a few words

The Ineradicable Supersessionism of the Christian Imagination

This piece is cross posted over at AUFS; please comment there (rather than here) if you feel compelled to do so. 

As Willie James Jennings’ title would suggest, The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race is a book situated at the interface between theology and history. My work hovers around the same intersection, so I came to Jennings’ book with strong interests both in the content of the argument and the method of its movements. Jennings has given us a very rich book, one that uncovers the historical and theological reasons that the stratified logics of race and colonialism have overrun—one should almost say without exception— the purported unity of Christian communion. Jennings’ text works to uncover the theological operations that underwrite the history of the last half-millennium—in which racial difference has functioned as justification for conversion by violent coercion and enslavement, and in which white Christians have regarded social, economic, and political parity for Christians of color as unthinkable, unnatural, and unnecessary. The logic of race is so deeply enmeshed in Western subject-formation that it has overpowered the political implications of theological and sacramental affirmations—e.g. that Christians share the same baptism and eat at the same table. In other words, Jennings asks: Why does whiteness trump Jesus’ body?

Jennings’ book works out a complex and multifaceted historical answer to this question—a question that white theology has repressed with hasty acknowledgments of the generalized horrors of the past.  Jennings’ book has been rightly recognized as a significant contribution to academic theology (the book won the 2015 Louisville Grawemeyer award in Religion) and has been discussed widely. Jennings’ readings of the theological formation of racial discourse in early modern and colonial authors are nuanced, careful, and illuminating. Alongside my deep appreciation for Jennings’ critical work on early modern texts and figures, however, I find myself stuck on a few questions regarding his main theological argument. In particular, I wonder if Jennings’ theological utilization of the concept of supersessionism has obscured the specifics of its history, such that Jennings inadvertently fails to escape the trajectory of Christian supersessionism even as he correctly diagnoses it as a lynchpin of Western racialized anthropology. Read the rest of this entry »

Book/Chapter Announcement: Divinanimality: Animal Theory, Creaturely Theology

Divinanimality Cover

The book has been out for a few months now, but I’ve yet to make an announcement here. Divinanimality: Animal Theory, Creaturely Theology came out of Drew University’s Transdisciplinary Theology Conference. The handsome book was edited by Stephen Moore (of Drew University) and features a range of essays. Personal highlights for me were the chapters written by Denise Kimber Buell, Beatrice Marovich, and Stephen Moore. I am honored to have a chapter in the volume: “The Logos of God and the End of Humanity: Giorgio Agamben and the Gospel of John on Animality as Light and Life.”  Working from the prologue to John’s gospel, my chapter argues for an understanding of the incarnation that undermines anthropological exceptionalism rather than supporting it. In other words, I am working to refute the notion—heard commonly enough in Christian circles—that human beings are the most important creatures on earth because God became human. I engage briefly with Athanasius and Gregory of Nazianzus along the way. I also venture a more synthetic reading of Derrida and Agamben on “the animal question” than is normal in critical animal theory circles.

One of the benefits of posting this announcement a bit late is that I can link to a blog post by Adam Roberts on my essay. His summary is accurate and his critical questions are on target, so far as I am concerned. I have a response posted in the comments. He has a few other posts on the volume, which can be found here.

2014 Books

One wouldn’t know it from the amount of activity here on this rather neglected corner of the internet, but 2014 was a very tumultuous year for me—as it was for many people across the U.S. My personal ups and downs pale in comparison to the events surrounding the murders of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, John Crawford, Renisha McBride, Darien Hunt, and others, and the rightful anger that followed these callous displays of the latent white supremacist millieu of American life. To my mind, these are among the most significant events of 2014 in the U.S., and it feels a bit trite even to mention them here in passing. But silence is rarely the better path, so I would rather place 2014’s anger and mourning at the surface once more.

