PAPERS Resources

AAR Annual Meeting
San Diego, CA
November 23-26, 2019

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  • Focus on Sustainability
Class, Religion, and Theology Unit and Open and Relational Theologies Unit and Religion and Ecology Unit
Theme: Can Religion Save the World? Beyond Capitalism, Consumerism, and Systems of Exploitation towards Ecological Civilization
Wm. Andrew Schwartz, Center for Process Studies, Presiding
Sunday - 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Convention Center-20A (Upper Level East)

In light of the 2019 AAR theme, “Scholarly Workers in Public Spaces: A Necessary Long Term Focus in the Study of Religions,” this session will be an intersectional, interdisciplinary, interreligious exploration on religious responses to our world’s most pressing issues.

Cherice Bock, The Oregon Extension
Environmental Care in Action: Experiences of Seminary and Divinity School Graduates from Environmentally Focused Programs

Moving the work at the nexus of religion and ecology beyond the academy and into faith communities is necessary in order for this area of scholarship to support a transition toward a more sustainable and resilient world, and to combat the “wicked” problems of climate change. While a number of seminaries and divinity schools train ministers on topics related to the environment, little is known regarding students’ experiences when they attempt to put these theories into action in their lives and vocations.

Based on interviews and qualitative survey data, this critical ecotheology paper describes the experiences of 50 students and graduates of 12 seminary and divinity schools with courses, programs, and certificates related to the environment. Implications for ecologically informed theological education are considered, and the author reflects on what the results of this study say about the potential for building momentum toward action on environmental care in faith communities.

Anthony Mansueto, El Centro College
Sanctuary and Commons: How Can Religion Contribute to Saving the World?

What can religion —and religious studies— contribute to resolving this situation? Building on John Milbank’s suggestion that capitalism was constituted by the “enclosure of the sacred,” as well as of the commons, but rejecting his privileging of Christianity as a force for liberation, I will argue for a communism which integrates a “restoration of the commons” which gradually decommodifies labor power by removing the need for people to sell their labor power in order to survive and thus gradually makes effective the freedom which both capitalism and socialism promised but failed to deliver, with a restoration of sanctuaries which open up for humanity diverse pathways of self-cultivation and civilizational progress. These sanctuaries, which would include not just traditional religious communities but also communities constituted by diverse secular traditions, would be entrusted with a significant share of humanity’s resources, which their members would be able to access in order to develop their capacities and carry out their particular callings, while also being stretched beyond their spontaneous inclinations.

Hunter Bragg, Drew University
“Can God Forgive Us?”: Christian Symbols and Marcuse’s Negation of the World

Informed by Herbert Marcuse’s social and aesthetic analyses, this essay claims that the Christian images of the New Heavens and the New Earth ought to be interpreted as aesthetic, utopian symbols which negate the mutually intertwined economic, ecological and Christian established orders, inspiring humans to imagine new, peaceful relations with their environment. It draws Marcuse’s social criticism into conversation with Paul Schrader’s 2018 film, First Reformed, allowing them to frame the relations of productivity between economics, ecology, Christianity and the future, and uses contemporary theological insights (Tanner, Rieger, Keller) to understand their workings today. It then suggests that Marcuse’s aesthetic analysis provides resources for challenging established orders, and claims, finally, that the New Heavens and Earth ought to be understood as aesthetic symbols in this sense. Their utopian character negates current ecological, economic and Christian orders and helps us imagine new possibilities based on pleasure rather than production.

Marie-Claire Klassen, University of Notre Dame
Laudato Si’, Decolonization, and Ecofeminism: A Case Study of the Kinder Morgan Pipeline Project

Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ speaks to the current ecological crisis and calls for a radical transformation of both our global economic system and the relationship we have with the earth in our day-to-day lives. Yet, while the encyclical presents a powerful vision for how we might care for our common home, there are some key dimensions missing from this approach. Namely, the encyclical does not engage deeply enough with the intersections between colonization, gender, and violence against the earth. This paper will use the Kinder Morgan pipeline, which is set to run from the Alberta tar sands to British Columbia’s coastline as a case study. This case study shows the importance of a gender and decolonial lens. I conclude that a more holistic understanding of the common good (inclusive of all creation) as well as cultivating a “preferential option” for the voices of women at the margins is essential.

John B. Cobb, Center for Process Studies