Peter Berger Lecture and Celebration
Friday, November 11, 2011
The First Annual Peter Berger Lecture in Religion and World Affairs
Sponsored by the School of Theology and The Institute on Culture, Religion, and World Affairs (CURA), Boston University
David Martin, Professor Emeritus in the Sociology of Religion, London School of Economics
David Martin served as president of the International Society for the Sociology of Religion and is an ordained priest in the Church of England. Martin has written extensively on the sociology of religion and secularization, most notably in A General Theory of Secularization (1978), and on the intersection of sociology and theology, with his essays on this topic collected in Reflections on Sociology and Theology (1996). He has examined the expansion of Pentecostal Protestantism in the developing world in his widely cited Tongues of Fire: Conservative Protestantism in Latin America (1990) and Pentecostalism: The World Their Parish (2002), and he has written on religion and violence in Does Christianity Cause War? (1998) and most recently in The Future of Christianity: Reflections on Violence and Democracy, Religion and Secularization (2011).
On June 30, 2009, Dr. Peter L. Berger retired from the directorship of the Institute on Culture, Religion and World Affairs, which he had founded in 1985. Peter remains an employee of Boston University on the staff of the Institute on Culture, Religion, and World Affairs, and also regularly participates in the broader life of the Boston University community, not least the School of Theology.
With the joint sponsorship of the School of Theology and CURA, we are proposing to hold the “First Annual Peter Berger Lecture in Religion and World Affairs” on November 11, 2011. The purpose of the event is not to praise Peter as he prepares for retirement – Peter is a still very active citizen in CURA and the University, and we are not in the least interested in rushing him into retirement. The November 11 event will instead serve as the first of a proposed annual lectureship entitled, “The Peter Berger Lecture in Religion and World Affairs.” Dr. David Martin – professor emeritus of sociology the London School of Economics, a widely published theologian, and a long time colleague at CURA and a friend of Peter’s since the 1970s – has kindly agreed to present the first lecture.
The purpose of the named lectureship will be to sponsor a state-of-the-field lecture by a distinguished scholar in some aspect of the fields in which Peter Berger has left a lasting legacy: theology, sociology, anthropology, and religious studies. We feel that it is appropriate that the topics of the lecture remain open. Religious studies in its true interdisciplinary sense is an evolving and wonderfully dynamic enterprise. Nonetheless, we also feel that the topics of the lectures should in some way reflect scholarship in the tradition of “Berger at Boston University.” The lectures might touch, then, on topics as varied as modern secularity and global religious revival; the social constructions of religion in modern times; global Christianity; Christian theology in an age of relativist challenge; the multiplicity of religious modernities; religion and globalization. Again, we emphasize that this list is intended to be illustrative not restrictive. The lecturer and topic for each year’s lecture will be chosen by the CURA director, the Chair of the Department of Sociology, and two faculty appointed by the Dean of the School of Theology. The selection committee will also consult with the Chairs of the Department of Anthropology and the Department of Religion before extending an invitation to each year’s lecturer.
The first annual Peter Berger Lecture will be of special importance because Berger himself will be in attendance. Equally important, in addition to launching the lectureship, we will use the event to celebrate Peter Berger’s contribution to the study of religion and world affairs at Boston University.
Schedule of Events (subject to change)
4:00 pm: Welcome
Brief welcoming comments by Dana Robert and Bob Hefner, explaining the dual purpose of the evening’s event: a celebration of Peter Berger’s contribution to Boston University, and the launching of the first annual Peter Berger Lecture.
4:10 to 4:20: Boston University Administrators’ Welcome
With tributes by:
* Vice President Andrei Ruckenstein, Vice President of Research
* Dean Elizabeth Moore, School of Theology
* Dean Virginia Sapiro, College of Arts and Sciences
4:20-5:45: Lecture: Dr. David Martin, London School of Economics
Location: To be Declared. For up-to-date information, visit the CURA Lecture website.
