UU and Liberal Religious Events at the 2009 American Academy of Religion Meeting

Every year Transient and Permanent brings you a list of papers, meetings, and other events related to liberal religion to be held at the upcoming annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion.  This year’s meeting is in Montreal, November 7-10 (some additional meetings actually occur on Friday the 6th).  Below is a list of events of potential interest.  In some cases, only one or a few of the papers in a session is relevant: therefore the slot in which the paper appears is indicated (i.e. it is the first, second, etc paper in the session).  Where possible, descriptions are included.

North American Paul Tillich Society
Tillich’s Lineage: Connections to Notables in Western Intellectual History
Friday – 9:00 am-11:30 am, PDC-515C

North American Paul Tillich Society
Tillich, Church, and Society in Twentieth Century Germany
Friday – 1:00 pm-3:30 pm, PDC-515B

North American Association for the Study of Religion
Disenchantment and Reenchantment in Political Theology: Diagnosing the Crisis of Liberalism
Friday – 4:00 pm-6:30 pm, PDC-510D

Benjamin Lazier, Reed College
Miracles and the Crisis of Liberalism between the Wars and Beyond

Kurt Anders Richardson, McMaster University
Legislation and Affection: On the Anthropological Dimensions of a Political Theology

Bruce Rosenstock, University of Illinois
Hegel and Modern Political Theology

Robert Yelle, University of Memphis
Liberalism Has No Charisma: Critiques of the Political Theology of Modernity in Max Weber, Carl Schmitt, and Philip Rieff

John Milbank, University of Nottingham

North American Paul Tillich Society
Panel on Andrew Finstuen’s Original Sin and Everyday Protestants
Friday – 4:00 pm-6:30 pm, PDC-515C

The Niebuhr Society
A Century in Public Theology: Reinhold Niebuhr and Richard John Neuhaus: Religion and American Public Life in the Twentieth Century and Beyond
Saturday – 9:00 am-11:30 am, PDC-516C

William Cavanaugh, University of St. Thomas
Gary Dorrien, Union Theological Seminary
Jean Bethke Elshtain, University of Chicago
David Novak, University of Toronto

10:30 am Research Reports
K. Healan Gaston, University of California, Berkeley
Kevin Carnahan, Hendrix College

Religion and Politics Section
Theme: The Politics of Religion in the Contemporary United States
Saturday – 9:00 am-11:30 am, PDC-511A

Robert P. Jones, Public Religion Research, Presiding

Paper number four:
Joseph Kosek, George Washington University
The American Religious Left and Its Secular Critics
This paper considers the controversy over religion in the history of American progressive and radical politics. The “religious left” has received much recent attention, but that attention has downplayed the differences between religious and secular visions of social transformation. To uncover those differences, I investigate criticism of the religious left by secular Socialists, Communists, and left-liberals during the 1920s and 1930s. Michael Gold, Harry Elmer Barnes, and other secularists maintained that even progressive religion was irrelevant, or positively harmful, to the causes of peace and justice. My inquiry seeks to understand religion as a source not only of inspiration but also of disagreement and conflict. This historical debate offers a new way of thinking about religion, secularism, and progressive politics in the recent past and in our own time.

Liberal Theologies Consultation and Theology of Martin Luther King Jr. Consultation
Theme: Martin Luther King Jr. and Barack Obama: Liberal Visions
Saturday – 9:00 am-11:30 am, PDC-513A

Christine Helmer, Northwestern University, Presiding
Johnny B. Hill, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Presiding

The Visions of Martin Luther King and Barack H. Obama: Social Critics, Preachers, and the Popular Press
The election of Barack Obama as President has brought with it many connections to Martin Luther King Jr. Where some have seen him as the heir apparent of the “Joshua generation”, others have seen a sharp opposition between the visions of the two men. After an assessment of the portrait of the connections between Barack Obama and MLK, this paper will argue that that while the ultimate visions of the two men are compatible, central parts of that vision and many of the methods are not. There are also many points of variance. From his relationship with Rev. Jeremiah Wright to the increased war efforts and rhetoric, there is strong support for those who seem opposing visions. Ultimately, it falls on the role of these two men–prophet and politician-and these roles offer us a way to understand their differing visions within a proper light.

