judy works to bring a more complex understanding of the roles all religions play in both history and contemporary affairs.”

Prior to her involvement with the RLP, Beals worked for over a decade with the Oxfam Organization, a non-profit group dedicated to ending the injustice of poverty. Serving first as Oxfam America’s campaign director, Beals transitioned to the private sector team, which involved collaboration with large corporations to further the Oxfam mission. 

In 2017, Beals took a sabbatical year to serve as a resident fellow at the Harvard Divinity School, where she audited Harvard courses while also working to create an approach for advancing religious literacy in secular organizations, particularly those that focus on international development such as Oxfam. 

It was during her fellowship at HDS that Beals was drawn to the idea of enhancing the public understanding of religion. She partnered with HDS’s Diane Moore to create the RLP, which seeks to intertwine the study and understanding of religion with the process of education, both in adolescence and adulthood. 

“The goal is to help to create an educated society of active participants in building a more just and peaceful world through understanding and appreciation of the multiplicity of the world’s religions, and the roles that they play in world affairs,” Rovegno said. 

Beals will discuss the goals of the RLP during her lecture, joining the themes of religious literacy with enhancement of education. 

This program is made possible by the H. Parker and Emma O. Sharp Lectureship Fund.

Michael Martin to stress importance of gratitude in Haudenosaunee traditions, creation during fifth Interfaith Friday presentation

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From the minute he wakes up, to the second he falls asleep, Michael Martin exists in a state of inexhaustible gratitude.

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“We have a lot to be thankful for,” Martin said in his 2013 TED Talk. “When we ground ourselves in that perspective, we can do amazing things. When you take the time to give those unexpected ‘Thank yous,’ that’s how you get remembered.”

Martin, an Onondaga of the Haudenosaunee people, or “people of the longhouse,” is practicing his native “Ganohę:nyoh,” or “Thanksgiving address.” The name “Haudenosaunee” refers to a confederation or alliance among six Native American nations more commonly known as the Iroquois Confederacy.

The word “Chautauqua” is an Iroquois word, one of the “last of the spoken language,” according to Maureen Rovegno, director of the Department of Religion. Rovegno said the connection proves Martin’s viewpoint is “extremely important to both the Chautauqua region,” and the Interfaith Friday series as a whole. 

“As we realize more and more the debt we owe to our Native people, we want to know more and more about what they value, because what they value, we want to value,” Rovegno said.

Martin, executive director of the Native American Community Services of Erie and Niagara Counties, will speak on Haudenosaunee traditions at 2 p.m. EDT Friday, July 31, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform for Week Five’s Interfaith Friday. 

They became the United States of America by learning that concept: We’re stronger together than we are separately,” Martin said. “(It’s) a very simple idea of being in a perspective of giving thanks. There’s an interconnectedness amongst us that we often don’t recognize.”

The main focus of the 2020 Interfaith Friday series, Rovegno said, is “uncovering stories of creation.” Most people, she said, already know the Christian creation narrative found within Genesis, so it was a “priority” to learn a Native American story, among others this season.

“We wanted to know what the Native people’s creation story is because creation stories tell us what we think life is all about, our purpose in life and it tells us something about our relationship to all of the created world — especially our relationship to nature,” Rovegno said. 

Martin, during his TED Talk, said his creation story is rooted in the teachings of a concept known as “seven generations.” 

“We’re taught that every action we take we have to be mindful seven generations up,” Martin said in the TED Talk. “Every action and decision we make has to ensure their well being. Just as we look back seven generations, we give thanks for those that came before us.”

Traditional leaders, such as the Haudenosaunee’s founder, the Peacemaker, won’t call this ideology a religion; they talk about it as a way of life, a way of thinking and a “perspective that’s supposed to guide us each and every day,” Martin said.

“It allows us to be in this perspective of gratitude, which humbles us and grounds us and puts us in that good frame of mind,” he said during his TED Talk.  

According to Martin, when the Peacemaker gave the Haudenosaunee people that “simple teaching,” it showed them “we’re stronger together when bonded with good minds than we could be separately,” an idea Martin said played a role in the founding of the United States. 

“They became the United States of America by learning that concept: We’re stronger together than we are separately,” he said. “(It’s) a very simple idea of being in a perspective of giving thanks. There’s an interconnectedness amongst us that we often don’t recognize.”

The bottom line: It is better to have expressed an excess of appreciation than to live with the regret of a “thanks” unsaid. 

