Category Archives: Liberal Religion at the American Academy of Religion

More Details on the UU Scholars and Friends Session at the AAR

Unitarian Universalist Scholars and Friends Discussion

Saturday, November 19, 6:30-9:00 pm

Continental Ballroom 2, Hilton Union Square

Theme:  “Celebrating Embodied and Transformative Worship and Ritual”:

“Our annual conversation will explore ritual practices that build multi-religious, justice-loving beloved communities. Unitarian Universalists have long struggled to transcend both the cultural and class privileges of our forebears and our inherited skepticism about ritual and the body. In this event we will celebrate the new possibilities that open up when we join these two struggles together. A diverse group of panelists will share both specific case studies and general principles drawn from the fields of theology and ritual studies.  Our emphasis will be on what is now working well within and beyond Unitarian Universalist communities, as well as on ritual strategies for turning failures into opportunities for growth. Panelists include Dorsey Blake, Clyde Grubbs, Emily Mace, and Robert McCauley. Myriam Renaud will moderate and Nancy Palmer Jones will respond. Sponsored by Starr King School for the Ministry, Meadville Lombard Theological School, Harvard Divinity School, Beacon Press, and UUA Panel on Theological Education.”


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Liberal Religious Presentations at the 2011 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion

This year that annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion will be held in San Francisco.  Some associated session begin Friday, November 18; the meeting officially runs Saturday to Tuesday, November 19-22.  Here is a list of sessions being offered that deal with liberal religious subjects.  As usual, the Unitarian Universalist Scholars and Friends will host a panel session and a separate reception.  Note: in some cases, only one presentation (i.e. the one dealing with liberal religion) has been listed, out of a session with multiple presentations.


North American Paul Tillich Society
Tillich and Culture

Friday – 9:00 am-11:30 am
Room: HI-Mason

Mary Ann Stenger, University of Louisville
Tillich’s Theology of Culture in Relation to the American Religious-Secular Dialectic

Rose Caraway, University of Florida
A New Human Being: The Religious Dimensions of Secularism in Cuban and Soviet Moralities

Bert Daelemans, Katholieke Universiteit, Leuven
The Breakthrough of the Spirit in Contemporary Church Architecture


North American Paul Tillich Society
Courage and Symbol in Tillich

Friday – 1:00 pm-3:30 pm
Room: HI-Mason

Derek Nelson, Thiel College
Absolutely Relative: Teaching Dynamics of Faith, on teaching Dynamics of Faith

Verna Marina Ehret, Mercyhurst College
Doubt, Courage, and the Transformation of Redemption Within Globalization

Ryan O’Leary, University of Iowa
Gaia as Symbol


North American Paul Tillich Society
International and Interreligious Approaches of Tillich

Friday – 4:00 pm-6:30 pm
Room: HI-Mason

Theo Junker, Université de Strasbourg
Paul Tillich’s Mature Politics: Unconfined Realism and Vigilant Hope. Examples from his Enduring Legacy of Political Affirmations and Refutations

Anne Marie Reijnen, Faculté Universitaire de Théologie Protestante de Bruxelles
Das Neue Denken in Franz Rosenzweig and Paul Tillich. The “Star of Redemption” as a Jewish-Christian Theology of Correlation

Lon Weaver, Glen Avon Presbyterian Church


Tillich: Issues in Theology, Religion, and Culture Group

Saturday – 9:00 am-11:30 am
Room: CC-3018

Sharon Peebles Burch, Interfaith Counseling Center, Presiding

Theme: Ultimate Concern After the Post-Secular Age

John Robichaux, Harvard University
The Religiosity of the Secular and the Secularity of the Religious: Tillich, Murray, and Rawls


Daniel Miller, Mount Allison University
Ultimate Concern and Postmodern Theology: Two Competing Legacies


Adam Pryor, Graduate Theological Union
God as Still Living: An Analysis of Paul Tillich’s Concept of the Divine Life in Light of Mark Taylor’s Infinitization of the Finite


Niebuhr Society
Reinhold Niebuhr and the Economic Order

Saturday – 9:00 am-11:30 am
Room: MM-Club Room

John D. Carlson, Arizona State University, Presiding

Christopher Evans, Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School
Ties That Bind: The Christian Economics of Walter Rauschenbusch and Reinhold Niebuhr

Thomas Ogletree, Yale University
Facilitating Human Freedoms and Constraining Persistent Abuses: Reinhold Niebuhr’s Quest for Balance in the Public Oversight of Market Economies

Scott Paeth, DePaul University
The Great Recession: Some Niebuhrian Reflections


Reform in Islamic Thought: Challenges and Prospects
Saturday – 11:00 am-1:00 pm
Room: HI-Continental Ballroom 9