Curtis Evans, University of Chicago
Caught in an Inescapable Network of Mutuality: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Theology of Human Interrelatedness
Martin Luther King Jr.’s theology presents a deep and fundamental challenge to notions of meritocratic and liberal individualism that have so dominated American social thought, particularly as it relates to race and colorblindness, since the 1970s. I argue that King’s commitment to a social Christianity, his ideal of the beloved community that continually seeks to approximate an ethical reality in time and history, and his retooling of the Christian tradition based on his personal struggle with racism and his academic sojourn provide us with conceptual tools to join recent critiques of liberal individualism and persisting inequalities that some regard as inevitable and based on a policy of colorblindness. We cannot view King’s critique of liberal individualism without a frank and critical discussion of his religious vision, his theological understanding of integration, and the potential challenge such a deeply-rooted religious vision holds for secular justifications for and attempts at social reform.

Pamela K. Brubaker, California Lutheran University
“Beloved Community” as a Global Ethic of Justice
This paper examines the theo-ethical meaning of King’s vision of “beloved community” as a global ethic of community and reconciliation, with a particular focus on wealth and poverty as a global justice issue. The first part discusses King’s thinking on political and economic justice, which he treats as interrelated, inseparable, and a framework for the beloved community. The second part turns to how we might draw on King’s thinking to address contemporary global justice issues. I turn to the current work of the World Council of Churches on AGAPE: Alternative Globalization Addressing People and Earth, a study process on poverty, wealth, and ecology. My aim is to elucidate King’s thinking and vision as a contribution to this work. King has been quite influential in the WCC work on racism and peacemaking, but not on economic justice. His thought and vision have much to contribute.

North American Paul Tillich Society
God and Being/God Above and Beyond Being — and God
Saturday – 9:00 am-11:30 am, FQE-Péribonka

Theology of Martin Luther King Jr. Consultation
Theme: The World House: Considering the “Beloved Community” as a Global Ethic of Justice and Inclusivity
Saturday – 1:00 pm-3:30 pm, PDC-510B

Johnny B. Hill, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Presiding
Stephen G. Ray, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary
Quest for the Beloved Community: The Goodness of God and the Persistence of Social Evil in Global Society

Ronald E. Peters, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
The Urban God: The City as the Beloved Community and Theological Symbol of a Just Society
Using Martin Luther King, Jr’s inclusive vision of the beloved community, Howard Thurman’s ideas about the Search for Common Ground, and building on tenets imbedded in the scriptural notion of the Kingdom of God, this presentation will explore the idea of the Urban God as a Christian-based approach to interfaith collaboration that aims to lead toward an egalitarian society, not merely as ideal, but as a prophetic articulation of faith where justice and right relationship are taken seriously as public policy.

Charlene Sinclair, Union Theological Seminary
Toward a Theology of Resistance and Praxis: A Gramscian Analysis of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement
In his 2002 introduction to Prophesy Deliverance! Cornel West states “black creative appropriation of Christianity” has shaped both the articulation of Black oppression and the form of Black liberative efforts in ways that have been both good and bad. “Good because Christian faith has sustained a hope against hope for despised people with severely limited options in an American civilization that prides itself on its liberties, opportunities and possibilities. Bad, because Christian outlooks have downplayed the fundamental role of economic structures and institutions in subjugating peoples and individuals in an American society that views itself as the land of upward mobility and social experimentation.” In response to West’s critique this study attempts to recognize the central role of economic structures in shaping human misery, serve as a critique of US capitalism and offer a constructive political theology of resistance and praxis.