“In everyday life, we don’t always take those opportunities to let people know their lives here on Earth have purpose and meaning,” Martin said in his TED Talk. “If nothing else to ourselves, for what they’ve given us.”

This program is made possible by The Ralph W. Loew Religious Lectureship Fund.

Author and activist Valarie Kaur to expand on ‘revolutionary love ethic’ in interfaith lecture

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Valarie Kaur has been here before.

Kaur

“Here” isn’t a place, it’s a feeling; the internal struggle of working to sustain both anger and love through years framed by Donald Trump’s presidency, a pandemic and racial violence. But Kaur has been advocating for marginalized people through tumultuous times since the George W. Bush administration, and Gene Robinson, Chautauqua Institution’s Vice President of Religion, said “she has a lot of the good fight left.”

“With recent dark times, especially since Trump came into office, she poses a question about the current darkness: Is this darkness in our country the darkness of the tomb or the darkness of the womb?” Robinson said. “Meaning, is something dying or is something being born from it? I know that gets her through.”

Kaur, civil rights activist, filmmaker, lawyer and founder of the Revolutionary Love Project, will deliver “See No Stranger: The Spiritual and Political Force of Revolutionary Love” at 2 p.m. EDT Thursday, July 30, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform as a part of the Week Five Interfaith Lecture Series theme, “The Feminine Spirit.”

The Revolutionary Love Project is a production of stories, tools, curricula, conferences, films and mass mobilizations that “equip and inspire people to practice the ethic of love.” The current focus of the project is geared toward reversing racism, nationalism, and hate against Muslim, Arab, South Asian American and Sikh communities.

“I was part of this generation of Sikh advocates who had this frame that if the nation only knew who we were, then it would be enough, then it would stop this tide of hate,” Kaur told the Observer. “But knowing is not enough. We have to be agents of revolutionary love.”

Robinson met Kaur through the Auburn Seminary Senior Fellows program, aimed to connect faith leaders who are committed to “catalyzing and advancing multifaith movements.” Robinson said she was a leader in the effort to allow Sikh citizens to participate in the military while still wearing “emblems of their religion,” such as turbans.

I’ve learned that there’s no such thing as monsters in this world,” she told the Observer. “Loving our opponents is not just a moral call — it’s pragmatic, it is strategic, it is how we learn to fight in ways that don’t just resist bad actors or remove bad actors from power, but actually change the systems, institutions, and cultures in which they operate.”

“She brings so much energy and spirit to everything she advocates for,” he said. “I think people think of the feminine spirit as something soft and gentle and kind and sweet, but she has a way of describing a love ethic that is tough, hard-hitting and powerful.”

Kaur’s 2020 memoir, See No Stranger, is an account of her efforts to learn and live that “revolutionary love ethic.” Her understanding of that ethic began with her family’s American story, specifically that of her paternal grandfather, Kehar Singh. Singh came to the United States in 1913, only to be immediately imprisoned due to the country’s immigration policies. A white immigration attorney, Henry Marshall, helped with Singh’s release and Kaur credits Marshall’s kindness as the reason for her being. 

“I’ve learned that there’s no such thing as monsters in this world,” she told the Observer. “Loving our opponents is not just a moral call — it’s pragmatic, it is strategic, it is how we learn to fight in ways that don’t just resist bad actors or remove bad actors from power, but actually change the systems, institutions, and cultures in which they operate.”

Part of loving oneself is allowing a feeling of anger when others harm you. The opposite of love is not anger, but indifference, Kaur told the Observer.

“Especially as a woman of color, I was always taught to be ashamed of my rage, to suppress it down inside of me,” Kaur told the Observer. “It took me a long journey, as you read, to understand that my rage carried information, that it showed me that my body and my life were worth protecting, that I had something worth fighting for.” 

Kaur told the Observer she has found hope through the activists who clogged airports to protest Trump’s 2017 Muslim ban, to those who particpated in the 2016 and 2020 Black Lives Matter marches across the globe. With every metaphor of rage and war, she said she returns to metaphors of labor and birth, of new beginnings and a belief that something better is always on the horizon. 

“How do we show up to the fire and still breathe and push and breathe and push?” Kaur told the Observer. “It’s true love.”

This program is made possible by the Waasdorp Fund for Religious Initiatives.

