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September 25, 1993|ROSANNE KEYNAN

Is violence as much a part of American culture as cowboys and comic books? According to feminist theologian and ethicist Mary E. Hunt, violence is vastly more pervasive than we believe.

In a public lecture at Immaculate Heart College Center next week titled "Telling the Brutal Truth: Religious Violence and Religious Justice," Hunt will seek to redefine violence and shed light on the role religion plays in it.

"Violence is not episodic. It is not something that simply 'happens' to you or me," said the co-founder and co-director of the Maryland-based Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual. "Yet the ethics that have emerged from the Christian tradition assume that it does. In fact, though, it's deeply woven into the fabric of our society."

If Christianity is the most widespread religion in a culture ridden with violence, she said, we should be asking: "Does it stop it, make it better or make it worse?

"There are some ways in which Christianity itself could be perceived to lead to violence," she said, "such as the interpretation of Jesus' Crucifixion as 'atonement' and his instruction to 'turn the other cheek.' " At the same time, she added, there may be resources in the Christian tradition, such as enlightened textual analysis and non-hierarchical worship communities, that could be helpful in eradicating violence.

Hunt said she defines violence broadly to include when people are hurt by exclusion or the unjust use of power. She sees the division in institutional religion between clergy and laity as one such form of violence.

"In this kind of hierarchical dualism, one member of a pair is always higher, better or more favored than the other," Hunt said. "We're used to thinking that the extreme form, or abuse, of this dualism is violence. I'm suggesting that the structure itself is violent."

Hunt received a doctorate from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley after completing graduate work at the Jesuit School of Theology, Berkeley and at Harvard Divinity School. Her book, "Fierce Tenderness: A Feminist Theology of Friendship," received the 1990 Crossroad Women's Studies Prize.

The Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual is a nonprofit educational "think-and-do tank" that maintains a network of women through mainline churches, the Women-Church movement (a loose organization of groups that write new liturgies) and other spiritual traditions. It creates and publishes prayer, holiday and life-cycle rituals used throughout the world. It also publishes a quarterly newsletter, WATERwheel.

Information about the alliance is available from WATER, 8035-13th St., Silver Spring, Md. 20910; (301)589-2509. Hunt's lecture will be Sunday, Oct. 3, at 7 p.m. in the Cotsen Student Union of Immaculate Heart High School, at Western Avenue and Franklin Street in Los Angeles. Requested donation is $10, $3 for low-income people and senior citizens. (213) 386-3116.


* Inspired by New York's famous jazz vespers at St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Greenwich Village, First Lutheran Church in Glendale is launching a series of free, nondenominational "Jazz Celebrations" at 6:30 p.m. Sunday. It will feature a band led by singer Don Williams and trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos. Guitarist Bennett Brandeis and his trio will perform Sunday, Oct. 24. First Lutheran hopes to make the musical celebrations a monthly event through sponsorships. "The idea for the service is to allow the music to carry the message," organizer Steve Rowe said. 1300 E. Colorado St., Glendale. (213) 245-4000.

* The Presbytery of the Pacific holds its seventh annual celebration, "Kaleidoscope '93," from 8:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 2, at First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood. The conference's focus will be contributions made by lay volunteers. More than half of the 40 workshops will be how-to sessions, including "Leadership Development Training" and "Alternatives to Sunday Church School." Some classes will be given in Korean, Spanish and Taiwanese.

The keynote speaker is Marlene Wilson, founder and president of Volunteer Management Associates, a Denver-based corporation that recruits and manages volunteers in the secular and religious communities. Worship, workshops and seminars will be led by more than 30 national and local church leaders.

Registration, including lunch and materials, is $20 before Sept. 29. Registration at the door is $25. Child care and children's programs are available at $5 per family. Register through Presbytery of the Pacific, 6323 W. 80th St., Los Angeles 90045; (310) 670-5076. First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood is at 1760 N. Gower St., Los Angeles.

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