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AAR Annual Meeting
Denver, CO
November 17-20, 2018

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Political Theology Seminar
Theme: Political Theology and Justice
Inese Radzins, Pacific School of Religion, Presiding
Saturday - 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Convention Center-Mile High 3C (Lower Level)

For 2018, the Political Theology Seminar is exploring the relationship between political theology and justice. We interpret the category of political theology broadly, including both descriptive and normative work that attends to the mutual influence of political and religious concepts (in any religious tradition). Papers will examine both (1) theoretical and legal accounts (the relationship of justice and democracy, for example) and (2) engagement with specific topics such as reproductive justice, racial justice, gender justice, global justice, climate justice, etc.

Marjorie Corbman, Fordham University
"God's Judgment on White America": Divine Anger and Justice in Political Theology

This paper examines the challenge posed by the founders of Black Theology to the concept of “justice” in political theology. Theologians such as Karl Barth and Jürgen Moltmann have used biblical texts to argue for a definition of justice based in God’s judgment for the weak. At the same time, these theologians have tended to relate ambivalently to their source material due to the prevalence of disturbing portrayals of divine anger and vengeance in the very texts that most strongly assert the demand for justice. In contrast, James H. Cone and Albert Cleage, in the context of a country dominated by white power and violence, referred to biblical depictions of God’s judgment and righteous rage to define justice as fundamentally conflictual. This paper will examine how these thinkers drew from the confrontational rhetoric of Malcolm X and other black nationalists in order to develop a revolutionary theological definition of justice.

Amaryah Armstrong, Vanderbilt University
Race and the Refusal of Reproduction: Blackness, Justice, and Obligation

This essay develops a black political theological account of reproduction by asking how socially constructed obligations of race and gender relate to divine justice. Through a consideration of Angelina Weld Grimké’s work, I will examine how her staging of black oppression in terms of black women’s frustrated maternal desires links questions of theodicy to reproductive justice. Under conditions of anti-black violence, Grimké sees the dilemmas that attend black women’s reproduction as God’s doing—a cruel and violent joke. This paper argues that considering the contours of social, familial, and theological obligations that link blackness, motherhood, and divine justice can prove instructive for political theology. By analyzing how Grimké figures black obligations to nation, community, and self, through conflicts in the black maternal, I argue that the imagination of justice in her work highlights the need for political theology to think race and reproduction together.

Robert O. Smith, Baylor University
Supersessionism, Political Theology, and Settler Coloniality

Supersessionism has emerged as an essential topic for the development of political theology. Building on Vincent Lloyd’s expansions of Gillian Rose’s thought and the theological genealogy of race and modernity developed by J. Kameron Carter, this paper relates developments in political theology to supersessionism as a foundational problem in Christian theology while offering critical expansions.

The paper argues that consideration of supersessionism, also known as replacement theology, should be expanded to consider Jewish and Christian relations with Islam, both theologically and historically. Continuing this broad exploration of western Christian modernity, supersessionism is identified as a source of the modern practice of colonial conquest. Replacement theology is a source of settler colonialism, itself characterized by replacement. These connections, in turn, inform reflections on the Jewish-Christian relationship, itself characterized by a form of colonization inadequately addressed by contemporary anti-supersessionist Christian theologies.

John D. Carlson, Arizona State University
Before and beyond Rights: Re-Visioning Political Order through Symbols of Justice

Contemporary theological reflection largely reinforces the secular vernacular of justice-as-rights, the reigning model of justice in modern life. But in the wake of events like white supremacist rallies and cultural divisions over Confederate statues, why do we presume that rights is the only or best discourse of justice available? This paper considers an alternate conception of “justice as right order” (cf. Cicero, Augustine) through a visual examination of symbols of justice (art, monuments, icons). Symbols point to a moral reality that transcends politics even as they command the shared loves of citizens. Such an account better illumines affective and intellective ideas about what justice looks like in contemporary society. I show how two Italian political frescoes use moral symbols to depict different visions of a justly ordered society. I sum up by considering how such intellectual and aesthetic resources might sharpen our ways of conceiving and pursuing justice after Charlottesville.

Business Meeting:
David Newheiser, Australian Catholic University
Inese Radzins, Pacific School of Religion