The RUAH Program of Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries (CMM) Announces an Enlightening Fall Conference:
“Spirituality and Healing: Interfaith Perspectives and Practices for Ourselves and Our Communities”
When: Friday, October 28th 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Where: All Saints Parish, 1773 Beacon Street, Brookline.
A Conference for Clergy & Laity, Medical Professionals, Students, Social Workers, And all who care about healing and wholeness.
Olivia Hoblitzelle taught in the field of Behavioral Medicine where she pioneered how to bring meditation, yoga, and cognitive therapy into the medical domain to treat stress-related and chronic illness. She helped to develop one of the first training programs in Mind/Body medicine in the country with Dr Herbert Benson and the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine. She is the author of Ten Thousand Joy sand Ten Thousand Sorrows; A Couple’s Journey through Alzheimer’s.
Rev. Dr. Gloria White-Hammond is the Co-Founder and Co-Pastor of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Boston, Massachusetts, and Founding Co-Chair of the Massachusetts Coalition to Save Darfur. She co-founded My Sister’s Keeper, a women-led humanitarian and human rights initiative, and created the faith-based creative writing/mentoring ministry called “Do the Write Thing” for high risk African-American adolescent females.
Selected Workshops Include:
Dr. Syed Razvi MD- “Islamic Spiritual Practices in Everyday Life! Are They Different During illness?”
Prof. Roger Gottlieb- “Spirituality and Gratitude: based on his forthcoming book, Spirituality: What Is It and why Faith Matters”
Rev. Megan Lynes and Ms.Nazish Riaz- “The Healing Power of Interfaith Friendships”
Dr. Peter Stringham MD and Kathleen Kelly MSW/MA- Title TBD
For more information, contact email@example.com or 617-244-3650 or visit our website at www.coopmet.org
BU School of Theology and Partakes’ College Behind Bars are sponsoring a talk by Pippin Ross, entitled “Crash Course: A Reporter’s Journey Into Prison.”
Date and Time: Thursday, November 3 at 7:00 PM
Location: Boston University School of Theology, 745 Commonwealth Avenue, 3rd Floor Room 325
An article about presenter, Pippin Ross.
Pippin Ross, former reporter at WFCR talks about her years at Framingham Prison
Former reporter released from MCI-Framingham
By Dan McDonald/Daily News staff
Posted Sep 06, 2009
Doing time in MCI-Framingham may have landed Pippin Ross, who once ran a public radio station in western Massachusetts before she was jailed for multiple drunken driving charges, the biggest scoop of her career: revealing what she refers to as the “beast of the correction system.”
In July 2006, after facing at least four drunken driving counts, Ross was sentenced to serve 2 to 4 years in the state women’s prison in Framingham.
During her stint inside, Ross, then Inmate # 80554, did what came naturally: She culled stories, taking copious notes, documenting everything from the green Jell-O and mystery soup at chow time to the Zen of mopping and sweeping in the morning.
Ross took note of the large number of inmates given psychotropic drug prescriptions , whether they needed them or not.
“Women get put on the drugs right away,” she said. “It’s what I call chemical restraint.”
At least 60 percent of MCI-Framingham’s inmates have open mental health cases, according to the Department of Correction. Ross suggests the number is actually much higher.
In a typed response to Ross’ statements, DOC spokeswoman Diane Wiffin said licensed psychiatrists, psychologists and clinicians are solely responsible for making clinical decisions.
Ross, the inmate, dug for news.
The DOC’s drug vendor is based out of state, says Ross. That is something Ross’ husband, Phil Austin, says many people in the state don’t know, and it’s something that “should make the average taxpayer livid.”
Wiffin says its medical vendor uses the State Office of Pharmacy Services for all medication, as is statewide policy for all agencies.
While behind bars, Ross ruffled feathers, filing a complaint about access to the law library and holding an interview with The Boston Globe. That move, she says, partially contributed to prison officials unfairly scrutinizing her.
