PAPERS Resources

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

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Space, Place, and Religion Unit and Women and Religion Unit
Theme: Power, Gender, Place
Courtney Bruntz, Doane University, Presiding
Saturday - 1:00 PM-3:00 PM
Hilton Bayfront-Indigo 202A (Second Level)

Focusing on feminine deities in Buddhist cave sites and ritual texts. Creating ritual space in a highly gendered place. Cultivating equality at women-run Jewish farms. Fighting for equal space online and in local mosques. These gendered uses of space and place aim to generate, redistribute, or challenge power in various ways. A number of scholars have done work on the connections between religion, ritual, space/place, and power, and gender is increasingly an important element of these analyses. This panel continues the important work of scholars who have examined how gender affects and is affected by the organization, use, re-appropriation, and cultivation of religious spaces and places. We focus on how space and place can be used to generate, reinforce, redistribute, or subvert power by people of various genders. The papers on this panel demonstrate the ways that power, gender, and space/place are intimately connected in a variety of religious traditions.

Adrienne Krone, Allegheny College
Cultivation through Collaboration and Conservation: Gender and Power in Jewish Community Farming Spaces

The Jewish Community Farming (JCF) movement is grounded in an ethic of environmentalism and social justice but gender imbalances persist within the movement. I use ethnographic interviews and participant observation conducted at all of the JCF organizations to argue that the persistence of gender inequities is due to the replication of patriarchal power structures that recognize and reward the approaches to land stewardship that are favored by the men in the movement. I pay careful attention to the four JCF organizations led by women in Toronto, Canada, Boulder, Colorado, Los Angeles, California, and Boston, Massachusetts to discuss the distinctive approaches the woman-led farms take to land ownership and usage, which focus on collaboration and restoration over ownership and production. I also describe the JCF movement’s continued efforts to incorporate feminism into their visions in a continued effort to move North American Jews toward a more equitable and sustainable future.

Hillary Langberg, University of Texas
Enter the Goddess: The Transference of Ritual Power in the Mahāyāna-Related Sculpture of an Indian Buddhist Cave Site

This paper emphasizes the previously-understudied role of goddesses as advanced Bodhisattvas—compassionate savior figures—in Mahāyāna soteriology. It analyzes early examples of their sculptural representation alongside Buddhas and great male Bodhisattvas in the monastic caves of Kānherī (present-day Mumbai, ca. sixth century CE). Through a comparison of images carved in stone with a roughly contemporaneous ritual manual, the Mañjuśriyamūlakalpa, I suggest that we can better understand how female deities ultimately become objects of worship in Mahāyāna contexts, beyond being merely part of a late-stage appropriation of non-Buddhist divinities (as scholars have suggested with regard to goddesses in early tantric ritual families, or kulas). By bringing a previously untranslated passage of this text into conversation with the images, this study demonstrates the transference of power from one gender (and level of ritual hierarchy) to another, as represented in the spaces of this monastic site.

Matthew Mitchell, Allegheny College
Mutually Empowering: Displaying the Kami and Buddhas in the Women’s Quarters of the Shogun’s Castle in Early Modern Japan

In 1783 the nuns of Zenkōji Daihongan were invited to display their convent’s treasures in the Women’s Quarters of the Shogun’s castle. The nuns worked closely with administrators on the organization of allocated space to encourage the generation of a karmic connection between their Buddhist icon and the influential women of the castle. Daihongan’s nuns were not alone in this recreation of space. During Japan’s early modern period a number of Buddhist and Shintō clergy were invited to bring their icons into the shogun’s castle so the women there, many of whom were restricted in their movement, could meet the clergy, receive teachings, have rituals performed, and view the treasures. This was mutually empowering: the clergy received prestige and gifts from the women while the women developed connections with the religious world, enhance the standing of their lineages, and strive for success within the competitive atmosphere of the Women’s Quarters.

Krista Riley, Vanier College
Documenting, Changing, and Reimagining Women’s Mosque Spaces Online

The issue of mosque spaces in North America (and elsewhere), particularly with regard to gender, has received increasing attention in recent years, both within and outside of Muslim communities. This paper will focus on discussions about gendered mosque spaces taking place online. Taking as case studies three North American Muslim feminist bloggers, this paper examines how online and offline spaces interact, and how some Muslim women move in and out of these spaces in order to shift the gendered dynamics in their contexts. This paper will conclude with a reflection on what these examples can tell us about gender and power in online and offline spaces, and about the possibilities and limitations revealed as these conversations move between physical and online worlds.