Vincent Lloyd, Georgia State University
Beyond Love and Justice: Natural Law in King’s “Beloved Community”
Is the “beloved community” envisioned by Martin Luther King, Jr., a community without law? Accounts of King’s vision of beloved community often focus on its configuration of love and justice, leaving aside questions of law. But King’s writings and speeches are laced with references to the Christian natural law tradition, including explicit appeals to Augustine and Aquinas. Often, scholars have understood King’s natural law language as part of a broad, secular American tradition of appeal to principles of justice. In contrast, my paper takes seriously the role of the Christian natural law tradition in King’s writings by investigating not only King’s public, political remarks but also his published and unpublished sermons, academic writings, and correspondence. King’s commitment to natural law forces a revision of how beloved community is understood. Rather than offering a “prophetic liberalism,” I argue that King offers a much more radical political-theological vision.

Roy Whitaker, Claremont Graduate University
World House: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Definition of Globalization
This paper examines Martin Luther King, Jr.’s concept of globalization–“world house”–in light of the twentieth-first century debate on defining globalization. The debate is framed well in Jan Schotle’s work ‘Globalization: A Critical Introduction.’ In this work, Scholte provides a suitable definition of globalization that overcomes previous problematic definitions of the term. In the end, Scholte opts for “deterritorialization” as a proper working-definition of globalization; which he understands as a seismic swift in the growth and nature of social space. Although Schotle’s definition insightfully avoids former erroneous ones, however his definition has problems of its own. Thus, this paper seeks to problematize Schotle’s “deterritorialization” by placing it in tension with King’s “world house” description of globalization. This paper argues that King’s “world house” not only prefigures, but goes beyond Schotle’s “deterritorialization”–namely, providing an ethical paradigm for cultivating peace and social justice in a globalizing world.

Theology and the Political Consultation
Theme: Aesthetics, Ethics, and the Politics of Theology
Saturday – 4:00 pm-6:30 pm, PDC-510D

Corey D. B. Walker, Brown University, Presiding

Paper number two:
Mark S. Cladis, Brown University

Theology, Democracy, and Virtue: Emerson and the Journey’s End

Nineteenth-Century Theology Group
Theme: Theology and the Culture of War, Part I
Saturday – 4:00 pm-6:30 pm, PDC-516D

Russell C. Kleckley, Augsburg College, Presiding

Paper number one:
Paul Rasor, Virginia Welseyan College
The War Discourses of William Ellery Channing: Pacifism and Just War in Antebellum American Religious Liberalism
William Ellery Channing (1780-1842), best known for his writings that defined religious liberalism against the dominant Calvinist orthodoxy of his time, also produced a remarkable set of writings on war. These writings—spanning more than three decades—reflect the moral and theological struggles of early progressive Christians around issues of peace and war. This paper analyzes Channing’s views on peace and war in light of his involvement in the early peace movement, the core principles of his liberal theology, and the armed conflicts of the antebellum period. The paper concludes that Channing’s war discourses are both a reflection of their time and ahead of their time. They anticipate recent developments in just war thinking and foreshadow the preventive strategies advocated by contemporary proponents of peacemaking and world community.

Paper number two:
Annie Liss, University of Iowa
“Friendly Ideas, American Institutions”: Isaac Sharpless’s Quaker Histories and Advocacy for Peace Policies in Late Nineteenth Century America
This paper explores the construction of an alternative narrative of nationalism by late-nineteenth century Quaker historian Isaac Sharpless. I argue that Sharpless’s narrative fusion of history, theology, and politics is primarily constructed around his advocacy for pacifism. His aims in writing about the “holy experiment” of the Quaker colony of Pennsylvania were twofold. From a historical standpoint, he wished to redirect attention away from Puritan New England to Quaker Pennsylvania as the cradle of American freedom and democracy. Moreover, he wished to demonstrate that peace was central to American liberty and equality. In political terms, he wished to present a model of Quaker involvement in politics that need not entail compromise on the issues of pacifism. While the colonial Pennsylvania government had been successful in a number of ways, he challenged his Quaker audience to further advance the holy experiment in America through the peace testimony.

