3/29: Fear, Loathing, and Miracles among the Cowherders: Krishna’s Childhood Prodigies

Richard H. Davis
Professor of Religion and Asian Studies, Bard College
Thursday, March 29, 7:00pm
Sussman Theater, Olmsted Center, Drake University

In several classical Sanskrit works, the god Krishna is presented as a human incarnation of the Supreme Being, Vishnu. Yet he grows up in humble circumstances within a community of nomadic cowherders. They are not appraised of the divinity living among them, and only gradually come to recognize his more-than-human capacities. The narratives of his early life play with the ironic distance between the knowing reader and the unknowing cowherders. When the child Krishna performs acts that clearly display superhuman strength, the cowherders struggle to comprehend these phenomena. The drama of these accounts revolves around the difficulty of recognizing miraculous actions of a god, especially when that divinity is a baby. In this presentation I use the narratives of Krishna’s childhood among the cowherders to reflect on the use of “miracles” as a comparative category in the study of religion.

Richard H. Davis is Professor of Religion and Asian Studies Programs at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY. Formerly he taught as assistant and associate professor at Yale University. His most recent publication is The Bhagavad Gita: A Biography (Princeton University Press, 2014). He is author of four other books: Ritual in an Oscillating Universe: Worshiping Siva in Medieval India (Princeton, 1991), Lives of Indian Images (Princeton, 1997), Global India, circa 100 CE: South Asia in Early World History (AAS, 2010), and A Priest’s Guide for the Great Festival (Oxford, 2010). He has edited two volumes, and also wrote the text for a catalog of Indian religious prints, Gods in Print: Masterpieces of India’s Mythological Art (Mandala, 2012). Currently he is continuing work on the reception history of the Bhagavad Gita, and on a history of religions in early South Asia.


Click link below for video of lecture:



3/8: Naturalism and the Problem of the Unity of Science: How Miracles Help

Mark Harris
Senior Lecturer in Science and Religion at the University of Edinburgh
Thursday, March 8, 7:00pm
Sussman Theater, Olmsted Center, Drake University


Harris’s lecture will discuss conventional assumptions in theological and philosophical discussions of miracle that science can be adequately dealt with simply by invoking ‘the laws of nature’, such that a miracle transgresses these laws. He will talk about the shortcomings of these assumptions, arguing that there is a need to address wider underpinning concepts in the philosophy of science, including naturalism, the uniformity of nature, and the unity of science. Harris will suggest new ways forward for thinking about miracles by bringing in insights from debates in geology.

Mark Harris studied geology at Cambridge University before moving into mainstream physics in Oxford, first in a postdoc at the University of Oxford, then in a staff position at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. For about 10 years, Harris established his interests in the physics of magnetic materials. After exploring a calling to ordination in the Church of England, Harris read theology at Oxford in the early 2000s, and moved into parish ministry and university chaplaincy. In 2012, Harris constructed the University of Edinburgh’s new master’s program in science and religion and has been a director of the program ever since. Harris’s teaching and research focus on the relationship between Christian theology and the physical sciences. He is especially interested in the impact of science on modern views of the Bible, especially in thinking on miracles and divine action. Harris is in the process of working on a book project on naturalism, and the ways that historical debates on naturalism in geology provide a new way of looking at miracles.


For video of lecture click link below



Sat, 2/24; and Sun, 2/25: Iowa Interfaith Exchange

This year’s Iowa Interfaith Exchange takes place over two days. 

  • On Saturday, February 24th, from 8:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m., there will be an all-day set of workshops for students at Simpson College

  • On Sunday, February 25th, from 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m., there will be an opportunity to “make pilgrimage” to the “religions of Des Moines” at Drake University

For more information abotu both, please see: https://www.iowainterfaithexchange.com

2/15: Everyday Miracles: Above + Beyond Cancer Journeys

Everyday Miracles: Above + Beyond Cancer Journeys
Thursday, February 15, 7:00pm
Cowles Reading Room, Cowles Library, Drake University


Dr. Richard Deming, founder and chairman of Above + Beyond Cancer, will speak about the small miracles he experiences with patients and survivors every day.  Dr. Deming is medical director of Mercy Cancer Center in Des Moines, Iowa. He received a bachelor’s degree at South Dakota State University and his medical degree at Creighton University. Dr. Deming is known in the community for the compassionate care he provides cancer patients and their families. He is involved in many national, state and community organizations and is the recipient of numerous awards. He was awarded the Lane Adams Award by the American Cancer Society for excellence and compassion in patient care. He is the recipient of “the one hundred” Award by Massachusetts General Hospital for his work with cancer survivors. He was awarded the Iowa Cancer Champion Award for his tireless efforts in the field of advocacy. He is dedicated to the principals of human dignity, social justice, and compassion. His greatest ambition is to encourage others to pursue lives of meaning, purpose, passion and compassion.


Michael Zimmerman will give a personal narrative about his own journey with cancer. Zimmerman is the Director and founder of RipRoar Events, a Des Moines-based company focused on endurance event creation and production. He also is a nationally recognized sports announcer commentating and inspiring endurance athletes from youth to professional. In 2016, Michael was diagnosed with a rare case of composite lymphoma with both curable and non-curable elements. For the past two years Michael has undergone both aggressive and moderate chemotherapy to stabilize and cure his disease. Michael’s documentation and intentional awareness throughout his cancer journey gives his journey a raw and authentic account.

