January 24, 2008
Religion in the City: Our Urban Humanity and the World Beyond
— Richard A. Rosengarten
As its readers are perfectly aware, Sightings is a publication of the Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School. These biweekly columns are one venue through which the Center aims to highlight and also to clarify our understanding of the myriad dimensions of the religions in public life. In many columns, the setting for this engagement is urban. One cumulative and salutary effect of Sightings is thus that it underscores, in both senses of the term, the urbanity of religion. If the lens is often the city, the invitation is always to consider the rich and nuanced ways in which religion inflects the civic and the cultural, the political and the social.
This February 5th, the Marty Center reaches its tenth anniversary. Not incidentally, Martin Marty celebrates his eightieth birthday on the same day. To celebrate these occasions, the Divinity School will present on February 5th and 6th a conference on the theme, "Religion and the City: Our Urban Humanity and the World Beyond" at the University's Gleacher Center in downtown Chicago. The conference will aim to celebrate and extend the work of the Marty Center, referencing both its exemplary namesake and a central trope of these columns, by examining religion as it develops within, responds to, inhabits, and shapes urban life.
To that end, "Religion and the City" will include keynote addresses by Ray Suarez of the Lehrer News Hour and Martha Nussbaum of the University of Chicago. Mr. Suarez will discuss his provocative thesis about the contrasting yet equally vital faces of religion in city and suburb. Professor Nussbaum will examine specific cases of religious violence and their aftermath in New Delhi, India for what they teach about the opportunities and challenges of pluralist belief and practice in urban life. A third keynote session will be a panel discussion titled "Immigration, Religion, and the City". Chaired by Jim Lewis, Executive Director of the Louisville Institute and an authority on the history of American cities and denominational life, panelists will include Mary Meg McCarthy, Executive Director of the National Immigrant Justice Center; William J. Adelman, Professor Emeritus of Labor and Industrial Relations at The University of Illinois; and Greg Wangerin, Executive Director of Interfaith Refugee and Immigration Ministries in Chicago.
The conference will also include breakout sessions in which speakers will explore in more detail some case studies in the themes of the conference. Malika Zeghal of the Divinity School will speak on "Diaspora Religions in Chicago: The Case of Islam". Rob Nelson of Yale University will address the topic, "Religious Architecture and the Cities". William Schweiker, Director of the Marty Center, will lead a conversation on the theme, "What Athens has to do with Jerusalem: Location and the Origins of Ethics". In addition to these rich presentations, The Sons and Daughters of Levi, a chorus of the Salem Baptist Church of Chicago, will perform a concert of Chicago Gospel music.
Last but hardly least, there will be a party. On February 5 at 6:00 pm at the River East Arts Center, we will gather at a reception to wish Marty many happy returns of the day, and to enjoy selections from the ethnic cuisines of Chicago. We hope that many readers of Sightings – perhaps aptly described as connoisseurs of religion – will find the conference a choice occasion on which to feast their sensibilities.
Richard A. Rosengarten is Dean and Associate Professor of Religion and Literature at the University of Chicago Divinity School.
For the full conference program, and also to register, please visit http://marty-center.uchicago.
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