Graduate Theological Union
  • Berkeley, United States
Recent publications
This paper is a methodological discussion of eco-theology, and the various different strategies that Christian ecotheologians undertake in their work, that is, to understand the methods employed by Christian ecotheologians. I will propose that Christian ecotheology is a unique methodology that can consist of a variety of methods that are employed both to understand the tradition ecologically, and I will seek to show how some of these methods might be applied to the Hindu Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava tradition.
This chapter frames five theoethical elements of survival justice for communal praxis pertinent to interreligious eco-sustainability. Sustainable survival efforts challenge marginalized groups confronted by environmental threats of societal oppression. Womanist theoethics integrates perspectives informing faith and praxis while critiquing intersections of race, gender, class, and sexuality as marginalized identities in oppressive systems. Intentional use of survival justice as state of being emphasizes a communal agenda centering marginalized concerns for an ecological balance for sustainable environmental justice. I utilize Toni Morrison’s caricature of Baby Suggs, herbalist, and holy griot in her novel Beloved as a womanist motif of earth mother sage and arbiter of communalism. I propose communalism connects an ethos of eco-survivalism beyond confined survivalist tendencies of apocalyptic worldviews. Rather, a womanist ethos of communal eco-survivalism has philosophical and spiritual sensory instincts attuned to human dependency upon cosmic life forces as a natural and sacred ecosystem and communal regard for survival justice in praxis. Engaging other womanist and feminist scholars to contextualize praxis, I contend that theoethical elements of survival justice found in communally sustaining praxis for black women’s survival are not unlike global women’s cultural constructs for survival justice.
This chapter reads the book of Jonah through its liturgical position as the afternoon Haftarah reading for Yom Kippur. It explores ways in which Yom Kippur supports an understanding of justice which must encompass mercy both between the divine and human, and between human and human. It then uses this lens to analyze Jonah’s interaction with God and human and non-human characters in the narrative to provide us with models for both social justice in our pluralistic and interfaith environment, and eco-justice as we live in and with God’s creation.
This chapter offers a methodological framework for Interreligious Theological Reflection (ITR), a new direction in Comparative Theology (CT), which seeks to further mutual understanding between religions. The approach presented in this chapter suggests an extended movement in the direction of collaborative work towards a sustainable future. This, I argue, is assisted by theological effort towards understanding the depth-dimension of the religious culture of the other tradition encountered. For such an endeavor, the chapter recommends several mutually supportive approaches including (but not limited to) contextual and immersive engagement with the lived experience of sacred texts and the visual, material, dynamic culture of praxis, and epistemological justice. This work applies methods that reference and move beyond Postcolonial Studies and explains the Hermeneutics of Intersubjectivity. These approaches, together, create a guiding structure for ITR which can then be expanded upon in specific ways according to the frames of reference of the particular religions being studied.
If we human beings are successful at enhancing our intelligence through technology, will this count as spiritual advance? No. Intelligence alone—whether what we are born with or what is superseded by artificial intelligence or intelligence amplification—has no built-in moral compass. Christian spirituality values love more highly than intelligence, because love orients us toward God, toward the welfare of the neighbor, and toward the common good. Spiritual advance would require orienting our enhanced intelligence toward loving God and neighbor with heart, mind (or intelligence), and soul.
Religions use linguistic and non-linguistic codes of meaning to express their contents: natural tongues, music, sculpture, poetry, rituals, practices... Also, religions provide the semantic context and the rules to produce, validate, and interpret their expressions: as such, religions can be considered languages. The Sophia Special Issue ‘Religions and Languages: A Polyphony of Faiths’ explores the multifaceted relationships of world religions with languages broadly construed, intended as other religious codes, natural tongues, artistic forms, digital media, and even science. Do natural languages modify themselves in order to convey a divine message? How do artistic means of expression accommodate religious contents? What are the aspects of interaction between religions, technological advances, and scientific methods? The five contributions in this issue offer innovative, compelling, and engaging perspectives regarding this complex and fascinating issue.
