Purdue University

The Visit to Washington, D.C.

YUAN Hao

 

After the completion of the activities of the Summer Training Workshop at Purdue University, the CSSP participants, led by Professor Fenggang Yang, flew to Washington, D.C. to attend a series of seminars and visits co-organized with the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University. 

 

In the morning of August 13, the participants visited the campus of Georgetown University.  Georgetown University was established as a Catholic Jesuit university in 1789.  Its mission is belief, knowledge, and freedom.  In the afternoon, we were invited to attend a welcome lunch arranged by the Berkley Center.

 

During the three day seminar, the Berkley Center organized five lectures on special topics for the workshop participants.  They were “American Civil Religion in a Multipolar World” presented by Thomas Banchoff, the Director of the Berkley Center; “Religion, Politics, and Society in the United States and China” by the renowned sociologist of religion, José Casanova; “Religion and the US Presidential Election” by Clyde Wilcox, a professor of Political Science, “Evangelicals in US Politics and Society” by Galen Carey , the Vice President of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE); and “Religious Freedom in American Politics and Foreign Policy” by Thomas Farr, Director of the Religious Freedom Project at the Berkley Center.  Also, based on Fenggang Yang’s new book, Religion in China: Survival and Revival under Communist Rule, Professors José Casanova and Fenggang Yang had a wonderful dialogue on the understanding of the concepts of “market” and “economy” in the religion market economy theory and the applicability of this theory in different countries and social contexts, as well as the concepts of “pluralism” and “freedom.”.  Galen Carey, Vice President of Government Relations for the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), reflected on the rise and change of US evangelicals in the past century and their relationship with US politics.  He advocated that evangelical Christians in the United States should assume civic responsibility.  As to how Christians in China could exercise civic responsibility in their country’s situation, Professor Carey believed that Christians in China can still assume their civic responsibility through the cultivation of healthy marriages, families, communities and society, even though Christians do not have a legal identity in China.

 

In addition to the seminars, the Berkley Center arranged a session for the workshop participants to share and discuss with Professors Tom Banchoff and José Casanova the progress and challenges of their projects in China. 

In the afternoon of August 13, Professor Fenggang Yang led the participants in a visit to the Catholic University of America.  The Catholic University of America is a private university founded in 1887 and supported by the Catholic Church.  The buildings on campus are dominated by a Romanesque design.  The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on campus is the most compelling. This church was constructed in a Neo-Byzantine architectural style.  The huge dome, the spacious interior, and the mosaics feature the stories of the Bible and produce an awesome sense of the sacred.  In the lower level of the church, there are more than 70 chapels with different traditions and cultural characteristics.  The participants also visited Professor George McLean, a renowned religious philosopher at the Catholic University of America.  Professor McLean is also the President of the Council for Research in Values and Philosophy, which organizes seminars on philosophy in many countries and regions of the world.  Professor McLean pointed out to the participants that holiness is the essence of religion; each culture and tradition has a spirit of holiness.  He shared that we can pursue the spirit of holiness in our family, community, and society.  In other words, we can find the spirit of holiness in our daily lives.  Our responsibility is to uncover the spirit of holiness in each culture and share this with other people.  The participants were touched by Professor McLean’s universal vision and his heart for the common good of human beings.

 

In the afternoon of August 14th, the participants visited the Washington National Cathedral as well as Masjid Muhammad, located in the city of Washington, D.C.  The Washington National Cathedral is the sixth-largest cathedral in the world.  The construction of the Cathedral lasted for 83 years; the foundation stone of the Cathedral was laid in 1907 and the final stone was placed in 1990.  The Cathedral was built in a Neo-Gothic design.  The Washington National Cathedral is very unique in that it is a place where religion and patriotism come together.  This particularly can be seen by the state flags and several American flags hanging from the top of the church dome, the funeral and memorial services of the presidents of the United States and the nation’s heroes, and the piece of lunar rock on the Space Window in the south aisle of the Cathedral.  After the visit to the Cathedral, the participants visited Masjid Muhammad, a Muslim organization founded in the mid 1930s.  Masjid Muhammad was the first mosque built in the nation by grassroots American citizens.  The Mosque is not only a religious center but a social service center providing education, training, and charitable services to the community.  In recent years, the Mosque has strived to integrate into mainstream Islam.  It has also taken the responsibility of citizenship seriously, making significant contributions to the society, the nation and the United States in both public services and the private sector.

 

The four days of visit to Washington, D.C. though were short and intense; the participants learned a lot academically from the seminar on religion, politics, and society, and furthered their understanding of local religious communities through visits to religious sites.  This opportunity was very precious and was also a perfect conclusion for the third CSSP Summer Training Workshop.

 

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