Transcending everyday life and its pressures becomes increasingly difficult. The essence of areligiosity, as I see it, is isolation; and isolation is becoming more and more prevalent. More and more people retire into a purely private life, in which the individual has no influence at all on even the most minute sector of public life and is at the mercy of a centralized bureaucracy. …
And old Christian thesis that received considerable attention from the leaders of the Reformation says that where God is absent no vacuum develops but rather false gods work their mischief. People continue to “believe,” and in everything they do they rely on God; they invent God; they “provide themselves with God,” as Luther puts it. The question remains, however, which God this is, which relationships are seen as important, which values are promulgated in myth and reenacted and celebrated in ritual.–Dorothee Soelle, “Rebellion Against Banality”
Cuban-born mujerista theologian Dr. Ada-Maria Isasi-Diaz died Sunday, May 13, the Feast Day of Our Lady of Fatima. She was diagnosed with cancer less than six weeks ago. She was 69.
The March 2012 issue of Sojourners magazine ran Associate editor Elizabeth Palmberg’s interview with Isasi-Diaz, Faith at the Tipping Point. The interview was conducted November 2011 at the Call to Action conference in Milwaukee.
“She leaves behind an amazing legacy. More than just a theologian, she was active in the struggle of others,” said Drew University colleague Dr. Laura Kearns, noting Isasi-Diaz’s 2009 leadership in protesting the closure of Our Lady Queen of Angels church in Harlem (see the NYT article).
Ada María Isasi-Díaz was a major force in Hispanic, mujerista, and feminist theology, liberation theologies rooted in the everyday experience of Latinas. As her foundational 1996 book Mujerista Theology: A Theology for the Twenty-First Century put it, her work aims at creating “a public voice for Latinas and capturing a political space for that voice,” including in academic theology. Isasi-Díaz was professor emerita of ethics and theology as well as founder and co-director of the Hispanic Institute of Theology at Drew University in Madison.
Ada’s family has been blogging about her illness and last days at Ada’s Blog. Her sister Gloria writes:
There was no struggle, agony nor any signs of discomfort. She has now moved on to her eternal life, having left behind a remarkable legacy. The lives of all who knew her and loved her were immensely enriched by her presence. She walked un Buen Camino and triumphed in La Lucha for compassion and solidarity. It is time to celebrate her life and honor her memory.
“Ada Maria lived what she taught,” commented Notre Dame’s liberation and Hispanic theologian Virgilio Elizondo. “She was a great pioneer not just of creative theological thought but even more so of prophetic and visionary work among the people. She lives in our hearts and memory.”
Mujerista Theology: A Theology for the Twenty-First Century En la Lucha / In the Struggle: A Hispanic Women’s Liberation Theology (Biblical Reflections on Ministry) En La Lucha/In the Struggle: Elaborating a Mujerista Theology (10th Anniversary Edition) La Lucha Continues: Mujerista Theology Inheriting Our Mothers’ Gardens: Feminist Theology in Third World Perspective by Letty M. Russell, Kwok Pui-lan, Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz and Katie Geneva Cannon Hispanic Women, Prophetic Voice in the Church: Toward a Hispanic Women’s Liberation Theology by Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz and Yolanda Tarango Women of God, Women of the People: Four Biblical Meditations
Jason is a Presbyterian Minister of Word and Sacrament who teaches theology, church history, and pastoral care, and serves as Dean of Studies, at the Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership, the ministry training centre for the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand. He writes:
There are times and places about which nothing seems more significant than the sheer energy and violence that states direct against basic freedoms. The snippets of information that filter from these dictatorial seasons – tales of furtive hiding and tragic discovery: hard times and uneasy sleep – describe lives utterly structured by state repression. Authoritarians bent on taking power, consolidating their rule or seizing resources frequently silence opponents with bludgeons, bullets and shallow graves, and those who find themselves in the path of the state juggernaut probably have trouble even imagining protest or resistance without also calculating the severity or likelihood of state repression. Such considerations surely influence whether individuals take action or maintain a frustrated silence, and will over time broadly shape protest and resistance. (p. 1)
My long interest in the people and politics of Burma, in particular, means that I think a lot about this kind of stuff, and particularly about how the community of God might witness to and in the midst of such situations where the abuses of authority birth such blatantly evil fruit and where the climate of hope has been beclouded in fear. [Rose Marie Berger’s recent post on Guantanamo: When Will it Get Foreclosed?, for example, recalled such fruit in another part of the world]. Certainly, all human relationships and institutions live under the constant threat of the abuse of power. And even a cursory reading of history will reveal that the Church too has been both victim and perpetrator of such abuse. (I am aware that already I have used the words authority and power interchangeably here. Certainly they are at least related, and the proper understanding and use of each will decide whether the ways being pursued bring the fragrance of life or the stench of death to a situation.)
