• Race, Disability and COVID-19: A DisCrit Analysis of Theological Education

      Barbara A. Fears (MDPI AG, 2021-01-01)
      The coronavirus pandemic of 2020 has generated public debate and private discussion about systemic racism in contemporary U.S. society and the ill preparedness and misdirected focus of clergy responding to this crisis. Later research will reveal reasons trained clergy called denominational offices, requesting assistance to address the needs of patients and parishioners, and initiated lawsuits demanding to gather for worship against medical advice and government mandates. While theological educators cannot anticipate every emergency awaiting graduates, U.S. history records national crises (i.e., hurricanes, mass shootings, BLM protests, etc.) that repeat. Practical theology course offerings, course content and course assignments, therefore, should be designed to prepare students to lead in anticipation of personal and communal tragedies. As professors introduce students to theory/theorists, we must also create space for the development of critical consciousness about and praxis for: problem solving, advocacy, race relations, relationship building, crisis management, identity politics, privilege, implicit curriculums and race-based disparities in health care, policing, religion, education, etc. Critical Race Theorists assert that this nation’s colonial past still plagues contemporary behaviors, employing the framework of Disability Studies and CRT (Dis/Crit), I analyze theological education to address what has been identified as racial paterfamilias in the institution, which may explain our colonial/capitalist response to COVID-19.
    • Race, Ethnicity, and the Functional Use of Religion When Faced with Imminent Death

      Ryan A. Smith (MDPI AG, 2020-09-01)
      This article uses religious coping theory to theorize about how and why race and ethnic groups on death row frame religious last statements at the moment of imminent death. Unique data (N = 269) drawn from death row inmates in Texas between December 1982 and April 2016 reveal uniformity in the dominance that black, white, and Hispanic inmates assign to relational forms of expressions that draw them closer to God and expressions that facilitate spiritual intimacy with others, over self-focused expressions that represent efforts to gain control over the imminent death experience or signal a transformed life. There is a hierarchy of preferred religious coping methods that changes for each group following the implementation of a new policy allowing the family and friends of murder victims (co-victims) to witness the execution of inmates. It is concluded that race and ethnic groups differ in the premium they place on preferred religious coping strategies when faced with imminent death, and a change in social context, such as the sudden presence of co-victims at executions, increases the religious content of last statements for all groups.
    • Racializing the Good Muslim: Muslim White Adjacency and Black Muslim Activism in South Africa

      Rhea Rahman (MDPI AG, 2021-01-01)
      Founded in Birmingham, England in 1984, Islamic Relief is today the world’s largest and most-recognized Western-based Islamically-inspired non-governmental organization. Framed by an analysis of processes of racialization, I argue that Islamic Relief operationalizes not a singular, but <i>multiple</i> Muslim humanitarianisms. I examine what I suggest are competing racial projects of distinct <i>humanitarianisms</i> with regards to HIV and AIDS, health, and wellness. I consider the racial implications of British state-based soft-power interventions that seek to de-radicalize Muslims towards appropriately ‘moderate’ perspectives on gender and sexuality. In South Africa, I argue that Black Muslim staff embrace grassroots efforts aimed towards addressing the material and social conditions of their community, with a focus on economic self-determination and self-sufficiency. I claim that the orientation of these Black Muslim grassroots initiatives denotes a humanitarianism of another kind that challenges the material and ethical implications of a humanitarianism framed within a logic of global white supremacy, and that is conditioned by racial capitalism.
    • Racism as Delusion: A Buddhist Perspective

