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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

Philanthropy as Spiritual Exercise: Soul, Relationships and Community

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Paul Schervish, Boston College
Date: Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Time: 12:00-1:15 PM
Location: Boisi Center, 24 Quincy Road

Every era needs to formulate the ideas, emotions, and actions of its deepest religious and spiritual orientations in a way commensurate to the questions of its day. However, the spirituality of a contemporary discourse and practice of allocation is not, with some exceptions, adequately provided today by the theology and ethics of churches and pulpit sermons. Schervish's goal is to offer one modest understanding of the spiritual underpinning of receiving and giving as an asceticism or spiritual exercise. He will approach this asceticism or spiritual methodology as involving three related dimensions: the inner life, social-psychological relations, and societal engagement. Each one of these levels entails, at their deepest level, carrying out a related yet nominally distinctive spiritual exercise. He will first address the meaning of spiritual exercise and then discuss how the spirituality of receiving and giving occurs at the intersection of soul, personal relations, and community. Although he will often focus on the allocation of wealth (financial and personal) as spiritual exercise, what he says applies, cēterīs paribus, for all people across the economic spectrum.

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Paul Schervish is a professor of sociology and the director of the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy at Boston College. He is also the National Research Fellow at the Indiana University Center on Philanthropy and to the John Templeton Foundation. He received his Masters in sociology from Northwestern University, a Masters of Divinity degree from the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, and a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin. In 2000-2001, Schervish was a Fulbright Scholar at University College Cork in the area of research on philanthropy. He is currently the director of the Study on Wealth, Values, and Philanthropy funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He also helped found the Wealth and Giving Forum, an organization founded in 2003 to promote greater generosity by the nation’s wealthiest households. His publications include the forthcoming Wealth and the Will of God: Discerning the Use of Riches in the Service of Ultimate Purpose (2009), Care and Community in Modern Society (1995), Wealth in Western Thought: The Case for and against Riches (1994), and Gospels of Wealth: How the Rich Portray their Lives (1994). He has been named five times to the NonProfit Times’ “Power and Influence Top 50” list, naming the most prominent leaders in the non-profit world.