Past Recordings of Adult Discussion Group

9 June 19: “The Meaning of the Mueller Report” by Alden Munson

Alden discusses the high points of the Mueller Report, which deals with Russian interference in our 2016 election and related possible obstruction of justice by our President. Alden then attempts to answer three questions:
• How did we get to this point ? (What made this interference possible ?)
• What does the Mueller report really mean ? (What implications ?)
• Where is this going to lead us ?

2 June 19: “Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood” by Dr. Najwa al-Qattan

Dr. al-Qattan is a Palestinian who was raised in Beirut and for the past decade has been teaching Middle East history at Loyola Marymount Univ. She explains that, excluding the army, the Muslim Brotherhood is the strongest political force in Egypt, and it also has strong popular support elsewhere in other Arab countries. It advocates for social justice, provides numerous social services to the public, and rejects many western values (a legacy of European colonialism). It has opposed all four of Egypt’s military rulers – – Nasser, Sadat, Mubarak, and now el-Sisi. Dr. al-Qattan describes in detail the brotherhood’s rocky relationship with these army rulers. She also discusses Arab Spring, and the differing impacts it had in the various Arab counties.

19 May 19: “Other Religions of India - Sikhism and Jainism” by Dr. Phyllis Herman

Our topic, “Other Religions of India – Sikhism and Jainism”, was presented by CSUN’s Dr. Phyllis Herman, an expert on India’s religions. Last Oct 21st Dr. Herman talked to us about Hinduism and Buddhism, and now she discusses two lesser-known religions that have nevertheless had a significant impact upon India. Sikhism with 25 million followers began around 1500 (A.D.) and is monotheistic, while Jainism with nearly 5 million followers is non-theistic and dates back to before the 8th century BCE.

12 May 19: "Fake News" by Rev. Matthew Baugh

America is currently a very politically polarized nation. One cause for this is that we are being bombarded with “news” from many sources that exacerbate our polarization. Some of these news sources are highly questionable and are, in fact, promoting their own special interests, rather than the public interest. How can we recognize the factually accurate news from a biased version ? Rev. Baugh gives us examples of this bias and shows ways and tools to recognize and bypass these biased versions and connect directly to authentic news sources.

28 Apr 19: "Mary, Mother of Jesus" by Julye Bidmead

Dr. Bidmead of Chapman Univ begins by describing the social conditions and the role of women in the very patriarchal society of first century Palestine, including in Nazareth. Then, using the New Testament, the Gnostic Gospels, and the Infancy Gospels, she discusses Mary (what little we know about her), including her virgin pregnancy and the social stigma associated with it.

14 Apr 19: "Our Evolving Community Colleges" by Carole Wenger

The topic, “Our Evolving Community Colleges” is presented from the specific perspective of Los Angeles City College by its Director of Alumni Relations, Carole Wenger. She explains that while some of the LACC students were attracted because of the low tuition cost or the proximity to their home, many other students were not yet ready to cope with the pressures of traditional 4-year colleges. Among their personal problems are homelessness, family problems, poverty, and illnesses. In many cases LACC students are able to soon move beyond these problems and to do well academically. Carole discusses the degree of support the LACC can provide to students with these problems.

7 Apr 19: "Why the Lack of Democracy in the Middle East?" by Dr. Feryal Cherif

Why are there so few democracies in the Middle East ? Our speaker, Dr. Feryal Cherif of LMU’s Political Science Dept, explains the major factors that make this possible. First, the petroleum wealth of many of these counties enables them to have little or no taxes and to also provide free public education and numerous no-cost services. Thus, governments buy the allegiance of their public. Leaders and their military have become very skilled at suppressing dissent. Further, the Muslim clerics are funded by the government, and thus are co-opted by the government. Also, there is no inherited tradition of democracy, so people must look outside their societies for examples. Dr. Cherif explains this in depth and discusses additional factors.

31 March 19: “Jewish Conquest of Ancient Canaan” by Dr. Daniel Smith-Christopher

Until the 1960’s the biblical explanation (books of Joshua and Judges) of the Jewish ascendancy in Canaan held widespread acceptance. Then two new theories were proposed, based upon new evidence including archeological discoveries, and have competed against each other and have mostly replaced the older biblical explanation. Dr. Daniel Smith-Christopher, Old Testament professor at LMU, explains both new theories, giving the arguments in favor of each.

24 March 19: “Jerry & Tatenda Johnson’s Return to Zimbabwe”

Jerry and Tatenda Johnson, who will return to Harare, Zimbabwe in April, discuss the current political and economic situation there, including the Nov 2017 military coup and the resulting changes. Then they discuss their upcoming return and explain their plans and goals for continuing to help street children in Harare.

17 March 19: "Empowering Muslim Women" by Meryem Ozer

The first half of this presentation is a Powerpoint discussion by Meryem Ozer about the how the Prophet Muhammad personally dealt with the gender issues of his time. The second half is a discussion by several Muslim high school girls from Pacifica Institute families about their career goals as they prepare for college and about the freedoms they enjoy in America (compared to Middle East countries) and about the occasional acts of intolerance they encounter.