Personally, 2014 brought news of a child in January and the birth of a daughter in September. It brought me to the completion of my dissertation and to my graduation from Fordham with a Ph.D. in Theology in May. It brought a move from the Bronx to Denver in June, followed by a second move (within Denver) when our apartment massively flooded in November. Days after our flood, I was in San Diego for interviews at the AAR/SBL. I have mixed feelings about 2014 and, all in all, I’m glad it’s over. In many ways I’m still recovering. Take that as explanation for posting a 2014 retrospective two weeks into 2015.

One of the few traditions I’ve kept up here is to post my reading for the year. These are the books that I read cover to cover. I’ve put in boldface the books which I found the most insightful, most moving, or most useful for my work. The classification scheme is my own and is (like all taxonomies) somewhat arbitrary. Of course, I welcome comments on these books or books that other folks found particularly rich in 2014.

Theology / Religious Studies:

Gerard Loughlin (ed.), Queer Theology: Rethinking the Western Body.

Thomas Merton, Raids on the Unspeakable.

Ronald E. Osborn, Death Before the Fall: Biblical Literalism and the Problem of Animal Suffering.

Benjamin Dunning, Christ Without Adam: Subjectivity and Sexual Difference in the Philosophers’ Paul.

Elizabeth A. Johnson, Ask the Beasts: Darwin and the God of Love.

Delores S. Williams, Sisters in the Wilderness: The Challenge of Womanist God-Talk.

Daniel L. Pals, Eight Theories of Religion.

Stephen Moore, Divinanimality: Animal Theory, Creaturely Theology.

Philosophy / Critical Theory:

Catherine Malabou, Ontology of the Accident: An Essay on Destructive Plasticity.

Henri Bergson, Matter and Memory.

Gilles Deleuze, Bergsonism.

Souleymane Bachir Diagne, African Art as Philosophy: Senghor, Bergson, and the Idea of Negritude.

Giorgio Agamben, State of Exception.

Giorgio Agamben, The Sacrament of Language: An Archaeology of the Oath.

Mary Midgley, Animals and Why they Matter.

Andrew Norris (ed.), Politics, Metaphysics, and Death: Essays on Giorgio Agamben’s Homo Sacer.

Giorgio Agamben, Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive.

Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth.

George Yancy, Look a White!: Philosophical Essays on Whiteness.

James Baldwin, Notes of a Native Son.

Saidiya V. Hartman, Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth-Century America.

History / Historiography:

Virginia Burrus, Saving Shame: Martyrs, Saints, and other Abject Subjects. Theodore W. Jennings, Plato or Paul: The Origins of Western Homophobia.

Biography / Memoir:

Rob Delaney, Wife, Sister, Mother, Falcon, Yardstick, Turban, Cabbage.

Science:

E.O. Wilson, The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth.

Fiction/Literature:

Thomas Pynchon, Vineland.

Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

Thomas Pynchon, Bleeding Edge.

James Baldwin, Another Country.

Thomas Pynchon, Inherent Vice.

Don DeLillo, White Noise.

Self-Help/Self-sabotage:

Penny Simkin, The Birth Partner.

Making public one’s reading list as an academic feels, to me at least, vaguely shameful. There is a open record here for people to see all the things that I haven’t read (and should have). That’s one of the reasons that I’ve kept up the practice—to stare down my own sense of myself as a fraud, my own looming imposter syndrome. In the vein of shameful confessions, I’ll add to my explicit shame. I made a concerted effort (or, what I thought was a concerted effort) to read more books by women and people of color this year, to sit with a broader range of perspectives and do my own thinking with that multiplicity of voices ringing in my ears. It was a valuable endeavor and one that I mean to continue in 2015. Nevertheless, a significant majority of the books that I read this year (20 of 32) were written by white men. On the other hand, 7 of 32 were written by women and 7 of 32 were written by people of color. If I had to guess, I’d venture that those proportions are not enormously out of line with the demographics of the American academic scene. Still, at the end of the year, I’m embarrassed that my concerted effort is not better reflected in the demographics of the authors above. Nevertheless, the voices of Yancy, Hartman, Fanon, and others are still ringing disproportionately in my ears.

