News

Can I Get a Witness? The Interviews with Carlene Bauer

Carlene BauerSpring Institute for Lived Theology 2016/2017 Author Series

The 2016-2017 SILT celebrates scholars, activists, laypeople, and religious leaders whose lived theologies produced and inspired social justice in the United States, and will produce a single volume entitled Can I Get a Witness? The Forgotten Tradition of Radical Christianity in America.

This news series, Can I Get a Witness? The Interviews, features conversations with the Witness participants to highlight how each author is being changed and challenged by the historical figure they are working to illumine. This week’s headliner is Carlene Bauer, who is writing on social justice champion Dorothy Day.

In your research, what has surprised you about Day?

“What’s been surprising is to overhear her, through her diaries, in her later years, muse on the possibility of writing about what she did not write about in The Long Loneliness and elsewhere.”

If you could call up Day this weekend and invite her out, where would you go and what would you do?

“This sounds very strange, but I think she would like it. There’s a retrospective of the painter Agnes Martin at the Guggenheim in New York City—she was an abstract painter who worked in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Martin, like Day, led one life and then quite another—Martin lived in Manhattan among art stars of the 50s, and then took off for the desert of New Mexico. Martin, like Day, found beauty in the very simplest elements of nature, and painted to communicate hope and joy to others through lines and colors that, working together, create a radiance that could be read as spiritual if one chose. I feel that Day would understand and be intrigued by the biography and the impulse, even if she might not fully embrace the art that resulted.”

How is spending time with Day affecting you?

“As a person, and then an erstwhile person of faith, spending time with Day is making me—and especially, especially now given our president—reconsider how I might work to realize the changes I would like to see in both the city and the country I live in. As a writer, it’s been instructive to read The Long Loneliness again and see how much dramatic tension she creates without admitting to all the facts. In this way the book–which she preferred to call a conversion story and not an autobiography because it did not tell the whole story behind her conversion–is not unlike Thomas Merton’s The Seven Story Mountain, which does not tell all and yet still makes us turn pages. Also, I keep thinking about what a friend of Day’s said about her—that secretly Dorothy was a poet.”

What piece of advice can you imagine Day offering to the United States or the world today?

“I wouldn’t presume to answer this, but I will say that her writings, whether it’s the journalism from her girl reporter days in 1916 New York City, or her writings from, say 1966, continue to show us a way to look at and combat injustice.”

Carlene Bauer is a writer whose publications include Not That Kind of Girl (2009) and Frances and Bernard (2014). Her work has been published in The Village Voice, Salon, Elle, and The New York Times Magazine. Bauer currently works in and around New York publishing.

For more details about the Spring Institute for Lived Theology 2016/2017: Can I Get A Witness? initiative, click here. We also post updates online using #SILT. To get these and other news updates, please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @LivedTheology. To sign up for the Lived Theology monthly newsletter, click here.

On the Lived Theology Reading List: The Human Tradition in the Civil Rights Movement

The Human Tradition in the Civil Rights Movement, Susan GlissonRevisiting a Remarkable Social Revolution

The civil rights movement is popularly remembered through the initiative of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the tumultuous era of 1954-1965. In The Human Tradition in the Civil Rights Movement, seventeen writers breakaway from this traditional approach to commemorate the lesser-known, though equally important, change-makers that propelled efforts at the grassroots level.

Featuring leaders such as Ida B. Wells, James K. Vardaman, and Sylvia Rivera, the publication emphasizes the role individual agency would play in directing this movement and in influencing countless others to follow. The result, edited by PLT Contributor Susan Glisson, is a collection of narratives that captures the long, arduous struggle for national social change and civic renewal through the eyes of everyday revolutionaries.

Reviews of the book include:

“Glisson’s volume convincingly argues that the civil rights movement was not always top-down and that local grassroots organizers deserve recognition from scholars and the general public alike.” —The Journal Of Mississippi History

“Susan Glisson has assembled a stellar cast of scholars to tell the stories of individual Americans engaged in the struggle for human rights. This remarkable collection of essays is at once inspiring and sobering. It demonstrates that ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary things. But it also reminds us of the distance still to be traveled before this country lives up to its democratic promise.” —John Dittmer, DePauw University

For publication details, click here.