Former Obama speechwriter Sarah Hurwitz to talk rediscovering Judaism in adulthood for Interfaith Lecture Series

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In the introduction to her book, Here All Along: Finding Meaning, Spirituality and a Deeper Connection to Life – In Judaism (After Finally Choosing to Look There), former White House speechwriter Sarah Hurwitz describes her decision to reexamine Judaism at 36, after largely abandoning the faith since her bat mitzvah.

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“I know I disappoint people when I give them honest answers to their questions about what prompted me to start learning about Judaism as an adult,” she wrote. “I know they’re expecting some kind of major life crisis, or the culmination of a long spiritual journey. But the truth is much less exciting: At the age of thirty-six, I broke up with a guy I had been dating, found myself with a lot of time on my hands that had previously been spent with him, and happened to hear about an Instruction to Judaism class at the Washington D.C., Jewish Community Center.”

What began as a way to pass the time and learn about her heritage became a life-changing experience as Hurwitz learned that Judaism was so much more than the lessons she had begrudgingly learned in Hebrew School.

“What I found in that class just blew me away,” Hurwitz said. “It turns out that Judaism had profound wisdom to offer about how to be a good person, how to live a meaningful life, and how to find deep spiritual connection.”

Hurwitz worked at the White House from 2009 to 2017, first as a senior speechwriter for President Barack Obama and then as the head speechwriter for First Lady Michelle Obama. She will be speaking at 2 p.m. EDT Wednesday, July 29, on CHQ Assembly.

Her talk, “God, Politics and Lessons from a Jewish Journey in the White House and Beyond” is part of Week Five’s Interfaith Lecture Series, “The Feminine Spirit.”

After her powerful re-introduction to Judaism, Hurwitz began to learn everything she could about the religion.

“I was so moved by the radical, countercultural approach of this ancient tradition — and amazed by how urgently relevant it felt,” she said. “So I took more classes, read hundreds of books, studied with rabbis, and decided to write an account of what I had found.”

In Here All Along, which came out last year, Hurwitz doesn’t claim religious or academic expertise. Instead, she set out to communicate her faith using the skills of a political speechwriter.

“(I approach Judaism) as a speechwriter trying to find its beating heart for myself and others — the places where we can live and feel Judaism’s wisdom in our lives, the parts of Judaism that feel like its deepest, most important truths,” she wrote. “I’m essentially trying to write the book I wish I’d had five years ago, when I first started learning about Judaism as an adult.”

Exploring her faith while working at the White House was an encouraging experience.

“The Obama White House embraced diversity in every form,” Hurwitz said. “My colleagues were incredibly supportive and very proud of me for engaging more deeply with Judaism.”

She recalls explaining to White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough that she was planning to attend a silent Jewish meditation retreat over the holidays.

“I wondered if he would think that was a little weird,” Hurwitz said. “But he was thrilled. ‘Good for you!’ he said. ‘I’m so proud of you for doing that!’”

She hopes her talk can give Chautauquans of all faiths something to think about, particularly in terms of their understanding of the word “God.”

“I think Judaism has a great deal of ethical and spiritual wisdom that’s relevant for people of all faith backgrounds and none at all,” she said. “Jewish tradition has a wonderfully humble and non-dogmatic approach to the Divine; we realize that we’re talking about something far beyond what our tiny human minds can neatly define, so there’s tremendous diversity in Jewish conceptions of God.”

Hurtwitz’s faith has been a source of moral clarity for her in the last three and a half years, and she has continued to let it guide her through the uncertainty and conflict of the past few months.

“While Jewish law is complex and nuanced, it is unambiguous in its abhorrence of cruelty, corruption, malicious lying, and abuse of the vulnerable,” she said.

This program is made possible by the Jack and Elizabeth Gellman and Zaretsky Family Fund.

Mirabai Starr To Discuss Feminine-Centric Wisdom Across Spiritual Traditions and The Masculine and Feminine Qualities In All Genders

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Teenagers were more independent in some ways in the ‘70s, Mirabai Starr said, and this allowed her to move by herself to the Lama Foundation in New Mexico when she was 14. Founded in 1968, the spiritual community, educational facility, and retreat center is a place where all religions and spiritual traditions meet.

Starr

“They call it a meeting of the ways, and there’s not one religion, one guru, one teacher or a tradition,” Starr said. “All are welcome and deeply entered into through practices and study.”

She cannot remember a time when she wasn’t drawn to spirituality.

“Since I was a small child, I was drawn to the mystery,” she said. “And I think that increased as I got older, in proportion to some significant life experiences, mostly in the arena of death.”