Amy L. Allocco, Elon University
Liberal Theologies and Open and Relational Theologies Unit and Theology of Martin Luther King, Jr. Unit
Theme: Non-Violent Theology: Power, Persuasion, and Peace
Larry Perry, National Museum of African American History and Culture, Presiding
Saturday - 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Hilton Bayfront-Indigo 204A (Second Level)

Are some theologies - some models of God - better suited for promoting peace and justice through non-violent means? This co-sponsored session will feature papers that explore non-violence in connection with open-relational, liberal, and personalist theologies, especially as manifest in the theology and activism of Martin Luther King Jr.

Justin Heinzekehr, Goshen College
The Convergence of Process and Peace Church Theologies through Personalism

Open-relational theologians, especially process theologians, have prided themselves on promoting the concept of a persuasive, non-coercive God. It seems intuitive that the process model would naturally lead its adherents to a stronger ethic of nonviolence than would be true for those who retain a more traditional idea of divine omnipotence. This paper, however, compares process theology against theological models of the historic peace churches and argues that the relationship between divine omnipotence and an ethic of nonviolence is less straightforward than one might expect. Still, there is a historical convergence between process and peace church theologies that has been facilitated by nonviolent activism, especially in the lineage of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement, and I argue that this convergence can be interpreted as a reinterpretation of King’s personalism.

Daniel Ott, Monmouth College
Naturalistic God Metaphors, Nonviolence, and Violence

Martin Luther King Jr.’s personalist theology was key to the nonviolent movement that he led. It allowed him to affirm that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” even as he called people to necessary action. But because King’s theology retains too much of the supernaturalism and particularism of traditional theistic god metaphors it runs the risk of reinforcing groupishness and in group/out group reactivity. A more naturalistic theology that is specifically anti-supernaturalistic and explicitly pluralistic may be required to avoid these pitfalls. This essay develops such a naturalistic theology following the thought of Bernard Meland toward theological means that are consistent with peace and justice ends, and toward a call to melioristic action.

Natalya Cherry, Brite Divinity School
The Influence of Personalism on Harkness and King, Their Pacifism, and Their Persistence

“You needed not take the extra paragraph to introduce yourself to me. I have known you for several years through your writings. When I was a student in theological seminary…I had the great privilege of reading some of your books and articles. I have long admired your Christian witness and your sound theology.” As Martin Luther King recovered from an attack in New York in 1958, he replied thus to a letter of concern from the Methodist theologian Georgia Harkness, who had read his new book, /Stride Toward Freedom/. While it is uncertain which of Georgia Harkness’s 38 books King had read, it is possible to see the pacifist echoes of liberal theologian Harkness’s vision of God on King’s writings and program of nonviolence. The Boston Personalism of Borden Parker Bowne influenced young Harkness through her studies at BU and King through his time at Boston and his readings of Harkness.

James Lawson
  • 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
Open and Relational Theologies Unit
Theme: What Kind of God Is Most Worthy of Worship?
Bethany Sollereder, University of Oxford, Presiding
Monday - 1:00 PM-3:00 PM
Hilton Bayfront-Aqua 310A (Third Level)

What kind of God is most worthy of worship? Personal, impersonal, none at all? Unilaterally omnipotent or persuasively powerful? Unmoved or most moved mover? Mutable or immutable? Necessarily or contingently loving? This session will feature papers that make a strong case for a clear position.

Jeffrey Speaks, Boston University
The Piety of a Theocentric Naturalist

The virtue of piety is central to religious life, with ultimate piety owed to the conditions for the very possibility of existence. Anything less than this ultimate reality cannot be a worthy referent for the symbol ‘God.’ This leads to the conclusion that the fundamental theological error contained within process theology is the separation of God and creativity. Drawing on the thought of Robert Neville, Bernard Loomer, James Gustafson, H. Richard Niebuhr, and Wesley Wildman, this paper will articulate an alternative theological perspective called “Theocentric Naturalism,” which rejects the existence of supernatural beings, yet preserves the radically monotheistic separation of creator and creation – between the ontological creativity that creates all determinate reality, and the determinate world in its creative advance. It will examine the fruits of this form of religious piety, including its orientation to the natural world, the proper relativizing of our commitments, and the cultivation of religious courage.

