A Global Philosophy of Religion in the Local Des Moines Community

Globally, our Lecture and Dialogue Series enacts an innovative approach to religiously inclusive philosophy of religion, exploring common religious themes from different religious perspectives through scholar lectures, practitioner dialogues, and philosophical comparisons. Locally, our Religions of Des Moines Initiative generates informative media about religious communities in the greater Des Moines area, hosts a monthly open-house series at local places of worship, and programs a yearly interfaith leadership camp for high-school students.

2/14: What Miracles in the Global South Contribute to Understanding the Human Condition

A substantial number of Samburu (livestock herders in northern Kenya) have claimed to have witnessed the resurrection of family members or neighbors, and others have reported hearing the eye witness accounts of generations elder to them. This talk will describe these accounts and discuss how Samburu understandings of these events bear on a dynamic view of humans as persons in a world of fiercely contested truth claims.

Bilinda Straight is Professor of Anthropology and of Gender & Women’s Studies at Western Michigan University. Her earlier work has focused on gender, material culture, and the nature of human experience. Over the past decade, she has engaged in a series of National Science Foundation funded studies related to warfare, drought, morality, and difficult experiences, as they are both culturally experienced and sedimented in human bodies.

12/8: Plymouth Congregational Church

Plymouth Congregational Church 
4126 Ingersoll Ave, Des Moines
Saturday, December 8th, 4:00 p.m.


Join us at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, December 8th for the inauguration of the interfaith chapel at Plymouth Congregational Church. This Meet My Religious Neighbor event includes not only an open house but also an interfaith dialogue featuring local representatives of six different religious traditions. Visitors are also invited to stay for Plymouth’s 5:30 p.m. “casual service.”


Meet My Religious Neighbor is a monthly open-house series. Each open house allows the public the opportunity to tour a sacred space, learn how religion is practiced in it, and meet the congregation who worships there.

12/6: Firsthand Accounts of a Miracle Investigator

Joe Nickell, Senior Research Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry
Thursday, December 6th, 7:00 pm
Sussman Theater, Olmstead Center

Joe Nickell is Senior Research Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and investigative columnist for Skeptical Inquirer magazine. With a Ph.D. from the University of Kentucky, Dr. Nickell investigates myths and mysteries, frauds, forgeries, and hoaxes. He has authored more than twenty books, most notably the Science of Miracles. He has also appeared on numerous national TV shows, earning titles such as “the modern Sherlock Holmes,” “the original ghost buster,” and “the real-life Scully” (from “The X-Files” ).  

In his lecture, Dr. Nickell will review some of the allegedly miraculous cases that he has investigated over this career. These include phenomena as varied as the Shroud of Turin, weeping statues, faith healing, and other empirical claims of religion.

Video of lecture


11/15: The ‘Miracle’ Problem: A Lakota Thought Experiment

Fritz Detwiller, Professor of Philosophy and Religion, Adrian College
Thursday, November 15th, 7:00 pm
Sussman Theater, Olmstead Center


Fritz Detwiler is Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Adrian College, where he has taught for the past 35 years. He is a charter member of the Society for the Study of Native American Traditions and has lived among the Ho Chunk in Black River Falls, Wisconsin. His current research is on Native American ethics, with particular focus on the Lakota, Tlingit, and Diné.

In his lecture, Detwiler will argue that if we are to take Native American lifeways seriously, then we have to address the problem of miracles not in Western terms, but as a window into fundamentally different Native American worldview assumptions. Using concepts that are closer to Native viewpoints—power, personhood, relatedness, and change—Detwiler’s talk will explore an understanding of reality that does not admit of miracles but rather beholds mystery.

Click link to listen to lecture


11/4: Meet My Religious Neighbor: Des Moines Zen Center

Des Moines Zen Center 
6901 SW 14th Street, Des Moines
Sunday, November 4

1:00 pm 


Please join us for our next Meet My Religious Neighbor open house, which is to be hosted by the Des Moines Zen Center at 6901 SW 14th Street in Des Moines. From 1:00 – 3:00 pm, the Zen Center will hold an open house during which guests can tour their new facility, meet members of their community, and learn how they practice Zen Buddhism there. At 3:00 pm, there will then be a guest lecture by David Loy, a celebrated professor, writer, and Zen teacher in the Sanbo Zen tradition of Japanese Zen Buddhism.


Meet My Religious Neighbor is a monthly open-house series. Each open house allows the public the opportunity to tour a sacred space, learn how religion is practiced in it, and meet the congregation who worships there.


10/25: The Intertwining of Healing and Religion in a Contemporary Chinese American Community

Kin Cheung, Assistant Professor of Asian Religions, Department of Global Religions, Moravian College
Thursday, October 25th, 7:00 pm
Sussman Theater, Olmstead Center

Kin Cheung is an Assistant Professor of Asian Religions in the Department of Global Religions at Moravian College. He has written on Buddhist meditation and healing, practical implications of Buddhist ethics, and Buddhist institutions’ involvement in China’s stock market. His dissertation examines how meditation changes the senses of self, using both scientific studies of meditation’s effects on the brain and Chan/Zen Buddhist descriptions.