In this paper, I discuss the impact of a course design class on my development and use of a syllabus for a class titled Islamic Education. In Course Design the professor taught graduate students like me how to think and plan as a teacher. In my discussion, I share how student‐ and context‐centered pedagogy, at the core of thinking and planning as a teacher, manifested effectively in the pages of my syllabus and in the space of my classroom, demonstrating that the pedagogical insight and practices I learned speak to the needs and demands of today's classroom.
Issues of intergenerational justice are not new aspects of discourse in the context of climate change mitigation and adaptation. Scholars have been working on providing solutions to address the way in which social, economic, and cultural resources are being distributed across generations in a just manner. While this is important work, equity across generations in terms of energy justice is still in its nascent stage. It is because the nexus between intergenerational justice and energy justice is a relatively recent phenomenon. In that light, this chapter will not only discuss ways in which the frameworks of intergenerational justice and energy justice are interconnected, but will also show how addressing energy injustice contributes to justice across generations.
“Post-traditional” Jewishness—a distinctively modern condition wherein past sources of theological authority and religious normativity are no longer self-evident—has been one of the most abiding interests in Paul Mendes-Flohr’s writings for more than four decades. The present article traces the contours of this concern over time. In a number of publications between 1978 and 1987, Mendes-Flohr highlights “secular religiosity” as a manifestation of post-traditional Jewishness, exemplified by figures such as Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig. These early writings intimate the possibility of a critical and yet nonetheless integrated Jewish religious subject, grounded hermeneutically in Jewish sources and sociologically in the Jewish community of destiny (Schicksalsgemeinschaft). Starting in the late 1980s, however, Mendes-Flohr’s representations of post-traditional Jewishness begin to emphasize greater degrees of complexity and, indeed, fragmentation. These later writings gesture less to visions of secular religiosity than toward postures of “undogmatic, pluralistic, and open” self-reflectivity before the ever-changing faces of reality. Throughout this rich trajectory in Mendes-Flohr’s thought, though, we see that he returns continually—and ever more trenchantly—to dialogical life as a grounding principle.
Śākta tradition is one of the major branches of Hindu Theism which focuses on the divine feminine. Recent scholarly researches on Śākta tradition mainly orient toward either its sacred text or its ritual customs; however, textual exegesis and ritual studies have mostly been two separate spheres. This paper presents an attempt to integrate the two. It explores one of the most essential practices of Śākta tradition, the Caṇḍī pūjā, and discusses its relationship with Śākta theology in the principal Śākta text Devī Māhātmya. My research revolves around two questions: in what ways does the theology in Devī Māhātmya inform the praxis of Caṇḍī pūjā? How does ritual practice help its practitioners to understand the theology of Śākta faith tradition? The paper examines the pūjā practice from three aspects: (1) ritual structure and the liturgical use of the text; (2) ritual materials and their theological functions; and (3) ritual activity—spotlighting one specific moment of the Candā pūjā. I draw the conclusion that there is a reciprocal interaction between ritual and theology—the theological message in Devī Māhātmya provides the foundation for the ritual and the ritual acts as an experiential way for understanding Śākta theology.
In March 2020, the world folded before an imminent pandemic. Community gatherings, events, and rituals quickly moved online. Jobs halted or were conducted remotely. The fear of the COVID-19 pandemic impacted different areas of daily life. In this article, we propose examining and analyzing the experiences and narratives of Brazilian migrants in Japan. With the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act amendment on 8 December 1989, thousands of Japanese descendants born and raised in the Americas migrated to Japan. They are the offspring of Japanese immigrants who established colonies in the Americas in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Over time, the community of Brazilian immigrants in Japan fluctuated from being a minority to become the fifth-largest ethnic group of immigrants. Our analysis focuses on two areas of concern in times of the COVID-19 pandemic: daily life—including gender, and religion. On the one hand, daily life became cumbersome due to issues related to language and the hardships of accessing health services in a foreign land. On the other hand, we state that in the process of adaptation to the new society, the role of faith communities has been notable in offering support to these immigrants. Religious institutions, in particular, confronted the fact of moving their support and activities online with the consequent difficulties for those who are not tech-savvy or lack reliable connectivity. Both situations impacted Brazilian immigrants in different ways during the COVID-19 pandemic and highlighted the agency they displayed in coping with its consequences.
