Denison Journal of Religion

Article Title

Denison Journal of Religion, Vol. IV


"Sowing the Faith: Immanence and Eternality in the Liberation of Nature" by John Bartholomew

This article applies liberation theology to the destruction of nature occurring under the current free market system. Bartholomew argues for a greater respect for nature by emphasizing the immanence of God. Bartholomew relies on the tradition of God's immanence which stresses the existence of God within and around humanity. God living closely among people implies that God must also live closely with the environment provided for humanity. This establishes a relationship between God and nature. Having a healthy relationship with nature is, therefore, reflective of a healthy relationship with God. An inherent part of treating the environment with care is conscientiousness about consumption. This, Bartholomew makes clear, also makes it easier to provide for the rest of humanity. Humanity's relationship with nature mirrors its relationship God. The interconnectedness of these relationships cannot be escaped, and humanity is challenged by God to be respectful of each aspect. The author argues that this can be enacted in society by creating a new attitude towards the free market"one which shows humanity in control of that market, instead of that market being an idol. This would not only allow people to treat the environment with more care, but it would make economic changes like tax reform more palatable.

"Primordial Symbolism: A Case Study" by Lauren Caryer

This essay examines the importance of symbolism to humanity's own understanding of itself. Caryer does this by examining the two famous triptychs, Haywain and The Millennium, of Hieronymus Bosch, an artist of the Northern Renaissance. A closer look at the context of the time during which Bosch created indicates that it was a time of "eschatological fervor," and this sense can be easily recognized in both of the triptychs. Haywain shows the progressive damnation of humanity, from Adam and Eve's initial separation from God, to a wagon carrying political and religious leaders that is pulled by demons. The Millenium is not as easy to interpret, but shows the creation of the world, the ministry of Jesus, and then a world where pleasure begins to turn sinful. People engage in a hedonistic free for all in a beautiful locale, before the final scene shows pleasure turned to torture as men and women are exposed to pain from such things as musical instruments. The triptychs, Caryer argues, are new interpretations of biblical narratives and humanity. What is less important, she claims, is the artist's intended meaning of the triptychs. More important is the symbolism provides a way for humanity to interpret its context and then respond to that reality. Religious symbols, Caryer states, gain a deeper meaning when thought of as a way in which people process and then contribute to their beliefs.

"Resurrection in the People: Catholic Identity and Archbishop Romero" by Chris Byrnes

In this article, Byrnes distinguishes between personal and communal Catholicism by following the story of Archbishop Oscar Romero. When Romero was appointed to the post of Archbishop in San Salvador, El Salvador, he was a conservative member of the Church who was appointed primarily because of his belief that the Church should remain apolitical. This was particularly important for the Church hierarchy at the time as they struggled to maintain the traditional Church (equivalent with personal Catholicism) while membership in the Popular Church (comparable to communal Catholicism) was growing rapidly. The Popular Church, Byrnes explains, was theologically based in liberation theology and spoke strongly about a communal experience of religion. It adapted indigenous religious tendencies into the practice of Catholicism. Upon his arrival in El Salvador, Romero was the perfect example of the Traditional Church. However, after the first few weeks of his time as Archbishop, Romero became far more sympathetic to the cause of the Popular Church, particularly its theological bent. Byrnes encourages following Romero's example in an attempt to reemphasize social activism in Catholicism, particularly in the United States. This, Byrnes claims, would lead to a stronger sense of communal Catholicism that would serve as a challenge to Catholics to follow more closely the example of Christ.

"Tower of Babel" by Al Klinger

This article reinterprets the Tower of Babel narrative to turn it from a story that speaks simply about god's punishment of human arrogance to a story that integrates that notion with perspectives that focus on environmentalism and diversity. Klinger warns against the temptation to oversimplify biblical narratives. He claims that the story of the Tower of Babel is a perfect example of how frequently this occurs. Klinger does not completely discredit the original interpretation of the story, but he does posit that a fuller understanding of the story could be reached by allowing more than one theory to be engaged in the discussion. The environmentalist approach recognizes that the imperialism that the Tower of Babel represents poses an inherent danger to the earth. Additionally, Klinger explains that God's act of dispersing the human population was not necessarily an act of punishment, but rather an act of compassion. Klinger claims that perhaps God did this because humanity benefits from diversity. Klinger concludes that integrating several perspectives into the explanation of any biblical story offers a fuller and understanding that more accurately reflects the human experience and humanity's relationship with divinity.

"Son of my . . .?" by Meghan Henning

In Genesis 35, the beloved Jewish matriarch, Rachel, dies in childbirth outside of Bethlehem. Before her death, Rachel names her son "Ben-Oni" which means "son of my sorrow." Hearing this, her husband Jacob says his son will be called "Ben Yamin" which means "Son of my Right Hand" or "Son of the South." Scholars have long looked at this moment as a step in the process that turned the Israelites from tribal and matriarchal to monarchical and patriarchal. This article reimagines this story in a less domineering manner. In order to make her point, Henning first clarifies the importance and power of naming. Not only do names reflect upon those that receive them and take part in crafting identity, but the entire process is also linked to creation and divine power. To give someone or something a name is to participate in God's work. Henning also notes that traditionally in Hebraic culture, the naming of the children was the duty of the mother and midwife. At the moment of Rachel's death, however, Jacob steps into the process and asserts a new role. This has long been thought of as a domineering practice that has stolen one of Rachel's few powers at the very moment of her demise. Henning, however, sees this moment as a gift of hope and comfort from Jacob to Rachel. By referring to Rachel's son as the "Son of my Right Hand," Jacob shows a preference for Rachel's lineage that would have been a comfort after her long struggles with her own barrenness, and her competition with Leah. Henning's reimagining turns this story from a tragic moment characterized by patriarchal insensitivity and domination, to a hopeful and loving moment between spouses and within the family structure.

"Claiming a Space of Empowerment: Exploring Hispanic Feminist Theology and the Struggle towards Justice and Liberation" by Sarah R. Pyle

In this article, Pyle links liberation and empowerment to the carving out of space. Those individuals and communities who live without space, who have borders incessantly drawn around them, preventing them from building their own space, are those who suffer oppression most deeply. Hispanic women profoundly experience this spacelessness. Finding a remedy for this requires that they build a community in a space they make for themselves. Pyle looks towards the Lady of Guadalupe as a potential example and inspiration to these women. While disappointed by the current representation of this image as ultimately submissive, the author challenges Hispanic women to claim this woman as their own, recraft her image, and create a space of empowerment based around this newly understood symbol. Their community in religion can lead to the destruction of the boundaries which limit them and the creation of a new, liberated community.

"Pluralism and the New Religious America" by Emily Teitelbaum

This essay highlights the continued diversification of the United States and the potential for conflict that goes along with it. Teitelbaum looks at three primary theoretical models that deal with religious diversity. She rejects the first two, exclusivism and inclusivism, because the first often leads to violent conflict and the second to condescension. Instead, Teitelbaum argues that pluralism is the most hopeful and considerate method. In order to make this point, she clarifies that pluralism is not syncretism, a process of blending all religions into one. Nor is it relativism, which lets go of particular beliefs in order to find universal peace. Instead, she defines pluralism as an approach in which individuals can maintain their own beliefs, but are also open to encountering and learning about the beliefs of others. This, Teitelbaum posits, is the best way to find peace and respect in diverse communities.