The Bible and Posthumanism: Book/Chapter Announcement

Bible and Posthumanism Cover

Some readers may be interested in a recently published book—The Bible and Posthumanism, edited by Jennifer Koosed. The volume includes an essay of mine entitled “Gregory of Nyssa and Jacques Derrida on the Human-Animal Distinction in the Song of Songs.” I have yet to read through the whole book, but I am especially looking forward to essays from Denise Kimber Buell, Stephen Moore, and Benjamin Dunning. I’m particularly honored that my essay sits directly next to Ben Dunning’s insofar as his intellectual generosity and meticulously patient criticism have played an unparalleled role in my own thinking, writing, and research at Fordham.

Here’s an excerpt that provides a sense for the essay’s argument:

Thinking with Derrida, I argue that Gregory’s discourse on animality remains irresolvably conflicted. Although he labors toward it, Gregory’s theology cannot finally abide a categorical distinction between humanity and animality. The theological anthropology informing Gregory’s anagogical exegesis of the Song of Songs “short-circuits” so that human animality is necessary to reach the deepest meaning of Scripture and the summits of spiritual ascent, despite Gregory’s more explicit claims that spiritual transformation entails the transcendence of humanity beyond animality. Animality remains integral to Gregory’s reading of the Song of Songs, not simply because of the pervasive animal metaphors within the text under his consideration, but on account of his understanding of theological exegesis and the role of desire in spiritual progress.

The Limits of the Thinkable :: Coming Tomorrow!

Late notice here, but if you’re anywhere near New York City tomorrow, Fordham will be hosting its annual Graduate Theology conference. The conference title is “The Limits of the Thinkable: Religious Experience and the Apophatic Impulse between Antiquity and Modernity.” There is a full schedule posted here. The conference will run from 10am to 6pm in Tognino Hall, (the second floor of Duane Library, above the Theology Department). Catherine Keller will be speaking at 5:00, and all are welcome to attend. Folks from the conference will also be headed out to a pub in the neighborhood after the conference to continue the conversation. Hope to see you there!

2013 Reading

One of the few traditions here is to post the year’s reading—or, at least the books that I’ve read cover to cover. I always enjoy seeing what other people have been reading, so I figure that posting my list may—however minutely—increase the net amount of enjoyment in the universe. Despite intentions to the contrary, I’m not accomplishing much today, so adding a scrap of enjoyment to the universe seems like a decent use of time.

Explanations and caveats: I’ve put my favorite books of the year in bold face for each category. The categories, as previously, reflect my own idiosyncratic organization rather than the objective order of Being. Most, but not all, of the reading has been background for the dissertation, though I did much better this year than previous years about mixing fiction in with all the philosophy and theology. Of course, I’m eager to hear what other folks thought of the books here, as well as the books that should make my list for 2014.

So… an apt quote from Bernard Steigler and then the list:

“Stupidity is never foreign to knowledge; knowledge can itself become stupidity par excellence, so to speak. And this is so because knowledge, and in particular theoretical knowledge as passage to the act of reason—or more broadly noesis—only occurs intermittently to a noetic soul which constantly regresses, and which, as such, is like Sisyphus, perpetually ascending the slope of its own stupidity.”

Theology:

Adam Kotsko, The Politics of Redemption

Jose Comblin, Retrieving the Human: A Christian Anthropology

Stanley Grenz, The Social God and the Relational Self: A Trinitarian Theology of the Imago Dei

Jeannine Hill Fletcher, Motherhood as Metaphor: Engendering Interreligious Dialogue

Elizabeth A. Johnson, Women, Earth, and Creator Spirit

J. Wentzel van Huyssteen, Alone in the World?: Human Uniqueness in Science and Theology

Kathryn Tanner, Jesus, Humanity, and the Trinity: A Brief Systematic Theology

Catherine Keller, From a Broken Web: Separation, Sexism, and Self

Peter Scott, Anti-Human Theology: Nature, Technology, and the Post-natural

Christopher Southgate, The Groaning of Creation: God, Evolution, and the Problem of Evil

