PV Church Hosts Finding Common Ground Speaker Series


Being human is a messy endeavor. We are made to be in relationship—built for community, craving to be known and seen and heard, better together. And yet, some flaw in us allows us to dwell on difference and allow diversity to become divisiveness. When we learn that diversity will indeed transform us

More so than at any other time in decades, Americans are experiencing a social upheaval that has led to seemingly intractable and extreme polarization. We struggle to understand each other’s cultural nuances, and don’t see eye to eye on economics, religion or politics. It’s not just that we can’t seem to agree. Often times, we can’t even begin to understand the positions of others, suggesting that there are fundamental, substantive differences in how we view reality.

Confronted with this situation, Paradise Valley United Methodist Church created a Common Ground series that began with “Navigating Common Ground” in September with videos and discussions on a variety of topics such as how Christians use the Bible as a weapon, how political polarization occurs, how dangerous one story can be, and how we can reclaim religion. The discussions have made each of the participants take a step back and call a “time out” from the diviseness we experience every day. Warring tribes have come together to explore diverse worldviews, beliefs, cultural orientations, and prejudices we hold. The lectures are part two of the series, “Finding Common Ground,” and are geared to explain how we develop the worldviews and beliefs we have and why they are such powerful forces in our lives. With these insights, the hope is that participants will be able to better understand others and move closer to that illusive common ground.

In partnership with the Salaam-Chai-Paradise Interfaith Forum, and in the interest of promoting cross-cultural awareness and better understanding of our neighbors and ourselves, Paradise Valley United Methodist Church announces its “Common Ground” speaker series.

These community events welcome everyone, especially members of the interfaith community and anyone who is seeking ways to find common ground despite our differing worldviews, beliefs, cultural orientations and prejudices.

The three scholarly lectures will be in the chapel at Paradise Valley United Methodist Church, 4455 E Lincoln Drive, Paradise Valley, AZ 85253, at 6:30 pm, presented by Dr. Adam Cohen on October 12; Dr. Steven Neuberg on October 26, and Dr. Stephanie Varnon-Hughes on November 9. Roundtable discussions will be in Room H1 at 6:30 pm on the Thursdays following each lecture, allowing for more in-depth discussions of what participants learned the week before.

REGISTER for one event, two events, or all three. Roundtable discussion registrations will be taken at each speaker event for the week following that speaker.

Lecture Series Speakers:

October 12, 2017 – Lecturer: Dr. Adam Cohen, ASU, Psychology Department
Know Thyself: Why and How Do We Believe What We Do?:
The Foundations of Our Worldviews and Belief Structures

How similar or different are the beliefs, morals, and worldviews of members of different faith communities? Do these have to be essentially the same for us to trust one another? Dr. Adam Cohen, Professor of Psychology at Arizona State University and an international award winning researcher in the psychology of religion, will first discuss theories about the ancient origins and functions of ethical worldviews and belief systems, then summarize his research on how and why members of different religions have similar and different beliefs and morals, both important components of worldviews. He will then summarize his research that, although members of different religions can have both overlapping and different beliefs and morals, there can still, reassuringly, be high levels of trust between persons with differing belief structures and worldviews.

Adam Cohen, Associate Professor, in the ASU Department of Psychology, earned his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in 2000. His main research interests fuse cultural, social, and personality psychology. He is interested in how religious differences function as cultural differences, affecting domains including religious identity and motivation, well-being, moral judgment, forgiveness, and the like. Cohen is also interested in applying evolutionary theory to religion. He is associate editor of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, and on the editorial boards of several other leading journals.

Roundtable discussions concerning Dr. Cohen’s presentation: October 19
Leaders: “Common Ground” Facilitators

October 26 – Lecturer: Dr. Steven Neuberg, ASU, Psychology Department
Why and How Do We See Others as “Different”?:
The Ubiquity and Anatomy of Prejudice and Exclusion

Prejudices infiltrate all societies, shaping institutions and coloring much of everyday social interaction, often with extremely harmful consequences. Why are prejudices so ubiquitous, so “normal,” and so readily engaged? Why are our likes and dislikes, hopes and fears, senses of security and vulnerability, so apparently contingent upon others’ nations of origin, ethnicity, race, gender, religious beliefs, sexual preferences, and political affiliations? Dr. Steven Neuberg—Foundation Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychology at Arizona State University—will trace the ancestral and contemporary origins of stereotypes and prejudices, explore how they serve a wide range of fundamental motives, discuss why they are both so difficult (and sometimes so easy) to inhibit and change, and suggest both traditional and unconventional approaches for reducing their impact.

