The Public/Private Debate in Religious Studies (Part 1)

Sunday, October 13, 2020

Janice L. Poss

Religious Studies Scholarship as Public Intellectuals

1st Edition

Edited by Sabrina D. MisirHiralall, Christopher L. Fici, Gerald S. Vigna

Hardback: 9780815352549

pub: 2018-06-18


eBook (VitalSource) : 9781351139120

pub: 2018-06-13

Purchase eBook $54.95

12 Month Rental - $32.97

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What? I Can’t Hear You! Well, Open the Door!

[Change] comes about through liberation,

through the freeing of people from bondage to sin and evil,

and so is experienced as an in-breaking of grace.

- Rosemary Radford Ruether, Disputed Questions, 96

George Floyd is dead without reason, without provocation. He is one of many blacks who have recently been brutally murdered in short time. This murder is relevant to the main question this book asks: What is a public intellectual? And its corollary: Is a public intellectual an activist?

If we are to purge systemic racism and sexism, economic injustice, and a preferential option for the poor as established by liberation theology, Religious Studies Scholars as Public Intellectuals, edited by Sabrina D. MisirHiralall, Christopher L. Fici and Gerald S. Vigna, addresses how religious education can use pedagogical creativity and restructuring of the classroom experience to build, at least in religious academic circles, the curriculum to address these hard and difficult moral, ethical and value-based issues that divide us. New ways of teaching, in and outside the classroom can help us confront a new substantive reality that adjusts and transforms broken systems into a new structural reality of equality and that is antipolitical.

As we engage the concept of a Theology without Walls which the American Academy of Religion has now made an official session, then we need to follow this concept and develop the Classroom without Walls.

This book is divided into four parts and sixteen chapters. It seeks to answer the question above: What is a public intellectual? Each section 1) examines academics as public academics, 2) develops a new public theology for the common good, 3) explains how to do new public-driven pedagogy and praxis, and 4) accounts for riding the public rail between religion and history. The chapter articles were produced during a three-year project based at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference of the American Academy of Religion (MAR-AAR) between 2016-2019.

As the formal academy begins to morph into a new model of what it means to be a scholarly institution, the contributed articles express pluralistic diversity coming out of the very expertise of academics working in and outside the academy. It looks at how a broader work experience might expand learning once students exit university education which can then have a significantly deeper lasting influence particularly if exposed to this new model of classroom and teaching. We see this manifesting in those who have been, perhaps marginalized and refused mainstream academic jobs caused by the very -isms one is teaching and learning to analyze and overcome– racism, sexism, Orientalism, colonialism, genderism, segregationism, neo-colonialism and neo-nationalism, to name a few.

If religion is to remain relevant today, then it must become engaged with the public sphere beyond these -isms. Our recent history has helped us better understand how religion has often been complicit with them. Indeed, one could say that each and every parish, mosque, synagogue, temple, or sacred space where preaching and worshipping happens on a regular basis ignores or is ignorant of these -isms, but not always. In worship praxis, how can the academy help? Where is the connection between the classroom and the public worship space? In the time of COVID-19, perhaps we already see a new model emerging -- that of online worship, but also online pedagogical learning. This has been pushed upon both church and classroom with little or no warning.

Each paper here addresses new ways to envision the classroom, recreate a learning model that looks at the hard issues that we are beginning to address in order to make a new heaven and a new earth. This is crucial. Worship spaces, too, have been gradually looking at these more difficult issues facing them, but often do not have the tools to address them well. Here new models in the academy could help by engaging more directly with the public sphere. (Click Here for Part 2 )