Susan M. Glisson has served as executive director of the Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation since 2002. A native of Evans, Georgia, she earned bachelor’s degrees in religion and history from Mercer University, a master’s degree in Southern studies from the University of Mississippi and a doctorate in American studies from the College of William and Mary. Glisson specializes in the history of race and religion in the United States, especially in the black struggle for freedom. She has numerous publications, has been quoted widely in the media and has supported community projects throughout the state for the Institute since its inception. 

For more of “On the Lived Theology Reading List,” click here. To engage in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter, @LivedTheology, please use #LivedTheologyReads. For more recommended resources from our fellow travelers, click here, #PLTfellowtravelers. To sign up for the Lived Theology monthly newsletter, click here.

Christian Century Features Excerpt from Jennifer McBride’s New Release

Radical Discipleship: A Liturgical Politics of the Gospel, Jennifer McBride, Virginia SeminarThe Housed, the Homeless, and the Right to be Somewhere

PLT Contributor Jennifer McBride released her newest book on March 1, 2017. The product of her participation in the Virginia SeminarRadical Discipleship: A Liturgical Politics of the Gospel (Fortress Press) engages the social evils of mass incarceration, capitol punishment, and homelessness, connecting liturgy, activism, and theological reflection with Christian discipleship that stands in solidarity with those whom society despises and rejects. The book arises out of McBride’s extensive experience teaching theology in a women’s prison while participating in a residential Christian activist and worshiping community.

Christian Century is currently featuring an excerpt from the new release on her time at this residential Christian community, the Open Door. In the article, McBride writes:

“When Open Door members invite homeless people into their home, perceived enemies become friends. Those friendships in turn expand and transform space, not only during Holy Week as they give us entrance to the streets where we would not otherwise go, but also in our everyday lives as we see homeless friends around the neighborhood and in adjacent localities—in all the various places where their presence is scorned at worst and tolerated at best. Because of these friendships, I am more likely to speak to other homeless men I do not yet know, further expanding the possibility of friendship and a mutual sense of belonging.

The streets are intimate but not safe or desirable; they are familiar but not spaces of belonging—not a home. Nor are they the shared space of belonging—the space of social flourishing and transformed relations—that defines beloved community…

The journey toward beloved community begins with this transformation of space that resists alienation and exclusion. It begins with the creation of shared spaces of belonging, which may come in various forms, from services of Morning Prayer to houses of hospitality. For the housed, it includes a journey toward the streets, a journey of embodied lament that makes the fight for decent and affordable housing—the repair of the world—urgent and concrete.”

The full excerpt is now available on Christian Century‘s website here, while another version appears in their March 15 print edition as “Homeless bodies.” For more information on the book, click here.

Jennifer M. McBride is Associate Dean for Doctor of Ministry Programs and Continuing Education and Assistant Professor of Theology and Ethics at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, IL. She is also the President of the International Bonhoeffer Society – English Language Section. Her other publications include The Church for the World: A Theology of Public Witness (2014).

For more of featured writings of our PLT Contributors, click here. To engage in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter,@LivedTheology, please use #LivedTheologyWrites. To sign up for the Lived Theology monthly newsletter, click here.

Can I Get a Witness? The Interviews with Daniel Rhodes

Daniel Rhodes SILT 2016-2017 Can I get a witness?Spring Institute for Lived Theology 2016/2017 Author Series

The 2016-2017 SILT celebrates scholars, activists, laypeople, and religious leaders whose lived theologies produced and inspired social justice in the United States, and will produce a single volume entitled Can I Get a Witness? The Forgotten Tradition of Radical Christianity in America.