Catherine Keller, The Face of the Deep: A Theology of Becoming

Karen Kilby, Karl Rahner: Theology and Philosophy

James Cone, God of the Oppressed

Catherine Keller, Apocalypse Now and Then: A Feminist Guide to the End of the World

Celia Deane-Drummond, Rebecca Artinian-Kaiser, and David Clough, eds., Animals as Religious Subjects: Transdisciplinary Perspectives

Vine Deloria Jr., God is Red: A Native View of Religion

Emmanuel Falque, The Metamorphosis of Finitude: An Essay on Birth and Resurrection

Anthony Paul Smith, A Non-Philosophical Theory of Nature: Ecologies of Thought

Lisa H. Sideris, Environmental Ethics, Ecological Theology, and Natural Selection

 

Philosophy:

Jacques Derrida, The Beast and the Sovereign II

Aaron Gross and Anne Vallely, Animals and the Human Imagination: A Companion to Animal Studies

Jacques Derrida, Specters of Marx

Carol J. Adams, The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory

Alasdair MacIntyre, Dependent Rational Animals: Why Human Beings Need the Virtues

John Dupre, Humans and Other Animals

Val Plumwood, Environmental Culture: the Ecological Crisis of Reason

Judith Butler, Frames of War

William Jordan III, The Sunflower Forest: Ecological Restoration and the New Communion with Nature

Val Plumwood, Feminism and the Mastery of Nature

 

History/Historiography:

W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folks

 

Biography/Memoir:

Alex Haley, The Autobiography of Malcolm X

Dorothy Day, From Union Square to Rome

 

Science:

Reg Morrison, The Spirit in the Gene: Humanity’s Proud Illusion and the Laws of Nature

Marc Bekoff and Jessica Pierce, Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals

 

Fiction/Literature:

David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest, 1079.

David Foster Wallace, Consider the Lobster and Other Essays, 343.

David Foster Wallace, Oblivion, 329.

Teju Cole, Open City, 259.

Ed Abbey, Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness, 337.

Herman Melville, Moby Dick, 527.

Peter Matthiessen, The Snow Leopard, 338.

James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time, 106.

James Baldwin, Go Tell it on the Mountain, 226.

 

Self-Help/Self-sabotage:

Stan Hieronymous, For the Love of Hops: A Practical Guide to Aroma, Bitterness, and the Culture of Hops, 319.

 

Poetry:

Kelly Davio, Burn This House, 82.

Call for Papers: 2014 Fordham Theology Conference — The Limits of the Thinkable

The Theology Graduate Student Association at Fordham is organizing its third conference, centered on the theme of religious experience and apophaticism at the limits of thought. The theme is meant to encompass both historical inquiry and constructive work mysticism, apophaticism, ecstatic revelry, theophany, and records of experiences that remain at the edges of “proper” forms of knowing. The conference will take place on Saturday, February 8th at Fordham’s Rose Hill Campus.  

Catherine Keller will be delivering a keynote address at the end of the conference on the logic of the infinite in Nicolas of Cusa. Previous conferences have brought together a rich collection of papers, and presenters have come from all over the Northeast (from as far as Toronto and Ohio). 

If your interests lie in the area, I would encourage you to submit an abstract. Your proposal should be roughly 300 words, and should be sent to fordhamtgsa@gmail.com by January 17th. Notifications will be sent by January 28th. We can provide housing (staying with grad students) for some of the presenters to help defray the cost of attendance.

