Unification News for July and August 1998

IRFWP Committee: "Religion, Family Life, and Society"

by Dr. Frank Kaufmann

The Inter-Religious Federation for World Peace (IRFWP) convened an "Afternoon Committee Session" entitled "Religion, Family Life, and Society," at the Family and World Peace "Special Convocation of WCSF 1998," Friday June 12, 1998, in the Intercontinental Hotel (New York).

IRFWP director, Dr. Frank Kaufmann moderated the two hour session during which time four panelists delivered papers and fielded questions from participants in attendance.

Dr. Christine Steyn (University of South Africa, Department of Religious Studies) presented "Religion and Family in South Africa: Part of the Problem" in which she developed the thesis that religion and family are not necessarily the panacea for all that ails us (socially). Rather she argues, much of the persistence of racism and other stubborn relics of the apartheid era, are perpetuated and perpetrated in structures characterized by strong families and strong religious beliefs. Dr. Steyn's presentation was well documented, as well as enriched by her personal involvement in academic as well as legislative efforts to lay wholesome foundations for the emergence of a stable, peaceful South African Democracy. Dr. Steyn concluded with constructive proposals, delineating elements which she holds when embraced would enable family and religion in fact to serve as the cornerstone of a desirable, future South African society.

Professor Charles Selengut (Drew University, Department of Religious Studies) offered a commanding presentation on "Spirituality and the Post Modern Family: Reflections from a Classical Jewish Perspective." In it he revealed the correspondence between essential elements of religious and spiritual life and the inherent dynamic of family life which provides for the divine the perfect vehicle for self-disclosure. Due to time constraints Dr. Selengut could present only the smallest taste of the full edifice of his thesis. He too provided the hearers with a rich combination of rigorous scholarship combined with personal anecdote derived from his own spiritual commitments in his conjugal and parental responsibilities and relationships.

Following Charles, his wife Mrs. Miriam Selengut presented related reflections on the same issues, from the wife's and mother's perspective. Together the Selenguts created a work valuable both for its scholarly inquiry into the relation between family and components of faith and spiritual life, as well as for its inspirational and educational qualities for us as members of families ourselves.

The third paper given by Acharya Shrivatsa Goswami (Head of the Sri Caitanya Prema Samsthana) was entitled "Family, Spirituality, and Ecology: A Hindu Perspective." It was a gently woven piece, seamless, bound by palpable Bhakti, love and devotion to Lord Krsna, myth and history, and artful analysis deriving social and particularly ecological implications. Sri Goswami generated parables for ecological health and responsibility through the actions of Lord Krsna, both in terms of the consciousness and labor of Krsna under the conditions of his own era, as well as presenting how these activities call us to like action in our current situation of a suffering and fragile ecology.

The final speaker was Dr. Thomas Selover (University of Saskatchewan, Department of Religious Studies), who spoke on "The World of Shimjung Culture: A Unification Perspective on Religions and Families." Dr. Selover communicated Unification Views via an examination of the 8 point "Family Pledge" which he described as "the closest thing to a creed" for Unificationists, and further narrowed his focus to Pledge Number 7, which speaks specifically about the establishment of a Shimjung Culture (Shimjung being the Korean term describing the hearts impulse to love). "Shimjung is the condition, or state of the heart," explained Dr. Selover, "but one imbued with directionality." He spoke of the "Four Great Realms of the Heart," and presented the position that "the re- weaving of brokenness is the role of Shimjung." The paper was well received, and seemed to dominate much of the initial part of the question and answer period.

The question and answer period did, however, ultimately move to address all panelists, and can fairly be described as vibrant and engaged. Informal conversation with the panelists persisted well into the subsequent break time.

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