10 March 19: "Blankets Of Love" by Cyndi Strand

Blankets of Love is a volunteer group of roughly 50 South Bay volunteers who create handmade (knitted or crocheted) baby blankets which are then donated to needy newborn babies. Our ADG speaker, Cyndi Strand, founded this volunteer group in 2016 in the aftermath of her son’s death due to drug addiction. In addition to explaining the efforts of the blankets of Love volunteer group, Cyndi discusses the role the group played in her path to healing after the loss of her son.

3 Mar 19: “Black Liberation Music Thru Song” by Kim Harris

Spiritual music of the 1960’s civil rights marches in the Deep South and the 1860’s underground railroad was sung with considerable emotion by Dr. Kim Harris. She frequently prompted the audience to sing with her. She is a professor of religious music at LMU, and holds a Ph.D. in Worship and the Arts from Union Theological Seminary in New York City. While pursuing her Ph.D. she composed “Welcome Table: A Mass of Spirituals” which is used at many black Catholic churches.

24 Feb 19: "Interviewing Sylvia Miller" by Rich Sundeen

On Feb 24th Sylvia Miller, our minister of faith formation starting last October, is interviewed by Rich Sundeen. Since both Rich and Sylvia attended seminary, Rich uses his expertise to explore the impact of her seminary experiences. Sylvia also discusses growing up in a very small town (population of 665) in the Ozarks of south western Missouri. She then talks about her career path, interests, life choices, and ideas about faith formation, especially for the youth of our church.


17 Feb 19: "Diversity in Early Christianity" by Daniel Smith-Christopher

Dr. Smith-Christopher, LMU Professor of Religion, discusses the many conflicting views in the first several centuries after Jesus’ crucifixion about who Jesus really was and what he taught. There was a major dispute about whether a person had to be (or become) a Jew in order to become a Christian. In the background there was a debate about whether Judaism’s strategy for survival should be to focus on being an insular/closed society or a society that is open to the world. These and other divergent views evolved until Constantine pushed to resolve them.

10 Feb 19: “Fracking - Why Does It Matter ?” by Birendra Jha

Why is fracking environmentally harmful ? And why, then, do we continue to do it ? Dr. Birendra Jha, a professor of petroleum engineering at USC’s Dept. of Chemical Engineering, describes the various oil and gas deposits within the U.S. and explains how fracking is being used to economically extract much of this oil and gas. He describes the typical fracking process, including the use of chemicals that are harmful to humans, and the possible contamination of our drinking water by these chemicals. He explains the methods that can be used to mitigate much of this potential contamination.

ADG: “Refugees Fleeing Turkey” by Sophia Pandya

Refugees are still fleeing Turkey as President Erdogan continues to jail his opponents, assert control of the news media, and consolidate one-man rule. Our speaker, Dr. Sophia Pandya, chair of the Dept of Religion at CSU/Long Beach, visited Greece to meet with 27 Turkish refugees. Many of these refugees lost family members while fleeing Turkey, often by drowning as they crossed the Maritsa River, which separates Turkey from Greece. Dr Pandya expresses the pain and uncertain future these refugees face as they try to find a country where they can re-settle and begin life anew.

27 Jan 19: "The Civil War in Syria" by Najwa al_Qattan

Dr. al-Qattan begins with the first Arab Spring uprising in January 2011, which occurred in Tunisia and quickly spread to neighboring Libya, then to Egypt, and by March 2011, to Syria. In Syria, because of ethnic divisions and lack of effective leadership, the uprising devolved into civil war. Foreign governments began to aid various factions in the civil war, and the war became more intense. Dr. al-Qattan explains all this as well as the resulting suffering of the Syria people.

20 Jan 19: "Constantine, Conversion, and The Christian Roman Empire" by Larry Tritle

Dr. Larry Trittle begins by describing the variety of beliefs within Christianity that existed when Constantine became sole ruler of the Roman Empire in 324AD. He esplains Constantine’s conversion to Christianity and his Christian baptism on his deathbed. Dr. Trittle talks about how Emperor Constantine and his successors worked to resolve the conflicting beliefs within the various Christian groups, sometimes by hosting conferences to hash out the differences (e.g., the Council of Nicea) in an attempt to standardize upon a single Christian (Catholic) doctrine.

13 Jan 19: "Christianity Before Constantine" by Larry Tritle

Dr. Larry Trittle begins by giving a brief overview of pagan beliefs in Egypt, Persia, Greece, and Rome at the time of Jesus. He discusses the splitting of Christianity away from Judaism at the time of the Jewish revolt against Roman control (66-74 AD, resulting in the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem). He discusses the difficulty that Roman rulers had in deciding how to deal with unwillingness of Christians to honor Roman pagan gods, with the result that Christians were often persecuted. During this time most Christians kept a low profile, and their numbers increased, including within the Roman army.

6 Jan 19: "Reconciling Scientific vs. Christian Teachings" by Bill Nunan

Physics describes a dispassionate, mathematical universe, and yet Christian tradition says our loving Creator guides the universe. There are times when personification of the Creator illuminates our lives, but there are other times when such personification can be misleading or even destructive. Bill explains how a reinterpreted Trinity concept unites these competing aspects of our existence as simultaneously both physical and spiritual beings.