North American Paul Tillich Society
Philosophical and Mystical Aspects of Tillich’s Thought

Saturday – 1:00 pm-3:30 pm
Room: HI-Golden Gate 1

Rob James and Durwood Foster
Tillich’s ‘Killer Mistake’ regarding His ‘One Unsymbolic Statement’? It Never Happened

Jari Ristiniemi
Differential Thinking and the Possibility of Faith-Knowledge; Tillicj and Kierkegaard Between Negative and Positive Philosophy

Stephen Butler Murray
The Beauty of a Union with God through Dangerous Obedience: A Christian Mysticism of Social Activism


North American Religions Section

Saturday – 4:00 pm-6:30 pm
Room: CC-2006

Jeff Wilson, University of Waterloo, Presiding

Theme: Rethinking Key Paradigms in American Religion: “Black Church,” “Queering Religion,” “Nature Religion,” and “Material Culture”

Bron Taylor, University of Florida
Gaian Earth Religion: Vanishing Divine Being(s) and the Mod-God of Nature


Tillich: Issues in Theology, Religion, and Culture Group

Saturday – 4:00 pm-6:30 pm
Room: CC-3020

Russell Re Manning, University of Cambridge, Presiding

Theme: Faith, Betrayal, and Disenchantment: Paul Tillich in Dialogue with Contemporary Philosophy and Theology

Hollis Phelps, Mount Olive College
Evental Fidelity, Ultimate Concern, and the Subject: Reading Alain Badiou with Paul Tillich


Thomas A. James, Union Presbyterian Seminary
Can There be a Theology of Disenchantment?: Unbinding the Nihil in Tillich


Blake Huggins, Boston University
Tillich and Ontotheology: On the Fidelity of Betrayal


Carl-Eric Gentes, Lutheran School of Theology, Chicago
The Courage to Be(tray): An Emerging Conversation between Paul Tillich and Peter Rollins


Unitarian Universalist Scholars and Friends Discussion
Celebrating Embodied and Transformative Worship and Ritual

Saturday – 6:30 pm-9:00 pm
Room: HI-Continental Ballroom 2

Myriam Renaud, University of Chicago, Presiding

Our annual conversation will explore ritual practices that build multi-religious, justice-loving beloved communities. Unitarian Universalists have long struggled to transcend both the cultural and class privileges of our forebears and our inherited skepticism about ritual and the body. In this event we will celebrate the new possibilities that open up when we join these two struggles together. A diverse group of panelists will share both specific case studies and general principles drawn from the fields of theology and ritual studies. Our emphasis will be on what is now working well within and beyond Unitarian Universalist communities, as well as on ritual strategies for turning failures into opportunities for growth.

Dorsey Blake, Starr King School for the Ministry
Clyde Grubbs, Throop Unitarian Universalist Church
Emily Mace, Brevard College
Robert McCauley, Emory University

Nancy Palmer Jones, First Unitarian Church of San José


Queer Studies in Religion Consultation and Religion and Cities Consultation

Sunday – 1:00 pm-2:30 pm
Room: CC-2005

L. Benjamin Rolsky, Drew University, Presiding

Theme: Queer Practices in San Francisco

Jeff Wilson, University of Waterloo
“All Beings are Equally Embraced by Amida Buddha”: Jodo Shinshu Buddhism and Same-Sex Marriage in North America


Tillich: Issues in Theology, Religion, and Culture Group

Sunday – 1:00 pm-2:30 pm
Room: CC-3000

K. Healan Gaston, Harvard University, Presiding

Theme: Tillich and Niebuhr: Conversations and Legacies


Ronald Stone, University of Pittsburgh
Andrew Finstuen, Pacific Lutheran University


Jonathan Rothchild, Loyola Marymount University
Kevin Carnahan, Central Methodist University


Unitarian Universalist Scholars and Friends Reception

Sunday – 7:00 pm-8:30 pm
Room: HI-Lombard

Persons connected to the Unitarian Universalist tradition are invited to gather for conversation and to plan next year’s events.


