2012-2013 Bannan Institute
The 2012–13 Bannan Institute: Sacred Texts in the Public Sphere
The 2012–13 Bannan Institute, Sacred Texts in the Public Sphere, explores the content, meaning, and activity of sacred texts from a range of traditions, as these texts have been interpreted, performed, imaged, embodied, and contested in the public sphere.
Leading into the 2012 presidential, congressional, and gubernatorial elections in the United States, the fall quarter of the 2012–2013 Bannan Institute will host a series of public lectures exploring Christian texts relevant to issues of significant public debate, and engaging major questions of authority, national identity, and public conscience.
In the winter quarter, the 2012–2013 Bannan Institute will engage in an extended process of storytelling. Lectures and events will explore the public significance of sacred texts from diverse contexts and traditions. Featured texts include: the Hebrew Bible, the Qur’an, the Christian Scriptures, the Bhagavata Purana, various Buddhist sutras, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This winter series will also highlight the multiple ways in which sacred texts make meaning in the public sphere, through narrative, critical analysis, illuminations, communal and personal interpretation, electronic media, proclamation, art, and interreligious engagement.
Sacred Texts, Critical Engagement, and Vocation
In the spring quarter, the 2012–2013 Bannan Institute will attend to the ways in which critical engagement with sacred texts and traditions is relevant to the work of a Jesuit, Catholic university. The Bannan Institute will offer a series of public conversations, lectures, and events in which persons of diverse religious and secular traditions are invited to reflect upon how sacred texts are significant to their lives and make meaning of their work.
The Hebrew and Christian scriptures are replete with examples of persons and families uprooted and migrating. The sacred texts' injunctions about hospitality to strangers do not readily resolve complex questions about competing goods driving contemporary immigration debates. Scriptures do have a key role to play in shaping our dispositions, imagination and moral reasoning. The lecture will explore the potential for scriptural narratives and themes to reveal migrant realities anew and inform an ethic of immigration.
During the period of revelation, believing men and women raised questions about the fairness of certain practices, and even about the way in which the Qur'an spoke about them. The fact that many of these concerns were addressed by the ongoing revelation is part of the Qur'anic message that needs to be better understood. The Qur'an is not just a collection of instructions to passive believers, but a responsive engagement with people created by God with intellects and consciences.
Story telling is a basic form of human communication, and the parables of Jesus -- brief narratives designed to challenge, to indict, and to inspire, and to do so often in humorous or satirical ways -- are among the best examples. Hearing the parables through first-century Jewish ears allows us to recover their original provocation and punch, and so to understand better what they might say to listeners today from various religious traditions.
Michael John Perry
The ongoing emergence of international human rights in the period from the end of the Second World War to the present can and perhaps should be understood as the emergence of a religion--albeit a profoundly ecumenical religion: one that religious believers of different faith traditions, and also nonbelievers, can and do embrace. On this understanding, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) functions as a sacred text: the sacred foundational text of the religion of human rights.