In spaces like seminaries, there is a tangible and growing desire to step out of our theological and pedagogical conformity. But we fail to capitalize when the onus is on us to venture beyond our conformed comforts.
It is not every day that seminarians live in and around highly trained and educated Buddhist monks and a nun. So, when this opportunity came knocking, I felt a deep persuasion to propose an idea that brought together our convictions at the Stead Center and the expertise of these Buddhists to generate an interreligious encounter.
I felt there was a moral obligation to take advantage of these invaluable resources available to us on behalf of the students. The resources had to be utilized to realize the idea of an event that embodies all that we are striving to be.
After consulting with Dr. Kate Ott and my colleagues, they agreed, it wasn’t something we could pass up. Our panel on Ethics, Science, and Religion allowed us to step outside and step into the walk of Buddhist faith practices and their investment in science.
We had the priceless chance to learn from their interpretation of spirituality, neuroscience, meditation, and values. It was a space that welcomed their lenses and invited them to educate us about the values they uphold.
Often, we find ourselves explaining to others how we desire to learn from them rather than respecting their pedagogies enough to allow them to shape ours. The event Ethics, Science and Religion pushed us as an institution and community to “practice what we preach”. Ani Tenzin Choyang, Geshe Thabkhe, and Geshe Lodoe Sangpo, visiting research scholars in the psychology department at Northwestern University were the panelists. They are currently exploring different techniques of research in neuroscience in order to begin scientific research in a monastery and collaborate more with modern scientists. I am proud and thankful for working with the Stead Center and the freedom they have provided us on this quest to continually stretch our horizons to deconstruct and reconstruct our ideas of ethics and values.
“The Church” requires a dynamic theology (of deconstruction and reconstruction) to engage with the dynamism of today’s culture. Consistently reconstructing its pedagogies and theologies to remain valid to the world outside its walls is not just essential, it is biblical. The opportunity to collaborate with faith practices of other religious and spiritual traditions not only strengthens our own but also gives us the tools necessary to construct relevant connections to the community, serving them through our calling.
Sanjog Patro (He/Him/His) or Joe is the Program Assistant for the Stead Center for Values and Ethics working to obtain an MA in pastoral care and counseling. He has a Bachelor’s in Electronics and Communication Engineering from India and a Bachelor’s in Intercultural Theology, Migration, & Church leadership from Germany. Joe moved to the United States after splitting his time between Germany and the middle east. He has 6 years of work experience in the fields of engineering, marketing, social justice, and management. Joe calls himself a “people person,” with a passion for bringing people and their resources together to expand the conversation of ethics and values under multiple disciplines of academia.