She says her cell was often searched and some notes confiscated.
The Department of Correction declined to comment on those assertions, saying it would need a CORI waiver to get into specifics about Ross’ assertions of retaliatory solitary confinement and room searches.
Ross says legal services for the inmates are hard to come by in MCI-Framingham.
In the correction system, Ross notes there is “an ongoing philosophical civil war between those who are compassionate and those who say ‘Let them break rocks.”‘
Wiffin, in response to that statement, says the DOC is committed to re-entry into society as sound public policy which promotes public safety.
When Ross emerged from the Loring Drive prison in March with a deflated ego, the 53-year-old whose resume includes writing for the Boston Herald and Boston Globe, she knew she had a story to tell.
Ross now lives in a sober house in Malden and is writing a book with Austin, 56, of Nantucket, about her experience in prison and in the judicial system.
It’s an experience she labels “exhausting, demoralizing, and scary.”
Having just finished a cup of chai tea in a Somerville cafe Friday, Ross speaks matter-of-factly about her time inside. She does not break eye contact. She does not get emotional.
She calls prison the “epicenter of post-traumatic stress syndrome” and says nearly every woman she encountered in prison had been sexually abused at some point in their lives.
“Many, many women in prison are there because of a horrible experience that drove them to the edge. All of a sudden … the controls get lifted,” she said.
Prison is almost always the result of a twisted assortment of factors, says Ross, who originally hails from Fitchburg.
“Terrible public education, no affordable housing, and no access to help,” she said.
But Ross appears to buck such a criteria.
Educated at Dana Hall School in Wellesley before attending UMass-Amherst to study broadcast journalism, Ross was the news director for the National Public Radio affiliate in Amherst WFCR from 1986 to 1996.
She continued to be linked to NPR in some form until 2004.
Her decade-plus course in hard knocks began years earlier.
While alcoholism “was always there lurking,” things really fell apart, she says, when she was sexually-assaulted while she was working on an investigative story in the late 1990s.
Ross racked up four charges of driving under the influence of alcohol in a 2-year span, ending in the earlier half of the decade.
In 2004 she was sent to McLean Hospital in Belmont to get sober. Her stint was short-lived. Five days into her stay she shared a vodka nip with a fellow patient and was asked to leave. That development was probably a moot point. She says she couldn’t afford the $450 per day cost her insurance did not cover. Not paying for the stay meant a probation violation and she was sent back to court.
In February 2005, she was sentenced to a year in jail and ultimately landed in the Western Massachusetts Correctional Center on Howard Street in Springfield.
“It was my ashram. My on-the-taxpayer’s Betty Ford clinic ,” said Ross.
Three days before she was scheduled to be released, however, she was indicted for altering a court document by changing the number of drunken driving charges she had on a court document.
Ross says the count would not have affected her jail sentence and that it was a paperwork snafu; she said she had simply tried to make a minor correction to court documents.
The court thought she was trying to fudge documents to get out early.
Her attorney had a blunt assessment of the situation: “You’re smoked,” he told her.
She fought the charge of “before the fact aiding an attempted escape,” for nine months before succumbing to her attorney’s pressure, pleading out in July 2006. She was sent east, to Framingham where she was imprisoned until March.
She married Austin, a novelist with four published books under his belt, last April, two weeks after she was released from prison. The two, who first met as part of a theater production 27 years ago, corresponded while she was in jail starting in January 2007.
Ross, who has a 20-year-old son, is on both parole and probation. She is scheduled to get out of the sober house in December, but might be released sooner.
She has one article due to come out in the September issue of Shambhala Sun Magazine, an upscale meditation magazine, about teaching yoga in prison. She said she also is working on other freelance assignments.
The book project is nearly done and the couple is shopping the manuscript, which has a tentative title of “Crash Test Dummies.”
