Contact:  Lynn Stewart, Centenary News Service

Dr. Martin Marty, Noted Theologian, to Address Centenary College Graduates May 4; Present Public Seminar May 3 

Dr. Martin E. Marty SHREVEPORT, LA -- The Rev. Martin Marty of Chicago, Ill., internationally known theologian and scholar, will deliver Centenary College's commencement address at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, May 4 in the Gold Dome.

While in Shreveport, he will also present a public seminar on "American Religious Pluralism and Post 9-11 Challenges." The seminar is set for 3 to 5 p.m. Friday, May 3 in Centenary's Kilpatrick Auditorium. Although it is free and open to the public, a ticket is required for admission to the seminar. To obtain a ticket, contact Lois Lassetter of the Centenary Church Careers Institute at 869-5156.

Dr. Marty is the Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of the History of Modern Christianity at the University of Chicago School of Divinity.  He has taught in the Divinity School, the History Department, and for the Committee on the History of Culture since 1963.

He specializes in late eighteenth- and twentieth-century American religion, with his scholarly work centered in a multi-volume work entitled Modern American Religion.  The work includes The Irony of It All, The Noise of Conflict, and Under God, Indivisible

An ordained minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Dr. Marty has put considerable effort into the Master of Divinity program at University of Chicago Divinity School and in teaching for public ministry.

In an essay in the March/April issue of Tikkun, he wrote about moving beyond the "dark underside" of religion.  The Chronicle of Higher Education reported on the essay:

A question that may be haunting some minds after September 11 is why religion has, counterintuitively, been so aligned with violence. Yet Martin Marty writes in an essay that the flip side of that dark question is its brighter, perhaps less-explored answer -- the potential for religion to act as a vehicle for healing. Mr. Marty is the founder of the Park Ridge Center for the Study of Health, Faith, and Ethics and the director of the Fundamentalism Project for the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

For religions to accentuate their positive potential, Mr. Marty writes, they must first acknowledge that "the killing dimension of religion is an interfaith phenomenon," spanning such diverse beliefs as Hinduism, Theravada Buddhism, and modern-day Christianity, as seen in Northern Ireland's Protestant-Catholic strife. Mr. Marty concedes that the motives behind violence are not necessarily religious in origin: "Armies fight for whatever reason -- to purge outsiders or claim turf or effect revenge -- and then call on divine powers."

Yet he says that an honest appraisal of religious violence demands the acknowledgment that violence can arise from faith itself. The "myths and symbols, rites and ceremonies" of religion have the effect of empowering groups of people, and "as community forms, it can easily create the 'we' that heals as well as the 'they' who become the repulsive other ... to be distanced, persecuted, or killed." It is that display of superiority that Mr. Marty calls the "dark underside" of religion.

Challenging though it is, religion's task of "going against the grain of conflicted societies" to heal is not insuperable, Mr. Marty reassures. "At their best, people of faith drawn by their faith to a better, more peaceful world, minister to others in sick rooms, act as counselors, ... and as institutors of healing agencies. And doing all that demands self-examination, repentance, and resolve.


At commencement, Dr. Marty will speak to some 250 graduates and an audience of about 2,000. His seminar is sponsored by the Centenary Department of Religious Studies and the Church Careers Institute. For further information, call 318-869-5156.