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Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Peace

A collective initiative by the schools of the GTU consortium, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Peace” explores the cross-sections between interreligious dialogue, spirituality, and civic engagement in our contemporary democracy. 

Life, Liberty, & the Pursuit of Peace

Interreligious Dialogue and Discourse at the Intersection of Democracy and Faith

At a time when the fabric of democracy as we know it seems perilously close to unraveling, where can we – as a community, culture, and interconnected global society – look to find a pathway forward?

A collaborative initiative of the schools of the Graduate Theological Union, “Life, Liberty, & the Pursuit of Peace” is a series of public programs that showcase scholars, activists, and thought leaders from across the GTU’s wide network of schools and affiliates whose work grapples with the challenges of navigating modern civil society.

The list of scheduled public events associated with this initiative appears below and will be updated as new events are added. Events and news on the initiative can also be found on the GTU site and social media by searching "LifeLibertyPeace."  #LifeLibertyPeace

GTU member schools, centers, and affiliates hosting events that support this initiative should contact GTU communications.  

Featured News and Events

This seminar will consider theological and ethical questions connected to social reconciliation: How is the reconciliation of peoples related to themes of justice, liberation, reparation, and forgiveness? How are reconciliation efforts shaped by christology, theological anthropology,and ecclesiology? How does one morally assess genocide, war, racism, incarceration, slavery, human rights violations of migrants, and sexual violence? How have Christians contributed to efforts for common ground dialogue, reconciliation, and restorative justice? What virtues, skills, and theological perspectives might need to be cultivated for future efforts? Seminar. Requirements: regular preparation for participation in seminar discussion; final project. MDiv, MA/MTS, PhD/ThD, STL/STD.

This is a lecture/discussion course designed for advanced first-degree students (MDiv, MA, MTS) as well as for advanced degree program students (STL, STD, PhD). The course aims to address the following question: How does the tradition of Christian reflect on economic justice, ecological justice, and liberation in the context of globalization? This question has taken on new importance in the wake of the global pandemic. We engage this question by studying (1) aspects of the tradition of Catholic social teaching and (2) various liberation theologies in order to address (3) the implications of globalization for how we think about and live our Christian faith, and (4) the implications of faith for how we respond to ethical problems in the context of globalization. Students will be required to complete various weekly asynchronous assignments and write one short paper and one longer paper. Meeting times TBD. 

This course is co-taught by LeAnn Flesher and Michael Mathews. congregations of all denominations and faiths serve as the institutional base for organizing. This faith-based or broad-based organizing model makes values and relationships the glue that holds organizations together. By building community organizations based on religious Congregations, schools and community centers, which are typically the stable presence in neighborhoods, organized groups are able to engage thousands of people and sustain long-term campaigns to bring about systematic change at all levels of government. Training will seek to identify and create solutions for local neighborhood issues as well as city, state and national level concerns. Approaches will include: Intensive leadership training that teaches people how to use the tools of democracy to improve their communities; bring people together based on faith and values rather than anger; challenges to listen to the concerns and ideas of neighbors through individual one-on-one meetings; as well as house meetings and listening campaigns.

This course aims to introduce students to the interconnection between aesthetics, politics and religion, within the broader field of the arts and cultural production. Using interdisciplinary approaches and a vast array of media such as film, music, visual art, video, photography, fashion and dress, and drawing on anthropology, post-colonial and critical theories, we will addresses questions of memory, spirituality, material culture, ritual, representation and minorities. We will begin with questions of what is aesthetics and what is art and questions of beauty, value and judgement. How do artists navigate religious and political issues in their cultural production/art? Living in an era characterized by hyper-consumerism and excessive exposure to mass media, and the disparities between peoples, we especially address questions of inequity and focus on histories “from below, ” including questions of gender, race, class, language, and nation. Finally, we will look at the relations between aesthetics, politics and religion as it helps us think about affective and embodied expressions, identity and belonging. Course is taught by PhD student Reem Kasba with a Newhall Award, under the supervision of Munir Jiwa.