Steven Neuberg received his A.B. from Cornell University and an M.S. and Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University. He is Chair of the Psychology Department, and Foundation Professor of Psychology at Arizona State University. Dr. Neuberg integrates social-cognitive and evolutionary approaches in his research exploring the origins, nature, and nuances of prejudices and stereotypes, and the ways that fundamental motivations shape cognition and social behavior. He also founded the ASU Global Group Relations Project, a multidisciplinary and global study of factors, including religion, which shape intergroup conflict. Neuberg is a Fellow of multiple scientific societies and the recipient of several teaching awards, including ASU’s 2012 Outstanding Doctoral Mentor Award.

Roundtable discussions concerning Dr. Neuberg’s presentation: November 2
Leaders: “Common Ground” Facilitators

November 9 – Lecturer: Dr. Stephanie Varnon-Hughes, Claremont Lincoln University
Where Do We Go From Here? “True Grit” and Experiential Strategies for Finding Common Ground

Being human is a messy endeavor. We are made to be in relationship—built for community, craving to be known and seen and heard, better together. And yet, some flaw in us allows us to dwell on difference and allow diversity to become divisiveness. When we learn that diversity will indeed transform us: body, soul, and nation, we can systematically name, teach, and celebrate the practices that help us persevere in shaky places.

In this capstone lecture, Dr. Varnon-Hughes will help us understand the idea of “resilience” and why it’s an essential ingredient in establishing Common Ground. She will also share examples of tools and techniques you can use immediately in your everyday lives, and in your workplaces, congregations, communities, and families—to help become okay with uncertainty, and allow a posture of openness to deepen our engagement with others, with our own ethical or spiritual traditions, and with humanity.

Stephanie Varnon-Hughes holds a Ph.D. from Claremont Lincoln University, an M.A. and S.T.M. from Union Theological Seminary, and her undergraduate degrees are in English and Education from Webster University. Dr. Varnon-Hughes is the Director of Cross-Cultural & Interfaith Programs at Claremont Lincoln University. She is an award-winning teacher and interfaith leader whose research interests include the history, theories, and practices of inter-religious education, mindfulness and compassion practices, public policy and education, and how digital and online resources can make education accessible and learner-focused. Her doctoral dissertation, in inter-religious education, focused on disequilibrium, resilience, and reflective practice as key ingredients for learning. Her presentation on “Love Your Neighbor,” presented at PVUMC in February 2016 is accessible on the PVUMC Youtube channel and she has a blog via HuffPost.

Roundtable discussions concerning Dr. Varnon-Hughes’ presentation: November 16
Leaders: “Common Ground” Facilitators

Goals of Common Ground
The purpose of the Common Ground learning track is not to argue the merits of particular positions on, for example, immigration and refugee issues, interfaith and other religious conflict, LBGT and other issues, political polarization, general misunderstanding, or even trends toward incivility. The goal is to thoughtfully consider these issues with an open mind, being mindful of the groups or “tribes” in which we find ourselves and gathering insights as to how and why others hold positions that conflict with our own. Finding common ground needed so desperately in our world is the challenge we face, and the series provides ways to find meaning, purpose and joy through discernment and action, consistent with the messages and principles of our respective faith traditions.

Free Childcare with a Reservation
Free, certified onsite childcare is available with a 48-hour reservation. To reserve a spot for your child(ren), please call the church at 602-840-8360, ext 134 at least 48 hours before the event. If you need to cancel childcare, even at the last minute, please call the number again.

Other Information
Please note that we have a strict no alcohol and no smoking policy.

[https://pvumc.org/2017/08/11/common-ground-series-features-professors-from-asu-and-claremont-lincoln/ __title__ Read more about the Common Ground series at PVUMC

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About the Author: Bob Cooper

Bob Cooper is Canadian Business Tribune''s senior editor. He is also a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist and a bestselling author. He lives in London Ontario and covers the intersection of money, politics and finance. He appears periodically on national television shows and has been published in (among others) The National Post, Politico, The Atlantic, Harper’s, Wired.com, Vice and Salon.com. He also has served as a journalist and consultant on documentaries for CBC and Global News . In 2014, he was the winner of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers' investigative journalism award, and the winner of the Izzy Award for Journalism from Ithaca College's Park Center for Independent Media. He was also a finalist for UCLA's Gerald R. Loeb Award and Syracuse University's Mirror Award. Before becoming a journalist in 2006, Sirota worked in Washington for, among others, U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee Minority Staff and the Center for American Progress.