      David R. Loy (MDPI AG, 2021-08-01)
      The powerful novel <i>Ceremony</i> by Leslie Marmon Silko combines several uncomfortable truths from the perspective of a young Native American who has returned home after World War II: the theft of Native American land, the manipulations that set poor whites against poor Indians (among others) and the effects of these lies on the hearts of white people, who tried and still try to fill up their hollowness with money, technology and patriotic war. However, as Silko emphasizes, the lies do not work. Not only have we white folk been fooling ourselves, but we also know that we have been fooling ourselves, and the consequences of our self-deceptions continue to haunt all of us. This essay is an attempt to say more about how that collective delusion functions—in particular, to understand the emptiness that patriotism never quite fills up, the hollowness that wealth and consumerism cannot glut. In order to do this, I will offer a (not “the”) Buddhist perspective, so we begin with some basic Buddhist teachings, which are quite different from the Abrahamic (Jewish, Christian, Muslim) traditions more familiar to most of us.
    • Radical Succession: Hagiography, Reform, and Franciscan Identity in the Convent of the Abbess Juana de la Cruz (1481–1534)

      Pablo Acosta-García (MDPI AG, 2021-03-01)
      In this article, I study in depth the first <i>vita</i> of the Franciscan Tertiary abbess Juana de la Cruz (<i>Vida y fin de la bienaventurada virgen sancta Juana de la Cruz</i>, written c. 1534), examining it as a chronicle that narrativizes the origins and reform of a specific religious community in the Castile of the Catholic Monarchs. I argue that <i>Vida y fin</i> constitutes an account that was collectively written inside the walls of the enclosure that can help us understand themes, motifs, and symbolic Franciscan elements that were essential for the self-definition of its original textual community. I first discuss the narrative of the convent’s foundation and then examine the penitential identity of the community, highlighting the inspiration that Juana’s hagiography takes from the infancy of Caterina da Siena, as described in the <i>Legenda maior</i> by Raimondo da Capua, and analyzing to what extent the represented penitential practices related to the <i>imitatio Christi</i> reflect a Franciscan Tertiary identity in opposition to a Dominican one. Finally, I address the passages in which the hagiographer(s) discuss(es) the sense of belonging to the Franciscan order rather than the Dominicans, and the mystical figure of Francesco d’Assisi as a founder, guide, and exemplar.
    • Rainmakers for the Cosmopolitan Empire: A Historical and Religious Study of 18th Century Tibetan Rainmaking Rituals in the Qing Dynasty

      Hanung Kim (MDPI AG, 2020-11-01)
      Although Tibetan rainmaking rituals speak of important aspects of both history and religion, scholars thus far have paid only biased attention to the rituals and performative aspects rather than the abundant textual materials available. To address that issue, this article analyzes a single textual manual on Tibetan rainmaking rituals to learn the significance of rainmaking in late Imperial Chinese history. The article begins with a historical overview of the importance of Tibetan rainmaking activities for the polities of China proper and clearly demonstrates the potential for studying these ritual activities using textual analysis. Then it focuses on one Tibetan rainmaking manual from the 18th century and its author, Sumpa Khenpo, to illustrate that potential. In addition to the author’s autobiographical accounts of the prominence of weather rituals in the Inner Asian territory of Qing China, a detailed outline of Sumpa Khenpo’s rainmaking manual indicates that the developmental aspects of popular weather rituals closely agreed with the successful dissemination of Tibetan Buddhism in regions where Tibetan Buddhist clerics were active. As an indicator of late Imperial Chinese history, this function of Tibetan rainmaking rituals is a good barometer of the successful operation of a cosmopolitan empire, a facilitator of which was Tibetan Buddhism, in the 18th century during the High Qing era.
    • “Rather More than One-Third Had No Jewish Blood”: American Progressivism and German-Jewish Cosmopolitanism at the New School for Social Research, 1933–1939