Reflecting on her prison stint, Ross tries to pull something positive out of her story.
She said, “It showed me how astronomically precious life is.”
A program of the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, the Summer Peacebuilding Institute brings instructors, participants, and staff together in a community of learning and healing. Together, participants explore issues of both local and global concern through classroom interaction, luncheon presentations, weekend seminars, special interest groups, and community celebrations. Informal sharing of personal stories creates trust, bonds of hope, and courage to move forward.
Information on SPI 2012 can now be found on the internet at www.emu.edu/spi. Course offerings and schedule, instructor bios, estimated costs, and the online application form can be obtained from this site.
Applications can only be submitted electronically via the online form. The online form will allow you to begin completing the application, save your work, and return later to finish and submit. Applications for SPI 2012 are due by January 13, 2012 with admissions decisions being made by Feb 3, 2012. If you need additional processing time for a visa or other reason, you can request expedited processing and an early decision.
Please email EMU’s office (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you are having difficulties applying, or have other questions.
Practicing what we preach in resolving conflicts
Ann Garrido and Sheila Heen | JANUARY 4, 2010
From America, A National Catholic Weekly Magazine
Imagine a typical parish. A member of the staff must be laid off because of budgetary constraints; the Girl Scouts and the athletic association have double-booked the gym; quinceañera plans do not conform to diocesan guidelines; the issue of women and ordination hangs like a cloud over a faith-sharing session; a critical agenda has been lost in cyberspace; and the board meeting implodes.
Many of us grew up with an ideal vision of church based on the Acts of the Apostles. We focus on how the early Christians laid their possessions at the feet of the apostles, and we think that they lived happily ever after—all of one mind and heart. When our own experience of church does not match this, we are tempted to think that something has gone terribly awry: How can there be conflict in a community that professes Christ? Why can’t we all just get along like our ancestors in faith?
And yet the conflicts that punctuate our life together are nothing new. Indeed, the letters of Paul, written even before Acts, witness to the presence of conflict in the earliest Christian communities of Ephesus and Galatia, Jerusalem and Corinth. It turns out there was never a time in which the church was without conflict, and this is not necessarily a bad thing. Conflict can be a sign of vitality. People argue only over things they care about. Communities that claim to have no conflict are more likely to be riddled with apathy than living in perfect charity.
Granted, conflict is not the goal of our ecclesial life, and we need not intentionally provoke it. But rather than bemoan its perennial presence, we can choose to perceive conflict as inherent in the spiritual journey and commit to confronting it well, allowing our way of living together in good times and in bad to become part of our preaching. As Paul often reminded the early Christians, at the heart of our Gospel is one central message: through Christ the world is being reconciled to God. There is a sense of dynamism in Paul’s summary. All of creation writhes in the labor of becoming what God has always dreamed it to be. Christ the head has emerged while his body is still in the process of being born. Jesus leads the way; the earth remains in an ongoing process of reconciliation. The witness that Christians can most powerfully offer the world is not that of a perfect people, but of a people always fully engaged in the reconciliation experience.
It follows that exercises in reconciliation should be considered essential Christian practices—ways of fully collaborating with God in the ongoing work of creation. As Christians, we are expected not just to theorize about prayer, but to pray. We are expected not just to consent to the idea of works of mercy, but to show mercy. Reconciliation cannot be something we advocate from a distance. We must learn how to engage in it.
This is no easy task, but the fields of conflict resolution and negotiation can be partners to Christian communities in this regard. Resources developed in the fields of law and business offer tangible, easily applicable ways of becoming a reconciling people. When motivated by faith, seven practices from these fields have the potential to become spiritual disciplines in which the Christian vocation to reconciliation is made real.
1. Avoid triangulation.
“If you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Mt 5:23-24).
