Denison Journal of Religion

Article Title

Denison Journal of Religion, Vol. VIII


"'You Shall worship God on This Mountain': A Theological Reading of Discrimination & Dehumanization at Denison" by Emily Toler

This article examines protests against prejudice on Denison's campus in 2007 through the theological perspectives of M. Douglas Meeks and Jurgen Moltmann. The author argues that these two theologians offer pieces of a theology that can categorize the experiences at Denison during that time. First, Meeks thinks of communities as "households" that are asked to work as loving and supportive families. Meeks also asks Christians to remember the triune God and to use the example of that relationship"three persons in one, all working in community for the love of others"to serve as a model for their own relationships. Moltmann's theology is an eschatological theology of hope. According to him, the promises of God are always out in front of humanity, and it must constantly strive to make those promises a part of life. Human actions should be defined by the ever-present and ever-increasing promises of God. To act in accordance with those promises, is to create the kingdom of God on earth. This means radically redefining the way society functions to value every human life and show it the dignity it deserves. Toler claims that both of these theologies were in use during the time of the protests against prejudice on Denison's campus in 2007, and challenges students, faculty, and staff to continue to allow these theologies to motivate their actions.

"Saving God's Body from Empire: An Analysis of American Empire According to a Metaphorical Theology by Sallie McFague" by Megan Pike

In this article, Pike uses the theology of Sallie McFague to criticize imperialism, particularly its ecological consequences, and to argue for an ecologically minded economy. Under the current empire of free market capitalism, God is a patriarchal figure who legitimates the ruling order. This bestows a false sense of approval on individuals, corporations, and nations that exploit the lowly in order to increase their own profit margin. Sallie McFague believes that the metaphors used for God profoundly influence how people conceive of their relationship with God and the world around them. The current metaphor for God reveals a divinity that is both domineering and detached from the world. This metaphor has resulted in empire and the efforts of humanity to bring everything else"other people and all parts of the world in which they live"into its control. This has created generations who associate being self-serving with being God-like. McFague offers an alternative. She charges people to rework their idea of God by using the metaphor of the world as God's body. Not only does this bring to mind the imminence of God, but it also calls for a responsibility to care for the world and all of its inhabitants. Pike uses McFague's metaphor to propose a new economic model that would be grounded in ecological concerns.

"Cardinal Bernardin: A Framework for Consistency" by Katie St. Clair

This essay illuminates the tension that exists for many religious people as they consider the appropriate amount of overlap between their personal convictions and public, often political, decisions. Bernardin was the former Archbishop of Chicago and a member of the Second Vatican Council. He made recognizable efforts to enact the doctrines of Guadium et Spes, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. This document is famous for its declaration that the Church's aim is to "read the signs of the times and interpret them in light of the Gospel." Bernardin exemplified this notion by writing extensively on the many public justice problems that posed ethical and moral dilemmas for contemporary Catholics. While the Catholic Church has often faced criticism for being inconsistent in its ideology (liberal on the death penalty, immigrant rights, and universal healthcare, and conservative on marriage, contraception, and euthanasia) Bernardin attempted to unite the Church's stances by linking all of them to the dignity of life. His primary concerns dealt with technology (medical advancement,) peace (war and weaponry, and justice,) quality of life, and poverty. St. Clair argues that Bernardin's example of encouraging Catholics to live their faith by advocating for policy is one that cannot be ignored.

"Re-Imaging Modern Jewish Theology: A Closer Look at Post-Holocaust Theology" by Rebecca Grimm

In this article, Grimm argues for a more accessible theology and metaphor for God. She looks to Melissa Raphael's post-Holocaust theology as a beginning to this new trend. Raphael, who started her theological study in the thealogy movement (known for its feminization of God,) brings this knowledge to her study of the Holocaust. The traditional Jewish theological explanation of the Holocaust asserts that God was absent during the Holocaust so as not to interfere with free will. However, this ignores the experience of half of the victims of the Holocaust: women. God appeared absent to some, she says, because they were looking for the wrong God: the patriarchal God who would assert his kingly power. Instead, Raphael says that God was present in the Holocaust in the form of Shekinah, the feminine and extremely imminent metaphor for God. Women in concentration camps recognized God's presence when they washed themselves and each other and acknowledged their humanity. The question became not, "how can God protect us?" but "how can we protect God?" When this is accomplished, God's presence guides men and women to care for and respect each other. Grimm acknowledges that Raphael contributes greatly to a new theological concern to make the divine more available to a wider range of people, but she laments that the Holocaust-specific nature of Raphael's theology of the Shekinah prevents it from being a more widely applicable metaphor.

"A Recuperative Theology of the Body: Nakedness in Genesis 3 and 9.20-27" by Emily Toler

This essay examines the two creation stories in the Hebrew Bible, and reinterprets the nakedness present in those stories. While nakedness is frequently seen as a shameful condition of humanity, Toler reminds the reader that it is part of the creation that God declared to be "good." Though nudity is associated with tumultuous moments in the relationship between humanity and God, Toler argues that it is fear of God, not fear or shame of nakedness that motivates the uncomfortable moments like the one when Adam and Eve hid from God behind a bush. Today, nakedness is so often associated with poverty, sickness, and other forms of social exile that it has become a mortifying reality of the human condition and one that has aided in the oppression of the disadvantaged. Toler argues that remembering that God created humanity in God's own image (imago dei), and without covering, reclaims nakedness from a shameful state and makes it an inherent part of humanity that God loves deeply.

"Redeeming the Atonement: Girardian Theory" by Michelle Kailey

This article shows a discomfort with the way that mainstream Christianity often discusses the atonement by deifying meekness and sacrifice, an attitude that often legitimizes the cycle of domestic abuse. The author seeks a theology that will not allow the cross to become an oppressive force against the marginalized, and finds her answer in Girardian theory. This theory proposes an understanding of human behavior in four basic stages: mimetic desire, mimetic rivalry, scapegoating sacrifice, and scapegoating myth. Mimetic desire states that humans only want what they want because they know others desire it. Next, a rivalry begins between groups that have mimicked their desires; the competition breeds disrespect and conflict. In order to resolve the conflict, the opposing groups find a scapegoat"an uninvolved person against whom they can unite. Once the scapegoat has been sacrificed, a myth is created that both demonizes and deifies that individual"he or she is held responsible for the initial conflict, but their sacrifice is also responsible for the peace and unity that occurs afterwards. Ren̩ Girard claims that this process is recognizable in the crucifixion story up until the resurrection. God shows disapproval of this cycle by not allowing Jesus to become a myth, or a figure that is demonized, deified and sacrificed to create a time of inauthentic peace. The peace that is usually established after the sacrifice does not last in the instance of Jesus. It only manages to hold until the resurrection of Christ. From then on, the work of the resurrected Jesus, and the efforts of the newly formed Church, continue to disrupt the artificial peace. Instead, God offers humanity an authentic peace that comes with being a follower of Christ. This, Kailey argues, is an inspirational theology that can help to break the cycle of abuse and empower women to disengage from victim blaming, and find real peace.