October 23 2018

by Robyn Henderson-Espinoza, PhD Candidate at Illif School of Theology, University of Denver

Image: Plate XXX (Byzantine No. 3), The Grammar of Ornament by Owens Jones (1868; scanned from the 1910 reprint) London: Bernard Quaritch, via http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/DLDecArts.GramOrnJones.

Historically, systematic theology has been an institutional bloc within the field of theology that has in many ways ignored the matrix of difference while upholding orthodoxy. Nevertheless it has been forced to contend with the critical questions of race, class, gender, and sexuality because those intersections figure prominently in the work of contemporary, constructive, and queer theologies. Many of these theologies use feminist and queer theories to address systems of difference and oppressions, but their roots in traditional identity politics result in representational theologies. Such reliance undermines the relational aspects of interconnection and interrelatedness that can emerge by moving beyond traditional theories of representationalism that is found in theories of intersectionality.

by Kirk VanGilder, Gallaudet University

Image: Plate XXX (Byzantine No. 3), The Grammar of Ornament by Owens Jones (1868; scanned from the 1910 reprint) London: Bernard Quaritch, via http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/DLDecArts.GramOrnJones.

Although I am trained as a practical theologian and much of my scholarly research and interest therefore tends to express itself as theological construction and imagination, I am currently teaching in a religious studies setting at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC. While all campuses are sites of diversity and intersectionality in identity markers, Gallaudet University presents teachers with a unique layer of identity formation. We are the only free-standing four-year liberal arts university in the world specifically designed for Deaf and hard of hearing students. Therefore our mission statement expresses our desire to be a bilingual institution committed to providing the best educational opportunities possible in both American Sign Language (ASL) and written English.

by Maaraidzo E. Mutambara, Africa University and Traci C. West, Drew University Theological School

Image: Plate XXX (Byzantine No. 3), The Grammar of Ornament by Owens Jones (1868; scanned from the 1910 reprint) London: Bernard Quaritch, via http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/DLDecArts.GramOrnJones.

In this essay we each reflect on our cotaught course, Christian Ethics and Global Issues. We comment on some of the pedagogical challenges and opportunities that arose as we navigated the intersecting cultural dynamics that teaching this class involved. 

by Heike Peckruhn, Iliff School of Theology, University of Denver

Image: Plate XXX (Byzantine No. 3), The Grammar of Ornament by Owens Jones (1868; scanned from the 1910 reprint) London: Bernard Quaritch, via http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/DLDecArts.GramOrnJones.

We are bodies, and we engage with the world as such. In the classroom, to bodily engage with our peers, instructors, and the course content is neither simply a possibility nor an interesting method. We are bodies learning. And the crucial question presented to me then is how to consider bodies in our classroom space as the essential element of our pedagogical practice and teaching of critical analysis. Resources on practices for critical, social justice-orientated pedagogies take embodied diversity in the classroom seriously, though it seems to me that there is an underlying assumption that embodied identity markers—my race, my gender, my abilities, for example—will always be perceived in the same, or at least similar and somewhat predictable, ways.

Image: Plate XXX (Byzantine No. 3), The Grammar of Ornament by Owens Jones (1868; scanned from the 1910 reprint) London: Bernard Quaritch, via http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/DLDecArts.GramOrnJones.

Adams, M., L. A. Bell, and P. Griffin. 1997. Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice: A Sourcebook. New York, NY: Routledge.

Butler, J. 1993. Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of "Sex". New York: Routledge. 

Cannon, Katie Geneva. April 2, 1997. “Translating Womanism into Pedagogical Praxis.” Paper presented at the Loy H. Witherspoon Lectures in Religious Studies, University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

———. 2014. “Pedagogical Praxis in African American Theology” In The Oxford Handbook of African American Theology, edited by Katie G. Cannon and Anthony Pinn, 319–330. New York: Oxford University Press.

Case, K.A., ed. 2013. Deconstructing Privilege: Teaching and Learning as Allies in the Classroom. New York, NY: Routledge.

