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

5/6 Meet My Religious Neighbor: Pure Land of Iowa


Please join us for our next “Meet My Religious Neighbor” open house, to be held on Sunday, May 6th from 2:00–4:00 p.m., at Pure Land of Iowa (8364 Hickman Rd, Clive).

Visitors will be able to tour the facilities of this new Buddhist temple, to meet its members, to learn about Buddhist philosophy, and to practice Buddhist meditation. Since the temple is home to different a diverse community, visitors will have the opportunity to experience the unique arts and designs of all three major lineages of Buddhist traditions: Theravada, Mahayana, and Tibetan. Snacks and tea will also be provided.

Pure Land of Iowa is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting inner peace, compassion, harmony among people through diverse cultural events including arts and music, teachings on eastern philosophical views that encourage secular morality and improve personal happiness, and the practice of contemplative tradition for healthy body and mind.

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.

4/19: Fatima: Examining Catholicism’s Greatest Modern Miracle

Michael O’Neill
Author of Exploring the Miraculous and creator of the website MiracleHunter.com
Thursday, April 19th, 2018, 7:00pm
Sussman Theater, Olmsted Center

O’Neill’s lecture will examine Catholicism’s most famous and highly-approved modern miracle, that of the visions of the Virgin Mary being reported by three shepherd children at the Cova da Iria in Fátima, Portugal in 1917 whose centenary was celebrated by Catholics worldwide this year. These events, including the purported great “Sun Miracle” and the inexplicable healings that led to the canonization of the visionaries as the youngest saints in history, provide a perfect backdrop for understanding the centuries-old mechanisms and stringent criteria for investigating and validating claims of the supernatural used by the Catholic Church even in today’s modern world.

Michael O’Neill is a miracle investigator, author and creator of the website MiracleHunter.com, an  online resource cataloguing miracles in Catholicism.  O’Neill, a graduate of Stanford University and member of the Mariological Society of America, was the consultant for the National Geographic magazine December 2015 cover story and map about the Virgin Mary, “The Most Powerful Woman in the World”.  His books include Exploring the Miraculous (Our Sunday Visitor 2015), 365 Days with Mary (Salt Media 2016), and 20 Answers: Apparitions & Revelations (Catholic Answers 2017).


4/13 Meet My Religious Neighbor: Temple B’nai Jeshurun

Please join us for our next “Meet My Religious Neighbor” open house, which will be held on Friday, April 13th, from 5:30–7 p.m., at Temple B’nai Jeshurun (5101 Grand Ave, Des Moines)

This open house is a Friday night Shabbat (Sabbath) service at Des Moines’ Reform Jewish Temple, Temple B’nai Jeshurun.  The service lasts for approximately one hour, from 6:00-7:00pm.  Prior to that, there will be a wine and cheese reception as well as an orientation session for first-time visitors.  Afterwards, there is an opportunity to linger and meet members of the congregation.

Please dress and behave in a respectful manner. Men and women may wear a kippah/yarmulke (provided by the Temple) if they like.  For more information, 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.


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.