Positions Lecture Series

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'Positions: What's Yours?' is a lecture series sponsored by the Theology and Religious Studies Department. Series speakers discuss contemporary themes in the fields of theology and religion.  


Join Dr. Massimo Faggioli as he addresses a few of the latest developments in the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church: the new laws issued by pope Francis in May 2019, the political-diplomatic consequences of the conviction of cardinal Pell in Australia, and the new cases discovered in the USA. ACS Approved!

Join Dr. Timothy Brunk as he presents: 'Consuming Jesus: What Are We Doing at Eucharist?' Be part of a conversation about how living in consumer culture affects how one understands receiving Holy Communion. ACS Approved! 


In the late nineteenth century, syncretism—the fusion of different religions or cultures—was a bad word. By the 1970s, however, the eclectic tastes and habits of spiritual "seekers" had gone from the margins to the mainstream. Today, a growing number of Americans, including those who identify with institutional religions, self-consciously pick and choose from other religious traditions. How did syncretism go from being a prohibition to a prescription? Brett Grainger, PhD, will highlight some of the key historical shifts that helped bring about the rise of what he calls "fusion religion."  


Spring 2019 Position Lectures

Dr. Chris Barnett, Associate Professor, Theology & Religious Studies - This lecture will explore how Christianity and baseball exhibit similar worldviews and, in turn, feature analogous practices and perhaps even “spiritualities.” The argument will proceed as follows: (i) both Christianity and baseball frame their worlds in terms of emanation [exitus] and return [reditus]: “players” leave home and aim to return home; (ii) though players belong to a team or community [ecclesia], the task of returning home is ultimately a solitary one; it has to be done by the individual player, even if the team, too, benefits from the individual’s undertaking; and (iii) the spiritual or attitudinal development of the individual is thus crucial: players have to attend to how they approach the “game,” particularly in terms of their internal comportment. This last point will receive special attention: it will be reasoned that Søren Kierkegaard’s spiritual writings, tendered for the existential “upbuilding” [Opbyggelse] of “the single individual” [den Enkelte], might likewise offer upbuilding insights for the individuals who play baseball—a sport that John Updike once called “an essentially lonely game.”


Dr. Massimo Faggioli, Professor, Theology & Religious Studies - In the last few months, the abuse crisis in the Catholic Church has developed with new events, especially the fall meeting of the US Bishops, the extraordinary meeting of the presidents of all bishops' conferences in the Vatican. The talk will focus on what the last six months tell us about the handling of the abuse crisis in the Catholic Church


Dr. Kerry San Chirico, Assistant Professor, Thelology & Religious Studies - In recent years, scholars of religion have argued that various traditions like Hinduism, Confucianism, and Daoism were 'invented', the product of colonial knowledge from the 19th century onwards. Taken for granted is the legitamacy of the substantive 'Christianity'. This talk will examine how the term developed in the early centuries of the Common Era, asking, 'Is Christianity Invented'? 'What does it mean to say that a religion is invented' and, 'Why does it matter?'. 

Dr. Rachel Smith, Associate Professor, Theology & Religious Studies - Medieval religious texts often celebrate pain and suffering as necessary for a life of spiritual progress. Why is this? Is there a wisdom in this notion that pain is required for growth or is such an idea one that we would consider "unhealthy" today? Are medieval practices of radical self-denial and punishment in the service of a deepening inner life really that different from contemporary athletic disciplines at places like Soul Cycle, which promise spiritual wellbeing and physical perfection for those who suffer and push themselves in their workouts?