Study of Judaism Section

Monday – 9:00 am-11:30 am
Room: MM-Yerba Buena 10

Sarah Imhoff, Indiana University, Presiding

Theme: American Judaisms

Robert Erlewine, Illinois Wesleyan University
From Exclusivity to Partnership: Abraham Joshua Heschel and the Legacy of Liberal Judaism


Liberal Theologies Consultation

Monday – 9:00 am-11:30 am
Room: IC-Sutter

Ellen Umansky, Fairfield University, Presiding

Theme: Post-Post-Liberalism: Constructive Proposals for Revitalizing Liberal Theologies and Liberal Institutions

Michael Hogue, Meadville Lombard Theological School
Pragmatic Liberalationist Public Theology


Shelli Poe, University of Virginia
Friedrich Schleiermacher and the United Church of Christ: Reformed, Liberal, Public


William Myatt, Loyola University, Chicago
The (Non)existence of Religious Rationality: David Tracy, “The Fragment”, and Liberal Theological Discourse


Joshua Daniel, University of Chicago
Posture and Discourse: The Perfectionism of Liberalism in H. Richard Niebuhr


Inese Radzins, Pacific School of Religion


Contemporary Islam Group and Liberal Theologies Consultation

Monday – 1:00 pm-3:30 pm
Room: IC-Sutter

Kambiz GhaneaBassiri, Reed College, Presiding

Theme: Pious Publics/Critical Publics: Theologies of Self and State in Contemporary Islam

Muhamad Ali, University of California, Riverside
“One and Many”: Islam and Religious Pluralism in Contemporary Indonesia


Jon Armajani, College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University
Mohammed Arkoun on Classic Islamic Reason and Applied Islamology: Analysis and Critique


Syed Rizwan Zamir, University of Virginia
Preaching Religious Reform and Reforming Religious Preaching: A Contemporary Shi’ite ‘A’lim’s Appropriation of the Karbala Paradigm


Kathleen Foody, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Just Rulers and Critical Publics: Religious Leadership and Dissent in the Islamic Republic of Iran


Samaneh Oladi Ghadikolaei, University of California, Santa Barbara
Islamic Activism in Iran


Zayn Kassam, Pomona College


Religion and Disability Studies Group

Monday – 4:00 pm-6:30 pm
Room: CC-2014

Darla Schumm, Hollins University, Presiding

Theme: Metaphor, Language, and Corporeality

Devva Kasnitz, Society for Disability Studies
Copresenting with Naomi Steinberg


Naomi Steinberg, Humboldt State University
Inattentive Metaphors: Language and Thought on Disability in Progressive Judaism

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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.


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Religious Liberalism, Politics, and Empire: Paul Rasor at AAR

This is the second in a new series on scholarly activity related to religious liberalism at the American Academy of Religion.  Yesterday a summary was posted of Dan McKanan’s presentation to the 2008 UU Scholars and Friends session entitled “Religious Liberalism, Politics, and Empire: Resistence and Complicity.”  Today we offer a second paper from that session, by Paul Rasor, a UU minister who is also the director of the Center for the Study of Religious Freesom at Virginia Wesleyan College.  Last year Dr. Rasor published a very important paper in the Journal of Liberal Religion relating to the current UUA Congregational Study/Action issue on peacemaking.

Dr. Rasor has graciously consented to allow his paper to be published here.  Please bear in mind that the actual in-person presentation contained spontaneous remarks, asides, jokes, and occasional deletions not reflected in the print version.  Although he is presented here second, he was actually the opening speaker.  Here is his presentation:

I want to begin by noting a deep contradiction in the American situation. We seem to be oriented to both freedom and conquest. There is something about the American situation, in other words, that creates an impulse toward democracy and an impulse toward empire, both at the same time.

The question I want to explore, then, is this: What does it mean to live as a religious liberal in a society that is both a democracy and an empire? More specifically, what resources does our tradition have that might help us nurture the democratic spirit and resist the imperial structures?

I’m not enough of a historian to say whether there as been a general long-term trend toward one or the other, or whether they tend to emerge and wane in cycles. But it seems clear that today, the impulse toward empire is on the rise. To get at these issues, I want to draw on the insights offered by Cornel West in his 2004 book Democracy Matters: Winning the Fight against Imperialism. West identifies three core ideas, which he calls “dominating, antidemocratic dogmas,” that drive the current movement toward empire in America. He calls these “free-market fundamentalism,” “aggressive militarism,” and “escalating authoritarianism.” I think it helps to think of these not simply as social or political ideas, but as theologies. Like all theologies, they are grounded in a specific worldview, and they reflect a particular set of core values.

The first, “free-market fundamentalism” is an ideology that justifies unlimited corporate power. In theological terms, the free market is the god that will bring us salvation, and its chosen instrument for this purpose is the multi-national corporation. Corporate power therefore takes on certain divine attributes. Like most gods, its authority is self-justifying, and it therefore has no need for moral accountability to the people. Recent events have shown (if we needed to be shown) that this is a false god, but as we rescue the banks, I don’t see any deep questioning of the market itself.