Starr said her brother died when she was 7, and her first boyfriend died when she was 14.

“I would say those two events really tilled the soil of my soul’s yearning for something beyond what could be seen and touched directly,” Starr said.

Named on the 2020 Watkins List of the “100 Most Spiritually Influential Living People of the World,” Starr is the author of Wild Mercy: Living the Fierce & Tender Wisdom of the Women Mystic and a certified bereavement counselor, helping mourners harness the transformational power of loss. She will talk at 2 p.m. EDT Tuesday, July 28, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform as the second part of the Interfaith Lecture Series Week Five Theme: “The Feminine Spirit.” Starr will discuss feminine-centric wisdom across multiple religions and teachings.

Starr said she has been a writer since she could pick up a pen, and she wrote her first poem, which was about autumn in New York, at the age of 8. Starr’s parents were supportive of her art and would read it to their friends.

“From an early age the message I got from my parents was, ‘You have an ability to say a lot with a few words,’” Starr said. “And I understood that that was some kind of gift that I could and should develop. I feel like I have both through my poetry and my prose writing.”

She wanted to be a fiction writer because that is what she loved to read. Starr’s first published work, however, was a creative nonfiction essay in the Sun Magazine in 1999. The Sun, she said, was “the perfect intersection for me because those are all my interests, literary, political and spiritual.”

Around her fourth book, Starr began to receive too many speaking and teaching invitations to be able to teach her classes at the University of New Mexico-Taos. She made little money at the university, so she decided to pursue the speaking engagements instead, transitioning from teaching at a public university to traveling and teaching mostly privileged people.

“A lot of the white women that I work with are desperately wanting to wake up, be relevant, be of service and dismantle their unconscious white privilege,” Starr said. “It was just a big shift from actually being with people who are struggling to lift themselves in their lives and educate themselves.”

Before the pandemic, Starr traveled once a week for engagements. 

“I felt like I was on this train that was hurtling through the universe at warp speed and I couldn’t get off, and I knew I wanted to and needed to but I didn’t know how,” Starr said. “The pandemic just brought me to a screeching halt. And sure enough, it was like the tree of my soul was watered by being still, being home.”

For around the past seven years, Starr has been dedicated to dismantling white privilege, which she said is prevalent in spiritual spaces in which she teaches, such as the yoga community and the American Buddhist community. Starr said helping these people understand their own unconscious part in systemic racism requires her to continuously look at herself.

“Just because I’m doing the same anti-racist work doesn’t mean that I do not also perpetuate the various structures that have oppressed people of color, especially Black people, but, yes, people of color,” Starr said. “I always begin by using myself as an example of a work in progress that’s continuously needing to do that rigorous self inquiry.”

Since the murder of George Floyd on May 25, she said more white people, including those in the spiritual community, have been talking about racism.

“I have felt really lonely in that work for a long time. I’ve made myself very vulnerable in communities of color, as I step up and constantly mess up and am corrected very publicly. I get to practice not having a fragile, white response to the feedback I get from people of color,” Starr said. “It would be so much easier not to do that work and stay in my comfortable, little, white, spiritual bubble, but I can’t and I won’t.”

In her lecture, Starr will be discussing feminine wisdom across many religions and spiritual traditions. She said much of the teachings of these traditions are written by and for men, and she aims to “reclaim a more feminine-centric way of understanding, and practicing these great, spiritual treasures.”

“When I say masculine and feminine, I’m speaking of the masculine and the feminine in people of all genders,” Starr said. “I’m not just bifurcating the sexes, you know, ‘Women are embodied and relational and men are disembodied and individualistic.’ It’s looking at those qualities in all of us.”

This program is made possible by the Rachel Alice Miller Memorial Fund.

Joan Chittister To Discuss Global Equality, What Equality Would Look Like And Why It Has Not Been Achieved Yet

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Joan Chittister, Benedictine Sister of Erie, Pennsylvania, said communication is the base of everything that humans do.

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“We don’t know one another, but by the time this conversation ends, we’ll know one another relatively well,” Chittister said. “And what’s more, we will have seeded one another’s brain with new ideas, with quick questions that will affect our own lives.”

Half of the human population are women, and Chittister said there has been a lack of women’s voices in society, which is “emblazoned in the mistakes that those societies have made.”

“We are working with half the human mind. The male mind. That’s the half we function on. It’s the mind through which we see life, say life, and create life,” Chittister said. “But as a result of that, we are ignoring half the resources of the human race, and the experiences that they bring to culture…to your family life, to the economy, to government.”