Unitarian Universalist Scholars and Friends Discussion
Multi-Faith Religious Liberalism
Saturday – 7:00 pm-9:30 pm, PDC-524C

The annual discussion will explore the challenges and opportunities that arise when liberal religious congregations (within and beyond Unitarian Universalism) include members who identify with multiple faith traditions. How does liberal religion retain its liberal identity while also supporting the desire of individuals to embrace an eclectic set of religious beliefs? Have multi-faith commitments become the core of liberal religion? How should religious liberals distinguish respectful appropriation from misappropriation of other traditions? Confirmed panelists include Mike Altman, Samira Mehta, Rebecca Parker, and Jeff Wilson. Elaine Peresluha will moderate and Diane Rollert will respond. Sponsored by Starr King School for the Ministry, Meadville Lombard Theological School, Harvard Divinity School, and UUA Panel on Theological Education.

Liberal Theologies Consultation
Theme: Aesthetic Pragmatism, Rawls, and Obama: Resurgent Liberalisms Today
Sunday – 1:00 pm-2:30 pm, PDC-511A

Peter C. Hodgson, Vanderbilt University, Presiding

Sharon D. Welch, Meadville Lombard Theological School
Aesthetic Pragmatism and a Third Wave of Radical Politics

Elizabeth Barre, Emory University
A Rawls by Any Other Name: Religious Pluralism and Public Reason in the Political Vision of Barack Obama
One of the most striking aspects of the 2008 presidential campaign was that the Democratic candidate seemed far more comfortable speaking about matters of faith than his Republican rival. Unlike many within his own party, Barack Obama consistently challenged those who sought to eliminate the influence of religion within both public political discourse and governmental social programs. Yet, his commitment to protecting the rights of non-Christian religious minorities, and non-believers in particular, has been equally unprecedented. This paper explores the nuanced way Obama has held these two positions together, arguing that his vision represents a popularized version of some of the best arguments in contemporary American political philosophy. More specifically, I show that he has translated, and made more palatable, many of John Rawls’ most complicated ideas about religious pluralism and public reason in a liberal democracy.

Evangelical Theology Group and Ecclesiological Investigations Group
Theme: Ecclesial Being and Belonging: Ecumenical, Evangelical, and Interdisciplinary Perspectives Today
Sunday – 1:00 pm-2:30 pm, PDC-513F

Michael Attridge, University of St. Michael’s College, Presiding

Paper number three:
Michael Montgomery, Chicago Theological Seminary
Finding the Right Direction: Ecclesiology from Below
Nicholas Healy’s (2000) call for ecclesiologies of maps rather than blueprints raised a challenge in ecclesiololgy that has been insufficiently answered. This paper utilizes the practical theological insights of Groome, McClintock Fulkerson, Randle and Mann to construct standards for a mapping ecclesiology, and utilizes the framework of the American theologian H. Richard Niebuhr to construct one such theological map to guide congregations in their ‘practical and prophetic’ tasks.

Philosophy of Religion Section
Theme: Non-Duality
Sunday – 1:00 pm-2:30 pm, PDC-510C

Phyllis Granoff, Yale University, Presiding

Paper number one:
David L. Smith, Central Michigan University
Emerson’s Performative Nondualism
The goal of nondualism in its classical Asian forms might be characterized as an attempt to undermine the mind’s every attempt to move away from its own starting point. Its implications for spiritual practice are similar: the goal of practice does not lie ‘elsewhere,’ for there is nowhere else for anything we think we lack to be. Understood in these terms, nondualism characterizes the intellectual project of Ralph Waldo Emerson. His literary practice intervenes in western thought to call it back to a nondual matrix of self and world which, on Emerson’s account, precedes discriminatory thought. The chief problem of spiritual life, accordingly, is not that we are not whole, but that we ever came to think that we are otherwise. The nature and limits of Emerson’s nondualism will be explored in this paper principally through an interpretation of his relatively little-known essay, ‘The Comic.’