The question Jason raises is this: How does the Church or Christians resist the Powers’ abuse as described by Boudreau? Do we take action or “maintain a frustrated silence”? And what are the “weapons of the spirit” with which God arms the friends of Jesus?
Jason explores the role of worship and deep relationship with those who are dispossessed in confronting the death-dealing forces in our world.
I’m happy to say that my book Who Killed Donte Manning? The Story of an American Neighborhood is finally back from the printer! For those of you who know the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, D.C., I think you’ll enjoy reading about our neighborhood’s history–not to mention Washington, D.C., during the Bush era.
For those who are interested in urban ministry, urban mission, and the Judeo-Christian understanding of cities from the Bible’s Abraham and Sarah to the contemporary era, you’ll definitely find something of interest in Who Killed Donte Manning?
Here’s a snippet from the book’s foreword:
Rose Marie Berger has written a biblical essay on the neighborhood where she lives. I know the neighborhood well, because I live there too. Her provocative discourse is a theological reflection on “place,” which is a long-standing tradition in the Christian faith—a faith that is all about incarnation, the Word becoming flesh in place and time.
The particular “place” where this story begins is in Northwest Washington, D.C., on 13th Street between Euclid and Fairmont, on the sidewalk in front of the notorious Warner Apartments where a third grade boy named Donte Manning was caught in a crossfire of bullets and killed.
In 1993, the new First Lady had come to Washington. Hillary Rodham Clinton had invited a small group of people to her office at the White House to talk about the growing tragedy of youth violence in our cities, a situation of great concern to her. It was the first time I met Hillary Clinton. The meeting had an assortment of civil rights and religious leaders, urban and community activists, and heads of national organizations that cared about children at risk. I was impressed with Clinton’s understanding of the issues, her thoughtfulness and probing questions, and her clear desire to do something that would begin to address the problem.
When the meeting was finished, I came home to my house on 13th Street NW in Columbia Heights … to lots of yellow tape. Of course, I knew what yellow tape meant: Another crime had been committed here and the scene had been cordoned off by police. I learned that during the very hour we were meeting at the White House to discuss the problems of youth homicide, a young kid had been killed across the street from my house—on the sidewalk in front of the Warner Apartments.
I recall wondering at the time how many of the other participants in that meeting came home to yellow tape. It’s not that you know all the answers more easily just because you live there. It’s just that place yields perspective.
It is that biblical insight Rose illustrates in the story Who Killed Donte Manning?, a story that begins with yet another youth homicide on the 2600 block of 13th Street NW in Washington, D.C. Her biblical reflections on her place, and mine, stretch from Genesis to Revelation, and from Washington, D.C., to the coca fields of Colombia in South America. They describe what happens at the center of “empire” and the consequences at empire’s margins, which, in our city and neighborhood, is a journey of only about 2 miles.–Jim Wallis, Foreword, Who Killed Donte Manning? by Rose Marie Berger
“Some commentators have proposed ‘science fiction’ as the last fictional repository for theological speculation,” wrote Margaret Atwood a few years ago. “Heaven, Hell, and aerial transport by means of wings having been more or less abandoned after Milton, outer space was the only remaining neighborhood where beings resembling gods, angels, and demons might still be found.” (Read Margaret Atwood’s literary history of sci fi here.)
