Chicago: Religion and the State of Our City

February 2018 will mark the twentieth anniversary of the founding of the Martin Marty Center for the Public Understanding of Religion at the University of Chicago Divinity School.

By Sightings Classic|November 30, 2017

Editors Introduction

February 2018 will mark the twentieth anniversary of the founding of the Martin Marty Center for the Public Understanding of Religion at the University of Chicago Divinity School. Over the past two decades Sightings—with its sister publication, the Religion and Culture Forum—has featured contributions from hundreds of authors commenting on a diverse range of topics and trends at the intersection of religion and public life. In the lead-up to this milestone, we have been looking back through our archives to bring you some (but only some!) of what Matthew Arnold would call “the best which has been thought and said” in these digital “pages.”

Today’s issue of “Sightings Classic” gathers together five columns in which Sightings has fixed its sights on our home base, the city of Chicago. Jeremy Biles, a former editor of Sightings, analyzes Chicago’s famous “Cloud Gate” sculpture (a.k.a. “The Bean”) with reference to the work of Mircea Eliade, one of the most important and influential scholars of religion of the twentieth century, who taught at the Divinity School from 1956 until his death in 1986. Cynthia G. Lindner, Director of Ministry Studies and Clinical Faculty for Preaching and Pastoral Care in the Divinity School, looks at the concept of “sanctuary” in light of the immigration crackdown following the September 11th, 2001, attacks, focusing on the case of a woman working at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. Martin E. Marty reflects on the final book by Father Andrew Greeley, entitled Chicago Catholics and the Struggles within Their Church. Attorney and writer Jeanne Bishop asks us to do more to address the problems of neglect, abandonment, abuse, scarcity, and want that affect so many of this city’s children. And Julian “J.Kwest” DeShazier, pastor of University Church in Hyde Park and Emmy Award-winning rapper, writes on the religious significance of hip-hop music for himself and others who have grown up on the South Side.

We hope you enjoy these little glimpses into our collective past—and perhaps learn something new about the rich, variegated array of religious expressions in and around our city.

Image: Buildings reflected in Chicago's “Cloud Gate” | Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk/Flickr (cc)

Reflections on Chicago’s “Cloud Gate”
By Jeremy Biles (PhD’04) | April 20, 2006

“The religious resonances do not end there. Kapoor, whose works frequently allude to mythic imagery, has designated the concave underbelly of his sculpture an omphalos. Why this peculiar reference? When passing beneath the gate, visitors can look up into the reflective vault of the chamber, and there gaze upon their own images. Seeing themselves in the curving space of this omphalos, they are part of a celestial constellation—transformed, transcendent, often in giddy communion.” (READ MORE)

Sanctuary or Spectacle?
By Cynthia G. Lindner (DMin’99) | August 31, 2006

“The practice of sanctuary embodies compassion for the human condition, which transcends citizenship or legal status, while maintaining skepticism about the adequacy of human applications of justice. This dual perspective is surprisingly relevant to our culture’s current situation, suggesting that while we, as human beings, must rely on the human community to ensure even our most basic needs, one of those needs may well be for protection against the community’s own life and institutions, which, unrestrained, can threaten our humanity.” (READ MORE)

Andrew Greeley’s Chicago Catholics
By Martin E. Marty (PhD’56) | December 20, 2010

“Father Andrew Greeley, friend, neighbor, sociologist, novelist, youngster—we were born on the same day, but he arrived three hours later—has published over 150 works of fiction and non-fiction. Chicago Catholics and the Struggles within Their Church is his final book. Final, that is, because two years ago he suffered a brain injury, after the manuscript was well along. Colleagues brought the materials together, but insist that it is ‘Andy’s book,’ and anyone who has read him and reads this will recognize the stamp ...” (READ MORE)

Thanksgiving 2013: So Far From Want
By Jeanne Bishop | November 28, 2013

“I had to ask: how is it that a good kid like you is accused of stealing? One young man in foster care motioned to the clothes he was wearing—jogging pants with holes in the knees and a grimy t-shirt—and explained that by the time his foster mom paid the rent and food bills, there was no money left for clothes. Another dropped his head in his folded arms on the table, telling me how his aunt complained bitterly about the money he was costing her. She wanted him to help with expenses.” (READ MORE)

685b8000-d911-4b93-a6b7-ecddc716e52b.jpeBeing Hip-Hop, Being Job, and Being
By Julian “J.Kwest” DeShazier (MDiv’10) | May 4, 2017

“What he’s really saying—perhaps in every verse Chance has ever written—is that his being matters. His album Coloring Book, along with BDP’s Criminal Minded, expresses the ‘courage to be’ without probably ever hearing (and certainly never caring about) the name Paul Tillich. These are theological projects as much as they are musical ones, and hip-hop has a way of reminding us that the separation of the head and heart is mostly an academic and superficial one. Job should have written an album ...” (READ MORE)

Sightings is edited by Brett Colasacco (AB’07, MDiv’10), a PhD candidate in Religion, Literature, and Visual Culture at the University of Chicago Divinity School. Sign up here to receive Sightings via email.