      Daniel Bessner (MDPI AG, 2012-03-01)
      The New School for Social Research’s University in Exile accepted more German and European exiled intellectuals than any other American institution of higher education. This paper argues that transnational, cosmopolitan ideological and interest-based affinities shared by left-leaning American progressives and German-Jewish intellectuals enabled the predominantly Jewish University in Exile to become a vibrant intellectual space accepted by the community of largely anti-Semitic American academics. These affinities also illuminate why, despite the fact that the émigrés’ exile was in large part the result of National Socialist hatred of Jews, Alvin Johnson (the founder of the University in Exile) and the faculty members that comprised it seldom discussed the University’s Jewish demographics. The Jewish faculty members ignored the relationship between their ethnicity and exile because to focus on it would have been to admit that the cosmopolitan project they had embraced in Central Europe had failed. Johnson ignored the faculty’s Jewish heritage for two reasons. First, he endorsed a cosmopolitan American nationalism. Second, he understood that the generally anti-Semitic community of American academics would have rejected the University in Exile if he stressed the faculty’s Jewishness. In ignoring the University in Exile’s Jewish demographics, Johnson and the University’s faculty successfully adhered to a strategy designed to foster the exiles’ entrance into the American intellectual community. Thus, while cosmopolitanism failed in Germany and Central Europe, the exiles’ later influence on the American academy indicates that it partially succeeded in the United States.
    • Rational Shari’ah: Ahmad Qabel’s Reformist Approach

      Forough Jahanbakhsh (MDPI AG, 2020-12-01)
      This article introduces the late Ahmad Qabel (1958–2012), a new figure among contemporary Iranian religious reformers. Qabel, a progressive <i>mujtahid</i>, proposed the creative theory of <i>Shari’at-e ’Aqlani</i> in order to reform stagnant <i>Shari’ah</i> rules and align the application of legal norms and precepts with the space-time considerations of modern life. Critical of the superficiality of traditional jurists, who led into abeyance the progressive rational praxis within classical Shi’i theology and jurisprudence, Qabel revived and employed these rational principles in his novel method of <i>ijtihad</i>. This paper has four sections: first, there will be a short biographical sketch of Ahmad Qabel. The second section surveys the trajectory of the development of Shi’i <i>fiqh</i> in order to set the backdrop for Qabel’s arguments. Then, I will discuss some of the major rational principles which constitute the heart of Qabel’s methodology. In the last section, the practical results of Qabel’s <i>Shari’at-e ’Aqlani</i> are presented through some of his unconventional <i>fatwas</i>, which, though solidly based within the Shari’ah, took on controversial topics such as women’s rights, religious minorities, <i>jihad</i>, and Islamic government.
    • Rationality and Ethics between Western and Islamic Tradition

      Michele Mangini (MDPI AG, 2018-10-01)
      In the contemporary legal and political debate a large space is taken by the concept of ‘reasonableness’ as a multifaceted notion. Its plasticity makes it very adaptable to the variety of problems that is called on to solve. Its philosophical underpinnings are located in the tradition of Western thought. On the one hand, we have the modern tradition, including the Kantian and the Humean views and, on the other, the Aristotelian–Thomistic tradition, proposing a different and competing conception of reasonableness. Insofar as the latter tradition proposes an idea relying on perfectionist considerations, I want to inquire into the Islamic tradition of reason and rationality in order to find whether it is closer to the first or to the second model. Concepts such as ‘ijitihad’, ‘maqasid’ and ‘maslaha’, I shall argue, find their better explanation if interpreted along the Aristotelian perfectionist tradition rather than along its competitor. If this move is well-founded, some important consequences for the understanding of contemporary Islamic culture may derive. My basic assumption is that those Islamic concepts (and a few others) embed a religious and cultural core of tension to ‘human development’ that can nicely dovetail with Aristotelian rationality and ethics of virtues.
    • Ratzinger on Evolution and Evil: A Christological and Mariological Answer to the Problem of Suffering and Death in Creation

