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.



7/29 Film Screening for Interfaith Youth Leadership Camp

On July 26-29, 2018, The Comparison Project and the Des Moines Area Religious Council will co-host the second annual Interfaith Youth Leadership Camp at Drake University.

20 high school students representing a diverse array of religious traditions and communities will spend four days and three nights at Drake University, learning about each other’s religious beliefs and practices. Participants will create and share a digital story that expresses a personally meaningful faith experience, practice, or belief, visit religious communities in Greater Des Moines, and discuss with each other the principles and practices of interfaith leadership.

The general public is invited to view the campers’ digital stories at a film screening on Sunday, July 29th at 3pm in Meredith 101.


6/2 Meet My Religious Neighbor: Bosniak Islamic and Cultural Center

Please join us for our next “Meet My Religious Neighbor” open house, to be held on Saturday, June 2nd from 8:30-9:30 p.m., at Bosniak Islamic and Cultural Center (3805 Lower Beaver Rd, Des Moines). 

Visitors can watch this Bosnian Muslim congregation break the Ramadan fast (with water and dates), then perform their evening (maghrib) prayers. Afterwards, visitors are invited to join the congregation in their iftar feast. Come hungry!

Men should wear long pants, and women should wear a headscarf (that covers hair) and be covered to wrists and ankles.

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.

5/10: “By Whose Authority?” Polemical and Political Uses of Miracle Stories

David Weddle
Professor Emeritus of Religion at Colorado College
Thursday, May 10th, 2018, 7:00pm
Drake Univeristy, Cowles Reading Room

Can miracles establish the truth of religious claims or the basis of political authority? Does supernatural might make for human right? Should we believe in Buddha or Jesus or Muhammad because of miracles they performed? We will consider examples of miracle stories in several religious traditions and trace their use in arguments over theology and politics.

David L. Weddle is Professor Emeritus of Religion at Colorado College, where he taught courses in comparative theology and ethics, American religions, and philosophy of religion. He served as chair of the department and was active on faculty committees. A life-time honorary member of the American Academy of Religion, he is the author of Miracles: Wonder and Meaning in World Religions (2010) and Sacrifice in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (2017).


Video of Lecture