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On the Lived Theology Reading List: Modern Religion, Modern Race

Modern Religion, Modern Race by Theodore VialUnderstanding their Connection

Theodore Vial calls religion and race “conjoined twins” in the first line of his recent book,
Modern Religion, Modern Race. These two concepts were born together and became key conceptual categories that have shaped the modern world. In the past, scholars charting the intellectual genealogies of the ideas of race and religion have often stopped at the enlightenment, but Vial persuasively argues that to fully understand the development of both concepts, post-enlightenment Germany needs to be considered as well. The book offers new perspectives on the writings and thoughts of a number of nineteenth-century thinkers, including Immanuel Kant, Johann Gottfield Herder, Friedrich Schleiermacher and Max Müller. Ultimately, Vial concludes that race cannot be disentangled from the study of religion.

Reviews and endorsements of the publication include:

“Theodore Vial’s groundbreaking text on religion, race, and modernity is the most insightfully thought-out, clearly written, and invitingly compelling of all the recent publications on this subject. Clarity of argument represents clarity of thinking. And his, indeed, is a new voice in the field. He proves to us what we’ve all missed: the post-Kantian context and the decisiveness of language in how the West wedded race and religion.”-Dwight N. Hopkins, author of Being Human: Race, Culture, and Religion

Modern Religion, Modern Race is a smart, nuanced, and accessible study of the birth of the twin concepts of ‘religion’ and ‘race’ in the modern world. With historical sensitivity and philosophical acumen, Theodore Vial traces the simultaneous development of these two concepts and brings his analysis to bear upon the contemporary, and often violent, ways in which these ideas continue to shape our world. Readers have much to gain from this thoughtful study.”-Leora Batnitzky, author of How Judaism Became a Religion: An Introduction to Modern Jewish Thought

For more information on the publication, 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.

On the Lived Theology Reading List: Breaking White Supremacy

Breaking White Supremacy: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Black Social Gospel, Gary DorrienMartin Luther King Jr. and the Black Social Gospel

The prophetic witness of Martin Luther King Jr. did not arise spontaneously, social ethicist Gary Dorrien argues in his new book Breaking White Supremacy. Instead, the activism and ministry of King and other civil rights leaders was part of a long tradition of the black social gospel. Using a cross disciplinary approach, Dorrien deals with social ethics, theology, politics and intellectual history to examine the lives of King, Howard Thurman, Benjamin Mays, Pauli Murray, Adam Clayton Powell Jr. and a host of other black religious leaders. This book is a follow-up to Dorrien’s 2017 The New Abolition: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Black Social Gospel, which won the Grawemeyer Award in religion. The cumulative effect of both works is to make a strong case that the black social gospel Christian tradition has had a more lasting influence than the better known white social gospel movement.

Reviews and endorsements of the publication include:

“In this follow up to The New Abolition, Gary Dorrien proves that a sequel can be on par with or even better than the original. Anyone seeking to understand Black religious thought in the era of Black Lives Matter would do well to start here.”—Andre E. Johnson, University of Memphis

“Monumental and meticulous, this is a fascinating work of intellectual history. Dorrien’s great contribution is to name and to illuminate a tradition— the Black social gospel—that had no name.”—William D. Hart, Macalester College

“This must-read book masterfully tells the stories of African American Christian leaders struggling for racial justice and social democracy in the twentieth century. A powerful inspiration for religious activists today.”—Vincent Lloyd, Villanova University

For more information on the publication, 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.

PLT Contributor Christopher Yates to Lead Guest Seminar

Chris Yates WeilOn Simone Weil

On Thursday, February 8, Professor Christopher S. Yates will present a guest lecture on Simone Weil’s “Reflections on the Right Use of School Studies with a View to the Love of God.” The presentation is scheduled for 2:00 – 3:15 p.m. in Nau Hall 211. Admission is free, and the public is invited to attend.

For more information on additional resources and occasional lectures, click here.

Christopher Yates is Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Aesthetics, and Art Theory at the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts and an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture.

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.

Call for Applications: Summer Internship in Lived Theology 2018

summer internship in lived theology 2018Now Accepting Applications for Summer 2018

The Project on Lived Theology is now accepting applications for the 2018 Summer Internship in Lived Theology, an immersion program designed to complement the numerous existing urban and rural service immersion programs flourishing nationally and globally by offering a unique opportunity to think and write theologically about service. To download an application, click here.