      Matthew J. Ramage (MDPI AG, 2021-07-01)
      This article argues that a compelling way to address the presence of suffering and death across evolutionary history lies in the thought of Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI. By situating human evolution within the broader divine plan for man’s salvation through the cross of Jesus, Ratzinger is able to show that the presence of natural evils in this world is not incompatible with God’s goodness but on the contrary is an eminent means by which the love of God is made manifest. Exploring Christ’s <i>kenosis</i> and the sinless suffering of the Blessed Virgin, it is argued that suffering properly embraced is the raw material for love and thus essential for true human flourishing in this life. The real problem for man, it is contended, is not having to suffer and die, but <i>how</i> to suffer and die well. Finally, it is suggested that the full Christian answer to the problem of suffering connected with evolution nevertheless lies in the eschatogical hope for a new heaven and new earth, where man—and all creation with him—will undergo a definitive “evolutionary leap” of “transubstantiation” in Christ.
    • Re-Building Coal Country: A Church/University Partnership

      Carl Milofsky; Brandn Green (MDPI AG, 2016-06-01)
      This paper describes a developing partnership between a church-based service learning center and a university initiative to build a field station in a low-income community in the anthracite coal region of Pennsylvania. It is a case study of how secular and religious institutions have been collaborating to achieve the shared goal of improving social conditions in specific communities. The theoretical focus of the paper is on how a change from a “glass is half empty” to a “glass is half full” perception of the community opens new possibilities for change. This paper concentrates on the story of one partnership as a case study demonstrating current trends in service learning both within universities and within the Catholic Church in America. Analysis centers on the basic question of why the project had symbolic power for both partners and on the institutional processes within both organizations that helped the partnership grow. We use the framework of Assets-Based Community Development (ABCD), also known as the “strengths perspective”, to conceptualize the contrast.
    • Re-Defining the Villain in <i>A Song of Ice and Fire</i> from the Aspect of Totemism

      Emrah Öztürk (MDPI AG, 2020-07-01)
      The confrontation between good and evil is one of the essential aspects of the fantasy genre. In George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy novel series <i>A Song of Ice and Fire</i> (ASOIAF, 1996–2011), he approaches this conception from a critical point of view. Whilst Martin creates deep and challenging characters in his novels, he introduces the White Walkers to the audience as almost one-dimensional, classic antagonists. It can therefore be questioned whether this contradicts his approach towards the medieval ethos. In order to answer this question, I will approach the narration from the aspect of totemism, and will use totemic signs and values for my analysis. Firstly, I will establish a relationship between totemism and the Old Gods. Conceptions such as ‘sacred totem animal’, ‘totem as an emblem’, ‘restriction of incestuous intercourse’, and ‘spirits’ will be useful for comprehending the Old Gods. Furthermore, I will try to analyze the narration with the elements of totemism. Lastly, in the light of this examination, I will try to explain what theWhite Walkers represent within the narration.
    • Re-Enchanting Political Theology

      Jeremy H. Kidwell (MDPI AG, 2019-09-01)
      For this Special Issue which confronts the ways in which the question of pluralism represents both haunting and promise within modern political theology, I explore the presence of pluralism in the context of the environmental crisis and religious responses to issues such as climate change. Following Jason Ā. Josephson-Storm, I suggest that models of disenchantment are misleading—to quote Latour, “we have never been modern.” In engagement with a range of neo-vitalist scholars of enchantment including Rosi Braidotti, Karen Barad, Isabelle Stengers, Jane Bennett and William Connolly, I explore the possibility of a kind of critical-theory cosmopolitics around the concept of “enchantment” as a possible site for multi-religious political theology collaborations and argue that this is a promising post-secular frame for the establishment of cosmopolitical collaborations across quite profound kinds of difference.
    • Re-Examining Death: Doors to Resilience and Wellbeing in Tibetan Buddhist Practice