In his lecture, Prof. Cheung will explore how healing and religion are intertwined in a Chinese-American community in New Jersey, where his father, CHEUNG Seng Kan, teaches a small group of regular students an eclectic practice of qigong meditation, Buddhist dharani chants, geomancy, and various Chinese medical treatments. Cheung has taken on the role of a community healer for his students and their social networks. This presentation argues that healing is one avenue for the contemporary innovation and spread of religion in a Chinese-American diaspora community.


Click link below to hear lecture


10/4: Changed in a Flash: How One Woman Was Struck by Lightning, Talked to God, and Came Back to Dream the Future

Jeffrey J. Kripal
J. Newton Rayzor Professor of Religion, Rice University
Thursday, October 4th, 7:00 pm
Sussman Theater, Olmstead Center


Jeffrey J. Kripal holds the J. Newton Rayzor Chair in Philosophy and Religious Thought at Rice University and the Associate Director of the Center for Theory and Research at the Esalen Institute. He is the author of numerous books, including his most recent Secret Body: Erotic and Esoteric Currents in the History of Religions (Chicago, 2017). He specializes in the comparative study and analysis of extreme religious states from the ancient world to today.

In this lecture, Prof. Kripal will describe the near-death experience of Elizabeth Krohn, with whom he has co-written a recent book. He will then use Elizabeth’s visionary narrative and precognitive dreams to rethink how such anomalous events are treated, or not treated, in the study of religion and what they might still mean for rethinking the limits of the human. 


(Photo Credit Michael Spadafina for MAX Video Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved)


Video of Lecture



10/7 Meet My Religious Neighbor: Iowa Sikh Association

Please join us for our next Meet My Religious Neighbor open house, which is to be hosted by the Iowa Sikh Association on 1115 Walnut Street in West Des Moines. For this “open house,” we will be joining the Sikh community for its regularly scheduled Sunday workshop service. Approximately one hour of hymns (kirtan) will be followed by a short prayer (aardas), an exposition of the passage of the day (hookah nama), and the serving of the “holy pudding” (karah prashad). Following the service, everyone is invited to join the congregation for langar — a free, vegetarian meal.


Guest should dress modestly, avoid pointing outstretched legs at the holy book and altar, and also avoid turning their back to the holy book and altar (at least in close proximity to it). Shoes must be removed to enter the sanctuary. Simple kerchiefs (which are provided) must be worn by men and women.


Meet My Religious Neighbor is a monthly open-house series. Each open house allows the public the opportunity to tour a sacred space, learn how religion is practiced in it, and meet the congregation who worships there.



9/13: Miracles as Stories

Kenneth Woodward
Former religion editor at Newsweek (retired 2002)
Thursday, September 13th, 7:00 p.m.
Sussman Theater, Olmsted Center

Kenneth Woodward served as Religion Editor of Newsweek for 38 years. In addition to some 100 cover stories for Newsweek, his articles, essays and book reviews have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Commonweal, First Things, America, The Nation, and The Weekly Standard. Among his numerous awards are the National Magazine Award, the Pulitzer Prize of the magazine industry, and the Robert E. Griffin Award for Outstanding Achievements in the Art of Writing from the University of Notre Dame, his alma mater. Mr. Woodward is the author of four books, including his recently published Getting Religion: Faith, Culture and Politics from the Age of Eisenhower to Ascent of Trump, which is available in paperback after his lecture.

In his lecture, Mr. Woodward will emphasize the essentially narrative character of miracles, whether they are found in sacred literature or in personal experience. In doing so, he will draw on two of his own books, The Book of Miracles: The Meaning of the Miracle Stories in Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam, and Making Saints: How the Catholic Church Determines Who Becomes a Saint, Who Doesn’t, and Why, the latter of which contains a chapter on how church authorities validate miraculous claims.


You can an audio recording of Woodward’s lecture here.

9/14 Meet My Religious Neighbor: Shafia Islamic and Cultural Center

Meet My Religious Neighbor resumes with a visit to the Shafia Islamic and Cultural Center (1425 University Ave) for their jummah sermon and prayers. The visit will be held on Friday, September 14th from 1:30-2:15 p.m.

Shafia is a relatively new (2014) Somali mosque with Sufi influence. Many of its members are refugees, victims of persecution by Al-Shabaab in Somalia. For more information about the mosque, see the entry by Drake student Runal Patel on the TCP website: http://comparisonproject.wp.drake.edu/religions-of-des-moines/shafia-islamic-and-cultural-center/.

Men should enter through the back side (non-University) of the mosque; women, through the front (University). After the prayers have ended women and men together can learn about the community’s distinctive practice of Islam. To respect the customs and rules of the mosque, women should cover their hair and have arms covered to wrists and legs covered to ankles. Men should not wear shorts. Also, men should avoid touching women and vice versa (handshaking included). If you want more information, please contact Tim Knepper at tim.knepper@drake.edu.

Meet My Religious Neighbor is a monthly open-house series. Each open house allows the public the opportunity to tour a sacred space, learn how religion is practiced in it, and meet the congregation who worships there.