September 20 2017

by Erik Owens, Boston College, for the Committee on the Public Understanding of Religion

The AAR’s Committee on the Public Understanding of Religion is pleased to announce that public theologian Rev. J. Bryan Hehir, of Harvard University and the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, is the 2016 recipient of the Martin E. Marty Award for the Public Understanding of Religion.

Now in its twentieth year, the Marty Award recognizes extraordinary contributions to the public understanding of religion by individuals whose work has a relevance and eloquence that speaks not just to scholars but other “publics” as well.

The Committee honors Father Hehir for his important scholarship on the ethics of statecraft, war, and peace, and for his influential work as a public theologian who for more than forty years has constructively engaged scholars, church leaders, diplomats, elected officials, military leaders, policymakers and social workers on a range of issues at the intersection of religion and public life.

by Eric Michael Mazur, Virginia Wesleyan College

Many American Jews have felt uneasy during the current presidential campaign, largely because of how Judaism has been the object of campaign rhetoric—from various candidates and the media, and in ways that are neither flattering nor representative. Some of the rhetoric—seeming indifference to Jewish sensitivities, the deployment of anti-Semitic stereotypes, and even rhetorical threats of physical harm—is not unheard of in American politics. What seems new is the way this rhetoric has revealed a significant difference in how non-Jews and Jews understand “religion,” particularly with regard to Jewish identity.

by Fred Glennon, Le Moyne College

George Wilson of the Buffalo Bills praying on the field in October 2009

One of the most memorable research and writing projects in which I have been involved as a teacher-scholar of religion is a collection of essays on baseball and religion in American culture, entitled The Faith of Fifty Million. As a devoted Red Sox fan, who at times takes pilgrimages to the “sacred space” of Fenway Park, the opportunity to bring my field of research (religious ethics) and my love of baseball together was an opportunity too great to pass up. What baseball enthusiast wouldn’t want to spend a week at the research library of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York!

by Robert Bowen, Governmental Affairs Associate, National Humanities Alliance

United States Capitol in Washington, DC

We have all become familiar with urgent requests in our inboxes and social media feeds to write our Members of Congress about an important issue. With a few clicks, these “action alerts” promise, we can influence our Senators and Representatives. Once we enter our zip code, we see a form letter replete with policy details and a specific request. We have the option to tailor the letter, but we can also simply hit “submit.”

Like other advocacy organizations, the National Humanities Alliance (NHA) issues action alerts to our network of advocates. Most often, we ask our advocates to communicate support for funding increases—or opposition to cuts—for the National Endowment for the Humanities, Title VI, or Fulbright-Hays.

While advocacy software has made political advocacy exceedingly convenient, you may wonder if these letters actually matter. The short answer is yes, they do. Constituent letters are very effective when used as one element of a larger strategy.

by Aaron Hughes, University of Rochester

Jacob Neusner was born to Samuel and Lee Neusner on July 12, 1932, in West Hartford, Connecticut. His father owned the Connecticut Jewish Ledger, a Jewish weekly that continues to serve the Connecticut region and western Massachusetts. The young Neusner received his first typewriter at age twelve and, by his junior year in high school, could do all the jobs associated with a newspaper. From a young age he could write both quickly and to make deadlines. Neusner grew up attending public school as opposed to Jewish day school, and his values largely reflected those of other assimilated and suburban Jews who came of age in 1940s and 1950s America. But whereas many of them ended up in law or medical school, Neusner realized, from a young age, that he wanted to be a rabbi—though he admitted later to me that he had no idea at the time what that meant, I suspect it was to lead a life immersed in the Jewish texts that he had yet to encounter.

by Grace Ji-Sun Kim, Earlham School of Religion

Working moms and stay-at-home moms have a tough life. Whether we work or stay at home as we raise our children, we will come to an inevitable point in our lives when we have to “let go” of our children and allow them to grow and become adults. Whether dropping them off at college or sending them off to the army or other major events, we must face the reality that they are leaving the “nest.” For some of us this will be a great time of joy, but for others, it will be a time of loss, adjustment, and big change.

For women who are professors, there is the added stress of how to manage your children while trying to maneuver through the academy. There is a growing amount of literature out there to help professorial moms navigate the academy so that they can be successful professors in their own respective areas.

The Teaching and Learning Committee is pleased to announce Joanne Maguire Robinson is the recipient of the 2016 Excellence in Teaching Award. Robinson is Associate Professor and chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. Robinson will make remarks and engage questions and answers during the Special Topics Forum at this year's Annual Meeting in San Antonio, TX. (Editor's note: Nominations for the 2017 Excellence in Teaching Awards are welcome through October 15, 2016.)

 
With the AAR's Annual Meeting fast approaching—a time when hundreds of candidates flock to a set of first-round interviews for positions in religious studies and theology departments across the country—we were thankful to receive this flyer from the University of Arizona's Commission on the Status of Women as a reminder to applicants, letter writers, and letter readers, about identifying and avoiding gender bias in letters of recommendation. Click the image for a larger version to print and share.


 

by Maria Liu Wong, City Seminary of New York

Henri Matisse's "Tea in the Garden" (1919)

“Work-life balance” is a tenuous phrase. Is it possible to imagine that there can ever be real balance, or is it something we might think of instead as a “work-life proportion” in a particular season of time? A mother of three young children ages 2 years to 9 years, working full-time as an administrator and faculty in a seminary, and having spent the past three years of my life working on a dissertation on women and leadership in theological education, this notion of “work-life balance” has been on my mind A LOT. In a recent conversation with my pastor—a very busy man himself who spent a season of his life as primary caretaker for his sons while his wife was working the day shift—I was challenged me to think beyond the idea of “work-life balance,” but more in terms of proportions of time spent doing one thing versus the other.

Interviewed by Kristian Petersen

In 1491, the king of the west central African kingdom of Kongo was baptized as a Christian by Portuguese missionaries, and in so doing, he ushered a unique and centuries-long relationship between the Kongo kingdom and European political and religious powers. Cécile Fromont, assistant professor of art history at the University of Chicago, describes the beliefs and material culture of Christianity that developed in the kingdom as a result of the transatlantic trade of goods and ideas.

Cécile Fromont is the author of The Art of Conversion: Christian Visual Culture in the Kingdom of Kongo (UNC Press, published for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, 2014), which won the AAR's 2015 Award for the Best First Book in the History of Religions.

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