Welcome to Religious Response

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Welcome to Religious Response, a space for scholars, practitioners, critics, and enthusiasts to reflect on the intersection of religion and contemporary events. The title, Religious Response, is imperfect, seeming to perhaps suggest that this is only a space for people who identify as religious. Indeed, the term “religion” is itself problematic, a term that is used to try and make the diverse ritual and philosophical traditions of the world fit into a single mold, often in the imperial image of Christianity.  Rather than let the failing of the title stop this attempt at creating a multifaith, mulitperspective, multipolitical dialogue, we choose to observe, with humility, the limits of language. In fact, it is the interrelated limits and power of language to materially shape our world that inspires this project. Our genesis is found in the 2016 US presidential election, an event that espoused (and continues to espouse throughout the transition) hatred based on race, sex, gender, immigration status, and so many other differences. The contributors to Religious Response share the conviction that rhetoric is not simply rhetoric, it has material consequences that manifest at the bodily, affective, and social registers. However, the voices you will encounter here are not all practitioners of religion, and those who are do not share a single tradition. Some are leaders in religious communities and many, but not all, are scholars. Our hope is that conversation will facilitate both learning and concrete political action. Our hope is that by bringing different voices together we can explore the limits of our language–and thinking. Indeed, we hope that repeated failings present the condition for something new.

Our inaugural group of posts are all written in response to the US election. Two posts, Jewish feminist Shelly Dennis’ reflection on prayer and Catholic feminist Kate Mroz’s reflection on the advent season, draw on resources from within their tradition to find strength and meaning in a time when it seems as though hope might be lost. Theologian Catherine Keller reflects on the specter of fascism looming over the incoming administration, finding hope that the chaos might offer different possibilities. Vincent Cervantes channels rage as a response to the election, describing the theo-ethical productivity of queer Latino rage, which demands an evaluation of relationships. Axel Marc Oaks Takács offers a Muslim-Christian reflection on compassion, pressing the political possibilities and limitations. Peter McLellan seeks the marginalized voices that haunt texts, allowing a spectral reading to emerge. Finally, Katarzyna Misiak offers a compassionate Buddhist view from outside the US context.

These posts don’t hang together presenting cohesive message—again this failing, we hope is its strength. Going forward, we hope to continue to make space for a variety of voices in religious response to what is happening in our world, convinced that it is our flourishing differences, not a monolith that offers hope.

Lisa Gasson-Gardner is a doctoral student in theological and philosophical studies at Drew University. Her interests include evangelical Christianity and politics, continental philosophy, and the doctrine of revelation. It all works together, she promises.

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