Above + Beyond Cancer takes cancer survivors on incredible adventures, leading participants to places like Mount Everest Base Camp and the top of Mount Kilimanjaro.  But their work isn’t about getting to the tops of mountains. Through transformational journeys, participants inspire the public by devoting themselves to a life of advocacy and leading an example for healthy living and cancer prevention in their communities.


(photo credit: Dylan Hue)


2/3: Meet My Religious Neighbor: Greek Orthodox Church of St. George

Please join us for our next “Meet My Religious Neighbor” open house, which will be held on Saturday, February 3rd , from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m., at the Greek Orthodox Church of Saint George.

This open house actually is just that! – a two-hour window of time during which to drop in, tour the church, meet the congregation, and learn how they practice Greek Orthodox Christianity.

Come to the fellowship hall to sample refreshments and music from the various cultures of St. George! Also enjoy traditional music in the worship space. Father Basil and other members of the community will be on hand to answer your questions and share the history of St. George as well as their experience of worship.

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.


12/8: Religions of Des Moines: An Anthropology of Religion Poster Session

Religions of Des Moines: An Anthropology of Religion Poster Session
Friday, December 8th
4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Upper Olmsted Conference Rooms


Come meet seventeen different religious communities of Des Moines and the Drake students who researched them this semester. Students from Prof. Trentini’s Anthropology of Religion course will share posters and pictures of their research. These students, along with some members of their communities, will also speak about some of the most memorable experiences from this research.

Light refreshments, including kosher/hallal food from Maccabees Deli, will be served.

For more information, contact Prof. Daria Trentini: daria.trentini@drake.edu

Support of this event is made possible by Drake’s Humanities Center, Drake’s Principal Financial Group Center for Global Citizenship, Drake’s Department for the Study of Culture and Society, and Drake’s Comparison Project.

12/6: Buddhist Views on Environment

Reverend Heng Sure
Director of the Institute for World Religions at the Berkeley Buddhist Monastery
Wednesday, December 6th, 7:00 p.m.
Sussman Theater

Reverend Heng Sure will give a talk on “Buddhist Views on the Environment.”

12/3 Meet My Religious Neighbor: Burns United Methodist

Please join us on Sunday, December 3rd, from 10:45 am – 12:45 pm for the next open house in our Meet My Religious Neighbor series.

This open house is hosted by Burns United Methodist, the oldest African-American church in Iowa, which is now located at 1909 Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway in Des Moines. (For more background info about Burns, see our “Religions of Des Moines” entry on this site.)

Burns’ Sunday service begins at 11:00 am and lasts until 12:30/12:45 pm. Guests can dress as they desire — Burns’ parishioners come in everything from suits to sweats! Those guests who want a brief orientation to the service and tour of the facilities should arrive by 10:45 am.


12/2 Finding Peace through A Course in Miracles

Debra Landwehr Engle
Author of The Only Little Prayer You Need
With Randy Adams, Annabelle Nesbit and Dr. JoAnn Tully

Saturday, December 2, 9 a.m. to noon (registration at 8:30)
Meredith Hall, Drake University


A Course in Miracles (ACIM) includes a text, workbook and manual that have been described as “spiritual psychotherapy.” Designed as a self-study course, the Course was first published in 1975, has been translated into more than two dozen languages and is studied worldwide.

While the Course uses Christian language, it is metaphysical and ecumenical in nature. It teaches that we have two minds: one based in fear and the other based in love. By consciously choosing love, we undo guilt and heal our relationships with ourselves and others.

This half-day conference will explore key teachings of the Course, including healing the mind and body, dealing with anger and attack, choosing love over fear and gaining a new perspective on life events by making small changes in your thinking.

The event will include an introduction to the Course, breakout sessions and a plenary Q&A with the conference leaders and ACIM students.


Debra Landwehr Engle has studied A Course in Miracles for more than 30 years. She is the author of The Only Little Prayer You Need, which is based on Course principles and has been translated into four languages. Deb leads A Course in Miracles classes, workshops and study groups in person and online, and she offers one-on-one mentoring based on ACIM.

Randy Adams has studied A Course in Miracles since 1995. He owns his own accounting and tax preparation business and teaches classes to other tax preparers. Randy believes that sharing kindness and joy is a simple and effective way to extend the ACIM message.

Annabelle Nesbit is an ordained interfaith minister and student/teacher of A Course in Miracles. Twenty-five years ago, she began a committed meditation practice, which inspired a life of learning about and practicing spiritual philosophies. She shares the gifts of the Course through a weekly ACIM group.

Dr. JoAnn Tully, D.C., uses principles from A Course in Miracles to help her clients release negative thoughts, emotions and beliefs that are sabotaging their energy, health and life. She works with clients who have been struggling with chronic illness, unexplained or unresolved health issues, or who are dealing with everyday fatigue and overwhelm.

11/16: On the Role of Miracles in the Vimalakirti Sutra in Early Medieval China and Beyond

Shi Jingpeng
Assistant Professor in the School of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Minzu University of China in Beijing, China
Thursday, November 16, 7:00 p.m.
Sussman Theater, Olmsted Center, Drake University

Shi will speak about the role of miracles in the Vimalakīrti Sutra, an informative text for Chinese Buddhism in particular and Chinese culture in general. Why was this text so influential for a people who tended to value the ordinary and everyday? Why has it continued to be influential as miracles have become more suspect in Chinese culture?


Shi Jingpeng is Assistant Professor in the School of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Minzu University of China in Beijing, China.  Shi teaches and researches in the areas of Chinese Buddhist history and philology. His published works include Basic Research on Nirvāna Studies in the Southern and Northern Dynasties in China, and From Dharma-body to Buddha-nature.

Video of Lecture