CU professor asks “Does God make mistakes?” during Peak to Peak lectures in Steamboat | SteamboatToday.com

CU professor asks “Does God make mistakes?” during Peak to Peak lectures in Steamboat

Frances Hohl

Elias Sacks with the University of Colorado Boulder.

Does God make mistakes and should he repent? Whoa!

Does Christianity matter for Judaism and vice versa? Uhhh, okay, that's a little deep as well.

No worries, one of America's up-and-coming young religious scholars, Professor Elias Sacks, Ph.D, of the University of Colorado Boulder, is headed to Steamboat Springs to offer his expertise and lead what he hopes will be a lively community discussion at lectures on Friday, Aug. 18 and Saturday, Aug. 19.

"I always learn something new when I spend time with a new group of people wrestling with issues," said Sacks, CU Boulder assistant professor of religious studies and Jewish studies. "I come away tremendously energized and hope the community has a similar experience."

Sacks is part of CU's Peak to Peak Lecture Series, which sends humanities scholars to communities around Colorado. Sacks has studied at Harvard, Princeton, Columbia and the University of Jerusalem and specializes in Jewish studies and Christian/Jewish relations.

Har Mishpacha, Steamboat’s Jewish congregation, and the United Methodist Church were thrilled to help sponsor Sacks' visit. His lectures will take place at 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 18 and 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 19 at the United Methodist Church’s new Spiritual Life Center.

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"This is a town where we already know we need and respect one another," said Joella West, president of Har Mishpacha. "Our congregation has had the tremendous fortune of being supported by the Christian community here. In a way it's our turn to reach out and share with the Christian community."

Born and raised in New York, Sacks joined the CU Boulder faculty in 2012. He and his wife, a synagogue cantor, and young son have embraced the Colorado spirit.

"When you go into academia, you never know where you're going to end up. Colorado is the kind of place we hoped we'd end up," Sacks said.
"We love the outdoors, the pace of life, the sense of community, culture and education."

Having vacationed in Steamboat before, Sacks is excited to lead this weekend's discussions.

"I structure these as conversations. I bring text, and we read and ask questions together," Sacks explained.

Sacks and West guess that discussions will turn to the current political and cultural climate where hate groups have ruled the news in the last week. It's not something that Sacks shies away from in his classes.

"I create a space for them (students) to take risk and express their own opinion,” Sacks said. “I think we have too few spaces in our society today where people have genuine conversation with others, and are open to the views of others."

West hopes Sacks' visit will open up important discussions here in Steamboat.

"Sacks' visit is a bigger opportunity to invite everyone of every faith, or no faith, who might be interested in challenging thought,” West said. “He's very interactive and will welcome thought and discussion.”

Discussing religion and politics may be a recipe for disaster at the dinner table but to Sacks it's an opportunity to stimulate learning.

"I teach a class called Religion and Contemporary Society that covers hot button issues like euthanasia, abortion … I really encourage students to be intellectually vulnerable to one another, and they have really risen to the challenge."

For more on Sacks' background and the Peak to Peak humanities series visit
http://www.colorado.edu/jewishstudies/events/peak-peak-lecture-series.

If you go:

What: CU Boulder Peak to Peak Lecture in Steamboat Springs

When: “Does God Make Mistakes?” 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 18

Does Christianity Matter for Judaism – and Vice Versa? 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 19

Where: Spiritual Life Center, United Methodist Church, 736 Oak St.

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