The full, official text of the CFP is below:

The Limits of the Thinkable: Religious Experience and the Apophatic Impulse Between Antiquity and Modernity (with a keynote address by Dr. Catherine Keller)

2014 Fordham Graduate Theology Conference: Call for Papers

“The concept of limit-situation is a familiar one in the existentialist philosophy and theology of the very recent
past. Fundamentally, the concept refers to those human situations wherein a human being ineluctably finds manifest a certain ultimate limit or horizon to his or her existence… either those ‘boundary’ situations of guilt, anxiety, sickness, and the recognition of death as one’s own destiny, or those situations called ‘ecstatic experiences’- intense joy, love, reassurance, creation… Such experiences… seem to demand reflection upon the existential boundaries of our present everyday experience.”

—David Tracy, Blessed Rage for Order

“For any ‘modernity’ to be worthy of one day taking its place as ‘antiquity,’ it is necessary for the mysterious beauty which human life accidentally puts into it to be distilled from it… By modernity, I mean the transitory, the fugitive, the contingent, which makes up one half of art, the other being the eternal and the immutable.”

—Charles Baudelaire, The Painter of Modern Life

For contemporary scholars of religion, David Tracy’s description of limit-situations as the “stuff” of theological reflection provides a helpful lens through which to consider religious experience. And yet, while one might easily suppose that such “ecstatic” and “boundary” experiences name timeless or perennial aspects of human life, Tracy himself is quick to note that the limit situation is itself a distinctively “modern” discursive phenomenon, having its roots in existentialist philosophy, and entering the mainstream of theological discourse only in the last several generations.

Today both historians of religion as well as constructive theologians are faced with the task of deciding how far religious experiences and limit situations can be meaningfully discussed as separate from their contextual origins in time, language, and culture. As Baudelaire suggests, such a disentangling of what is “eternal and immutable” from the “accidents” of the present-day constitutes a daunting task. And indeed, as each successive generation’s “modernity” seeks to distinguish itself even further from the “pre-modern” preceding it, entanglements between limit-experiences and the new discourses that attend to them can only grow in complexity.

The 3rd Annual Fordham Graduate Theology Conference seeks to examine the relationship between such limit- experiences and their historical and discursive contexts. The Theology Graduate Association warmly invites submissions from graduate students in the disciplines comprising religious studies and theology (and cognate fields). Students whose research is primarily textual/biblical, sociological, historical, philosophical, ethical, or constructive are all invited to submit and attend. Submissions are especially welcomed which: explore the relationship between “religious experience” and “religious history”; situate apophatic and negative theological texts/traditions within their broader historical, social, and discursive contexts (including proposals dealing with modern and contemporary constructive apophatic/negative theologies); explore the ways in which religious communities make use of shared “limit-situation” religious experiences, e.g., as in mystical traditions, Pietism, Pentecostalism, etc.; consider diachrony and synchrony in the construction of theological concepts such as history, memory, affect, and identity; and address the “limits” of religious language generally. Papers addressing related themes beyond these suggestions are welcomed as well.

Abstracts (of roughly 300 words) proposing 20 minute presentations should be sent via email
to fordhamtgsa@gmail.com. The deadline for submissions is Friday, January 17th, 2014. Notifications regarding submissions will be given by Monday, January 27th.

The conference will be held on Saturday, February 8th at Fordham’s Rose Hill Campus. A keynote address by Dr. Catherine Keller (Professor of Constructive Theology in the Graduate Division of Religion at Drew University) will consider the curiously “modern” logic of the infinite in Nicolas of Cusa. Complete conference schedule and program to follow. Limited New York City lodging for graduate student presenters is available. Please direct any questions to fordhamtgsa@gmail.com.

Animals as Religious Subjects :: Book/Chapter Announcement

This news will be old in the timeframe of social media, but still fresh in the timeframe of books. A little more than a month ago, T&T Clark released an edited volume entitled Animals as Religious Subjects: Transdisciplinary Perspectives. The essays collected within were (by and large) presented at a conference by the same title that took place in the summer of 2011 near the University of Chester. The book was edited by Celia Deanne-Drummond, Rebecca Artinian Kaiser, and David Clough, to whom I am very grateful.