The Astroethics of Responsibility proposed here is founded on a substructure of quandary-responsibility ethics, supported by a theological notion of the common good plus a naturalistic justification for response and care. Within the sphere of the solar neighborhood, ten already articulated quandaries are addressed: (1) planetary protection; (2) intrinsic value of off-Earth biospheres; (3) application of the Precautionary Principle; (4) space debris; (5) satellite surveillance; (6) weaponization of space; (7) scientific versus commercial space exploration; (8) terraforming Mars; (9) colonizing Mars; and (10) anticipating natural space threats. Within the sphere of the Milky Way metropolis in which the “galactic common good” becomes the astroethical norm, engagement with intelligent extraterrestrials is analyzed within three categories: (1) ETI less intelligent than Earth's Homo sapiens; (2) ETI equal in intelligence; and (3) ETI superior in intelligence. Superior ETI may come in both biological and postbiological forms. Our ethical mandate: respond with care.
This essay addresses the importance of in-class exercises that intentionally lead students into moments of self-encounter, and demonstrates how theology classes can incorporate such exercises. It does so by outlining three specific examples from three different class settings. These exercises facilitate students getting to know themselves deeply as subjects who develop their own authentic theological reflections. While not disregarding the importance of honing students' learning abilities and academic competence, these exercises nevertheless reflect an integrated approach to theological education, one that engages with students as complex human beings who bring not only their brains to the classroom, but their emotions, wounds, and life experiences.
Drawing on practices and teachings from Daoism, neo-Confucianism, and tantric Buddhism, Yoshida Kanetomo (1435–1511) created the system of Yuiitsu Shintō, also known eponymously as Yoshida Shintō, all the while making claims for Shintō as the world’s original religion. Important for the establishment of Yoshida Shintō was the creation of a program of rituals. This essay examines one of the three rituals created for the Yoshida ritual program, the Yoshida Shintō goma ritual, which hybridizes tantric Buddhist ritual organization and Daoist symbolism. A pragmatics of ritual is developed as a means of identifying the factors that Yoshida felt were salient in presenting the goma as a Yoshida Shintō ritual.
LGBTQIA+ educators are a gift to Catholic schools. In this article, two researchers affiliated with the University of San Francisco conducted a national survey of LGBTQIA+ educators in Catholic schools that highlights the blessings and challenges of their work. The survey results demonstrate that, despite the tension and fear experienced by these educators, they still offer significant contributions to the mission of Catholic schools through their prophetic witness of advocacy and inclusion. Most importantly, their LGBTQIA+ identity serves as a foundation for a deeper relationship with God through their vocation as educators. Many LGBTQIA+ educators, who have every reason to leave Catholic education in search for more stability, choose to stay in Catholic schools to support students, deepen their faith, and promote a Catholic climate of inclusion in their schools. Catholic school leaders should stop dismissing them and seek to fully include them into the life and work of the school. In this article, the researchers explore the historical climate regarding LGBTQIA+ educators in Catholic schools and raise some moral and theological questions. Then they analyze the responses to the national survey to generate some key findings. They conclude with some recommendations on how Catholic leaders can best appreciate and include the gifts LGBTQIA+ educators bring to Catholic education.
What does feminist pedagogy look like online? Is it even possible? This article describes intentionally incorporated many aspects of embodied feminist pedagogy into the Women's Studies in Religion online learning community during the semester when the seminar was taught online due to the COVID‐19 pandemic. This essay shares techniques for and trials and triumphs in taking specific aspects of bell hooks's engaged critical pedagogy to an online classroom format. The authors assert that, despite the absence of physical bodies and a physical classroom, such feminist pedagogies can apply to and thrive in an online graduate theological classroom.
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Hugo Cordova Quero
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Ted Peters
  • Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences
Richard Payne
  • Institute of Buddhist Studies
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  • Systematic Theology
Naomi Seidman
  • Center for Jewish Studies
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