Denison Journal of Religion

Article Title

Denison Journal of Religion, Vol. II


"Hagar: An African American Lens" by Emily Peecook

In this essay, Emily Peecook links the story of Hagar to African-American slave women in the antebellum, and the community of African-American women who continue to fight for their rights today. The narrative of Hagar is one with which African-American women have long identified. Hagar's story is rife with abuses that were very familiar to slave women during the antebellum. Both were used as sexual and maternal surrogates, and both were deprived of supportive men in their life"be it a father or a husband. Hagar's survival through the many difficulties she faced has made her an inspirational figure to the community of African American women. The theology most clearly identified with Hagar is, however, not liberation theology, but survival theology. This notion, popularized by Delores Williams, claims not that one should anticipate God's victory over oppression, but rather that one can find continued strength in God to work towards a personal victory over oppression. The author claims that this theology, which can trace its roots back to Hagar's story, serves as an inspiration to African-American women today who continue to find the strength to fight for a higher quality of life.

"Reinhold Niebuhr and the War on Terrorism" by Daniel Rohrer

Since the attacks on September 11, 2001, the government of the United States has understandably been taking steps to protect its citizens. This essay questions whether the steps taken by the government are the most appropriate and just. Applying Reinhold Niebuhr's theology and social ethics to the War on Terrorism exposes the actions of the United States as a "witch-hunt" that fails to complicate the governmental, social, and economic factors that governed the political climate of the time. Because the United States government responded to the attacks of September 11th with an overpowering sense of self-righteousness, its actions immediately became questionable. Niebuhr's affinity for complicating the big issues in personal life and global politics is enacted in part by slowly considering all possible actions and their implications, and by having a firm understanding that whatever actions are taken will not be universally appreciated. Rohrer argues that if Reinhold Niebuhr's theories had been taken into account more regularly today, particularly immediately after the September 11th attacks, responses and their consequences may have been significantly less violent.

"The Nature of Sex: Sacred or Profane?" by Michael DeCesare

The Catholic Church is obviously uncomfortable with the level of blatant sexuality that characterizes American culture. In fact, Catholic leaders often claim that this constant presence of sexuality that bombards Americans desacralizes the act. This essay asks if it is possible, however, that the Catholic Church is also involved in desacralizing sexuality? DeCesare states that the emphasis that the Church places on conception as the only reason for sex, and the ease with which the Church condemns any sexual act outside of the bonds of a Church-sanctioned marriage, overlook the sexual act as one which also unites people, and exposes them to the love of God. Following the scholarship of Charles Curran, this essay posits that the Catholic Church should consider reevaluating its strict view of sexuality, particularly as it pertains to natural law, in order to empower its believers to live a healthier sexual lifestyle, and view that lifestyle as a means through which they can come to a fuller understanding of God.

"Organized Women in Afghanistan: the Key to a Universal Understanding of Human Rights" by Stephanie Hinkle

In this article, the author connects the non-Western world with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, released by the United Nations in 1948. The author disproves the assumption that this declaration is only applicable in the West through the example of Afghani men and women, particularly those who have devoted themselves to the Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan (RAWA.) The crimes being committed against women in Afghanistan were frequently ignored by the wider world, particularly before the United States launched its military campaign there. Feminism, Hinkle argues, has an unfortunate history of believing itself to be a construction of the West, and applicable only in the West. This often leaves non-Western women without allies. This often occurs because Westerners believe that the "cultural heritage" of the non-Western cultures does not allow for its members to believe in feminism. The men and women who have allied themselves with RAWA, Hinkle argues, prove this to be incorrect. These are Middle-Eastern men and women, many of them devout Muslims, who champion the idea of Universal Human Rights. Human rights, therefore, this article makes clear, cannot be limited by elitists to one hemisphere. This attitude allows for individuals to inappropriately disengage themselves from fights for human rights occurring in every part of the world.

"What Does the Bible Say About Homosexuality: An Exercise in Biblical Hermeneutics" by Matthew Lehrer

In this essay, Lehrer argues for the importance of a close hermeneutical study of the Bible in order to understand most fully the statements made about homosexuality. Through his study, Lehrer posits that no condemnations are made against homosexuality, with the exception of the two statements made in Leviticus, both of which deal with Hebraic purity laws, many of which are no longer followed. Instead, the passages most frequently deal more explicitly with issues of hospitality (the story of Sodom) or idolatry (the letters of Paul.) Therefore, homosexual relationships are placed at the same level as heterosexual relationships. As long as the relationship is based on a love that binds individuals more closely to God, and is not based on a lustfulness that can lead to idolatry, there is no passage which explicitly condemns homosexuality.