Denison Journal of Religion

Article Title

Denison Journal of Religion, Vol. XI


"A Case for Heresy" by Claire Navarro

This article serves as a reminder to mainstream Christians about the origins of the word "heresy." While today heresy has an immediate and profoundly negative connotation, this was not always true. Originally, the root of the word heresy implied a "choice," or a "different school of thought." This implied a difference, but not necessarily incorrectness. For instance, the word "hairesis" was used by Josephus, a first century Jewish historian, to describe the three branches of Judaism"Sadducees, Essenes, and Pharisees. While these three sects had different understandings of their faith, there was not a sense of condemnation. In fact, without the three branches existing and interacting with the increasingly Hellenized culture, there is no guarantee that Judaism would have survived or that Christianity would have developed. Therefore, heresy took part in sustaining and creating faiths. There was not a negative connotation to the word until the early Church began to establish itself, and to strive for unity to ensure its survival. Even then, it was not the fact that there were different opinions that was problematic, but rather that those differences could break down unity. Heresies, or differences, were against the agenda of the Church; soon the Church began to correlate heresy with blasphemy, and began persecuting heretics. The author hopes that this reminder of the origins of the word heresy will help contemporary Christians to think critically about their use of the word today.

"Peter Berger and the Rise and Fall of the Theory of Secularization" by Dylan Reaves

In the 1960s most sociologists, Peter Berger included, believed that secularization, or the end of power of religious institutions and symbols, was an inevitable byproduct of modernization. However, in subsequent decades Berger has realized that this prediction was incorrect and that religion was maintaining if not growing its power in many areas, with the possible exception of Western Europe and the Western intelligentsia. The resurgence of religion that Berger has witnessed over the past fifty years is not an isolated phenomenon. Berger believes that it will shape four areas: 1) international politics; 2) war and peace; 3) religion and economics; 4) human rights and social justice. Reaves posits that a continued study of the interaction between secularization and these four areas is particularly important to help humanity understand its world. He concludes with the argument that while the study of secularization and religious resurgence could be done in a removed fashion, strictly for intellectual development, instead it should be considered in light of its potential in aiding social clarity and change

"The Baha'i Faith in America, 1893-1900: A Diffusion of the American Religious Zeitgeist" by Joshua Rager

This article argues that while the Baha'i faith may appear to be very exotic and distinct from traditional American Protestantism, it is actually very representative of the American religious zeitgeist, or "spirit of the times." The founder of Baha'i was Baha'u'llah, but the man who was primarily responsible for bringing the faith to America was the Syrian Kheiralla. He was educated at an American Bible university, and spent much of his life in the United States. Eventually, he self-identified as American. Furthermore, the faith that he brought with him to the United States was not orthodox Bahai'ism. Kheiralla altered many of the Baha'i doctrines to be more comfortable for Americans. Rager argues that Baha'i appears to be very consistent with American religions and ideologies, because it was spread most effectively by an American to other Americans. It became a product of its believers and its context instead of dictating a new context to its believers.

"Making Room for Two in One: The Conflictive Relationship between American and Catholic Identities in American Literature" by Kimberly Anne Humphrey

This article considers the manner in which co-existing Catholic and American identities are represented in Andrew Greeley's Cardinal Sins, Edwin O'Connor's The Edge of Sadness, Walker Percy's Love in Ruins: The Behavior of a Bad Catholic at the Time Near the End of the World, and J.F. Powers's Morte d'Urban. In each novel, there is a conflict or difficulty in reconciling various identities, in particular Catholic and American identities. While the ways in which these two interact and, occasionally, conflict varies in each novel, there is always some attempt to work out a reconciliation between the two. Humphrey concludes her analysis with the admission that a complete reconciliation may not be possible, but that this may not indicate negative consequences. She argues that finding a way to balance and remain true to each identity may force American Catholics to think more deeply and with greater care on some of the social, cultural, and political circumstances that they face. Inner-conflict is not a desirable end, but it might result in more conscientious consideration of the dilemmas individuals and societies face.

"We Swim, We are not Swallowed" by Taylor Klassman

This essay explores the hostile relationship that exists between mainstream Christianity and the queer community. Klassman claims that the possible solutions to that problem currently available are not effective. The queer community has sometimes favored separatism to avoid conflict; it has created its own environment in which members can worship how they please. This does create a kind of unified community, but it also defines members exclusively by their sexuality and makes it the most significant part of their personhood. Additionally, it does not work to address prejudices existing within the mainstream religious communities. Another option currently available for queer men and women who have religious leanings is not to act on their sexual impulses. This, however, forces these people to distance themselves from a significant aspect of the human experience. There are also some religious figures who believe that the suffering inherent in this struggle for queer men and women is purifying. The suffering that can purify in traditional Christianity is a suffering that also implies a healing, and a making new. In the case of sexuality, however, people often experience a suffering that promises no renewal and results in isolation and self-hatred. Finally, many conservative Christian groups have established "ex-gay ministries" to try and help "cure" men and women of their "disease." These institutions often involve what could be considered cruel practices. The result is rarely that individuals no longer have same sexual inclinations, but rather that they no longer find those inclinations worth the suffering and isolation. Klassman concludes with the argument that the question is not whether or not the queer community has to reclaim religion, but whether or not religion and homosexuality can find a new way of relating to each other.