Although Haverford is officially non-sectarian, spiritual life still plays a vital role outside the classroom for many members of the College community. Religion and Spirituality Week, organized by Coordinator of Religious and Spiritual Life Emily Higgs ’08, seeks to increase dialogue between the various world faiths while celebrating the individual uniqueness of each religion.
Prof. Ashok Gangadean Meditates on a “Global Sacred Space”
A talk by longtime Haverford Professor of Philosophy Ashok Gangadean was one of three events that helped to kick off the week on Tuesday. However, Gangadean assured the audience that he was not just giving another academic talk. True to the Quaker spirit, he encouraged attendees to actively participate.“This is not a lecture,” Gangadean began. “It’s a meditation.”
Prof. Gangadean, who frequently refers to his classroom as a “laboratory,” then continued to briefly trace the history of the world’s major religions by emphasizing their similarities. For Gangadean, this global perspective offers a clear remedy to “human pathologies and dysfunctions” like warfare and violence that have plagued humanity over the years. Relating his ideas back to Haverford, the professor highlighted the “breakthroughs” of the Quaker tradition, specifically the spiritual and communal openness of Quaker meetings. Gangadean sees an enormous potential in this “technology,” as he terms it, and hopes that will further global awakening toward an integral, universal consciousness.
Will O’Brien Discusses “Religion and Money”
A light, fluffy snow blanketed campus for the second day of Religion and Spirituality Week, but it didn’t stop Will O’Brien from leading a talk and discussion on “Sabbath Economics.” O’Brien, who coordinates the Alternative Seminary in Philadelphia, takes a progressive approach to Biblical interpretation by emphasizing the profound social justice behind Christ’s teachings.
He began his talk with a couple of anecdotes—one was from his college days at Notre Dame University. Concerned about his involvement in liberal politics, his college priest urged him to temper his radicalism by quoting from the Bible. O’Brien also recounted the recent controversy behind Barack Obama’s use of the Judeo-Christian tradition at the annual National Prayer Breakfast to justify some of his policy decisions.
O’Brien believes the Bible contains many pleas to voluntarily “redistribute the wealth.” He specifically discussed passages from the Book of Deuteronomy which, ironically, contained the passage the priest used to try to influence him as an undergraduate.
Religion and Spirituality Week continues this afternoon (Thursday) at 4:30 to the Humanities Center at 4:30 p.m. for an Interfaith Gathering and Sacred Text Study. Attendees are encouraged to bring a text, prayer or song from their own tradition. The weekend will feature a variety of religious services and an Alternatives to Violence Project workshop (preregistration required). For more information and a full schedule of events go to www.haverford.edu/news/stories/57161/51
—Matt Fernandez ’14