As well as being a Benedictine Sister, Chittister is an international lecturer and award-winning author of 60 books. She will talk at 2 p.m. EDT Monday, July 27, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform to launch the Week Five Interfaith Lecture Series theme, “The Feminine Spirit.” 

When Chittister was a freshman in high school, she became an editor of her school newspaper.

“I discovered, knew and loved the fact that I was writing. And I knew that internally, essentially, I was a writer — that was the only thing I wanted to do in life,” Chittister said. “When I entered the community … frankly, it had occurred to me that nuns don’t write books. I thought I was giving that up because somehow or other, this was a better thing for me to do than writing.”

Chittister said her role in the church was to communicate with 23 Benedictine communities of women across the country. She wrote a lot during this time to communicate with these various groups, and eventually people outside the order asked her to write articles, give speeches and participate in national seminars.

“I woke up one morning and discovered that everything I was doing, and every way I knew to address any of the issues going on, was to treat them as universal questions that were absolutely an essential part of how institutions would move in the future,” Chittister said.

Chittister said that face masks are a great metaphor for the role of individuals in society, and how “the way we breathe on other people affects their life, their children, their fertility, their future.” With the pandemic, she said a person’s effects on others can be seen in loss of revenue for businesses, such as restaurants opening with 25% of their normal occupancy.

“They know what they’re facing. Hospitals know what they’re facing. It’s time we grow up. The time is now,” Chittister said. “We’re at this crossover point where we have to build on values, not on the past.”

Chittister has been a part of the Global Peace Initiative for Women for around 30 years and has worked to bring women “out of the woodwork, to talk about their lives … especially women who found themselves in countries in conflict.” She said the needs of people in other countries are essential because the United States’ economy has not been fully independent since World War II.

“If (any other country’s) economy falls, trust me that our economy will suffer too,” Chittister said.

For her Chautauquan Lecture “A Woman’s Life: A Good Event/Bad Event World,” she will discuss topics such as equality and its impacts on the global community.

“I really am asking myself, ‘What would equality really look like? And then, ‘Why don’t we have what’s missing?’” Chittister said.

This program is made possible by the Presbyterian Association of Chautauqua Religious Lectureship Fund.

Lisa Sharon Harper, founder of Freedom Road, to dispute evangelical narratives, Shalom in Interfaith Friday

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Lisa Sharon Harper’s work didn’t shift during the Black Lives Matter movement — she said this is a moment she was made for.

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Harper

“The kind of work I do helped to create this moment,” Harper said. “What the movement did is it called out the truth in the face of a spiritual lie. We’ve been waiting for this.”

Harper, founder and president of Freedom Road, will speak on evangelicalism at 2 p.m. EDT Friday, July 24, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform for Week Four’s Interfaith Friday. 

The way that we imagine how we should live together in the world is deeply impacted by our faith and how we understand it,” she said. “The two go hand-in-hand, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not.”

Since the 2016 presidential election, Harper said the nation has been in a state of devastating division. What people are learning from it, she said, is that “faith matters.” Faith shapes one’s worldview, which in turn, shapes their politics. 

“The way that we imagine how we should live together in the world is deeply impacted by our faith and how we understand it,” she said. “The two go hand-in-hand, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not.”

Harper’s worldview is shaped by her evangelical understanding of the Gospel, a view she will expand on in her Interfaith Friday presentation. Her journey to finding her faith was a long one. It would challenge her relationships, her past, her sense of belonging; but the challenges would bring her to an “life-altering realization” — the “good news of the Gospel” was handed down to her by white people who bore no actual relationship to the scripture they were sharing. 

Finally, she said, she found her place in the narrative. 

“The text I so deeply believe in actually comes from a social location that is closer to my own than anyone who taught me about it — much closer to that of George Floyd than that of Calvin or Luther,” Harper said. 

Harper’s strengthened relationship with religion following her realization changed her life “permanently and for the better,” but several experiences have since disputed the “white evangelical narrative” — particularly in her understanding of Shalom, which she considers to be God’s vision of the world he created. 

“Shalom is exploring how God envisions we should be relating to one another,” she said. “It’s how we should be relating to the rest of the creation — the Earth, other animals. It’s how God envisions we should relate to money and how God envisions we should relate to God.” 

