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SBS-Interfaith Conversation Cafe Meetup IX: "Arab Spring or Arab Fall?"

Secular Bible Study has caught the attention of the St. Paul Interfaith Network (SPIN) -- and we're talking!


Secular Bible Study-Interfaith Conversation Cafe Meetup IX:

"Arab Spring or Arab Fall?"

Time & Place: Monday, Sept 16, 6:45-8:45 PM, St. Paul Area Council of Churches HQ, 1671 Summit Ave, St. Paul, MN 55105

St. Paul Interfaith Network (SPIN) is again inviting the atheists, UUers, and theists of Secular Bible Study to have a joint meetup with their "interfaith dialogue" group -- SPIN's "Interfaith Conversation Cafe" (ICC), which is co-hosted by none other than our own long-time SBS member, Steve Miller.

Last month, partly in response to the Boston Marathon bombing, we voted to discuss the topic, "Post-Racial America?" So what will be the topic that we nominate and vote to discuss this month? Attend and choose! But we'll be suggesting participants consider a dialogue around the theme of "Arab Spring, or Arab Fall?"

In the words of our co-hosts:

"September's theme for Interfaith Conversation Cafe is inspired by recent events unfolding in the Middle East. In early 2011 the peaceful collapse of dictatorships in Tunisia and Egypt after popular demonstrations promised a new democratic era in the Arab world. Later, more violent regime change occurred in Yemen and Libya, while protests were violently suppressed in Bahrain, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and other countries. Syria is now embroiled in a bloody civil war with spillover in Lebanon and Iraq and refugee crises in Turkey and Jordan. And in Egypt, after secular protests against the elected Islamic theocracy, the military has detained elected President Morsi and violently crushed counter-protests by Muslim Brotherhood supporters."

"Was the Arab Spring a false hope, now turned into an Arab Fall? Can the divisions between Sunni, Shi'a, Coptic Christian, Alawi, and other religious and secular citizens be bridged, or is conflict inevitable? Can supporters of Islamic government and believers in a secular state ever work together, or must a "winner" emerge from those better able to use force? As conflicts between citizens with different religious and secular visions polarize debate in the U.S., what can we learn from the Middle East? Can religion and secular government ever just get along?"

These questions and others suggested by attendees will be open for consideration and reasoning dialogue guided by the principles of acceptance, discovery, curiosity, sincerity, brevity, and confidentiality, at the next joint monthly meeting of Interfaith Conversation Cafe & Secular Bible Study, on Monday, Sept 16, 7:00-8:45 PM, at the St. Paul Area  Council of Churches (1571 Summit Avenue, at the Corner of Summit & Pierce, in St. Paul). Treats and beverages will be provided. 

All participants will be encouraged to ask their own questions and bring their own perspectives. As always the greatest resource of Interfaith Conversation Cafe and Secular Bible Study are the experiences and insights of those who come.

Don't miss this Joint ICC-SBS Meetup on the theme of "Arab Spring or Arab Fall?" -- RSVP "YES" today, and make your thoughts known -- to all!



Q: What is the joint ICC-SBS Meetup all about?

A: According to their website (,  ICC is "an interfaith dialogue focused on questions of faith as they affect our world. Open, facilitated conversations address topics of faith and society - by listening and questioning with curiosity, discovery and sincerity."

Q: Why should SBS jointly meetup with ICC?

A: One of our original purposes according to our co-founders Chester Barber & Grant Steves, and our co-sponsors, the Methodist church, Minnesota Atheists, and The Circle of Reason, is to encourage local "interfaith groups" to become more inclusive in inviting atheists and secular humanists into their dialogue -- so this is our chance!

Q: How does this joint Meetup work?

A: This joint ICC-SBS Meetup will be a little different than SBS's usual style:  Rather than have a lecture followed by discussion, we'll follow ICC's  "Socrates Cafe"-style of choosing a popular topic for discussion that same evening. Also, in the first round we pass a "talking object" and timer, and sit in a circle, to facilitate dialogue (and minimize yelling!), with SBS-like, back-and-forth dialogue held for the second go-round. But with folks like Steve Miller hosting, we've had no dearth of informed, thoughtful conversation about our topic of majority interest.

Q: Uh, is there any FOOD?

A: There will also be snacks available, as well as coffee/tea (but bring your own mug) -- an expenses-defraying donation jar will be out, but Frank Burton will be putting in some cash for us SBS attendees.

Q: Where do we meetup?

A: This joint Meetup will NOT be held at First Universalist Church, but at St. Paul Area Council of Churches (SPACC)'s St. Paul meeting room facility on Summit Ave, 2 blocks west of Snelling or 10 blocks east of the Mississippi River,  on the north side of Summit Ave., opposite Macalester College (see map link). Conversation begins promptly at 7:00 pm; doors are open at 6:30 pm. This month we'll start staying an extra 15 minutes, until 8:45pm, to allow more discussion, and if enough folks show up (14+) we may vote to break into two groups to allow us to speak longer.

Q: Why should I attend?

A: To change the world, of course!  "Interfaith" has for too long been a club to which atheists or humanists weren't welcome. No more! So come on over to Summit Ave. to see what the "new interfaith/transbelief dialogue" is all about! Join us for SPIN's and SBS's first "mutual outreach" between the interfaith & secular communities, to dialogue on issues of religion and society!

Join or login to comment.

  • Frank B.

    My condolences, Ann, to you and your family -- hope you can join us for our next SBS-ICC joint meetup in November (no Meetup will be scheduled for October), which will be on the topic of, "Is Democracy Real?"
    Tonight's meetup discussing "Arab Spring or Arab Fall?" was very informative, in great part due to a first-hand account of the initial "Arab Spring" and recent "post-Morsi" demonstrations in Tahrir square, and Egyptian citizen's perspectives, provided to the group by a member who serves a local mosque as an Imam. Great evening!

    September 16, 2013

  • Ann Z.

    Due to a tragic accidental death in the family, I will not be attending tonight. Look forward to the next meeting.

    September 16, 2013

  • Frank B.

    An important topic, for everyone to consider their moral and political stances that can impact the future of: 1) The politics of religious freedom, secularism, and theocracy; 2) The former colonial powers' responsibility -- and burden of guilt -- in nation building and international police action; 3) The future women's liberty in the Middle East; and 4) The future of chemical -- and nuclear -- warfare and terrorism. Make your views known, in this unique forum for people of all (and no) beliefs.

    2 · September 5, 2013

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