      Tenzin Namdul (MDPI AG, 2021-07-01)
      This paper explores how conceptions of death and the ways in which such conceptions shape responses to death determine ways of living as well as valued approaches to dying. The paper posits the question: can a fundamental understanding of death contribute to the development of adaptive social traits that lead to more sustainable phenomenological experiences of happiness and flourishing? Employing an anthropological lens, this work starts from the initial inquiry of “what is death?” by looking at cross-cultural historical and theoretical accounts of death and comparing the modern (medicalized) death to the Tibetan Buddhist notion of death. It examines how the practice of a “medicalized death” has shaped the understanding of contemporary death and the ways in which dying is approached. It employs the hermeneutic of a biopsychosociospiritual death to gain a holistic understanding of human mortality. This analysis, based on an 18-month ethnographic study among a Tibetan refugee community in southern India, explores the conception of death for this community using biological and cultural lenses. Moreover, it presents conceptions of death in Tibetan Buddhist culture, paying particular attention to how death is employed as an adaptive cultural tool in pursuance of positive behavioral changes and happiness at both individual and societal levels. In doing so, the paper presents both the theoretical conception of death and dying as well as its role in animating Buddhist cultural values and beliefs. Importantly, it presents a general landscape of Tibetan Buddhist cultural models that facilitate multiple ways of dying that are specifically dependent on an individual’s familiarity with practices related to death and dying and his or her own level of engaging such spiritual practices.
    • Re-Feminizing Death: Gender, Spirituality and Death Care in the Anthropocene

      Mariske Westendorp; Hannah Gould (MDPI AG, 2021-08-01)
      Critiques of ecologically harmful human activity in the Anthropocene extend beyond life and livelihoods to practices of dying, death, and the disposal of bodies. For members of the diffuse ‘New Death Movement’ operating in the post-secular West today, such environmental externalities are symptomatic of a broader failure of modern death care, what we refer to here as the ‘Death Industrial Complex’. According to New Death advocates, in its profit-driven, medicalised, de-ritualized and patriarchal form, modern death care fundamentally distorts humans’ relationship to mortality, and through it, nature. In response, the Movement promotes a (re)new(ed) way of ‘doing death’, one coded as spiritual and feminine, and based on the acceptance of natural cycles of decay and rebirth. In this article, we examine two examples from this Movement that demonstrate how the relationship between death, religion, and gender is re-configured in the Anthropocene: the rise of death doulas as alternates to funeral directors and the invention of new necro-technologies designed to transform the dead into trees. We ask how gender is positioned within the attempt to remake death care, and show how, for adherents of the New Death Movement, gender is fundamental both to a critique of the Death Industrial Complex and to mending our distorted relationship to death. By weaving together women, nature, and spirituality, the caring labours of death doulas and the fertility symbolism of new arboreal necro-technologies build an alternative model of a good death in the Anthropocene, one premised on its (re)feminization.
    • Re-Membering Catholicity: Higher Education, Racial Justice, and the Spirituality of the Posthuman University

      Jeffrey S. Mayer (MDPI AG, 2021-08-01)
      In the reinscribing of white supremacy in the United States, the contemporary university as a place of exclusion presents a problem of religion. Approaching religion as “the search for depth” and addressing the “techno-myths” of betterment, longevity, and the rituals of enacting these myths that capture today’s social imaginaries, this paper proposes an alternative to religious faith in “rising” and the rhetoric of the contemporary American technocratic-meritrocratic paradigm. Adopting the posthumanist methodologies of reflexivity and diffraction, the author argues for an embodied catholicity of the university as a community, an open system rather than a pre-formed locus to which racially minoritized students are “added” or “included”. In advancing the co-creativity of a Catholic-pluriversal university via an ethic of love and care, the author presents a Christian spirituality that is itself a technology that offers the hope of enacting a more life-giving congruence between the sacred and the secular than the myth of Manifest Destiny and the racialized violence that is the continued manifestation of that mythos. Embodied in the posthuman mystic’s practices of “re-memory,” the author presents Christianity as a performative-pluralistic religion of evolution, one of common action with the potential to draw into something new the energies of creativity in today’s university.
    • Re-Territorializing Religiosity in Wholesome Muslim Praxis