Caprica, the new sci fi TV series in the Battlestar Galactica lineage, is the latest brilliant playground of ethics, theology, and social gumbo on the small screen. After watching the first few episodes, I can confirm that I’m definitely a Capriphile or a Caprichaun or a Capricaner or whatever Caprica fans end up calling ourselves. Apparently, I’m not alone.
Over at Religion Dispatches, commentators Diane Winston, Anthea Butler, Salman Hameed, and Henry Jenkins are blogging on each Caprica episode under a series titled Capricology. The mix of commentators is great in itself. Winston holds the Knight Chair in Media and Religion. Butler is an associate professor of religion at the University of Pennsylvania. Halmeed is an astronomer who also writes about Muslims and science. Jenkins is the Provost’s Professor of Communication, Journalism, and Cinematic Arts at USC.
They’re covering the cultural intersection of science and religion as well as the interwoven commentary on the body, artificial intelligence, paganism, original sin, immigration, and race. Here are some excerpts from their posts on Caprica‘s first episode:
Whereas most TV dramas are good guys versus bad guys, BSG and Caprica probe the passions that enliven us. The pull of temptation, the cost of obsession, the slog to redemption (yes, yes, and yes) and then the biggest question of all: Do you need to be a carbon-based life form to own and feel these? Teetering between “must-see TV” and bloated soap opera, BSG worked because the melodrama was grounded in the quotidian: model ships, dog tags, and toothbrushes. Now with all the imaginable artifacts that could draw us into Caprica’s odd collision of machines, mobsters, and monotheists, a newspaper—with ball scores, stock prices, and local weather makes it all so mundane, masking (as our own newspapers tend to do) the real stakes behind the stories.–Diane Winston
I was most taken though by the plight of Adama’s daughter, who is brought back from the dead not through an act of self-creation but against her will; who is inserted into an empty world, a purgatory space, which she doesn’t recognize and understand, and is abandoned there, treated as an unnatural abomination, as a monster, by her own father and forgotten by the man who created her. (Shades of Frankenstein, but also some suggestions here of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the series Jane Espenson worked for before Caprica, where Buffy’s friends bring her back from the dead, like Lazarus, and she finds herself experiencing deep pain and trauma at being ripped from paradise and plunged back into our imperfect world. In fact, Espenson wrote “After Life,” a key episode in the exploration of this theme in Buffy. I hope the series will explore more fully what happens to this girl and how her experiences differ from Zoe’s.)–Henry Jenkins
The real genius of Caprica will be the weekly mind game Ron Moore and his crew are going to play with us about when life begins, and ends. Does life continue after physical “death,” and if life is not in a human body, is it really “human” after all? How does a new religious movement gain followers? What are the moral and ethical implications of a society that has lost its moral center and stokes its fear by creating the ultimate “protection force” that will eventually obliterate its creators? Most importantly, what does it mean to have a body? And how do you use it?–Anthea Butler
A belief in some sort of afterlife is central to many religions and it may have been pivotal in the origins of religions in the first place. How will this play out on Caprica, where the boundaries between what is alive and what is not are already getting quite blurry? Does it shape monotheism or polytheism in a particular direction? In addition to all this, we have the monomania (as Diane calls it) of Daniel Greystone that is leading him to create his own version of life-after-death—and the cost that humans will eventually end up paying 58 years later. As Henry pointed out with a comparison with Buffy, the issue of life after death is a fertile area of exploration for this series, alongside the psyche of suicide bombers.–Salman Hameed
Kwok Pui-lan is Professor of Christian Theology and Spirituality at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, MA.
She is an Asian feminist theologian that I’ve always been very impressed with. Her writing on the role of the Bible in a non-Bible culture was eye-opening–as well as all of her scripture interpretation from the perspective of the colonialized.
In a recent blog post at Religion Dispatches, she examines the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square revolt with the current uprising in Iran:
On the twentieth anniversary of June 4, Tiananmen Square was relatively quiet and heavily guarded by the police. Hong Kong, as a Special Administrative Region, was the only place in China where a public candlelight vigil could be held. Several Christian groups in Hong Kong have helped organizing these annual vigils and pushed for the vindication of the June 4 demonstrators. The Hong Kong Christian Patriotic Democratic Movement issued a twentieth anniversary prayer, which says:
Righteous and peaceful God,
We pray to you.