When we are frustrated or hurt by others, it is easier to talk about them than to them. As a general rule in Christian conflict, if two people are speaking negatively about a third, the third has a right to be present. Catholic social teaching emphasizes the principle of subsidiarity—decisions should be made at the lowest effective level possible by the persons most affected by those decisions. Applied to conflict management, that means conflict should be handled by the persons directly involved in the conflict. Parents who are upset with a teacher should be challenged to talk to the teacher before going to a principal. Parishioners angered by a pastor’s preaching should go to the pastor before writing to the bishop.
2. Distinguish between facts and interpretations.
“Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?…You hypocrite! Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter in your brother’s eye” (Lk 6:41-42).
We often talk about conflicts as if they were simple factual disputes with clear and obvious answers. But most disputes are not about facts. Everyone agrees that the board was lacking information in advance of the meeting. What we disagree about is whether it was absolutely essential to possess the information in advance, who is responsible for the information being unavailable and whether the meeting should proceed without it. These are interpretations and judgments that are based on assumptions, past experiences, expectations and self-serving biases. We notice and feel strongly about things that reflect on us. We will give less credit to things that are unfamiliar or do not affect us. So if my pet project is not affected by the missing information, I tend to think we should proceed and that you are overreacting in hysteria over a little lost paperwork. If my project is jeopardized by the oversight, I am scandalized by the unprofessional manner in which this organization is run.
We always have a partial picture of any given situation, and we emphasize both meanings of partial—our view is both incomplete and biased. We need to understand others’ interpretations to see the whole picture. We need one another to “reconcile” a more complete understanding.
3. Practice passionate—and compassionate—curiosity.
Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “[Lord,] Son of David, have pity on us!”…Jesus stopped and called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” They answered him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” Moved with pity, Jesus touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him (Mt 20:30-34).
Understanding another’s perspective requires humility and becoming curious about the experience of others. What information does the other have that I might not have? What leads them to think that this is important or unjust or plain wrong? What are they seeing that I am not seeing? The only way that we find the answers to these questions is to ask the other person directly—not rhetorically, but genuinely wanting to understand their perspective and reasoning: It matters to me that I understand you more fully.
4. Let grace and compassion transform the emotions.
I, then, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace (Eph 4:1-3).
The practice of curiosity, however, cannot end with frank questioning. Conflict is difficult because by its very nature it involves human emotion, generally emotions that we would prefer not to feel: anger, frustration, disappointment, sadness, hurt. As persons who profess Christ, we would like to think of ourselves as loving, joyful, serene, generous, faithful, forgiving. Experiencing unpleasant emotions or hearing that we might be the cause of others’ unpleasant emotions threatens the identity that we have built up for ourselves, making us fearful that we are less than the persons we would like to be. Nevertheless, in order for difficult conversations to be fruitful conversations, we have to be curious about the emotions involved and willing to hear how the other feels even when it makes us uncomfortable. We will need to have compassion for ourselves and for the other, recognizing we are all human and struggling.
5. Engage the internal voice.
Know this, my dear brothers: everyone should be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath, for the wrath of a man does not accomplish the righteousness of God (Jas 1:19-20).
The other people in our conflicts are in many cases not entirely “with us” in our journey toward compassion and grace. They are still feeling aggravated or impatient or overlooked. Just to make things especially tricky, they are seldom likely to be direct about those feelings. Asked to move the date of a scheduled event, the scout leader might say, “Sure, that’s fine,” when she’s really thinking, “What a hassle! I’ll never volunteer for this parish again.”
Often we have to draw out the other persons’ internal voice, to give them permission to be candid about their thoughts and feelings. But “It doesn’t sound like that’s fine” may be heard as a challenge or accusation. An empathetic, “I know this isn’t the first time, and it must be frustrating” encourages a more frank exchange. In the moment, it may mean a barrage of pent-up aggravation. But if we can hold their frustration and our compassion in the situation, we transform their internal dialogue and perhaps our own. Driving home, the scout leader is more likely to be thinking, “That athletic director seems to really ‘get’ the problem. I hope we can work something out together. It can’t be easy for him either….”