This news series, Can I Get a Witness? The Interviews, features conversations with the Witness participants to highlight how each author is being changed and challenged by the historical figure they are working to illumine. This week’s headliner is Daniel Rhodes, whose figure is Union leader and labor organizer Cesar Chavez.

In your research, what has surprised you about Chavez?

“One thing that has surprised me about Chavez is how devout he was. Organizing and the cause of the farmworkers really become fused with his Catholic faith, not in a fundamentalist way, but in a way that’s offered a refreshingly new perspective on the place of faith and liturgy as public work.”

Can you tell me a story from Chavez’s life that illustrates something crucial about who he is?

“I have two, though there are many. First, though Chavez was somewhat instinctively the kind of dedicated worker that makes for a good organizer, he was also not by nature a self-confident leader. Apparently, when Chavez first started initiating house meetings, he was completely terrified of leading them. He would often drive around the neighborhood where the meeting was to be held multiple times before he could muster up the courage to go in. Once inside, he would swiftly move to the corner of the room and recoil in silence until he was forced to introduce himself as the head organizer! This story, for me, presents a window into the kingdom figure of Cesar Chavez, whose divine gifts were not surface level charisms but deeply developed and cultivated essential assets located in an unlikely place. In some sense, the union and the movement he helped generate embody this very kind of divine gift to the American church.

Second, in 1963 a man named Manuel Rivera approached Chavez with a complaint about his labor contractor. After questioning the contractor about the wage rate on work he’d already done, Rivera was subsequently fired and his car broke down. When Chavez learned about this, he and his wife Helen took the Rivera family into their tiny home and let them borrow one of their cars until they could afford their own housing and transportation. He would not allow Rivera to pay him anything in return. After disappearing for six months, Rivera returned to town and immediately paid union dues for every month since Chavez had housed him. Rivera become one of the most dedicated early members of the organization and an ardent devotee to Chavez. Three years later in 1966, Rivera would even sacrifice his body for the nascent union, when he was hit by a grower’s truck while standing in a picket line and left permanently crippled. Rivera so admired Chavez and had become so committed to the cause that, even after the accident, he never regretted his involvement. I think this short story displays the way in which Chavez’s own character suffused the farmworker movement.”

What piece of advice can you imagine Chavez offering to the United States or the world today?

“I imagine Chavez would ask us to seriously interrogate our allegiances, especially now with all that has happened this past year. I think in the same breath he’d remind us that its more important to build the relationships necessary to carry the work of justice forward than to develop elaborate schemes and plans for ‘making it happen.’ For him, justice and the aim of the cause could never be abstract or general but it was always first interpersonal and relational. This is why he really viewed the union as a family more than simply a vehicle to gain power or to elevate his status. Winning could not be divorced from love.”

Daniel Rhodes is the faculty coordinator of contextual education at the Institute of Pastoral Studies at Loyola University Chicago. As the title of his dissertation for Duke University Divinity School implies, his work focuses on “The History of the Future: Apocalyptic, Community Organizing, and the Theo-politics of Time in an Age of Global Capital.” Rhodes is interested in political theology, broad-based community organizing, capitalism and christianity, globalization, sovereignty and governance, and war and peace studies. His publications include Free for All: Rediscovering the Bible in Community (Baker Books, 2009).

For more details about the Spring Institute for Lived Theology 2016/2017: Can I Get A Witness? initiative, click here. We also post updates online using #SILT. To get these and other news updates, please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @LivedTheology. To sign up for the Lived Theology monthly newsletter, click here.

On the Lived Theology Reading List: Field Hospital

Field Hospital: The Church's Engagement with a Wounded World, by William T. CavanaughThe Church’s Engagement with a Wounded World

In 2013, Pope Francis famously said, “I see clearly that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle.”

William Cavanaugh’s publication, Field Hospital, expands on this metaphor to explore the ways in which the church can meet the spiritual and material needs of the world. Most importantly, the church must acknowledge its responsibility in the existence of human sin as opposed to assuming a position of superiority. Considering the intersection of theology with themes of religious freedom, economic injustice, religious violence, and other pressing topics, Cavanaugh pens a field manual for faith communities to expand their mission of healing beyond church walls.

