Sunday, June 24, 2007

National Religious Gathering Explores Faith, Science, Creativity and Society

[24 June 2007 - By Steven Dahlberg - From the United Church of Christ General Synod, Hartford, Connecticut] Yesterday, I attended the "Synod in the City" as part of the United Church of Christ's General Synod. The Synod is taking place in Hartford, Connecticut, for several days and has drawn more than 10,000 people from around the country. The UCC is celebrating is fiftieth anniversary during this General Synod.

The "Synod in the City" was designed to engage the broader community with the UCC members and delegates in learning, playing and worshiping together throughout downtown Hartford. Several keynote presenters spoke throughout the day and I offer some brief summaries below (with more to come). The themes from these presentations not only touched on faith, religion and theology, but on creativity, purposeful life, science, culture, society and politics. The day opened with a presentation by journalist Bill Moyers (video), followed in the afternoon with a keynote from Senator Barack Obama (video) -- both UCC members.

Many of the presentations will eventually be available online. Monday will feature a keynote (2:30 p.m. EDT) by Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund.


Walter Brueggemann: An Old Testament scholar and author who has authored more than 58 books, hundreds of articles, and several commentaries on books of the Bible. His most recent book is Theology of the Old Testament.

  • Biblical stories help us explore "what is valued and who is valued."
  • It is the poets who help us imagine "that the world can be organized differently."
  • "The poets notice" -- not the ideologues, the moralists.
  • Talking about 9/11 -- "the poets go to the depth of crisis and reach into God's conflicted heart."
  • Jeremiah offers two triads for the church and society: one is the trajectory of death (wealth, might and wisdom) and the other is a trajectory of life (love, justice and righteousness). The latter adheres with the divine purpose for life -- and it's something "all of the church needs to be talking about."
  • Talking about differences in the church, he said, we need to "learn to care with dignity and respect" for those who do not sign on to this particular agenda.
  • "Anxiety is the main pathology in our society to which pastors must respond." This anxiety is generated by our focus on wealth, might and wisdom,  as well as our focus on never being good enough. He said there is a "deliberate program of inadequate productivity that leaves everyone" ineffective and unproductive.
Ray Kurzweil: This author, inventor and futurist explores the relationship between humans and the machines we've created.
He began his remarks by sharing his faith background as a Unitarian, in which he developed a life-long desire to keep learning about truth, a thirst for knowledge, and a way of living informed by the Golden Rule.
  • He said fashioned himself an inventor at five years old, though he doesn't know exactly why. However, "the key to invention is timing." He said many inventors get their products to work, but the timing to bring them to market or to have an impact in society is sometimes off.
  • For many years, he has worked on predictions about technology and its impact. He said specifics are not predictable, but the overall impact of technology is. Yet people often don't pay attention to such predictions: "Exponential growth is seductive and surprising."
  • He demonstrated one of his inventions: a hand-held device that blind people can use on the move to read signs, books and other printed material. The device has camera imaging technology, software and a voice reader.
  • For Kurzweil, the connection between technology and faith has to do with our "quest for deeper meaning and to understand more of the world."


At July 19, 2007 at 3:27 PM, Anonymous Rhea said...

You've got an interesting blog here. I write for baby boomers. I'm American and 49. Anyway, are you still blogging?


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