The second dogma, “aggressive militarism,” points to a disposition to use violence, and especially the military, to accomplish national goals. The dogma of military aggression was not invented by the present forces of empire; it builds on the glorification of violence that has always been part of our culture. And it is supported by a deeper theology of violence. In this theology, violence is what brings us salvation, and the military is the divine instrument chosen for this purpose. The theology of the market and the theology of violence are linked. Together, they justify the use of violence in support of corporate power.

The third anti-democratic dogma is what West calls “escalating authoritarianism.” This dogma belongs to a theology of control, and it is grounded in fear. Our legitimate fear of terrorism, along with what West calls “our traditional fear of too many liberties,” are manipulated and used to justify authoritarian forms of social control. Civil liberties are restricted; speech is monitored; disagreement is suspect. In this climate of escalating authoritarianism and fear, the civic space for dialogue disappears.

West argues that these three anti-democratic dogmas—market fundamentalism, militarism, and authoritarianism—represent the “gangsterization of America” in which the impulses that are vital for deepening our democracy are being snuffed out.

So, what do we do with this? It will help if we recall that the American impulse toward empire is only one side of the coin. The impulse toward democracy is still very much alive, still beating in the American breast. In fact, despite his stark assessment of our current situation, West believes that the forces of democracy are ultimately the stronger of the two. As he puts it, “the voices and views of nihilistic imperialism may currently dominate our discourse, but they are not the authentic voice of American democracy.” But this impulse toward democracy is not self-perpetuating. It needs us to keep it alive and healthy.

West identifies three basic commitments that are part of our democratic tradition. These are deeply engrained in the American psyche, and I see them as the spiritual wellsprings of a reinvigorated democracy. West calls them questioning, justice, and hope. Or more precisely, the “Socratic commitment to questioning,” the “prophetic commitment to justice,” and the “tragicomic commitment to hope.”

As it happens, these three spiritual commitments, questioning, justice and hope, are also basic to religious liberalism. This means that our faith tradition is itself a resource in the struggle against empire. It also means that a commitment to the deepening of our democracy can also deepen our faith.

West begins with the commitment to questioning, and traces this tradition to Socrates. Anyone who has been to law school will recognize the technique. But West is speaking here not just of clever verbal sparring, but of a commitment to truth-seeking and truth-speaking. What this requires, as West puts it, is “a relentless self-examination and critique of institutions of authority, motivated by an endless quest for intellectual integrity and moral consistency.” This form of questioning is a critical spiritual practice.

And I’m happy to say that religious liberals excel here. A commitment to questioning, and especially to challenging authority, has always been part of the liberal religious tradition. In fact, I think that constant questioning is a form of spiritual practice for many liberals. The good news is that we religious liberals can make an important contribution to deepening our democracy just by doing what we have always done best.

West’s second element, “the prophetic commitment to justice,” in his words, “calls attention to the causes of unjustified suffering and unnecessary social misery.” It requires both careful social analysis and profound courage, especially the courage of plain and fearless speech. The prophetic voice speaks not only on behalf of the poor and the oppressed, but against those who misuse power. Religious liberals have always been among those who have called society to account in the face of injustice, challenged the cultural status quo, and worked for reform.

But before we strain ourselves patting our own backs, we need to recognize that liberalism has its own set of tensions that often get in the way of our own prophetic practices. As a result, our social witness can sometimes have difficulty moving beyond our own comfort level. The issues raised by Jeff [Wilson, another of the presenters] are part of this tension. Still, the liberal prophetic voice continues to make a major contribution to our democracy. And it needs to be heard, especially today when the loudest religious voices in public discourse so often seem simply to defend theologies of empire.

Finally, West’s third element is what he calls a “tragicomic commitment to hope.” This is not simply about being optimistic. It involves a much deeper form of spirituality: the ability to persevere, to continue the struggle for justice even when it seems hopeless. West calls it “the ability to laugh and retain a sense of life’s joy—to preserve hope even while staring in the face of hate and hypocrisy—as against falling into the nihilism of paralyzing despair.” He finds this sense of the tragicomic expressed most profoundly in the long black freedom struggle in America, and especially in the blues. The “blues sensibility,” as he calls it, “expresses righteous indignation with a smile and deep inner pain without bitterness or revenge.”

Hope has always played a central role in the liberal religious tradition. In the early days of the 19th century, Universalists offered their belief in universal salvation as a basis for human hope, in stark contrast to the Calvinist doctrine of election that condemned most of humanity to eternal damnation. On the social level, liberals have always had deep faith in the possibilities of human fulfillment and social progress.