My gratitude is due because of the inclusion of an essay of mine entitled “‘Marvel at the Intelligence of Unthinking Creatures'”: Contemplative Animals in Gregory of Nazianzus and Evagrius of Pontus.” The quote in the title is from Gregory’s 28th Oration, and the essay examines this “unthinking intelligence” of animals, which Gregory and other late-antique authors often attribute to an externalized rationality, an infusion of the divine Logos. With Giorgio Agamben’s “anthropological machine” providing the framework for analysis, my essay argues that what Gregory and Evagrius (among others) describe as the goal of (human) contemplation–the very height of human spirituality–cannot be so easily differentiated from this externalized animal rationality.

There are many other excellent essays in the volume. Essays particularly helpful for my own interests were Tim Ingold’s chapter on “Walking with Dragons”; Aaron Gross’s chapter on “The Study of Religion after the Animal”; and Ingvild Sælid Gilhus’s chapter “From Sacrifices to Symbols: Animals in Late Antiquity and Early Christianity.” Additionally, David Clough has an excellent essay on the theological uses of classification schemes, and Charles Camosy, a Fordham professor with whom I have worked here and there, has an essay engaging with Peter Singer, putting forth a Roman Catholic argument that personhood cannot be categorically denied to non-human animals.

The book is prohibitively expensive for most people, but those with the ability to order books at their library will likely find the volume to be helpful.

2012 Books

In years past, I’ve posted a list of the books that I’d read cover-to-cover over the course of the year. I never got around to it last year, but thought I’d resume the habit. All the usual caveats attain with regard to my categorization; it is inevitably arbitrary and disputable. For most categories, I’ve put the book that I found to be most illuminating or entertaining in Bold face, and the book that I don’t particularly recommend in a shade of the color brown.

I’m happy to say that I’ve read quite a bit more fiction this year than in several previous years, and I’m close to being able to include DFW’s Infinite Jest on the list, though it will have to wait for next year. Of course, I wish that I’d taken the time to read more, but unfortunately reading seems to be what “gives” when I’m under the gun of writing or application deadlines. Since I never posted last year’s books, I’ve included that list separately, below the break.

What books from your 2012 reading will your thoughts carry into 2013?

__

2012

Theology:

Christopher A. Beeley, Gregory of Nazianzus on the Trinity and the Knowledge of God: In Your Light we see Light, 396.

Sigurd Bergmann, Creation Set Free: The Spirit as Liberator of Nature, 389.

Peter Scott, A Political Theology of Nature, 275.

Kevin Corrigan, Evagrius and Gregory: Mind, Soul, and Body in the 4th Century, 245.

Daniel Colucciello Barber, On Diaspora: Christianity, Religion, and Secularity, 155.

David Clough, On Animals: Volume I, Systematic Theology, 215.

Deborah Creamer, Disability and Christian Theology: Embodied Limits and Constructive Possibilities, 156.

David Kelsey, Eccentric Existence: A Theological Anthropology vol. 1, 602.

David Kelsey, Eccentric Existence: A Theological Anthropology vol. 2, 490.

 

Philosophy:

Jean-Christophe Bailly, The Animal Side, 87.

Giorgio Agamben, The Kingdom and the Glory: For a Theological Genealogy of Economy and Government, 303.

Michael Naas, Miracle and Machine: Jacques Derrida and the Two Sources of Religion, Science, and the Media, 407.

Penelope Deutscher, How To Read: Derrida, 133.

Richard Sorabji, Animal Minds and Human Morals: The Origins of the Western Debate, 267.

Georges Bataille, Theory of Religion, 126.

Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac: And Sketches Here and There, 228.

Donna J. Haraway, When Species Meet, 423.

Julia Kristeva, Strangers to Ourselves, 230.

Peter Singer, Animal Liberation, 320.

 

History/Historiography:

Ingvild Sælid Gilhus, Animals, Gods and Humans: Changing Attitudes to Animals in Greek, Roman, and Early Christian Ideas, 322.

Robert M. Grant, Early Christians and Animals, 214.