North American Religions Section
Theme: Re(de)fining Religious Identities East to West
Sunday – 5:00 pm-6:30 pm, PDC-510C

Khyati Joshi, Fairleigh Dickinson University, Presiding

Paper number one:
Matthew Hedstrom, Roger Williams University
Mahatma Gandhi as Liberal Protestant: E. Stanley Jones and Howard Thurman
This paper aims to understand how Gandhi came to be a source of spiritual inspiration in North American liberal Protestantism. The influence of Gandhian non-violence on the African-American civil rights movement is a well-known chapter of United States social and political history, but Gandhi’s appropriation by liberal Christians for a broader set of religious purposes is less well understood. Gandhi’s movement of nonviolent resistance to British imperialism in India, of course, served as the point of entry for American Christians, especially American Christian pacifists between the world wars. This paper explores, in particular, the interpretations of Gandhi presented by two influential liberal Protestant Americans, E. Stanley Jones and Howard Thurman, and how their representations of Gandhi allowed for him to be subsequently appropriated and reframed in liberal Protestant terms as a “universal” mystic and saint.

Arts, Literature, and Religion Section
Theme: Crossing the Boundaries of Art and Religion in Nineteenth-Century America and Britain
Sunday – 5:00 pm-6:30 pm, PDC-520AD

John D. Barbour, Saint Olaf College, Presiding
Paper number one:
Malcolm Young, Mountain View, CA
Henry David Thoreau and the Religious Roots of Environmental Literature and Art
Twentieth century scholars underestimated the importance of religious influences on the thought of Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862). This led critics to treat his love of nature in essentially ahistorical terms, either as a personal eccentricity or a unique sensitivity to the environment rather than as an element of his inherited piety. By disregarding Thoreau’s Transcendentalism they failed to see important connections between his Journal and the spiritual journals of his Protestant forebears. This presentation explores two ideas. First, that Puritan, Quaker and Methodist spiritual journals deeply influenced the form, content and motivation for Thoreau’s Journal. Second, this presentation will use images to explore how the expectations Thoreau shared with these religious forebears inform the approach to nature exemplified in the work of Hudson River School painters such as Thomas Cole (1801-1848), Frederick Church (1826-1900) and Asher B. Durand (1796-1886).

Unitarian Universalist Scholars and Friends Reception
Sunday – 7:00 pm-8:30 pm, FQE-Saint-Charles
Persons connected to the Unitarian Universalist tradition are invited to gather for conversation and to plan next year’s events. Sponsored by Starr King School for the Ministry, Meadville Lombard Theological School, Harvard Divinity School, and UUA Panel on Theological Education.

Tillich: Issues in Theology, Religion, and Culture Group
Theme: God above God: Tillich, Taylor, and the New Atheism
Monday – 9:00 am-11:30 am, PDC-511C

Julia A. Lamm, Georgetown University, Presiding

Glenn Whitehouse, Florida Gulf Coast University
“Yes Richard, Theology is a Subject”: Tillich’s System of the Sciences Versus the Disciplinary Encroachments of the New Atheism
This presentation will treat Tillich’s early text The System of the Sciences According to Objects and Methods as a response to the New Atheism. While authors like Dawkins, Dennett and Wilson suggest that ‘consciousness studies’ or a science of memes can replace humanities and social sciences methods, Tillich’s early work is characterized by a careful delineation of the intentional object and method of each discipline. I will suggest that Tillich’s disciplinary scheme is applicable to the present day academy, and that it is more fruitful for interdisciplinary inquiry than ‘meme-ology.’ I will suggest that Tillich’s approach needs to be supplemented by Ricoeur in order to gain a thematization of language adequate to the engagement with the new atheism; and I will explore Tillich’s idea of ‘theonomy’ as a way to delineate the subject matter of theology as a theology of culture.