Collins, Patricia Hill. 1999. Black Feminist Thought:  Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment. New York: Routledge.

by Darryl W. Stephens, Lancaster Theological Seminary and Kate M. Ott, Drew University Theological School

Roosevelt University theater professor Irene Dailey talking to a group of students, date unknown

Sexuality: few topics are as personal, embodied, experiential, culturally dependent, political, and moralized. Attitudes about sexuality are often bound up in issues of shame, guilt, power, and freedom. Sexuality has been at the heart of the US culture wars for nearly half a century; divisions over sexuality are reshaping the religious landscape; public debate about sexuality has reached a fever pitch in US legal discourse; cross-cultural comparisons reveal a wide array of morals and practices; and rates of childhood and adult sexual abuse are staggering. Yet, sexuality conspicuously silences open dialogue given its taboo status in many religious and theological contexts. How do we overcome silence and taboo in order to teach effectively, responsibly, and explicitly about sexuality and religion?

by Lynn Schofield Clark, University of Denver

image of an empty word processor page

Let me start by telling you what doesn’t work for me: the daily writing schedule. I wish I could set aside time every day to write, as historian Marybeth Gasman suggests in her Chronicle of Higher Education essay. I kept to that daily schedule when I was a graduate student before I had children, and then again when I was on sabbatical and was freed from teaching and administrative responsibilities. It really is terrific. However, in the midst of juggling the multiple and sometimes conflicting demands of family members, students, colleagues, and administrators, the goal of daily writing became a source of frustration and letdown for me.

So I learned to do the next best thing: embrace mediocrity.

Here’s how this works for me.

by Isobel Johnston, MA-Phd candidate, Arizona State University, Tempe

Oil on canvas painting, "Women's Art Class" by Louis Lang (c. 1868). Seven women painting in a salon.

A uniquely modern American illusion is that we can put anything into our bodies and subsequently demand everything of them without consequences. This is bunk. Our attitude and approach to self-care can either enhance the body’s effectiveness or limit it.

A common (mis)conceptualization of self-care, and one that I have been guilty of having, defines it as a set of activities separate from our personal and professional lives. It is treated as a task we attend to on an as-needed or as a single-strategy manner for coping with preexisting stress or crisis.

The trouble with this is approach is that it often allows us to reach a critical condition before we engage it. At this rate, any regularity in our “habit” of self-care more likely reflects a steady state of critical stress which forces us to find time for it, often when illness makes us unfit for anything else.

photo of Thomas A. Tweed

2015 president of the AAR, Thomas A. Tweed, talks to RSN about the value of scholarly work, the moral impetus to study religion, and the quiet moments of joy in teaching.

RSN: At what point did you decide you wanted to become a scholar of religion?

TT: I began my first semester as a pre-med student in cell biology thinking about how the smallest organic units worked. Gradually my questions changed—and expanded—until I was asking: Why is there something instead of nothing? How do we explain moral evil? How should I act? The moral questions prompted me to conclude I should do something that reduced suffering, so after a summer internship as a social worker I decided that was how I’d spend my life. I’d take on those big questions in my free time and save the world nine-to-five. Well, it’s obvious both from the state of the world and my current profession I didn’t follow that plan. I got hooked on the big questions, which I pursued first at Harvard Divinity School and then by teaching world religions and ethics to high school students. I again thought I’d found my calling.

I was happy teaching—and coaching basketball—but another summer experience prompted another turn. I was studying Buddhism with Professor Robert Thurman, and he arranged a guest lecture by a Japanese-American Buddhist scholar who told a story that set me on my career path and has haunted me ever since. While his parents were interned at Manzanar and he was in Japan studying during World War II, the nineteen-year-old was riding on a train. In the distance, suddenly he and his fellow passengers eyed a mushroom cloud on the horizon, the billowing traces of the atomic bomb. That scholar recalled hearing a Christian missionary say that the bomb was God’s just condemnation of the “heathen.” I was stunned by that heartbreaking story, my eyes filling with tears. That was the moment I decided to go on for a PhD in religion. I wasn’t exactly sure what I could do, but I felt called to change things. No more arrogance. No more bombs.

 

Kyle Harper talks to Religious Studies News about his book From Shame to Sin: The Christian Transformation of Sexual Morality in Late Antiquity (Harvard University Press, 2013), which won the American Academy of Religion’s 2014 Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion in Historical Studies.

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