Spirituality and Social Change:
An Interfaith Roundtable

Prof. Susannah Heschel, Imam Zaid Shakir, Rev. Dr. Heng Sure and Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock
Rabbi Patricia Karlin-Neumann

Thursday, January 25, 2007 | 7:30 - 9:00pm | Kresge Auditorium | Free and Open to All

Presented with the Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute

Only an irrelevant religion fails to be concerned about man’s economic well-being. Religion at its best realizes that the soul is crushed as long as the body is tortured with hunger pangs and harrowed with the need for shelter. —Martin Luther King, Jr. in Strength to Love

In January 2007, Stanford’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute published Advocate of the Social Gospel, volume VI of The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr. This unique thematic volume of the King Papers Project features King’s never-before published sermon file. In 1997, Mrs. Coretta Scott King granted the King Papers Project permission to examine personal papers kept in boxes in the basement of the family home. The most significant finding of this exploration was the discovery of files King used to prepare his sermons, a collection of documents King kept in his study. A battered cardboard box held over two hundred folders, containing material King used as the inspiration for his celebrated sermons, many of which are published in his 1963 book, Strength to Love.

Collectively these documents shed considerable light on the preaching and theological preparation of one of America’s most prominent religious leaders. They reveal that King’s concern about poverty, human rights, and social justice is clearly present in his earliest handwritten sermons, which convey a message of faith, hope, and love for the dispossessed.

To celebrate this publication and probe the meaning of Dr. King’s preaching, we present an interfaith roundtable that focuses on the relation of spiritual practice and social change. The roundtable is moderated by Rabbi Patricia Karlin-Neumann of Stanford’s Office for Religious Life. It includes representatives from a range of faith traditions.


Susannah Heschel holds the Eli Black Chair in Jewish Studies in the Department of Religion at Dartmouth College. Her scholarship focuses on Jewish-Christian relations in Germany during the 19th and 20th centuries, and her numerous publications include a prize-winning monograph, Abraham Geiger and the Jewish Jesus (University of Chicago Press), which won a National Jewish Book Award, and a forthcoming book, The Aryan Jesus: Christians, Nazis and the Bible (Princeton University Press). Several years ago she edited a volume of her father's writings, Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays of Abraham Joshua Heschel, that includes a biographical introduction.


Imam Zaid Shakir was born in Berkeley, California and accepted Islam in 1977 while serving in the United States Air Force. He obtained a BA with honors in international relations at the American University in Washington, D.C. and an MA in Political Science from Rutgers University. Spending time overseas in Egypt, Syria, and Morocco, he studied Arabic as well as the traditional Islamic sciences, including Islamic law, Quran, and Islamic spirituality. Upon returning, he co-founded Masjid al-Islam in Connecticut and taught Political Science at the Southern Connecticut State University. As Imam of Masjid al-Islam from 1988 to 1994, he initiated a community renewal and grassroots anti-drug effort in the local neighborhood. In 2001, he graduated from Syria's prestigious Abu Noor University and returned to continue his work with the Muslim community in America. Since 2003, he has acted as a professor and scholar-in-residence at the Zaytuna Institute in Hayward and currently serves as a Board Advisor for MeccaOne Media.


Dharma Master Heng Sure was ordained as a Buddhist monk in 1976. For the sake of world peace, he undertook an over six hundred mile pilgrimage from South Pasadena to Ukiah, repeatedly taking three steps and one bow to cover the entire journey. In the entire two years taken to make the pilgrimage, he observed a practice of total silence. Rev. Heng Sure has an M.A. in Oriental Languages from UC Berkeley, and a Ph.D. from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. He serves as the Managing Director of the Berkeley Buddhist Monastery and teaches at the Institute for World Religions and Graduate Theological Union. He lectures on the Avatamsaka Sutra at the Berkeley Buddhist Monastery every Saturday evening. He is actively involved in interfaith dialogue and in the ongoing conversation between spirituality and technology.



The Rev. Raphael G. Warnock serves as the Senior Pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church, spiritual home of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Rev. Warnock graduated from Morehouse College cum laude in 1991. He also holds a Master of Divinity degree and a Ph.D. from Union Theological Seminary, New York City. While Rev. Warnock’s work and activism have been local, his vision has always been global. As a student at Morehouse College, he organized and served as the keynote speaker at a Peace Vigil protesting George Bush’s initiation of a War against Iraq on January 15th, the birthday of a peacemaker. During the 1992 Democratic Convention in New York City, he coordinated, under the auspices of Clergy and Laity Concerned (CALC) and the Abyssinian Church, an alternative People’s Convention in memory of Fannie Lou Hamer, the Mississippi sharecropper who told the nation in 1968 she was “sick and tired of being sick and tired.” His leadership and advocacy has been further demonstrated through his work with The National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS. A 1993 recipient of Union Theological Seminary’s coveted William H. Hudnut Preaching Award, Rev. Warnock is sought after as a preacher and scholar who demonstrates an abiding commitment to Christian ministry, disciplined scholarship and diligent struggle on behalf of the oppressed.


Rabbi Patricia Karlin-Neumann came to Stanford in 1996. She is the first university chaplain from a tradition other than Christianity in Stanford's history. In 2001, she was appointed Senior Associate Dean for Religious Life. She teaches and lectures widely on Jewish feminism, rabbinical ethics, the relationship between religion and education, and social justice.


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