But West’s notion of tragicomic hope is a bit different. In some ways, it is a gentle critique of the liberal tendency to be overly optimistic, or to swing the other way and lapse into cynicism. James Luther Adams reminded us that human history always combines elements of tragedy and hope, that the very forces of good we celebrate can easily become forces for evil, and that it is up to us to steer these forces toward the good.

West reminds us that “this kind of tragicomic hope is dangerous—and potentially subversive—because it can never be extinguished. Like laughter, dance, and music, it is a form of elemental freedom that cannot be eliminated or snuffed out by any elite power. Instead, it is inexorably resilient and inescapably seductive—even contagious.” For this reason, hope is one of the key resources we have in the struggle against empire.

The tension between democracy and empire seems to be a permanent feature of the American condition. By the same token, religious liberals seem cursed to live with the tension between energizing hope and the temptation toward paralyzing cynicism.

But cynicism is a negative spirituality that in the end only feeds empire. Cynicism, in fact, is a luxury of privilege. We can maintain our hope, and be true to our own religious ideals, if we remember that this very dissonance, this tension that so often frustrates us, can be creative as well as destructive. It can fuel the passion to question, the courage to be prophetic, and the faith to hope.

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Religious Liberalism, Politics, and Empire: Dan McKanan at AAR

The American Academy of Religion’s annual meeting in November is the major North American gathering for scholars of religious studies.  Among the many offerings are plenty of papers and sessions devoted to liberal religion.  For two years now the event has also provided the opportunity for the Unitarian Universalist Scholars and Friends meeting, which features presentations specifically on UU issues and geared toward a scholarly UU audience.  Last year’s session on November 1, 2008 was titled “Religious Liberalism, Politics, and Empire: Resistance and Complicity.”  Four scholars were invited to present; this post is the first of a series about liberal religious papers delivered at the AAR.

Dan McKanan is the first person to hold the Ralph Waldo Emerson Unitarian Universalist Association Chair of Divinity at Harvard Divinity School.  McKanan is also the current chair of the UU Scholars and Friends group and has been a force in raising the profile of liberal religious subjects at the AAR and in wider academia.  Therefore, while he was actually the third to speak at the session, it seems appropriate to begin with his presentation.  What follows is a brief summary of the points of his presentation, offered with his permission.

McKanan began by referencing Gandhi’s assertion that it is easier to turn a violent crusader for justice into a practitioner of nonviolent social change, than it is to transform a person who is merely passive or fearful. In a similar way, McKanan went on to posit, it is easier to transform an imperialist into a practitioner of global solidarity than it is to effect such a change in someone who is a realist or isolationist.

As he used the terms, an imperialist is a person who believes their nation’s civilization to be superior to that of other nations, and who tries to extend the values and practices of that civilization to outside nations for their own good. On the other hand, isolationists have no concern for other nations and therefore tend to promote the interests of their nation by withdrawing from engagement with them; realists also lack interest in other nations’ welfare or improvement of the global order, though they will engage with others in a more global way to the limited extent that it clearly promotes their own nation’s interests. Imperialists, then, are the only idealists and optimists in the bunch: they alone feel some responsibility toward people of other nations and wish to transform the world—though unfortunately this is compounded by arrogance and self-delusion about the value of their own civilization and how its imperial adventures serve to primarily benefit their own nation, not the “targets” of imperial improvement.

Given this understanding of the dynamics behind imperialism, McKanan then proposed that religious liberals create a new spiritual discipline: the practice of transforming imperialists into fellow practitioners of global solidarity—that is, into people who feel that all of humanity possesses the necessary wisdom to produce a better worldwide society, and who wish to humbly ally with others abroad already struggling to do so.

To begin this spiritual discipline, he proposed, we must self-critically reflect on the many ways that we as Unitarian-Universalists are complicit in the imperial policies and activities of our country. This is designed to help us identify and affirm our underlying idealism about offering a non-imperialist alternative, and thus to be able to channel that idealism in ways that are more accountable to people who have suffered from our nation’s imperialism. He used two examples to help illustrate what he was discussing: cultural misappropriation, and international adoption.

McKanan gave examples of how Unitarian-Universalists had been involved in both positive and negative engagements with cultural and religious others. An example of negative encounter was the deep hurt felt by many Native American communities over widespread UU eagerness to borrow sweat lodges and feathers without meaningfully standing in solidarity with oppressed men and women fighting for their children and their land. However, McKanan did not simply offer a blanket criticism of such practices. Rather, he suggested that we view even the worst misappropriators as potential practitioners of global solidarity. While we should not borrow rituals from other communities unless we are willing to assist with their quests for human rights and cultural sovereignty, the best response to such practices is not simple disengagement after the fact, but to provide resources and create alliances that make it possible to move religious liberals toward standing in solidarity with those groups that have informed our faith.