      Sarah Robinson-Bertoni (MDPI AG, 2017-07-01)
      Despite distorting narratives about extremism, specific individuals and communities of Muslims in America ground themselves in wholesome relationships among people and in the places where they find home. Between 2001 and 2009, Taqwa Eco-food Cooperative designed eco-halal food education and distribution for Chicago Muslims, promoting ethical praxis with local animals, lands, waters, farmers, farm workers, and fellow consumers. Founded and funded by an interfaith non-profit organization, Taqwa generated pluralistic community with an internally diverse Muslim community, local farmers, and interfaith partners. Amidst popular contempt for terrorism, Taqwa leaders reasserted wholesome Muslim identity by re-territorializing religiosity, enhancing care-based relations in local foodscapes. Concurring with religious studies scholarship on ecology, lived religion, and pluralism, Taqwa grounded religious meaning in materially significant, personal relationships in their local community of life. Responding to lived religious meaning nested in an ecologically holistic sense of place, Taqwa leaders crafted a purity-oriented project, inscribing identity through its beneficial relations with land and home, despite instances of migratory displacement, diasporic considerations, and externally produced problematic distortions of what it means to be Muslim in America.
    • Reading Karl Barth on Truth and Falsehood in the Post-Truth Age

      Geoff Thompson (MDPI AG, 2021-07-01)
      This article offers a close reading of two sections of Karl Barth’s <i>Church Dogmatics</i>, i.e., §70.1 “The True Witness” and §70.2 “The Falsehood of Man” against the background of the post-truth environment. A brief discussion of the post-truth phenomenon highlights how some strands of the resistance to it trade on a binary of objective and subjective approaches to truth and epistemology, insisting on the triumph of the former over the latter as the way of overcoming the problems of knowledge and truth in a post-truth culture. The reading of the two selected texts from the <i>Dogmatics</i> indicate that Barth’s discussion of truth and falsehood cuts across that binary. Whilst much of what Barth says in these texts is said in earlier parts of the <i>Dogmatics,</i> it is sharpened in this context by Barth’s discussion of the “pious lie,” the distortion of the truth within the Christian community, as the fundamental form of falsehood. Alertness to this sin challenges the church to adopt a posture of self-criticism to its own knowledge of the truth. This can be its own form of witness in the post-truth age.
    • Reading Religiously across Religious Borders: A Method for Comparative Study

      Francis X. Clooney (MDPI AG, 2018-01-01)
      Oliver Freiberger has done us the great service of drawing our attention to how comparativists do their comparative work. Issues of method—the “methodical aspects”—of course matter greatly in the actual doing of comparison, even if the scholar is not interested in theoretical discussions of method per se. One has to know one’s craft, in order to do it well, and to be clear in practice about how to proceed: “How comparison actually works as a method in the study of religion has not been discussed in greater detail so far. With due deliberation we can, as Freiberger suggests, identify and isolate specific methodical problems, effectively confront wholesale criticism, and find opportunities to refine the methodology. His approach also allows committed comparativists to speak in more depth about what we are doing in our research and writing.
    • Reading the Book of Nature after Nature

      Jacob Holsinger Sherman (MDPI AG, 2020-04-01)
      Early modernity tended to appeal to the trope of the book of nature as a way of securing knowledge—including knowledge about God—against the exigencies of history and culture, but as theorists such as Timothy Morton, Bruno Latour, and others have argued, today this assumed dualism of nature and culture is both ecologically and critically suspect. What might it mean to read the book of nature in a time of ecological precarity, what many have called the Anthropocene? I will argue that premodern theological traditions of the book of nature, such as one finds in the twelfth century Hugh of Saint Victor, have something extremely important to add to a postmodern ‘terrestrial’ hermeneutics of nature, precisely because the premodern book of nature already performs the construal of nature as culture (and of culture as nature) so often recommended today by critics such as Latour, Haraway, and others. On such an account, nature is neither a fantasy object to be ignored or fled, nor a stable text to be tamed, rationalized, and epistemically leveraged, but rather the changing concept and experience of nature is a symbol illuminated in a book we half receive, and half create, a symbol open to both critique and contemplation, which gives rise to thought, action, and the sort of novel moral intuitions we need now more than ever.