Reviews of the book include:

“Political theology at its best. Field Hospital confirms Cavanaugh as one of the most lucid, innovative, and interesting theological voices of our time. He has that rare ability to take complicated philosophical arguments and ideas and present them in simple and clear ways for both an academic and a general audience.”—PLT Contributor Emmanuel Katongole, Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame

“Richly instructive. . . . Bill Cavanaugh intrepidly goes where few theologians dare to go, and his questions and answers remain resolutely theological against the strongest temptations to bow to the accepted discourses of our age. Those seeking to understand the perspectives that inspire Caritas in Veritate and Evangelii Gaudium need search no further: this is the book to read.”—Matthew Levering, Mundelein Seminary

Field Hospital sets forth an utterly unsentimental vision of the church as imperfect and vulnerable, her ‘power made perfect in weakness.’ Cavanaugh shows again why he is one of contemporary Catholicism’s most important thinkers.”—Joseph L. Mangina, Wycliffe College, University of Toronto

Find additional information on the publication here.

Fellow travelers are scholars, activists, and practitioners that embody the ideals and commitments of the Project on Lived Theology. We admire their work and are grateful to be walking alongside them in the development and dissemination of Lived Theology.

For more of “On the Lived Theology Reading List,” click here. To engage in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter, @LivedTheology, please use #LivedTheologyReads. For more recommended resources from our fellow travelers, click here, #PLTfellowtravelers. To sign up for the Lived Theology monthly newsletter, click here.

Emulating Prophetic Pragmatism: Larycia Hawkins Delivers Guest Lecture

Larycia HawkinsOn Embodied Solidarity from the Valleys to the Mountaintops

On February 28, Larycia Hawkins delivered a guest lecture entitled “The Mountaintop as the Valley of the Shadow: Martin Luther King, Jr. and Prophetic Visions from Below.” Aiming to complicate theology from above and the vision of the beloved community, also known as the Kingdom of God in America, the presentation considered our contemporary selves through the lenses of history, namely Martin Luther King, Jr.

By examining the rhetoric and religious appeals in King’s “I’ve been to the Mountaintop” speech, Hawkins traced shifts in King’s theology through the idea of theodicy into a narrative on the sacredness of bodies, through which each of us actualize lived theology. She ended with a discussion on past and present prophets, concluding that we must all be in embodied solidarity with the suffering in the valleys as we work towards the mountaintops of hope and equality for all.

In her discussion of prophets, Hawkins says:

“Prophets are railing against societal injustice, speaking truth to power, but they are also speaking to us. They are speaking vertically as well as horizontally… You’re only so righteous as your city is just. You’re only so righteous as your country does justice. That’s what the prophets say.

The mistake that Americans, scholars make is to assume that it was only MLK’s prophetic words that propelled the civil rights movements. It was his body offered as a continual living sacrifice in the words of the apostle Paul. It was putting feet to faith, and that’s literally what the gospel means, the good news that Christians profess. It was what I term prophetic pragmatism. If the gospel is putting feet to faith beyond the telling of the truth, prophetic pragmatism does justice in the trenches,  justice despite power from the margins where people live, with or without the state, which is the greatest threat to power as he mentions. The alternative polis, the alternative political community lives pragmatically. Jesus as the quintessential prophet goes beyond mindfulness of the suffering and the oppressed to liberation of their bodies and souls.”

Listen to the entire lecture through its resource page here.

Larycia A. Hawkins is the Abd el-Kader Visiting Faculty Fellow at the University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture. She is the recipient of many honors, such as the Bridge Builder Award from The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (MI) and the Dr. Betty Shabazz Award from Women in Islam Inc. (NY). Dr. Hawkins’ recent publications include “Prophetic and Priestly: The Politics of a Black Catholic Parish” (2015) and “Jesus and Justice: The Moral Framing of the Black Agenda” (2015). Her research engages the intersections of race/ethnicity, religion, and politics. Her writing, speaking, teaching, and scholarship are squarely animated by a conviction that political science should be relevant to the real world.