Richard Grigg, Sacred Heart University
The New Atheism, the God Beyond God, and the Phenomenology of Wonder
Thinkers such as Ursula Goodenough and Sharman Apt Russell have produced essentially pantheistic religious perspectives that avoid the strictures of the new scientifically-based atheism. These perspectives place emphasis on the experience of wonder, where wonder is understood phenomenologically as a mood given to consciousness. Paul Tillich’s exploration of the ‘God beyond God,’ which is connected with the courage of despair, can strengthen such perspectives in three ways. First, by uncovering the inescapability of being as revealed in the courage of despair, Tillich’s investigation demonstrates that wonder is secured in an encompassing property of our consciousness of the world despite experiences of wonder being discrete and momentary. Second, it shows that wonder has ontological rather than merely ontic significance. Third, Tillich’s exploration shows how the ‘power of being’ can fill a role that those who are religiously enamored of nature are often tempted to assign to the unscientific notion of vitalism.

David H. Nikkel, University of North Carolina, Pembroke
Tillich’s God above God after Mark Taylor’s After God
In his After God, Mark C. Taylor uses Tillich’s theology to develop a three-pronged typology of religions. He then consigns Tillich’s understanding of the divine-world relationship to the monistic type. This paper will argue that Tillich’s ontology of the self-world correlation does not support Taylor’s claim that difference and time are unreal for Tillich. Further, it argues that despite ambiguity in Tillich’s language, in the final analysis a world in some otherness from God does make a real difference to the divine life. Finally it urges that in some respects Tillich’s theology better fulfills Taylor’s preferred type of religion, that of ‘complexity,’ than does Taylor’s own model.

Daniel Boscaljon, University of Iowa
What God is Ultimate? Contrasting Tillich’s Different “Gods” in Terms of Faith
Because Tillich utilizes slightly different conceptions of the God beyond the God of theism and the faith with which this God can be sensed, the paper’s primary purpose is to argue the superiority of Tillich’s original formulation in The Courage to Be. This is argued by contrasting the emphasis on subjective conviction and objective uncertainty required in Courage’s absolute faith (due to the extreme nature of the attack of meaninglessness) with the self-negating symbol featured in Dynamics of Faith. Although Dynamics extends the duration of faith, arguing that the truth of faith depends on the symbol (instead of the individual), this problematically shifts focus from the subjective to the objective, and unnecessarily removes responsibility for faith from the individual. The paper concludes by offering “vigilant faith” as an alternative that merges the sustainability of Dynamics and the individual responsibility and unmediated faith of Courage.

Tillich: Issues in Theology, Religion, and Culture Group
Theme: Tillich in Dialogue with New Issues in Theology, Religion, and Culture
Monday – 4:00 pm-6:30 pm, PDC-515C

Jonathan Rothchild, Loyola Marymount University, Presiding

This session, in which Tillich is placed in dialogue with Theodore Adorno, Reinhold Niebuhr, and others, and with issues as divergent as Christian–Jewish relations, the global economic crisis, and disability theology, reflects the broad conversation to which Tillich’s theology lends itself.

Christopher C. Brittain, University of Aberdeen
Tillich and Adorno: Two Versions of a Theology of Correlation
This paper analyses Tillich’s understanding of correlation through an engagement with the criticism of this approach by Theodor W. Adorno. Adorno’s philosophy presents a rather sweeping challenge to Tillich’s concept of finitude. More generally, Adorno’s analysis of the culture industry prevents any methodological presumption that present experience might serve as a foundation for either a philosophical or theological ontology. An yet, throughout his critical philosophy, Adorno continues to make references to an important role of theology, and a significant influence in this regard remains Paul Tillich. This paper demonstrates that, by bringing Tillich and Adorno’s thought into dialogue, Adorno’s inverse theology can be described as an “inverse correlation.” It effectively reverses the attempt to correlate existing social problems with theological themes, in the manner proposed by Tillich. The paper illuminates the ongoing influence of Tillich’s thought in Adorno’s work, and deepens existing interpretations of his method of correlation.

