Lutheran studies conference looks at Jesus of Nazareth

by Reland Tuomi, copy editor

Speakers analyzed Jesus of Nazareth from a Lutheran perspective during the Lutheran Studies Conference on Sept. 26. Lutheran Studies programs at Pacific Lutheran University sponsored the conference, which included a Q-and-A session after each lecturer spoke.

Following dinner, the event concluded with a lecture given by keynote speaker Gail Ramshaw, a professor of religion at La Salle University in Philadelphia.

The conference opened with Brenda Ihssen, a visiting assistant professor in PLU’s religion department, who described the Byzantine depictions of Jesus in the three main aspects of Byzantine life: Christ of Council, Court and Monks.

Professor Samuel Torvend, who teaches religion, followed Ihssen. He spoke on the cosmic Christ and relation to the wounded earth. Torvend emphasized a point made by Lutheran minister and environmental activist Joseph Sittler — that the Cosmic Jesus is for the care of the earth.

The third speaker, Daniel Peterson, is a professor from the Matteo Ricci College at Seattle University. He focused on the dilemma between the spiritual and religious aspects of people’s lives, emphasizing that many in the Pacific Northwest region mark “None” on their census forms when asked for their religious practices.

These “Nones,” as Peterson calls them, prefer to be spiritual rather than religious, and Peterson said that spiritualism does not mean there is no religion, rather religion has changed into a way to achieve happiness and harmony with God through nature and the earth. They want to experience religion through themselves instead of a structured setting.

Ramshaw finished the conference with her lecture, “Jesus as a Champion, Sacrifice, Lover, and Tree of Life.” She discussed the metaphorical literalism about Jesus as a figure with multiple identities. These included his role as a champion who works to liberate others, his role as a sacrifice for the good of others — and by extension a lover who sacrifices for others — and his representation as the Tree of Life, intended to draw people to the earth.

“I went because I’m a Lutheran, so I thought it would be interesting,” junior Julia Glassy said. “I went to the Cosmic Christ lecture and I really enjoyed it.”

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