For more event details and up-to-date event listings please click here to visit the PLT Events page. We also post updates online using #PLTevents. To get these and other news updates, please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @LivedTheology. To sign up for the Lived Theology monthly newsletter, click here.

Can I Get a Witness? The Interviews with Grace Yia-Hei Kao

Grace Yia-Hei Kao SILT 2016-2017 Can I get a witness?Spring Institute for Lived Theology 2016/2017 Author Series

The 2016-2017 SILT celebrates scholars, activists, laypeople, and religious leaders whose lived theologies produced and inspired social justice in the United States, and will produce a single volume entitled Can I Get a Witness? The Forgotten Tradition of Radical Christianity in America.

This news series, Can I Get a Witness? The Interviews, features conversations with the Witness participants to highlight how each author is being changed and challenged by the historical figure they are working to illumine. This week’s headliner is Grace Yia-Hei Kao, whose figure is Yuri Kochiyama, a life-long activist at the forefront of issues in the black, Latino, Native American and Asian American communities.

When you were first invited to write about Kochiyama, what was your reaction?

“I was excited for two reasons. From time to time I’ve been following what The Project on Lived Theology has been doing and was honored to be asked to participate. When I was asked to write on Kochiyama in particular, I was surprised, as I hadn’t previously put Kochiyama in the category ‘theologian.’  I’ve long been fascinated about Kochiyama’s life, so I was eager to dig more into her life, her sources of inspiration, and her support system through the lens of how she enacted/manifested her faith.”

In your research, what has surprised you about Kochiyama?

“I’ve been most surprised about the slight disconnect between how Kochiyama is remembered (“leading Asian American activist”) and the fact that she took up Asian American issues relatively late in her life, only after campaigning for decades for various other causes, including civil rights (particularly for blacks and latinos/Puerto Ricans), anti-war (Vietnam), and the plight of political prisoners. She was drawn to Asian American issues not so much from a sense of identity politics, but from the logic of what fighting for human dignity and being a part of ‘the struggle’ would require of her.”

How is spending time with Kochiyama affecting you?

“Yuri’s seamless blending of the personal and political is affecting my thoughts on how I’ve elected to order my life. Yuri did things like take her children to marches and protests, turn her Christmas newsletter into a platform to convey her passion for various causes, and open up her home on a regular basis for activists, struggling artists, and college kids to stay sometimes for extended periods of time. In other words, she committed her entire family and all of her resources to ‘the struggle.’ There were, however, some personal costs to doing so (i.e., she expressed regret that her younger children didn’t have ‘typical’ childhoods). As a working mom to two young boys (now ages 7 and 9), I have mostly shielded my work from them and am thinking through what it would be like to live in a more integrated, holistic way.”

What piece of advice can you imagine Kochiyama offering to the United States or the world today?

“Kochiyama would be cautioning the U.S. not to lose its identity and commitment to ‘freedom and justice for all’ in the fight against terrorism, be it through the curtailment of civil liberties for Americans themselves or the new modes of surveillance of warfare that have brought their own forms of destruction and terror to other nations. She would also caution the U.S. against thinking that its enemies are mostly abroad when in fact there are longstanding evils and injustices to be fought at home, such as racism and classism.”

Grace Yia-Hei Kao is the associate professor of ethics at the Claremont School of Theology (CST). She teaches and researches on issues related to human and nonhuman animal rights, religion in the public sphere in the U.S., ecofeminism, and Asian American Christianity. Kao’s publications include Asian American Christian Ethics: Voices, Methods, Issues (2015) and Grounding Human Rights in a Pluralist World (2011). Kao’s current projects include a co-edited anthology on a theological exploration of women’s lives.

For more details about the Spring Institute for Lived Theology 2016/2017: Can I Get A Witness? initiative, click here. We also post updates online using #SILT. To get these and other news updates, please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @LivedTheology. To sign up for the Lived Theology monthly newsletter, click here.