Shalom, to Harper, is grounded in the book of Genesis, her “founding narrative.” Harper believes Genesis was written by oppressed, enslaved people, and if that’s the context, she doubts the book’s sole purpose was to prove how long it took to make the world. In her eyes, the story is about power, not creation. 

“They are writing about how power should be yielded in this world, how we should be relating with each other, about ethics and about the core of Shalom,” Harper said. “That reoriented everything for me, which will be a key part of my talk.”  

To share her worldview worldwide, Harper founded Freedom Road, a consulting group, in 2017. Through training, coaching, forums and pilgrimages, Harper said Freedom Road’s mission is to “build a more just world.”

“We help people who are doing justice to do it more justly,” she said. “The major way we do that is by emphasizing the power of story and narrative. We really do believe narrative shapes everything. My story is only one example of that.”

Having to reevaluate and shift a worldview is “literally pain-filled,” Harper said, but creating change in the “right direction” is worth the discomfort it carries. 

“There is so much pain in the world because of our divisions, so if the work I have done to understand Shalom helps the church become Shalom-seekers, well, that’s a life well spent,” Harper said.  

This program is made possible by “The Lincoln Ethics Series,” funded by the David and Joan Lincoln Family Fund for Applied Ethics and the Thomas and Shirley Musgrave Woolaway Fund.

Noreen Herzfeld to examine the ‘morality of technology’ in Interfaith lecture

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As a theologian, Noreen Herzfeld knows that in the first century, people could see themselves in the image of God. But as a computer scientist, she has come to learn people in the 21st century see themselves in the image of another deity — the computer — a reality she has come to terms with through a growing list of sizable questions.

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Herzfeld

“These are big questions, and we have no easy answers, because we are dealing with things that are quite new,” Herzfeld said.  

Herzfeld, the Nicholas and Bernice Reuter Professor of Science and Religion at St. John’s University and the College of Saint Benedict, will deliver her lecture “Tool, Partner, or Surrogate: How Autonomous Should Our Technology Be?” at 2 p.m. EDT Thursday, July 23, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform with a lecture on the Week Four Interfaith Lecture Series theme, “Ethics in a Technologically Transforming World?”

It seemed to me that computers are at their most useful for us when they do things we can’t do: crank out the numbers,” Herzfeld said. “Why are we trying to replicate our own brains instead of working on something that compliments them?”

Herzfeld initially came to St. John’s University to teach her passion, computer science, but said she quickly became interested in investigating why people are trying to create “human-like artificial intelligence.”

“It seemed to me that computers are at their most useful for us when they do things we can’t do: crank out the numbers,” she said. “Why are we trying to replicate our own brains instead of working on something that compliments them?”

She didn’t have the background to “attack that question” as a computer scientist, she said, because it investigated human motivations rather than the technology itself. So, she began to study theology. 

“I thought, ‘Where have I seen this idea of one being created in the image of another?’” she said. “That’s in Genesis.”

In her lecture, Herzfeld plans to explore the history of technology within the realm of theology, diving into what it means to be a moral agent and if computers can ever accomplish that “level of morality.”

“At what point does technology outstrip morality?” she said. “Is there a problem with the fact that we make technological advancements very quickly and yet we are evolving very slowly? Will it eventually get away from us?” 

Some of the vast technological advancements are positive, according to Herzfeld. During the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, she said technology is “leading the way.” 

“Scientists, right now, are throwing everything they’ve got at this virus and that includes artificial intelligence and robotics,” she said. “We are using these machines to help us understand the virus, to see if we can repurpose existing drugs and using robots to bring things to people who are quarantined. These are wonderful uses.”

Some of the uses, however, aren’t so wonderful. As a professor, she had to transition her classroom on Zoom in the middle of the spring semester and said it was a challenge to transcend the barriers technology set between her and her students.

“We need to be thinking about what an authentic relationship looks like when we are not meeting physically, when we are not directly face-to-face and when face-to-face is mediated by technology,” she said.

Through her virtual lecture, Herzfeld hopes to shed light on how citizens can be more “deliberate” with their technology usage. Ultimately, she wants people to think about which technologies they are going to use, which technologies they are not going to use and more importantly: why? 

“With those we are going to use, maybe we can be more mindful about how we use them, how they might be having an under-the-radar effect on our relationships with other people, and how we think about ourselves and our place in the world,” Herzfeld said. 

This program is made possible by “The Lincoln Ethics Series,” funded by the David and Joan Lincoln Family Fund for Applied Ethics and  the Carnahan-Jackson Religious Lectureship.

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