The internship is open to U.Va. undergraduate students in any field of study. Selected participants spend the summer interning with the partnering institution of their choice. Each intern works directly with a U.Va. faculty member who acts as a theological mentor, offering guidance in reading, discussing, and writing about selected texts. Each intern also has a site mentor who shapes his/her work experience and may act as a conversation partner in the intern’s academic and theological exploration. Throughout the summer, interns blog for the Project on Lived Theology website; at the end of the internship, interns complete a final project and present their work at a public event.

The deadline for application submission is February 5, 2018.

For more information on the internship and to read blog posts and biographies from past interns, click here.

For online updates about the PLT Summer Internship, please use #PLTinterns, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter at @LivedTheology.

On the Lived Theology Reading List: Gundamentalism and Where It Is Taking America

Gundamentalism and Where It Is Taking America, James AtwoodA Pastor’s View on Guns in the U.S.

Gundamentalism and Where It Is Taking America is the work of James Atwood, a retired Presbyterian pastor and an avid deer hunter who has also been in the forefront of the faith community’s fight for two constitutional rights: the right to keep and bear arms and the right to live in domestic tranquility, free of gun violence. With this book, which details his learning of a lifetime in the struggle for reasonable gun laws in America, Atwood delivers dependable social and theological analysis of our unique national epidemic along with scientific data that will provoke honest reflection and discussion for the building of a safer and saner America.

Reviews and endorsements of the publication include:

“Jim Atwood continues to challenge our nation’s obsession with guns and violence. His critiques offer an opportunity for all of us to reclaim God as an agent of love rather than fear, power, and domination. This book is a must-read for theologians, pastors, activists, seminarians, congregations, and community and lay leaders.”—J. Herbert Nelson II, Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA)

“Looking through the lens of faith, Atwood shines a klieg light on the shadows and myths surrounding the meanings of guns in our society. Have your highlighter at the ready! Atwood provides shocking data and provocative detail that is scrupulously documented.”—Katie Day, Charles A. Schieren Professsor of Church and Society, Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia

“Atwood slings out the facts like a modern-day David, slaying the gun lobby’s twisted logic one chapter at a time. He gives the reader everything needed to understand the debate about guns in America and wraps it all up in a moral, ethical, and religious framework that will take the wind out of any gun rights zealot.”—Joshua Horwitz, Executive Director, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence

For more information on the publication, 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.

Rediscovering King for Today: PLT Announces Prophet with a Pencil Initiative

Filing CabinetScholar Task Force to Write Essays and Host Public Form

With the fiftieth anniversary of Martin Luther King’s death approaching in April 2018, University of Virginia’s Project on Lived Theology is pleased to announce a new, $30,000 initiative, Prophet with a Pencil: The Continuing Significance of Martin Luther King’s ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’—a gathering of ten scholars and practitioners, conceptualized and organized by Arthur M. Sutherland, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Theology at Loyola University Maryland. Convening in Birmingham, Alabama, this June, the assembly’s work includes publishing a volume of essays and hosting a public forum on the theological ideas and questions raised by King in 1963 that are still relevant today.  

Typically read in American colleges and universities as an example of masterful rhetoric, King’s letter, written with a borrowed pencil, is actually a critique of Christian faith and practices; the letter admonishes a church in which King’s words had “a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound.” Although many of the sentences in King’s letter, such as “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” supply the pages of our national quote book, their theological significance is often overlooked. The Prophet with a Pencil scholars will address this void by sharing and discussing their work during a research retreat at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI) in June of 2018. Located in the historic Civil Rights District of Birmingham just across the street from the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and Kelly Ingram Park, BCRI is a cultural and educational research center that promotes a comprehensive understanding and appreciation for the significance of civil rights developments in Birmingham.

During the three-day gathering, this task force of scholars will share drafts of their essays, meet with surviving participants of the Birmingham Children’s March, and participate in an exchange of ideas with civil rights activists. After the gathering, pastors, congregants, seminarians, students, and theologians from around the world will be able to read the essay collection and participate in the discussion of the relevance and significance of the words of King’s letter for the church today through Prophet with a Pencil’s website.

Dr. Charles Marsh, the director of The Project on Lived Theology called Sutherland’s concept and rationale “altogether compelling” and looks forward to a productive collaboration.

The mission of The Project on Lived Theology is to clarify the interconnection of theology and lived experience and promote academic resources in pursuit of social justice and human flourishing. The Project offers a variety of familiar and unconventional spaces where theologians, scholars, students, practitioners, and non-academics can demonstrate the importance of theological ideas in the public conversation about civic responsibility and social progress. The project was established in 2000 with a grant from the Lilly Endowment.