On the Lived Theology Reading List: A Culture of Engagement

A Culture of Engagement- Law, Religion, and Morality, by Cathleen KavenyLaw, Religion, and Morality

Conforming to cultural norms and resisting them have created a long-standing tension among religious traditions in America. In this book, author Cathleen Kaveny offers an alternative approach through “a culture of engagement,” in which institutions embrace both a respect for tradition and a civic role that involves reviewing social and political issues. Kaveny emphasizes five areas— Law as a Teacher, Religious Liberty and Its Limits, Conversations about Culture, Conversations about Belief, and Cases and Controversies— to illustrate how interaction between the religious and secular spur rich conversations among moral and cultural traditions. A collection of Kaveny’s revised Commonweal magazine contributions, A Culture of Engagement highlights the place of culturally-informed religious traditions within the difficult conversations addressing the most pressing issues of the day.

Reviews and endorsements of the publication include:

“Cathy Kaveny is, simultaneously, one of our country’s most important religious intellectuals and one of our most rigorous legal scholars. She writes with great care and understanding, but also with passion and an uncommon humanity. A Culture of Engagement is a superb introduction to her thought. No matter where you stand, she will challenge you, and inspire you, too.”—E. J. Dionne Jr., Senior Fellow, Brookings Institute

“This is a bold and brilliant engagement with the fundamental questions of faith, freedom, and family—crisply written, cogently argued, and constructively casuistic. Building on her earlier masterwork, Law’s Virtues, Cathleen Kaveny now shows us even more clearly how the law can teach us how to live a life of virtue as communicants and citizens in a world of ever-growing complexity.”—John Witte, Jr., Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Law, McDonald Distinguished Professor, Director of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion, Emory University

“Cathy Kaveny’s A Culture of Engagement offers a highly instructive collection of her essays on law, religious liberty, American culture, Catholicism, and a host of contemporary social-ethical issues. Her voice is always calm, measured, and fair. Her thesis—that American Catholics should strive for a culture of engagement rather than merely openness or identity, resonates deeply. And it is consistently evidenced in her approach to a wide range of issues. This collection helps solidify Professor Kaveny’s role as one of American Catholicism’s leading public intellectuals.”—David P. Gushee, Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics, Director of the Center for Theology and Public Life, Mercer University

For more information on A Culture of Engagement, click here.

Fellow travelers are scholars, activists, and practitioners that embody the ideals and commitments of the Project on Lived Theology. We admire their work and are grateful to be walking alongside them in the development and dissemination of Lived Theology.

For more of “On the Lived Theology Reading List,” click here. To engage in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter, @LivedTheology, please use #LivedTheologyReads. For more recommended resources from our fellow travelers, click here, #PLTfellowtravelers. To sign up for the Lived Theology monthly newsletter, click here.

Oxford University’s Ankhi Mukherjee to Visit UVA

Ankhi Mukherjee, Oxford University, "Unseen City: Traveling Psychoanalysis and the Urban Poor"Unseen City: Traveling Psychoanalysis and the Urban Poor

On March 13, Prof. Ankhi Mukherjee will visit the University of Virginia to lecture on the subject of her forthcoming book, The Psychic Life of the Poor: A City Unseen in Mumbai, London, and New York. The presentation will consider the relationship between psychoanalysis, race, and poverty in the context of global cities with a specific focus on Indian metropolises. Mukherjee will use case studies to discuss literary and aesthetic representations of poverty in relation to India’s psychoanalytic and psychiatric customs, a culture that is manifested in public attitudes toward the psychic life of the destitute. Entitled the “Unseen City: Traveling Psychoanalysis and the Urban Poor,” the lecture will take place from 4:30pm – 6:00pm in Wilson Hall 142. No tickets are required, and the public is invited to attend.

For more information on Mukherjee, visit her Oxford University faculty page.