McKanan closed by expanding his envisioned practice to include not only self-reflection but also public witness, the act of clearly stating as people of faith that we will support global solidarity over narrow national self-interest in the political arena. Voting for politicians who support the interests of the entire human family and the interdependent web of all life is itself a manifestation of spiritual anti-imperialism.

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Liberal Religion at AAR 2008

In June, a list of sessions and events relating to liberal religion and its study at the 2008 American Academy of Religion conference was posted here at Transient and Permanent.  Now that the new school year has started and we’re much closer to the conference, it seemed appropriate to link back to that post and remind people of this resource.  Many scholars and students are planning their AAR activities in Chicago during this period.  Please bear in mind that Collegium, the annual gathering of UU scholars, is also occurring around the same time in Chicago.  A previous post detailed what is going on there, so a link back to that post is also provided for your reference.  It’s going to be an unusually fruitful year for scholars and others involved in the academic study of liberal religion, so please join in if possible!

UU and Liberal Events at AAR 2008

2008 Collegium program

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UU and Liberal events at the American Academy of Religion conference in San Diego

The annual AAR meeting is this weekend in San Diego. Here is a list of some of the events that will interest Unitarian-Universalists and others who study liberal religion.

North American Paul Tillich Society
Friday – 9:00 am-11:15 am
GH-Manchester A
Marcia MacLennan, Kansas Wesleyan University, Presiding
Theme: Paul Tillich and Jewish Thought
Bryan Wagoner, Harvard University
Judaism in the Life and Thought of Paul Tillich
Anne Marie Reijnen, Faculté Universitaire de Théologie Protestante, Brussels, Institut Catholique de Paris
Liberal Theology, Zionism, and Christian Nationalism: A Topical Inquiry into the Dialogue between Paul Tillich and Martin Buber
Stephen Butler Murray, Skidmore College
The Relevance of Paul Tillich to the Future of the Jewish-Christian Dialogue

North American Paul Tillich Society
Friday – 11:30 am-1:15 pm
GH-Manchester A
Loye Ashton, Tougaloo College, Presiding
Theme: Paul Tillich as Biblical Theologian
Ron MacLennan, Bethany College
Paul Tillich: Biblical Theologian of Connectedness
Francis Ching-Wah Yip, Chinese University of Hong Kong
Tillich as a New Testament Theologian?
Matthew Lon Weaver, Duluth, MN
The Existential Reception of Revelation: Paul Tillich as Biblical Theologian

North American Paul Tillich Society
Friday – 2:15 pm-4:00 pm
GH-Manchester A
John Thatamanil, Vanderbilt University, Presiding

Theme: Paul Tillich and Religious Pluralism
Christian Danz, University of Vienna
Christianity and the Encounter of World Religions: The Contribution of Paul Tillich to Current Discussions in the Theology of Religion
John Starkey, Oklahoma City University
The Human Predicament and Salvation in Tillich and Thatamanil
Andrew Yan, Hope College
Paul Tillich’s Encounters with Buddhism: An Implication for His Systematic Theology
Luis Pedraja, Middle States Commission on Higher Education
The Tao of Tillich

North American Paul Tillich Society
Friday – 4:15 pm-6:30 pm
GH-Manchester A
David Nikkel, University of North Carolina, Pembroke, Presiding
Theme: Paul Tillich, Ethics, and Theology
Daniel Puchalla, University of Chicago
The Limits of Love, Power, and Justice: Tillich’s Ontology and Theology against “Full-Spectrum” Military
Annekatrien Depoorter, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
Doing Theology in a Context of Religious and Cultural Pluralism: A Comparison and Evaluation of Paul Tillich’s Method of Correlation and the Theological Method of Edward Schillebeeckx
Jennifer L. Baldwin, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago
Erotic Play: A Trip into the Secret Lives of Girls, Feminist Theologies of the Erotic, and the Theological Thought of Paul Tillich
Sigridur Gotmarsdottir, Drew University
The Apophatic “God above God”: Tillich and the Poststructuralist Critique of Negative Theology

Unitarian Universalist Scholars and Friends Discussion
Friday, November 16, 7:00 pm-10:00 pm
Location: Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego—Molly A

