Denison Journal of Religion

Article Title

Denison Journal of Religion, Vol. III


"Beyond Pacifism: Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Theology During War" by Dan Rohrer

This essay links Bonhoeffer's theology to contemporary America and explores the implications that Bonhoeffer's work, particularly the work that occurred in Nazi prison, has on the contemporary American Christian. All of Bonhoeffer's work, from The Cost of Discipleship to Letters and Papers from Prison, shows a commitment to Christianity that does not make the life of a Christian easy. This is particularly evident in his discussion of "cheap grace" or "grace without the cross." Bonhoeffer describes this notion as an empty salvation that does not bear in mind the great sacrifices that the Christian Testament shows as necessary to find grace. However, in recent years, it has been Bonhoeffer's Letters and Papers from Prison that have gotten the most attention, according to Rohrer. This work is particularly well known for his idea of the "world come of age" which represents a healthy, functioning society that does not require religion. Rohrer points out that Bonhoeffer's plea for secularism is not one that hopes to do away with Christianity, but rather is based on the belief that when Christianity falls into the trappings of religion, it becomes a very dangerous institution. Rohrer reminds the reader that Bonhoeffer would have known this fact well"it is the religious nature of Christianity that resulted in the swastika being wrapped around the cross. According to Rohrer, Bonhoeffer is not hoping for a world without God, but a world without religion in which humanity's desperate need for God would be more evident. Rohrer argues that frequent misrepresentations of Bonhoeffer's theory of the "world come of age" can be particularly damaging and he turns to a more fully articulated explanation of this theory as a challenge to contemporary Americans to live with the goal of caring for the total personhood of their fellow men and women.

"Sisters in Sorrow and Durga's Incarnations: The Double-Edged Sword of Shakti" by Sarah Pyle

This article examines the relationship between the depiction of women and femininity in Hindu myth and the lives and possible oppression of Hindu women today. The author synthesizes this question with Sallie McFague's theory that the way in which cultures use language to construct god(s) reveals how that culture conceptualizes the roles of different members of the community. The first notion that Pyle pursues within this question is dharma. Dharma can be roughly understood as the fulfillment of each person's appropriate role. For women, their primary dharma is to care for their husband and their children. This often consists of a level of nurturing and obedience that places all of their needs and concerns below the needs and concerns of their spouses and children. This idea is embodied in the story of Sita, which women have often told as a way of commiserating on the challenges of womanhood. This story, however, found a retelling in the hands of Mahatma Gandhi, who emphasized Sita's independence and strength in order to bring women into the political arena. Sita's perfectly obedient femininity is juxtaposed, however, with Durga, the warrior goddess who reigns over kings and warriors and who defeats demons no god could. Both of these figures are in possession of Shakti: the force that gives and destroys life. Pyle asks how two such images can exist within one understanding of Hindu womanhood. She concludes that they cannot: that the two forms exist simultaneously, both as perfect representations of femininity. Through the lens of Sallie McFague, Pyle concludes that Hindu woman have the right to decide when they feel oppressed, and at that point to use their own voice and language to redefine womanhood when it becomes necessary.

"Who's That Lady?" by Meghan Henning

This article considers the "valiant woman" from Proverbs 31 and explores the context and original identity of that woman while also questioning how to reclaim that figure for the 21st century's Christian community. Henning starts by acknowledging that this figure has come to intimidate women who look to the passage because it represents an impossible ideal. Henning, however, is also equally disappointed in the way many scholars have tried to reclaim this figure by ignoring the original context and using her to suit their own needs. The author comes to the conclusion that the woman of Proverb 31 represents Woman Wisdom"she is representative of another metaphor for God, and all of her super human works represent God's activity towards and relationship with humanity. This figure can then be reclaimed, Henning argues, by 21st century Christians as an example of God's work in community and the manner in which Christians can aspire to interact with all of humanity.

"Good Sex and How to Get It" by Erin Walker

This article uses the theology of Kelly Brown Douglas, Rita Brock, and Susan Thistlewaite, and the ethics of Marvin Ellison to consider a healthy definition of good sex. This conversation is continued by considering the societal changes that would need to occur to make the general outlook towards sexuality lose its oppressive nature"be it gendered or racial. Ideally, sex would regain its inherent ability to connect lovers to each other and to god. Walker points out that all of the authors view sexuality as an essential part of the human experience, and point out its inherent goodness as a gift of god. This goodness is skewed when sex is used as a form of domination, as it often is through racial stereotypes and sexual violence. Walker concludes that "good sex" is sexual acts that enable individuals to understand themselves, their fellow men and women, and their divinity better. However, finding a way to make this form of sexuality the norm, Walker acknowledges, is going to take many years of discussion and reform as society addressing the many factors that turn sexuality into a dominating, oppressive force.

"Genisis 9:20-21: Noah's Legacy of the Vine" by Lindsey Marie Ross

While the biblical character of Noah is almost exclusively known for his role in the flood narrative, there is a passage in Genesis 9 that indicates he is both the inventor and an enjoyer of wine. This article questions the implications for men and women today of such a revered biblical character imbibing regularly and, there is evidence of, to an excess. Ross examines aspects of the story such as Noah's heritage which can link him either to Cain and the city, or to Seth and agriculture. She also looks at the symbolism of the vine, and its frequent usage to trace families and God's blessing. Ross points out that the symbolic importance of wine does not end with the Hebrew Testament. In fact, Jesus's use of wine at the last supper is perhaps one of its most iconic uses. Ross concludes that because of alcohol's association with degeneracy in today's world, its properties as a gift of god are often overlooked. The author reminds readers that wine, in Genesis, is indicated to be a gift representing god's forgiveness and the renewal of the earth. Ross argues that while alcohol can become an idol when used too frequently and to excess, it can also bring an otherworldliness to humanity's experience on earth and can even offer a taste of the ecstasy of heaven. Noah's role as both the saved and the sinful often equates him with Adam. Ross concludes that he indeed represents the "Second Adam" who initiates a new phase in human history through the invention of wine"it indicates a new freedom and a new responsibility for humanity