Local group joins exploration of diversity issues

January 26, 1994|By Frank P. L. Somerville | Frank P. L. Somerville,Staff Writer

The challenge of racial and ethnic diversity was probed yesterday by 82 Christian audiences across the country via a television hookup that included about 30 men and women meeting at Baltimore's Episcopal Cathedral of the Incarnation.

Dr. Ann Belford Ulanov, professor of psychiatry and religion at Union Theological Seminary in New York, drew on her interpretations of patients' dreams to suggest that spiritual and physical health comes from acceptance of "the other," such as unfamiliar images of God or cultures different from one's own.

"Get the right relation between the ego and the yonder," she said, speaking from New York. "See both the here and now and the transcendent simultaneously."

Cornel West, religion professor and director of the Afro-American Studies Department at Princeton University, was more down-to-earth about racism.

He said that "redistribution of the wealth upward" in the United States -- policies he said have made the rich richer and the poor more numerous -- has resulted in "gangsterization of American culture." He contended that the culture is debased not only on the violent streets, but also in corporate boardrooms, the White House and the nation's city halls.

Though "not an optimist," he is a "prisoner of hope," Dr. West said.

Asked by a student in his audience at New York City's Trinity Episcopal Church whether "nonmarket values like love can grow within the market culture," Dr. West replied that any talk of eliminating market values would be naive -- especially at a conference sponsored by the wealthy church near Wall Street.

But he urged the student to "try to curtail the real vices" of capitalism.

The last 30 years have produced much progress for blacks, he said, but "every new generation has to fight the battle anew if the democratic process is to stay alive."

Replying to a questioner from Washington's National Cathedral, Dr. West said he finds "melting pot" and "mosaic" unsatisfactory descriptions of the ideal pluralistic society. He prefers "jazz band," he said.

In Baltimore, participation in the television and telephone link-up with the 25th annual Trinity Institute conference was led by the Rev. Eddie Blue, rector of the Episcopal Church of the Holy Trinity, and M. Patricia Fernandez Kelly, an associate professor of psychology at the Johns Hopkins University.

The conference concludes today, beginning at 9 a.m. For information about registration or obtaining tapes of both sessions, call Pat Clagett at 467-3750.

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