Ankhi Mukherjee is Professor of English and World Literatures and a Fellow of Wadham College. Mukherjee has published on a wide range of topics in PMLA, MLQ, Contemporary Literature, Paragraph, Parallax and other peer-reviewed journals.  Her books include Aesthetic Hysteria: The Great Neurosis in Victorian Melodrama and Contemporary Fiction (Routledge, 2007) and What is a Classic? Postcolonial Rewriting and Invention of the Canon (Stanford University Press, 2014), which won the British Academy Rose Mary Crawshay Prize in English Literature in 2015. She is currently at work on two projects: The Psychic Life of the Poor: A City Unseen in Mumbai, London, and New York and After Lacan.

Fellow travelers are scholars, activists, and practitioners that embody the ideals and commitments of the Project on Lived Theology. We admire their work and are grateful to be walking alongside them in the development and dissemination of Lived Theology.

For more resources from our Fellow Travelers, click here. To engage in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter, @LivedTheology, please use #PLTfellowtravelers. To sign up for the Lived Theology monthly newsletter, click here.

Can I Get a Witness? The Interviews with Susan Glisson

Susan Glisson - Organizing SILT 2016-2017 Can I get a witness?Spring Institute for Lived Theology 2016/2017 Author Series

The 2016-2017 SILT celebrates scholars, activists, laypeople, and religious leaders whose lived theologies produced and inspired social justice in the United States, and will produce a single volume entitled Can I Get a Witness? The Forgotten Tradition of Radical Christianity in America.

This news series, Can I Get a Witness? The Interviews, features conversations with the Witness participants to highlight how each author is being changed and challenged by the historical figure they are working to illumine. This week’s headliner is Susan Glisson, whose figure is labor and civil rights activist Lucy Randolph Mason.

In your research, what has surprised you about Mason?

“What was surprising was that in talking about her with thoughtful people who are passionate about faith and social justice, I felt a new energy and enthusiasm for thinking about her life. I began to feel as if I was seeing her in a new, more meaningful way.”

Can you tell me a story from Mason’s life that illustrates something crucial about who she is?

“As an organizer for the CIO in the 1930s in the South, Mason visited a newspaper editor who was publicly and vociferously opposed to labor unions. She got a meeting with him in his office and noticed that he had a portrait of the Confederate general Robert E. Lee on his wall.  She began the meeting by sharing that Lee was a cousin of hers and it disarmed and charmed the editor. She left the meeting with his assurance that he would stop attacking the organizing efforts in his newspaper. She was able to find a connection that turned an ‘enemy’ into an ‘unusual ally.'”

How is spending time with Mason affecting you?

“In the vitriol and uncertainty of the 2016 campaign and election, she has brought me comfort as someone who lived through equally chaotic times but who never wavered from her goal of creating humane working conditions and shared prosperity for all.”

What piece of advice can you imagine Mason offering to the United States or the world today?

“I think she would both remind us of our founding principles, especially the separation of church and state and the Bill of Rights (her ancestor George Mason was one of three founders who helped write the Constitution but who refused to sign it because it didn’t outlaw slavery or include the Bill of Rights), as well as caution us about remaining stagnate in our growth as a country, to ask anew every generation who we are leaving out of the promise of the American idea.”

Susan M. Glisson has served as executive director of the Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation since 2002. A native of Evans, Georgia, she earned bachelor’s degrees in religion and history from Mercer University, a master’s degree in Southern studies from the University of Mississippi and a doctorate in American studies from the College of William and Mary. Glisson specializes in the history of race and religion in the United States, especially in the black struggle for freedom. She has numerous publications, has been quoted widely in the media and has supported community projects throughout the state for the Institute since its inception. Susan’s first publication, “Peanut Butter Crisscrosses” appeared in the Warren Baptist Church cookbook when she was 20 years old.

For more details about the Spring Institute for Lived Theology 2016/2017: Can I Get A Witness? initiative, click here. We also post updates online using #SILT. To get these and other news updates, please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @LivedTheology. To sign up for the Lived Theology monthly newsletter, click here.