JANUARY 27, 2003
And Now a Word from.
Martin E. Marty
"Don't use your publication as a free bulletin board!" That's the advice publishers give editors and writers. "Let people pay for ads," they say. Or: "Once you start that you'll be besieged and can never stop!" In our covenant with you subscribers, we concentrate on substantive matters. Data about other institutes or programs show up here only when it relates to the topic we've just covered. Exceptions have to be exceptional and here is one. I have to say "I have an interest," but that interest is probably of interest to Sightings readers because it relates to new work I'll be starting this March and running for a year or two. It's already been announced that I will be commuting to Emory University's Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Religion (CISR) to help direct a prolonged and intense study of "The Child."
Now to the substance for today: the Center is holding a cosmic conference called "Sex, Marriage and Family and the Religions of the Book: Modern Problems, Enduring Solutions" from March 27-29 at CISR and Emory. It'll be a full house and does not need my blabbing and blurbing, so this mention may be gratuitous, but shouldn't you readers learn about it early enough, in case you'd like to sign on? See http://www.law.emory.edu/cisr/ for more information and a registration form.
To the point: those of us who cover public religion usually find ourselves between right and left poles on topics such as sex, marriage, and family. But the CISR, without shunning the culture warriors, has for some years now been pursuing these topics without culture wars dominating the theme. John Witte heads this project, as he will lead mine; and Don S. Browning, my Chicago colleague, is another convener.
These days many people think "religions of the book" only fight and kill. This conference shows the constructive, healing, reconciling, and nurturing dimensions of those communities, which is why we are calling it to your attention and will keep noting the outcomes. The cast of characters are a "Who's Who" in this field: Robert Wuthnow, Jean Bethke Elshtain, Azizah al-Hibri, David Novak, Luke Timothy Johnson, and Robert Bellah. These are names that leap out from page one of a five page program. (Colgate president Rebecca Chopp and I are "concluding keynote lecturers" on "The Challenges of a New Century.")
The conferees will talk about theology and ethics of adoption, "reproductive stewardship" (a culture-warrior theme?), interreligious marriage: Muslim and Jewish perspectives, "the vocations of singleness and celibacy," etc. Religions or religionists may kill. They may also heal and help. Can CISR advance the constructive causes? Wait and see.