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.

Christianity Under Attack: Charles Marsh Addresses NRA Impact in Religion and Politics

Charles Marsh, Charles Marsh to Deliver 25th Annual Harry Vaughan Smith LecturesOn a Gospel Approach to Gun Control in America

On January 3rd, Project Director Charles Marsh published his latest essay in Religion and Politics. The piece, entitled “The NRA’s Assault on Christian Faith and Practice,” traces the American response to the laws regulating and statistics surrounding gun ownership and examines their underlying ties with Christianity today. Regardless of political affiliation, Marsh argues careful reflection of the Christian response to the ongoing gun epidemic is required by all to remain true to the teachings of the Gospel. Indeed, with gun violence and resulting death tolls on the rise throughout the country, the church and its members can afford to do no less.

In the essay, Marsh writes:

“On issues related to gun violence, safety, and regulation, evangelicals clearly need, and deserve, a more theologically robust discussion. A good start might be formulating questions for reflection and study, such as: Are there aspects of American gun culture that contradict or confuse the message of the Gospel? (If so, let’s name them.) Have evangelicals sought to understand gun violence in America under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and with prayerful discernment of practical solutions? How can followers of Jesus preserve the distinctive speech and practices of Christian witness from the religion of the NRA, whose distinctive speech and practices cluster around the promise of overwhelming force? Under what conditions, if any, should the Christian lay down his or her arms? Does the support of the American gun lobby bring glory to God?…

It is of course the right of every law-abiding citizen to own a gun and of institutions, including churches, to think diligently about public safety and effective policing practices. Such matters have been heavy on the minds of my colleagues and compatriots in Charlottesville, Virginia, as we’ve tried to understand why our university and town were overrun by gun-wielding white supremacists on August 11 and 12 of last summer, with precious few interventions by university, local, and state police. But it is the responsibility of every person baptized into “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit” (II Corinthians 13:14) to engage the world with new habits of thought, speech, and behavior. Our reckoning as Christians with the “costs of discipleship” may not lead to the judgment that an armed church or gun ownership is behavior displeasing to God. But it must disrupt the easy alliance that currently prevails between the NRA and American evangelicals.”

Read the paper in full here.

Charles Marsh is the Commonwealth Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia and the director of the Project on Lived Theology. His research interests include modern Christian thought, religion and civil rights, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and lived theology.

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.

On the Lived Theology Reading List: Liberated Threads

Liberated Threads: Black Women, Style, and the Global Politics of Soul, Tanisha C. FordBlack Women, Style, and the Global Politics of Soul

In Liberated Threads, winner of the 2016 Liberty Legacy Foundation Award, author Tanisha C. Ford explores how and why black women in places as far-flung as New York City, Atlanta, London, and Johannesburg incorporated style and beauty culture into their activism. Focusing on the emergence of the “soul style” movement—represented in clothing, jewelry, hairstyles, and more—Liberated Threads shows that black women’s fashion choices became galvanizing symbols of gender and political liberation. Drawing from an eclectic archive, Ford offers a new way of studying how black style and Soul Power moved beyond national boundaries, sparking a global fashion phenomenon.

Reviews and endorsements of the publication include:

“Creates a fierce and vibrant dialog on the rarely recounted women’s perspective on black style, beauty, and soul.”—Library Journal, starred review

“A scholarly masterpiece that squarely situates fashion as central to the US civil rights and Black Power eras.”—Winterthur Portfolio

“Ambitious and wide-ranging. . . . Makes a powerful and convincing case for how black women practiced the politics of civil rights, black power, and anticolonialism by crafting new, self-affirming appearances and fashions.”—American Historical Review

For more information on the publication, 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.

Bonhoeffer and Niebuhr for Us Today: Stanley Hauerwas and Eugene McCarraher Lead Guest Seminar

Examining Past Theological Witness for the Present Church

On October 11, Stanley Hauerwas and Eugene McCarraher led a seminar discussion on Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Reinhold Niebuhr, entitled “Bonhoeffer and Niebuhr: Why They Still Matter.”

Stanley HauerwasHauerwas focused on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whose theological politics is best understood as the attempt to recover the church from the realm of invisibility known as religion, assumed to be an unavoidable condition of the human condition in his day. Rather, in Bonhoeffer’s mind, the proper place of the church is the locus of Christ’s presence in the world. The church is just as Jesus was, fully human, meaning that the church must denounce the most deceptive form of invisibility, the attempt to be pure, an affirmed association that prepared the way for the German church’s failure to oppose Nazism.