This seminar course explores the religious peacebuilding and modern day approaches to conflict resolution and political peace processes. The course will include the study of theological and ethical teachings of various religious traditions that offer a foundation for promoting human rights, social justice, and peacebuilding. Method of evaluation consists of a final paper (15 pages), weekly moodle posts, and group presentations. The course is intended for MATh/MA Ph/MTS, MDiv Students. PhD and DMin students are welcome but must register for a course upgrade and complete additional research and writing projects. [Fundamental Moral Theology and or one course in historical or systematic philosophy; Auditors with Faculty Permission]

This seminar course explores the paradox of religion as a source of division and conflict, on the one hand, and of peaceful aspirations and compassionate, sacrificial service on the other. Across the globe, we see how religious tensions among various groups have contributed to local, national, and international conflicts. However, it is also true that faith communities have been valuable partners for promoting interreligious understanding and reconciliation among people. Academic research about these traditions and analysis of case studies reveal ways religions promote non-violence and just peace in a number of settings. In this course, we will explore these findings by in-depth study of the theological and ethical teachings of Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, and Indigenous religious traditions that provide a foundation for promoting human rights, social justice, and peacebuilding. The course is appropriate for MA, MTS, and DMin programs. Doctoral students may take the course with additional research and writing. This course is co-taught by PhD student Zulunungsang Lemtur with a Newhall Award, with Dr. Marianne Farina, CSC.

The relationship of religion and civil democracy has been tested as societies have grown increasingly multicultural and multireligious, especially during conditions of scarcity, social inequality, political instability, or extraordinary circumstances such as pandemic or disaster. In this course, participants will explore theoretical and religious foundations of contemporary understandings of democracy, as well as factors that affect religious involvement in civic and political processes, including public policy development, social justice movements, issues of religious accommodation and exclusion. Religious extremism and hate crimes, and the threats they pose to the common social fabric, will be addressed along with strategies of de-escalation, conflict transformation, and conciliatory peace-building for developing common ground across differences. Taught in a seminar format as conditions permit, with opportunities for theoretical or practical research and community praxis, evaluation will focus on engagement with course material, periodic written reflections, and a final paper.

During the Spring 2020 semester, the schools of the GTU concortium are offering several courses integrating themes of religion and democracy, in partnership with the GTU's Life, Liberty, & the Pursuit of Peace Initiative. These include:

Additionally, PSR is hosting the “Professor of Practice” series, part of their larger “Democracy Reimagined: Having a Say in Our Futures” project. The course, which kicks off with a free public event on February 5, offers a series of four public lectures each by industry experts Kenneth “Hap” Klopp, co-founder of The North Face; Rumman Chowdhury, the Global Lead for Responsible Artificial Intelligence at Accenture; and Jeff Chang, Vice President of Narrative, Arts, and Culture at Race Forward. Learn more about the program and register for the free event.  

Featured events for the Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Peace Initiative will be added to the GTU Events calendar (and the events feed below) as they are scheduled. Events associated with the initiative include:

“Strengthening Democracy”
Graduate Theological Union, Dinner Boardroom
Tuesday, November 19, 2019 | 12:30-2pm

“Professor of Practice” Series Kick Off
Wednesday, February 5, 2020
6:00pm | Pacific School of Religion Chapel

“Creating Democracy: Technology and Minorities” with Rumman Chowdhury
Wednesdays, Feb 12, 19, 26, and Mar 04
6:00 PM | Badè Museum at PSR

“Practicing Democracy: Civility and Outrage” with Kenneth "Hap" Klopp
Wednesdays, Mar 11, 21 (9AM), and April 01, 08
6:00 PM | Badè Museum at PSR

 "With Liberty and Justice for All: Preparing Moral Leaders for Action," with Rev. Dr. William Barber II
Monday, March 16
6:30 PM | American Baptist Seminary of the West Chapel

Interconnecting Boundaries: Women, Democracy, & Religion
Friday, March 20
8:30 AM | GTU Dinner Board Room

“Living Democracy: Image and Culture” with Jeff Chang
Wednesday, Apr 15, 22, 29, and May 06
6:00 PM | Badè Museum at PSR

Cross-Sector Discussion on Democracy with Professors of Practice (Earl Lectures)
Pacific School of Religion
Saturday April 18, 2020

There are currently no upcoming events posted