6. Good intentions, bad impact.
“Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you” (Mt 7:1-2).
Often when we complain to each other about someone else, we start with “the kind of person he is”: “You know how she is—always has to control everything” or “He’s just on a power trip” or “I just don’t think they care.” We assume they have bad intentions and bad character. Yet when we are accused of micromanaging or carelessness, we indignantly defend our good intentions: We just want to do the right thing.
Remembering that most conflicts inside communities result from well-intentioned people having unintended bad impacts on each other can help us raise issues without raising defensiveness: “I’m guessing you weren’t aware of the guidelines for quinceañera celebrations; here’s the problem I’m worried about; let’s figure out how to make it work.”
7. Be accountable for your personal contribution to the problem.
After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that they were in danger of sinking. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man” (Lk 5:4-9).
Adam and Eve pointed blaming fingers in their first conflict with God in the garden. Our tendency to want to assign blame is part of our sinful condition. If we are to transform that impulse into something healing and useful, it is through seeing conflict as a result of joint contributions between us. Almost every problematic situation is the result of multiple contributions—things we each did or failed to do—and also factors that are beyond either one of us. Being willing to be accountable for our part of the problem models contrition and leads the way to reconciliation. Starting with, “I wish I had raised this earlier” or, “Looking back, there are certainly some things I wish I’d done differently” starts us down a solution-oriented conversation and invites grace into our hearts.
Difficult conversations are by their very nature risky undertakings. In the midst of conflict, I have little curiousity about your view. In fact, I probably feel contemptuous of it as a result of feeling frustrated, disappointed or misunderstood. And learning more about your view may make me more angry, uncomfortable or hurt, so I’m anxious rather than excited at the prospect. And what if I listen to you, only to have my own views dismissed or ridiculed?
Why take the risk?
Because Jesus took the risk. Jesus devoted a great deal of his teaching to themes surrounding conflict: challenge, compassion, confrontation and the importance of repeated forgiveness. But he also spent a great deal of his life modeling those teachings with his own followers. In his ministry, we find Jesus frequently initiating conversations that he surely knew would spark disagreement or discomfort in his listeners. Some of those conversations led to his death. But after his resurrection, we find Jesus continuing these conversations in a most personal way with the very people who had abandoned and denied him. Jesus not only spoke about a new age of reconciliation; he practiced it in his own relationships. Although his engagements were often difficult, he demonstrated that good, hard conversations have the potential to increase insight into the character of God and the nature of God’s reign.
In conflict we have the opportunity to enjoy increased insight and understanding, an opportunity to participate in the reconciling of our world to God.
Ann Garrido is an associate professor of homiletics at the Aquinas Institute in St. Louis, Mo. Sheila Heen, of the Harvard Negotiation Project, is the co-author of Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most (Penguin).
The Institute for Healing of Memories in South Africa held its First Annual Lecture at the University of the Western Cape on the 18th August 2011. It was given by Ela Ghandi, who is granddaughter of Mohandas Gandhi, is a peace activist, and was a Member of Parliament in South Africa from 1994-2004.
To read a transcript of the lecture, click here.
Ela Ghandi, Lecturer at Institute for Healing of Memories
The Institute for Healing of Memories was founded in 1998. It grew out of the Chaplaincy Project of the Trauma Centre for Victims of Violence and Torture, where Father Michael Lapsley was one of the founder members.
The Institute seeks to contribute to the healing journey of individuals, communities and nations. Its work is grounded in the belief that we are all in need of healing, because of what we have done, what we have failed to do, and what has been done to us.
Through his own experience of living in exile, losing both hands and an eye in a letter bomb attack in 1990, and listening to the stories of the survivors whom he counselled at the Trauma Centre, Fr Michael realised the importance of giving people a space in which their experiences could be shared and acknowledged.