Andrew Davis, Claremont School of Theology
God, Value, and Ontological Gratitude: The Axiological Foundations of Worship

Why does God exist and through what? This question should be at the heart of considerations as to what “kind” of God is worthy of worship, as well as considerations as to what worship involves. Perhaps Gods existence is a brute fact and without reason? Perhaps God’s existence is logically necessary? Or, perhaps God’s power is the reason for God’s existence? Each of these answers fails to ground a God worthy of worship. They also fail to illuminate what worship is. This paper argues that worthiness of worship is only to be assigned to a God whose very Value is the Divine “reason.” As such, Value is also the reason for the world, human existence, and human purpose as worshipful begins. The axiological foundations of God and the world constitute worship as “ontological gratitude”—a gratefulness for existence—which will manifest itself in a value-creative life.

Young Woon Ko, Lorain Community College
To Worship the Divine Paradox beyond the Personal-Impersonal Distinction

This presentation discusses the issue of the Divine Paradox, in which God has both personal and impersonal characteristics. Rather than being logically fallible and pathological, the problem of the paradox can work as a creative source for theologically constructing God to be studied in a global religious context. God is worthy of worship as a comprehensive, all-embracing God who reveals to worshipers all truth and all reality instead of one truth and one reality. The comprehensive all-embracing model of God is remarkable in Whitehead’s relational-process thought about God and creativity. This process vision ignites the Divine Paradox—harmony and transformation—in a series of network systems and sparks discussion of the Ultimate, which has been conceived differently in East and West. Given the relationship between the one and the many, I will discuss God and creativity as the object of worship, which challenges both a transcendent-personal God developed in Western classical theism and an immanent-impersonal God (or Ultimate Being) emphasized in Eastern classical (non) theism.

Benjamin Chicka, Curry College
Beyond the Impasse: Divine Transcendence, Immanence, and Emergent Theism

Questions about which model of God is most worthy of worship are not new. Process and ground-of-being theologians, both dissatisfied with the model of supernatural substance theism, have been have been arguing about the superiority of their respective alternatives since at least the 1980s. One side is convinced God is impersonal, unconditional, immutable, and generally the complete contrast to processes found in the world. The other side is convinced God is the most personal, non-omnipotent, changing, and similar to processes found in the world. Rather than restating such binary oppositions, this paper will argue for a creative synthesis in the form of an emergent theism that captures crucial features of both process and ground-of-being theologies.

Donna Bowman, University of Central Arkansas
Business Meeting:
Krista E. Hughes, Newberry College
Wm. Andrew Schwartz, Center for Process Studies
  • Focus on Chaplaincy
  • New Program Unit
Buddhism in the West Unit and Innovations in Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care Unit
Theme: Buddhist Chaplaincy Education and Pedagogy
Scott Mitchell, Institute of Buddhist Studies, Presiding
Monday - 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Convention Center-26B (Upper Level East)

Buddhist chaplains, as an emerging form of applied Buddhism, are serving both religious and nonreligious persons in crisis or distress. They train to minister without proselytizing the person(s) they serve. Through direct engagement with suffering they support reintegration of physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual lived experiences in relationship. Buddhist Master of Divinity (MDiv) or Master (MA) degree programs for chaplaincy education hold a unique perspective for chaplaincy training, contemplative care, spiritual formation, and embodied practices, which may open new pathways for the field of chaplaincy overall. This panel will explain how Buddhist chaplaincy educators devise curricula, work collaboratively, draw on the foundations of Buddha-Dharma, and align educational requirements with the larger professional, clinical, and academic field.