Theme: “Between the Schoolhouse and the Religious Houses: Unitarian Universalist Theology in Context”
Rebecca Parker will serve as presider for this gathering. She is the president of Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley, California, author of Blessing the World: What Can Save Us Now, and co-author of Proverbs of Ashes: Violence, Redemptive Suffering, and the Search for What Saves Us, and Saving Paradise.
Our panelists will include:
Alma Crawford is Associate Professor of Preaching and Worship at Starr King School for the Ministry. A minister in fellowship with the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ, she has served UU congregations in Boston and Washington, D.C., and co-founded Church of the Open Door, a Unitarian Universalist urban ministry serving more than 200 African American and immigrant families.
Holly Horn is a Unitarian Universalist minister with nearly 20 years in the parish and a Ph.D. in Theology and the Arts. At present she’s living near Houston, Texas, and working on a book.
Gabriella Lettini is Associate Professor of Theological Ethics and Aurelia Henry Reinhardt Director of Studies in Public Ministry at Starr King School for the Ministry. She hold the Ph.D. in Theology from Union Theological Seminary in New York and the M.Div. from the Waldensian Theological Seminary in Rome, Italy. She is an ordained minister of the Waldensian church in Italy.
Emily Mace is a graduate student in American religious history at Princeton University; her dissertation examines connections between religious practices, cosmopolitanism, and religious liberalism from around 1880-1940.
Samira Mehta is a graduate student in American Religious Cultures at Emory University who is studying interfaith families and the communities in which they make their homes.
Anthony Pinn is Agnes Cullen Arnold Professor of Humanities at Rice University, and he is deeply committed to the formation of an African American Humanist Theology.
Arvid Straube will serve as the respondent. He is lead minister of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego, and is passionate about the potential of the local parish to change lives and communities.

Comparative Religious Ethics Group
Saturday – 9:00 am-11:30 am
Anne E. Monius, Harvard University, Presiding
Theme: Current Work in Comparative Ethics: Religious Liberalism, Moral Virtuosity, and the Experience of Limits
Elizabeth Barre, Florida State University
The Possibility of Religious Liberalism: The Common Good and Civil Society in Catholic and Islamic Political Thought
Nathaniel Barrett, Boston University
Musicality and Ren: An Examination of the Early Confucian Ideal of Moral Virtuosity and Its Applicability to Multicultural Societies of Late Modernity
Peter T. C. Chang, Harvard University
Comparative Study of Conscience: Joseph Butler and Wang Yang-ming
David Clairmont, University of Notre Dame
Persons as Religious Classics: Green, Tracy, and the Theology of Bridge Concepts
Sumner B. Twiss, Florida State University

North American Paul Tillich Society and Polanyi Society
Saturday – 9:00 am-11:30 am
Walter Gulick, Montana State University, Billings, Presiding
Theme: How Tillich’s Recently Retrieved Paper, “Participation and Knowledge: Problems of an Ontology of Cognition,” Engages Polanyi’s Thought
Durwood Foster, Pacific School of Religion
Richard Gelwick, Bangor Theological Seminary
Donald Musser, Stetson University
Robert Russell, Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences
11:15 am Business Meeting:
Walter Mead, Illinois State University, Presiding

Unitarian Universalist Scholars and Friends Breakfast
Sunday, November 18, 7:00 am – 8:30 am
Location: Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego—America’s Cup B

Liberal Theologies Consultation and Religion in Europe Consultation
Sunday – 9:00 am-11:30 am
Robert Alvis, Saint Meinrad School of Theology, Presiding
Theme: Liberal Thought and the Challenge of Pluralism
Stephen A. Wilson, Hood College
Liberal Religion, Liberal Politics, and Empire: Victorian Christianity and the Ambivalence of Westernization
Echol Nix, Furman University
Ernst Troeltsch and Robert Neville: Two Methodological Attempts to Discern Christian Normativity
Chris Hinkle, Harvard University
Pluralism’s Problematic Appeal for Religious Liberals
Gavin Hyman, University of Lancaster
Postmodern Theology and Modern Liberalism: Reconsidering the Relationship
Friedrich Wilhelm Graf, University of Munich

Tillich: Issues in Theology, Religion, and Culture Group
Sunday – 9:00 am-11:30 am
Rachel Sophia Baard, Villanova University, Presiding
Theme: Tillich’s Continuing Challenge to Political and Ethical Thought
Ronald Stone, Pittsburgh, PA
Utopianism and International Relations
Mark Lewis Taylor, Princeton Theological Seminary
Prophetic Spirit and Political Romanticism in the U.S. Today
Nimi Wariboko, Princeton Theological Seminary
Toward a Theology of Money in a Globalizing World: Tillich’s Trinitarian Principles
Derek Malone-France, George Washington University
Tillich on Anxiety, Faith, and Authority

