9/14 Meet My Religious Neighbor: Masjid an-Noor

Our Meet My Religious Neighbor series resumes, this time in collaboration with the Des Moines Area Religious Council and Interfaith Alliance of Iowa.

Please join us on Saturday, September 14th at Masjid an-Noor, the mosque on 42nd Street just south of University Ave (1117 42nd St., Des Moines). Drop in any time between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm to tour the mosque, meet members of the community, learn about Islam in the prayer hall, and enjoy multi-cultural snacks in the fellowship hall. Modest dress is recommended.

2019 Interfaith Youth Leadership Camp

On Wednesday, July 17th, The Comparison Project and the Des Moines Area Religious Council begin our third annual “Interfaith Youth Leadership Camp,” with 26 youth campers of different religious (and non-religious) traditions. Together, we will visit local places of worship and create digital stories that relay impactful experiences of faith (and lack thereof).

Please join us on Sunday, July 21st, from 3:00 – 5:00 pm for a screening of these stories, with a reception to follow.

5/9 TCP Final Comparison of Miracles – “Miracles: So What?”

Speakers: David L. Weddle, Professor Emeritus of Religion, Colorado College; Karen Zwier, Lecturer in Philosophy, Iowa State University

Thursday, May 9th, 7:00 p.m.; Cowles Library Reading Room                                                                                       

The Comparison Project has come to the end of its two-year series on miracles, in which we have heard diverse perspectives from a wide range of disciplines. It is now time to face the question that has haunted the entire series: if a miracle occurs, what does it prove? This is the dreaded “so what?” question. Professors Weddle and Zwier propose this evening to engage the “so what?” question. Please join us in this final conversation on miracles.

David L. Weddle is Professor Emeritus of Religion at Colorado College where he taught courses in comparative religion, ethics, and Christian thought, and is the author of Miracles: Wonder and Meaning in World Religions (2010) and Sacrifice in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (2017).

Karen Zwier is a lecturer in philosophy at Iowa State University. Her research deals with philosophical and scientific methodology as well as metaphysics of science. Her areas of specialty include philosophy of causation, history and philosophy of physics, and science and religion.  

Video of lecture


4/7 Meet My Religious Neighbor: St. Demetrius Serbian Orthodox Church

Please join us on Sunday, April 7th at 9:30 a.m. for a visit to St. Demetrius Serbian Orthodox Church (4655 NE 3rd St, Des Moines). Although the priest is ill and cannot perform the liturgy, lay members of the parish will be there to tell us about Serbain Orthodox Christianity in general and St. Demetrius’ Church in particular. Dress can be casual for this event.

4/11: Inconvenient Wonders: Ambivalence in Hasidism about the Reputed Miraculous Powers of its Leaders

Nehemia Polen, Professor of Jewish Thought, Hebrew College

Thursday, April 11th, 7:00 p.m.

Sussman Theater, Olmsted Center, Drake University

The founder of Hasidism, Israel ben Eliezer (d. 1760), known as the Baal Shem Tov (“Master of the Good Name”) gained his fame as healer, shamanic adept, and charismatic master. To this day, Hasidic communities tell wondrous stories of their leaders, known as Rebbe or Tsaddik (saint, righteous person). Yet Hasidic sources display a curious ambivalence towards the miraculous, often disavowing the centrality and significance of the paranormal in Hasidic life and thought. This marginalization of the miraculous is often connected to a related theme: appreciation of the wondrous nature of everyday life.

Dr. Nehemia Polen is Professor of Jewish Thought at Boston’s Hebrew College. He is the author of numerous books, among which are The Holy Fire: The Teachings of Rabbi Kalonymus Shapira, the Rebbe of the Warsaw Ghetto (Jason Aronson, 1994, 1999) and The Rebbe’s Daughter (Jewish Publication Society, 2002), recipient of a National Jewish Book Award. He is an ordained rabbi who has served a congregation for twenty-three years, and is a contributing commentator to My People’s Prayer Book, a multi-volume Siddur incorporating diverse perspectives on the liturgy (Jewish Lights). 

