Exorcism, female circumcision, and free love with multiple partners are far beyond most of our religious experiences. Yet for some people of faith, they are normal. Baruch Spinoza once said, “I have made a ceaseless effort not to ridicule, not to bewail, nor to scorn human actions, but to understand them.” This series invites three authors to VWU, over Zoom, who help us understand more clearly religious practices that some may see as peculiar—or even indefensible.
Register online for the Zoom the Zoom events, or call the Nusbaum Center at 757-455-3129.
Electric Sex, Sticky Love, and Complex Marriage: Religion, Sex, and the Oneida Community
Monday, March 7, 2022
7:00 - 8:00 p.m.
Registration required by March 3
For many Americans, the word “Oneida” is associated with fine silverware. The origin of the utopian community that came to make such silverware is less well known. In the mid-19th century, John Humphrey Noyes established a revolutionary community in rural New York centered on achieving a life free of sin through God’s grace, while also espousing equality of the sexes and “complex marriage,” a system of free love where sexual relations with multiple partners was encouraged. In Oneida: From Free Love Utopia to the Well-Set Table, Dr. Ellen Wayland-Smith—a scholar and a descendant of John Humphrey Noyes—describes the captivating story of the community’s evolution. In this Zoom presentation and discussion, she introduces us to the community and focuses on its most unusual and misunderstood practice: “complex marriage.”
Ellen Wayland-Smith, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Writing at the University of Southern California. She is the author of Oneida: From Free Love Utopia to the Well Set Table and of The Angel in the Marketplace: Jean Wade Rindlaub and the Selling of America.
The Religious Case for Female Genital Cutting
Monday, March 21, 2022
7:00 - 8:00 p.m.
Registration required by March 17
In The Female Circumcision Controversy, Dr. Ellen Gruenbaum points out that Western outrage and efforts to stop genital mutilation often provoke a strong backlash from people in the countries where the practice is common. While she looks at the validity of Western arguments against the practice, she concentrates particularly on the complex attitudes of those who practice it and on indigenous efforts to end it. Dr. Gruenbaum humanizes the adherents of the practice, shows the complexities of it, helps readers move beyond indignation, and gives them hope. In this Zoom presentation and discussion, she shows us an important method in working toward social change and then answers our questions.
Ellen Gruenbaum, Ph.D., is Professor Emerita and former Chair of the Department of Anthropology at Purdue University. Using a feminist anthropological framework, Dr. Gruenbaum’s research focuses on women’s health issues, human rights, religious practices, and development in Africa and the Middle East.
A Conversation with an American Exorcist: Demons, Possession, and the Modern-Day Battle against Ancient Evil
Monday, April 25, 2022
7:00 - 8:30 p.m.
Registration required by April 21
In the gospels Jesus exorcises demons and also explicitly tells his disciples to heal, preach, and cast out demons. If Christians do not see exorcism as normative to their faith—and many Christians clearly do not—in what sense are they being true to his example and command? Msgr. Stephen Rossetti has participated in hundreds of exorcisms. In Diary of an American Exorcist, he gives a personal, inside look at the intense experiences and practices of an exorcist. In this Zoom presentation, Dr. Rossetti reflects on his book and answers your questions.
Msgr. Stephen J. Rossetti, Ph.D., is the President of the St. Michael Center for Spiritual Renewal and a research associate professor at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. A licensed psychologist, Dr. Rossetti is the author of The Joy of Priesthood and several other books. For decades he has worked toward the prevention of child sexual abuse and raising awareness of the effects on victims. He is a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy and was commissioned as a second lieutenant. Msgr. Rossetti also has served as chaplain for the Washington Nationals since 2009.