2008 SILT - Eugene MccarraherIn contrast, McCarraher argued Niebuhr cannot provide what we need for our time. Both Niebuhr’s political ontology and eschatology rest on a purely secular temporality, where love will have to wait until the end of history before its power can take effect. But any new radicalism must begin from a faith in the possibilities of the here and now, leaving today’s apostates of empire, McCarraher argues, to reclaim the language of realism rather than embrace the suspect Niebuhrian discernment. Indeed, others, such as the clergy activist A.J. Muste, are far better equipped to usher us forward through a realized eschatology.

In his discussion of Bonhoeffer’s emphasis on the visibility of the church, Hauerwas states:

“We are tempted to think we live in a very different time than Bonhoeffer. We are not threatened, we think, by Hitler-like leaders, but the cynicism that produced Hitler remains alive and well. We do not trust our neighbors, nor do we trust ourselves, nor do we trust the church. In fact, many in the ministry prefer the church to be invisible. The invisibility of the church means that the primary role of those in the ministry is to be a pleasant person. What seems lacking is anything that you are supposed to do as a Christian. But Bonhoeffer gives those in the ministry and all Christians something to do, and that is the great genius of Christianity. In a world where people are dying of boredom, we give you something to do, and thats what Bonhoeffer did.” 

Listen to the full lecture through its resource page here.

Stanley Hauerwas is a longtime professor at Duke University, serving as the Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Theological Ethics at Duke Divinity School with a joint appointment at the Duke University School of Law. Involved in the areas of systematic theology, philosophical theology and ethics, political theory, as well as the philosophy of social science and medical ethics, his work and research interests intersect across many disciplinary lines. His recent publications include The Work of Theology (Eerdmans, 2015) and Hannah’s Child: A Theological Memoir, 2nd Ed. (Eerdmans, 2012).

Eugene McCarraher is an associate professor of humanities and history and the associate director of the honors program at Villanova University. A former Charles Ryskamp Fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies (2005-2006), he has written for Books and CultureCommonwealDissent, In These TimesThe Nation, the Chicago TribuneThe Hedgehog Review and Raritan.

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.

The Future of Civil Rights Activism: Ruby Sales Engages in Charlottesville Public Forum

In Conversation with Charles Marsh on Social Justice and Spirituality

Ruby Sales VFH, Charles MarshOn November 29, civil rights leader and public theologian Ruby Sales traveled to Charlottesville to participate in a public conversation on social justice and spirituality hosted by Virginia Foundation for the Humanities (VFH).

The event, Every One of Us: A Conversation with Ruby Sales on Race, Spirituality, and Public Life, featured a dialogue between Sales and Charles Marsh, engaging Charlottesville community members on critical issues of race, spirituality, and public life. Extensive community interest brought 398 guests to the event, overwhelming the official capacity of the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center of 200. While there was standing room only, even those with a seat rose to close the program with a standing ovation.

In an opening discussion on fellow civil rights witness Victoria Gray Adams, Charles Marsh asked Sales, “What is the unfinished business of the civil rights movement today?” Sales answered:

“These are the questions that are still on the table today. Movements seek to raise up our consciousness from the low level of empire consciousness to the high level of mountaintop consciousness, where we begin to see the world and each other in very different, and larger, and more relational ways. Because it is in the process of moving up to a high level of consciousness that we come to know a full meaning of God and we come to know each other in community.

So I think the question is still on the table today as white supremacy is rampant in this country, as political speech is violating, dehumanizing, and degrading, as white anger threatens to shed the very curtains of democracy in this country that threatens the lives of not only people of color, but also women… I think we are facing a spiritual crisis in America today. It is a spiritual crisis of meaning that gets at the very heart of what kind of people we will be in the twenty-first century in a capitalist technocracy where very few lives matter and most of us are unessential. I think that peace is not an abstraction.”

Her visit to Charlottesville also included an intergenerational master class at UVA, a roundtable lunch discussion with local community leaders, and a private dinner hosted by New City Arts Initiative. At the conclusion of her trip, Sales shared her plans to develop a history-focused reading list for people interested in her work and ideas, to be compiled and shared by VFH with the public.

To watch this discussion in full and view photos of the event, click here. More information on Ruby Sales can be found 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.

Charles Marsh is the Commonwealth Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia and the director of the Project on Lived Theology. His research interests include modern Christian thought, religion and civil rights, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and lived theology.

PLT event updates can be found online using #PLTevents. To browse our PLT resource collection, click here. Updates on our resources can be found online using #PLTresources. To get these updates, please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @LivedTheology.