The tears of Tiananmen mothers have not dried.
The curse of the wrongful deaths has not been lifted.
We pray that we will have a gentle and humble heart
To hold steadfast to our belief
And not allow distorted history have the last word . . .
Even though the dark night may be long
The light of our hope will be as long. . .
Last week as the world watched the demonstration of the Iranian people, images of the Tiananmen crackdown flashed back on many people’s minds. President Barack Obama invoked the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” He continued, “We are bearing witness to the Iranian peoples’ belief in that truth, and we will continue to bear witness.”
V. Henry T. Nguyen is an Angeleno and a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps who has “pretty much become a pacifist,” he says. He’s got his doctorate in New Testament and is an adjunct prof at several schools in Southern California. (He blogs at Punctuated Life.)
I’m printing the whole thing here because I think it’s an important read.
St. Paul the Pacifist: A Christian Response to Torture
By V. Henry T. Nguyen
The recent Pew findings—that churchgoers, especially white evangelical Protestants, are more likely to believe that torture can be justified—have caused many commentators to wonder whether particular forms of Christian theology engender an acceptance of the use of torture.
In a recent article on Religion Dispatches, Sarah Sentilles suggests that Christian theologies and images of Christ’s crucifixion (essentially is an act of torture) have influenced some Christian communities’ understanding of torture as salvific, necessary, and justified. This view of torture is especially fueled by what is known as atonement theology: the view that Jesus’ death provided reparation for humanity’s sins against God.
So what would a Christian theological response against torture look like?
Most Christian theologies are rooted in the writings of Paul, who is particularly celebrated this year by the Catholic church on the bimillenial anniversary of the apostle’s birth; Paul provides the earliest interpretation of the meaning of the crucified Christ. People often forget, or are not aware, that nowhere in the gospels does Jesus himself explain the meaning of his own suffering on the cross. But Paul does.
And I believe that if we were to bring Paul into our current dialogue about whether Christians should support the use of torture, his response would be a resolute “No!”
I’m a Sci-Fi junkie. The best theology and ethics discussions have always taken place first in the sci-fi genre. Battlestar Galactica (the remake) did not disappoint in the way it weaved the discomfort with prophets, the nature of an individual’s personal choice to sacrifice for the common good versus the state’s decision that an individual should sacrifice for the common good (of the state), and the ever-present allure to do limited evil in search of ultimate good.
Now, SCIFI.COM announced the launch of a new 10-part series of Battlestar Galactica webisodes, “The Face of the Enemy,” starting Dec. 12 at noon ET. Two webisodes will debut weekly, leading up to the on-air return of the series on Jan. 16, 2009.
Each of the three- to four-minute chapters will complement and enhance the action broadcast on SCI FI and give viewers more insight into characters and events from the fourth and final season. “The Face of the Enemy” (written by the excellent Jane Espenson and Seamus Kevin Fahey) follows the action and suspense inside a stranded Raptor carrying a group of passengers, including Lt. Felix Gaeta (Alessandro Juliani) and a Number 8 Cylon (Grace Park).
When passengers suddenly start dying in alarming ways, fear, panic and chaos erupt within the confines of the small ship as suspicion grows that there is a killer among them. Michael Hogan (Col. Tigh) and Brad Dryborough (Lt. Hoshi) also star. Check out here for more information..
“What will be God’s if all things are Caesar’s?”–Tertullian (160–220 AD), De Idolatria
“In Christian theology, it is not nations that rid the world of evil—they are too often caught up in complicated webs of political power, economic interests, cultural clashes, and nationalist dreams. The confrontation with evil is a role reserved for God, and for the people of God when they faithfully exercise moral conscience. But God has not given the responsibility for overcoming evil to a nation-state, much less to a superpower with enormous wealth and particular national interests. To confuse the role of God with that of the American nation, as George Bush seems to do, is a serious theological error that some might say borders on idolatry or blasphemy.”–Jim Wallis, Dangerous Religion (Sojourners, September-October 2003)
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