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A Public Seminar: Faith and Politics
A proposal for a public seminar sponsored by the Center for Public Responsibility.
A Public Seminar: Evening Series: 7:30 - 9:00pm
The following is a specific format for a public seminar which can serve as a template for seminars to be presented by the Center for Public Responsibility.
1) Tuesday, Sep 28 - A Divided Country: How Did We Get Here?
2) Thursday, Oct 7 - Cultural Conflicts: Religion, Secularism, and the Rise of the Public Media
3) Tuesday, Oct 12 - Economic Conflicts: Jobs, Profits, and the Future of the Welfare State
4) Tuesday, Oct 19 - Political Conflicts: How Liberals and Conservatives View the Key Issues Dividing the Country
5) Tuesday, Oct 26 - Global Conflicts: The Role of the United States in the Global Future
Public Seminar Process
We call the weekday evening sessions a "public seminar" rather than a "public lecture" in order to accent the fact that it will feature active participation on the part of those who attend.
1) 7:30pm - Brief Meditation: Bible Reading and Comment. The reading will introduce the topic for the evening.
2) 7:35pm - Interactive Presentation: We will make heavy use of time-lines to enable interpretation of recent history, inviting participation from the audience to identify the key events in the time-line and their implications. (40 minutes)
3) 8:15pm - Small Group Discussion: Imaging the Future. Groups will be asked to create options they see for the future for the topic area. What is likely to happen? What do they want to see happen?
4) 8:45pm - Brief Summaries of Future Options. Each group will be asked to choose one or two key conclusions of the group conversation
5) 9:00pm - Close of session
People vote a particular way for many reasons: their political party; the way the media have presented the options; their feelings about a particular candidate; the way their interest groups tend to vote; their political ideas, beliefs or values. But in these sessions we will try to "read history" together and identify future options so that we can vote based on our hopes for the future.
We do not expect everyone to agree with everything. We want to create some space in the world where people with differing views can actually talk helpfully with one another without coercion, come to understand one another, and use one another's understandings to envision the future. All people in the congregation and community are invited no matter their religious or political beliefs.
The interactive presentations will be guided by a three-fold method of historical interpretation based on how the bible was written: 1) Hearing cries of pain in the present, 2) Remembering (memory) the source/deliverance of/from that pain in the past, and therefore being able to 3) Imagine a different future. For example, in the American Revolution the colonies experienced the pain of an oppressive English government, they exercised their "memory" of what happened in the English civil war, the power of the church in the middle ages and the religious/national wars after the Reformation, and they envisioned an independent nation free to become something new in the world. Conflicts are the result of people in pain caused by real powers in the world. How to interpret and understand these powers are crucial to being able to envision practical future possibilities.
These three biblical methods: openness to pain (one's own and well as others'), memory and imagination, can be understood as "gifts of the Spirit" working within us and among us in history. The pain of Christ on the cross is, of course, at the center of this framework (Luther's theology of the cross). The church gathered around the cross of Christ is the peculiar community especially called to know and exercize these gifts, but we are able to do so also with others since these gifts are not the exclusive possession of the church. Jesus dies on the cross at the center of and in the midst of the world. The Holy Spirit works in many and various ways within the world.
In the midst of contentious political conflict each side can be much better informed by asking what is the pain of the other, what is the pain of my enemy, causing him or her to embrace particular political views. We do not expect to create any political platforms for the future through these sessions, but we do hope to create a space for participants to experience a deeper level of human solidarity on the basis of which they may be able to vote based on realistic hope rather than fear or cynicism or vengence or simple party spirit.
1) Press Releases. We can send press releases first for the whole series, and then each week for each session.
2) Flyers. We can make up a flyer for the series and give ten copies to each person at worship and ask them to hand them out to their friends and neighbors. We could also put flyers up on various bulletin boards around the community.
Presidential Debate Schedule http://www.debates.org/
First presidential debate: Thursday, September 30 University of Miami Coral Gables, FL
Vice presidential debate: Tuesday, October 5 Case Western Reserve University Cleveland, OH
Second presidential debate: Friday, October 8 Washington University in St. Louis
Third presidential debate: Wednesday, October 13 Arizona State University Tempe, AZ
Materials: Book by Cynthia Moe Lobeda, author of Public Church: For the Life of the World. BA, St. Olaf College; MSW, University of Washington; MTS, Wesley Theological Seminary; PhD, 2001, Union Theological Seminary. Adjunct faculty Seattle University, 2001. (School of Theology and Ministry: 206-296-5320)
The Constitutional Principle: Separation of Church and State. This site promotes continuation of separation of church and state. Jim Allison is a certificated paralegal and historical-legal researcher and writer living in Virginia Beach. Susan Batte is a lawyer and a member of the US Supreme Court bar who practices in Virginia. Both have been involved in the separation of church and state debate, researching and writing extensively on the subject, for several years.
WallBuilders. David Barton is the Founder and President of WallBuilders, a national pro-family organization which distributes historical, legal, and statistical information; and helps citizens become active in their local schools and communities. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Oral Roberts University and an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from Pensacola Christian College.
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