October 19 2019

by Erik Owens, Boston College

The distinguished University of Chicago professor Jean Bethke Elshtain died in August at the age of 72, leaving behind a massive body of published work: hundreds of scholarly articles and chapters, many authored and edited books, countless opinion pieces, reflections, op-eds and interviews. She won dozens of awards and received prestigious honors from institutions and governments around the world. She broke barriers as an accomplished female professor and as a Christian political philosopher. She was a remarkable woman, as a wide array of obituary encomiums have affirmed in recent weeks.* I had the privilege of knowing her personally and professionally over some intense and exhilarating years as her graduate student in the religious ethics program at the Divinity School, and we remained in frequent contact in the years after.

Nelly van Doorn-Harder was born and raised in the Netherlands where she earned her PhD on the topic of women’s monasticism in the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt at the Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam. Before moving to the USA, she was director of a refugee program in Cairo, Egypt and taught Islamic Studies at universities in the Netherlands (Leiden) and Indonesia (Yogakarta). She held the Surjit S. Patheja Chair in World Religions and Ethics at Valparaiso University from 1999-2009. She then moved to Wake Forest University, where she has been a Professor of Islamic Studies since 2009.

Emily Bailey, University of Pittsburgh

I have to admit that despite how ridiculously excited I am to be nearing the final stages of the graduate school process—to get into the classroom and put some of this knowledge to practical use—I’m a bit afraid of the students who will be sitting on the other side of the desk. We’ve all experienced it in some capacity; a room full of eyes staring at us, brimming with expectations, and if we’re lucky, even interest. However, as I observe the next generation of students I can’t help but be aware of a new set of expectations they have for their faculty—the kind of expectations that leave me wondering if we, as future instructors, are fully prepared.

by Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore, Vanderbilt University

Almost twenty years ago, when considering pregnancy a subversive state bearing “generative lessons unknown to men and angels,” I made the following remark: “Serious involvement in child bearing and rearing involves an . . . unrelenting tug of attachment, what Kristeva calls a pain that ‘comes from the inside’ and ‘never remains apart. . . . You may close your eyes, . . . teach courses, run errands, . . . think about objects, subjects.’ But a mother is marked by a tenacious link to another that . . . never quite goes away .” (Miller-McLemore, Also a Mother, 143. See also Julia Kristeva, "Stabat Mater," in The Kristeva Reader, ed. Toril Moi, Columbia University Press, 1986: 166)

Josef Sorett, Columbia University

Let’s face it: In our guild, more often than not, the term “public” is akin to a four-letter word. For many, placing the word public in front of intellectual, at best, creates a lesser species, and at worst, invokes an oxymoron. A rather crude academic orthodoxy—we all pick it up in graduate school—is that to go public is to dumb down. One can’t possibly address the public—read: be popular, accessible, etc.—and still be smart (or maintain intellectual integrity), the logic goes.

Joseph M. Kramp, John Jay College and Marymount Manhattan College

"I have seen slaves on horseback, and princes walking on foot like slaves." — Ecclesiastes 10.7

Graduate students live off of temporary employment—often manual labor—since we move constantly and frequently spend only short periods of time in one area. However, some of us are fortunate enough to have work fall in our lap that pays well, demands little, and comes with newfound status. We all know of students who land these jobs because they list the job on their CV and publicize this work experience. Oftentimes these students assume that the readers of their CV will see a direct relationship between the job and the strengthening of a particular skill they want to highlight; these students are correct to assume this, in part, because we give certain forms of employment instant social esteem.

by Julia Watts Belser, Missouri State University

How do religious responses to environmental crisis engage with — or turn away from — the ethical demands of environmental injustice?

by Larry L. Rasmussen, Union Theological Seminary

Humankind is on a venture for which we are not well-prepared — life in a new geological age. Given the name Anthropocene by scientists because of the domination of cumulative human activities, this age succeeds the late Holocene, the era that has hosted all human religions and made possible all human civilizations to date.

by Cynthia Moe-Lobeda, Seattle University

How will our teaching help equip ourselves, our students, and our world to meet the unprecedented challenge facing humankind in the early twenty-first century — forging a sustainable relationship between humankind and planet Earth and doing so in ways that build social justice within and between societies?

by Melanie L. Harris, Texas Christian University

The image of black women’s bodies stretched along roads in North Carolina to block toxic waste dump trucks from carrying hazardous soil into their gardens stays with me each time I teach environmental ethics. As James Cone reminds us in his essay “Whose Earth Is it Anyway?,” these brave black churchwomen began a protest against soil contamination in Warren County in 1982. The protest would attract thousands to the streets and land hundreds in jail. While jail time is all too familiar to those engaged in justice movements in the South, it is important to remember that fighting for justice often has a cost. Holding up the banner for racial, economic, gender, sexual, and earth justice is a complex job that can leave marks — even in the college classroom.

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