Elaine Yuen, Naropa University
Attending with Body, Speech, and Mind: Chaplaincy Training at Naropa University

Our contemporary times allow suffering to be more evident than ever. Chaplaincy, a profession that supports grief and life transitions with religious/spiritual understandings and practices, is taught through an experiential, Buddhist inspired lens at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. Presencing is a key element of chaplaincy practice. At Naropa, students utilize mindfulness and awareness methods based on Indo-Tibetan practice traditions to ground their presencing practice. By bringing awareness to body (physical), speech (communicative), and mind (cognitive), aspects of the client/patient as well as one’s own personal perceptions can be observed and embodied. By engaging in this way, a greater appreciation and understanding of the physical, emotional and environmental aspects of a pastoral encounter can be developed. The experience of these domains is supported by a pause, evoked by a brief bow, which allows one to step into the liminal, unknown space, where the kernel of experiential possibility lies

Leigh Miller, Maitripa College
Buddhist Spiritual Care and Chaplaincy Training at Maitripa College

A Buddhist MDiv program applicant recently said, “I don’t want to study Buddhist texts for only academic reasons, or practice with lamas only to cultivate my own spiritual insights; I want to develop a compassionate, virtuous mind and gain practical skills to actively benefit sentient beings right where they are suffering, in the world.” Maitripa College is the only graduate school recognized by the Association of Professional Chaplains as a faith-based Endorsing Body and as meeting the standards of theological education required for Board Certification. The pedagogy of “significant learning” (Fink) and the sangha are conditions for the integration of our three pillars - Scholarship, Meditation, and Service – for the those aspiring to a vocation in Buddhist spiritual care, and their identity as scholar-practitioners. Cabezon argues “who we are is in large measure a result of what we do,” thus Maitripa prioritizes the philosophical, contemplative, and relational dimensions of pedagogy as practice for engendering the presence, equanimity, loving-kindness, and wisdom chaplains need, and in order to become the people the world needs us to be.

Jitsujo T. Gauthier, University of the West
Buddhist Chaplaincy Education: Integrating Academic, Practitioner, and Caregiver

The Buddhist chaplaincy department at University of the West (UWest) consists of students from many branches of Buddhism, as well as those from other religious and secular traditions. The Master of Divinity (MDiv) program prepares those seeking right-livelihood for clinical chaplaincy in interfaith settings, such as hospitals, hospices, Dharma/temple communities, police departments, prisons, and the military. Students learn about other worldviews, and how to be of service to a wide variety of people in need. The program utilizes an Appreciative Inquiry methodology for leadership development and a Chaplaincy Education Model that combines the Academic, Practitioner, and Caregiver. The curriculum is interdisciplinary, incorporating Buddhist ethics and a path for spiritual formation throughout. Students are encouraged to engage in reflexivity, contemplative formation, and sharing their process with peers and professors.

Daijaku Judith Kinst, Institute of Buddhist Studies, Graduate Theological Union
Buddhist Foundations for Effective Chaplaincy: Graduate Education at the Institute of Buddhist Studies

Effective chaplaincy in contemporary settings depends upon the creative inclusion of perspectives drawn from diverse traditions and cultures. Buddhist chaplaincy graduate programs, offered by institutions with deep roots in the Buddhist tradition, are making significant contributions to the field. I will discuss central aspects of the program jointly offered by the Institute of Buddhist and the Graduate Theological Union. 1) An educational and pedagogical foundation for chaplaincy based in Buddhist teachings and its relevance for the field 2) A unique model of assessment and response based on the principles of healing identified by Buddhist scholar, Paula Arai, in her study of contemporary Japanese Buddhist lay women. 3) Theological/Dharmalogical reflection practices 4) Specific benefits of interfaith dialogue done within the context of a minority faith Institution with students from a range of faith traditions and seminary experiences.

  • Books under Discussion
  • Focus on Sustainability
Open and Relational Theologies Unit
Theme: Book Panel: Ecological Solidarities: Mobilizing Faith & Justice in an Entangled World
Krista E. Hughes, Newberry College, Presiding
Tuesday - 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Convention Center-26B (Upper Level East)

In an era of daily devastations brought about by climate change, the forging of ecological solidarities is more vital than ever. This panel, based on a book by the same title, explores various dimensions of such solidarities—each distinct yet multidimensional and interconnected in ways that are collaborative but also potentially agonistic. Tapping into a wide range of thought and practice, from political theology to indigenous wisdom, from interior contemplation to inter-religious cooperation, together the panelists will celebrate the hopeful yet messy solidarities of faith, justice, and creative expression for the sake of our radically entangled world.

Cynthia Moe-Lobeda, Graduate Theological Union, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary
Elaine Padilla, University of La Verne
Teresia Mbari Hinga, Santa Clara University
Peter C. Phan, Georgetown University
John B. Cobb, Center for Process Studies
Dhawn Martin, University Presbyterian Church