Kayko Driedger Hesslein, Graduate Theological Union
The (Dis)Integration of Judaism in Tillich’s Theology of Universal Salvation
The nearly successful genocide of the Jews during World War II has led some Christian theologians to examine the history of their own theology, to determine to what extent certain aspects have contributed to a Christian supersessionism of Judaism and/or explicit anti-Judaism. This presentation will examine Paul Tillich’s theology as he integrates (or fails to integrate) Judaism into his theology of universal salvation. It will do so through the lens of salvation history, exploring the degree to which his attempt to unite salvation and revelation with history influences his understanding of the soteriological destiny of Judaism

Peter Heltzel, New York Theological Seminary
Economic Democracy after Empire: Paul Tillich, Evangelical Socialism, and the Global Crisis
Paul Tillich’s prophetic theology mediated the socialist impulse to American Protestantism. In the evangelical liberal tradition, we see this influence in the early Reinhold Niebuhr, a form of theologizing that lives on in the work of Gary Dorrien and Mark Lewis Taylor. Niebuhr eventually broke from socialism, ushering in a paradigm of “Christian realism” in social ethics that provided the theological architecture for the neo-conservative philosophy that drove the George W. Bush administration. In the prophetic evangelical tradition, we see the emergence of the socialist impulse in the theological ethics of Ron Sider and Jim Wallis, a tradition indebted to the German pietist tradition that Tillich and Karl Barth helped to transport to the Americas. Evangelical socialism is a theological tradition whose time has come. Amidst the global economic crisis, it is vital that prophetic Protestantism, both evangelical and liberal, articulate and embody a Christ-centered vision of economic democracy.

Devan Stahl, Vanderbilt University
Health, Wholeness, and Normalization: A Dialogue Between Disability Theology and Paul Tillich
Within this paper I will highlight the problematic nature of Tillich’s understanding of health and its connection to wholeness from the perspective of disability theology. I will challenge both Tillich’s use of the metaphor of health as well as his ontology, as both appear to run the risk of normalizing human bodies. I believe there are ways in which Tillich positively complicates our understanding of total health in his use of the multidimensional unity of life, but find his understanding of disease as a disruption of our centeredness problematic for those who suffer from incurable illness. Using concepts from modern neuroscience, I will offer an interpretation of pain and suffering as inherently meaningful and, therefore, replete with potential for transformation for both the individual and his or her community.

Pragmatism and Empiricism in American Religious Thought Group
Theme: The Challenge(s) of Richard Rorty: A Tribute
Tuesday – 9:00 am-11:30 am, FQE-Harricana

Eddie S. Glaude, Princeton University, Presiding

Paper number one:
Scott Holland, Bethany Theological Seminary
Pragmatic Public Theologies: Richard Rorty’s Polytheism and His Grandfather Rauschenbusch’s Social Gospel
Unlike earlier American pragmatists, for most of his career, Richard Rorty had little constructive to say about religion’s possible role in contributing to human flourishing and the public good. However, his later writings place Dewey and James in the creative tradition of romantic polytheism wherein the notion of divine polyphony or a multiplicity of gods might indeed become a deep metaphor for the plurality of private needs and ethical goals in a liberal democracy. With his more congenial, metaphorical reading of religion, Rorty seems to imagine the possibility of a romance of faith as a poetics, indeed a pragmatic theopoetics, rather than a metaphysics. Further, Rorty finally turns his attention to a rather pragmatic review of his grandgather’s theology of the Social Gospel. I will explore the pragmatic theopoetic moves in Rorty and Rauschenbusch and their significance for a public theology in servive to a liberal and pluralistic democracy.



Filed under Liberal Religion at the American Academy of Religion

2 responses to “UU and Liberal Religious Events at the 2009 American Academy of Religion Meeting

  1. amylynn1022

    Anyone who has the opportunity I would recommend attending one of thes talk by Johnny Hill about MLK, Jr.’s theology. I took a course about King from him at Louisville Seminary and it was excellent.

  2. Pingback: Doing nothing, fascism rising, and apologizing to Indians « uuworld.org : The Interdependent Web

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