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3/28: Saintly “Miracles” and Yogic “Magic”: The Ethics of Wonder in North Indian Devotional Traditions

Dr. Patton Burchett, Assistant Professor, College of William & Mary

Thursday, March 28th, 7:00 pm

Olmsted Center, Sussman Theater

This talk examines a series of miracle stories in the hagiographical literature of the Sufi and Hindu bhakti traditions of early modern north India in order to highlight some fascinating parallels between Sufi and Hindu bhakti religious attitudes. Dr. Burchett offers a provocative hypothesis: that the category of the “miracle”—broadly shared across the “Abrahamic” traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and defined in contradistinction to the category of “magic”—does not exist in the Hindu tradition until the influence of Islam on Hindu devotional communities in Mughal India. In exploring the miracles of Sufi and Hindu devotee-saints, this lecture investigates the role of ethics in categorizing different forms of wonder (e.g., as “miracle” versus “magic”) and examines the way that the specific narrative form of the miracle story often functions to cultivate virtues and ethical dispositions in its audiences.

Patton Burchett is Assistant Professor at the College of William & Mary. Prof. Burchett’s research focuses primarily on early modern devotional (bhakti) and tantric-yogic religiosity in north India. He is developing a new book project on yoga and the interrelations of magic, science, and religion in the rise of Indian and Western modernities. Burchett’s first book, A Genealogy of Devotion: Bhakti, Tantra, Yoga, and Sufism in North India, is forthcoming from Columbia University Press in May 2019.

Video of lecture

3/24 Meet My Religious Neighbor: Holi Celebration at Hindu Temple and Cultural Center of Iowa

Hindu Temple and Cultural Center of Iowa
Sunday, March 24th, 11:00 am
33916, 155th Lane, Madrid

Join us at 11:00 am on Sunday, March 24th for the annual springtime celebration of Holi at the Hindu Temple and Cultural Center of Iowa. Beginning at 11 am, tours of the temple will be available. At noon, the temple will hold a short fire ceremony (Hollika Puja), followed by the throwing of colors.  Lunch will be available for purchase at 1:00 pm.

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.

3/7: “Miracles and Medicine: An Interfaith Dialogue”

Moderated by Dr. Richard Deming, Director of the Mercy Cancer Center; Founder and Director of Above + Beyond Cancer                                      

Thursday, March 7th at 7:00 pm

Mercy Hospital, East Tower Conference Rooms 6-7

Do medical miracles occur? If so, in what sense? Do patients seek miracles in the course of medical treatment? Do patients and physicians, or patients and chaplains, discuss the possibility of miracles, and if so, how? Does hope of miracles serve a therapeutic end in medical treatment? Or can hope of miracles be detrimental to the patient’s well-being?

We explore these questions and more in an interfaith dialogue on Miracles and Medicine, hosted by Dr. Richard Deming, Director of the Mercy Cancer Center, and Founder and Director of Above + Beyond Cancer. The dialogue panelists include Monsignor Larry Beeson; Dr. David Friedgood, neurologist at Mercy Hospital; Dr. Rizwan Shah, retired pediatrician at Blank Hospital; Dr. Yosesh Shah, geriatrician at Broadlawns Hospital.

The dialogue will be held in Conferences Rooms 6-7 in the East Tower of Mercy Hospital. Please park in MercyOne’s East Parking Ramp shown on the attached map, entering from Laurel Street. After parking, exit the parking ramp on foot and walk north up 3rd Street towards University Avenue. Enter Mercy’s East Tower on the left hand side of 3rd Street. Take the elevator to A Level. Turn right off the elevators. Go just past the restrooms and turn left down that hallway. East Tower Conference Rooms 6 and 7 are towards the end of that hallway on the right-hand side.

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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.

Video of lecture