Religion, Politics, and the State Group
Sunday – 1:00 pm-2:30 pm
GH-Manchester F
Erik Owens, Boston College, Presiding
Theme: Religion and the Politics of the Common Good
Jennifer Ayres, Emory University
It’s Not What You Said, It’s How You Said It: Relational Political Activism among Liberal Protestants
Brantley Gasaway, Drake University
No Justice, No Good: Progressive Evangelical Interpretations of the Politics of Community and the Common Good
Seth Dowland, Duke University
Focusing on the Family: How the Religious Right Defined the Common Good, 1977-1983
Luke Bretherton, University of London
Political Theology, Broad-based Community Organizing, and Pursuit of the Common Good
Business Meeting:
Barbara A. McGraw, Saint Mary’s College of California, Presiding

Tillich: Issues in Theology, Religion, and Culture Group and Theology of Martin Luther King, Jr. Consultation
Sunday – 3:00 pm-4:30 pm
MM-Santa Rosa
Mary Ann Stenger, University of Louisville, Presiding
Theme: Paul Tillich and Martin Luther King, Jr. on Issues of Global Economic Justice
Bruce Rittenhouse, University of Chicago
Assessing the Developing World’s Relationship with Global Governance Institutions in View of Paul Tillich’s Proposals for Justice and Peace in an Economically Integrated World
Kenny Walden, Claremont School of Theology
Blessed Are the Poor?: The Theology of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Psycho-spiritual Landscape of Poverty, Behavior, and Cultural Perception
Stephen G. Ray, Lutheran Theological Seminary, Philadelphia

Liberal Theologies Consultation
Monday – 9:00 am-11:30 am
Christine Helmer, Northwestern University, Presiding
Theme: Constructing Liberal Theologies as Social, Political, and Religious Praxis
Sharon D. Welch, Meadville Lombard Theological School
Promoting Pluralism and Academic Freedom on Campus
Paul Rasor, Virginia Wesleyan College
Liberal Prophetic Praxis and Constructive Liberal Public Theology
Elizabeth Conde-Frazier, Claremont School of Theology
Education, Liberation, and Liberal Theology with Pentecostal Communities
Mary E. Hunt, Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual
Feminist Liberation Praxis for Feminist Liberation Theology
Mary McClintock Fulkerson, Duke University
Social Change and Constructive Liberal Theology
M. Shawn Copeland, Boston College
Business Meeting:
Christine Helmer, Northwestern University, Presiding

Theology of Martin Luther King, Jr. Consultation
Monday – 9:00 am-11:30 am
Michael Battle, Virginia Theological Seminary, Presiding
Theme: Where Do We Go from Here? The Theology of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Fortieth Anniversary of the Poor People’s Campaign
Vincent Harding, Veterans of Hope Project
Martin Luther King Jr.’s Riverside Speech and the Poor People’s Campaign
Hak Joon Lee, New Brunswick Theological Seminary
Martin Luther King, Jr. and Global Capitalism: A Holistic Strategy of Resistance
Karen Jackson-Weaver, Princeton Theological Seminary
Lift Every Voice: Dr. King’s “Unfulfilled Dream” of the Beloved Community and the Black Women Leaders Who Influenced His Ideology
John Roedel, Graduate Theological Union
The Role of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Theology of Nonviolence in the Miscarriage of the Poor People’s Campaign
Business Meeting:
Johnny B. Hill, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Presiding

Is Humanism a Dead Topic in the Study of Religion?
Monday – 4:00 pm-6:30 pm
W. David Hall, Centre College, Presiding
Theme: Is Humanism a Dead Topic in the Study of Religion?
David E. Klemm, University of Iowa
Paul Mendes-Flohr, University of Chicago
Ahmet T. Karamustafa, Washington University, St. Louis
William Schweiker, University of Chicago
Dale S. Wright, Occidental College
Glenn Whitehouse, Florida Gulf Coast University

Tillich: Issues in Theology, Religion, and Culture Group
Tuesday – 9:00 am-11:30 am
GH-Edward B
Robison B. James, University of Richmond and Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, Presiding
Theme: Tillichian Conversations: Bible and Pluralism
Keith Johnson, Princeton Theological Seminary
Tillich, Frei, and the Making of a Biblical Theologian
John C.M. Starkey, Oklahoma City University
The Word Made History
Mary Montgomery Clifford, Chicago Theological Seminary
A Journey toward Inclusion: Paul Tillich and the Influence of Rudolf Otto’s The Idea of the Holy
Duane Olson, McKendree College
Paul Tillich and John Hick: Inclusivism and Pluralism, Critique, and Construction
Business Meeting:
Robison B. James, University of Richmond and Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, Presiding
Rachel Sophia Baard, Villanova University, Presiding


Filed under Liberal Religion at the American Academy of Religion, Unitarian-Universalism