James Serpell, In the Company of Animals, 215.

David Brakke, Demons and the Making of the Monk: Spiritual Combat in Early Christianity, 308.

Julia S. Konstantinovsky, Evagrius Ponticus: The Making of a Gnostic, 217.

 

Biblical Studies:

Scot McKnight, Junia is Not Alone, 25.

 

Biography/Memoir:

John Muir, My First Summer in the Sierra, 270.

Fiction/Literature:

Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God, 160.

Ed Abbey, The Monkey Wrench Gang, 385.

Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow, 776.

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World, 232.

Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Devils, 704.

Fyodor Dostoevsky, Uncle’s Dream, 155.

David Foster Wallace, The Broom of the System, 467.

 

Sports:

Christopher McDougall, Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World has Never Seen, 287.

Read the rest of this entry »

“Maybe we are doing it wrong?”: On Diversity in the Theological Academy

Readers interested in the theological academy should go to Brandy Daniels’ latest piece at  AUFS. Brandy is responding to a post by Tony Baker, following up on some questions at a meeting tangential to the AAR last weekend. I was not at the Theology Studio meeting, but I’ve seen the same white-male dynamic enough to be familiar with what went on.

I want to append one comment to my recommendation of Brandy’s post, which looks to be the beginning of a longer series. After reading Tony’s post. I really wish that, for once, the response to a question about the overwhelming predominance of white men in certain kinds of conversations would be something along the lines of, “Hmmm… Maybe we’re doing this wrong?”

Instead, the most common response  is something of the sort that Tony has written in which the discourse continues on as usual (with a touch more sensitivity mixed in). There seems to be an operating assumption that if the discourses are just a little more open to participation from women and folks of color, eventually the non white-male people will “catch up” and want to join in. There is rarely, if ever, serious reflection about how the structure of the discourse itself, and that of the institutions, organizations, and histories that make up the discipline of systematic theology as it stands have—to put it nicely—“privilege problems” that run all the way to the core.

I am a theologian; I’m a part of the game too, and I’m not giving up on the questions and concerns that drive theological inquiry. But responses like the one Tony has offered remind me all too much of MLK’s claim with regard to civil rights that the real impediment to change wasn’t the fire-breathing racists of the KKK, but the sensitive, well meaning, sympathetic white moderates who were “on the right side” but just wanted to think things through on their own terms a little longer.

Christians and Other Animals :: NYC, November 16th, 4-6pm

 

Fordham is hosting a panel on animals, ethics, and Christian responsibility. The conversations will take place November 16th, from 4-6pm at the Lincoln Center Campus (60th and Columbus), in the 12th floor Lounge.

The headliner for the event is obviously Peter Singer, but David Clough has been doing quite a lot of really important work on animals in Christian ethics and theology, for which he is increasingly getting much-deserved attention. Rusty Reno, of First Things fame, has been invited to play the role of “sympathetic skeptic.” I’m very honored to be rounding out the panel, talking about ethical implications in my current research. My approach to animal questions differs as much from Singer and Clough’s as theirs differ from one another, and Reno is not known for shying away from controversy—so I’m looking forward to a very lively conversation. All the credit for organizing the event goes to Charles Camosy, who will moderate the panel.

If you’re in the area and you’d like to attend, please RSVP to christiansandotheranimals@gmail.com  I believe that the conversation will also be streamed live, and I’ll post the details here for that as soon as I have them.

 

Sacred Topographies: or, Parks and Revelation


The second rendition of the Fordham Graduate Theology Conference will take place on October 20th, from 9:30AM – 6:00PM at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus (60th and Columbus). Dr. Elizabeth Castelli of Barnard/Columbia will be giving a keynote address at 5 PM. Fellow student John Penniman has done a fantastic job pulling this year’s conference together.

If you are in the area and interested, I would encourage you to come for all or part of the proceedings. The program is available here, and promises a wide range of interesting papers/panels. Here is the conferences official site.

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