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Teaching justice and teaching justly - Mathew Schmalz


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Teaching justice and teaching justly - Mathew Schmalz

  1. 1. This article was downloaded by: [Villa, Marcos]On: 12 April 2011Access details: Access Details: Free AccessPublisher RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK Christian Higher Education Publication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information: TEACHING JUSTICE AND TEACHING JUSTLY: REFLECTIONS ON TEACHING WORLD RELIGIONS AT A JESUIT LIBERAL ARTS COLLEGE Mathew N. Schmalza a The College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Massachusetts, USATo cite this Article Schmalz, Mathew N.(2005) TEACHING JUSTICE AND TEACHING JUSTLY: REFLECTIONS ONTEACHING WORLD RELIGIONS AT A JESUIT LIBERAL ARTS COLLEGE, Christian Higher Education, 4: 1, 1 — 17To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1080/15363750590898713URL: PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLEFull terms and conditions of use: article may be used for research, teaching and private study purposes. Any substantial orsystematic reproduction, re-distribution, re-selling, loan or sub-licensing, systematic supply ordistribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden.The publisher does not give any warranty express or implied or make any representation that the contentswill be complete or accurate or up to date. The accuracy of any instructions, formulae and drug dosesshould be independently verified with primary sources. The publisher shall not be liable for any loss,actions, claims, proceedings, demand or costs or damages whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directlyor indirectly in connection with or arising out of the use of this material.
  2. 2. Christian Higher Education, 4:1–17, 2005 Copyright C Taylor & Francis Inc. ISSN: 1536-3759 print / 1539-4107 online DOI: 10.1080/15363750590898713 TEACHING JUSTICE AND TEACHING JUSTLY: REFLECTIONS ON TEACHING WORLD RELIGIONS AT A JESUIT LIBERAL ARTS COLLEGE MATHEW N. SCHMALZ The College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA This paper examines how the teaching of world religions at Catholic Christians institutions can contribute to teaching justice and teaching justly. The paperDownloaded By: [Villa, Marcos] At: 03:06 12 April 2011 compares central issues engaged by History of Religions as a discipline with those addressed within the Jesuit tradition of higher education as it developed in the wake of the Second Vatican Council. While many scholars have argued that the academic study of religion and theology are premised upon irreconcilably opposed paradigms of teaching and scholarship, this paper argues that a creative combination of the two disciplines can create a crucial space for reconsidering justice within the contemporary classroom at Catholic Christian colleges that embrace the Jesuit tradition of higher education. On an unseasonably warm fall day, I was teaching a class in Com- parative Religions during my first semester as a professor at the College of the Holy Cross. Although the class was only in its fourth week, it seemed clear that the backgrounds of the students con- formed quite well to a profile of Holy Cross’s student body as a whole: overwhelmingly Catholic. The subject of my lecture that day was the religious life of Hinduism, most particularly the pu- rifying ritual acts called samskaras. During my efforts to stimulate class discussion, I drew upon what had thus far been a successful method of making general comparisons to the Catholic tradition. I talked about Hindu samskaras in relation to Catholic sacraments; a deceptively simple point of departure that I thought would en- gage the class. I mentioned the Eucharist. At that point, a student raised his hand and asked, matter of factly, “What’s the Eucharist?” The question “What’s the Eucharist?” from a student at a Jesuit college ordinarily involves the issue of Catholic students Address correspondence to Mathew N. Schmalz, Edward Bennett Williams Fellow, Department of Religious Studies, The College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, MA 01610. E-mail: 1
  3. 3. 2 M. N. Schmalz who know very little about Catholicism. But this question came from a different quarter and elicited a very different issue. Yusuf Gulleth asked the question, a student who had already distinguished himself as one of the most engaged and engaging participants in class discussions. Gulleth was pursuing a rigorous program in chemistry but wanted to balance his scientific studies by examining Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity in a comparative framework. Underlying his desire for academic balance was Gul- leth’s concern as a Muslim from Tanzania to explore Christianity and Hinduism in a way that would relate to his own tradition and religious sensibilities. The question that he raised then was not a simple inquiry about the definition of a word so crucial to Catholicism. Instead, it was a thoughtful challenge to theDownloaded By: [Villa, Marcos] At: 03:06 12 April 2011 assumption of a shared cultural knowledge within an institution explicitly dedicated to the Jesuit tradition in higher education. Considered more abstractly, Yusuf Gulleth was asking about justice and whether the class itself was being taught justly. Informed by Yusuf Gulleth’s question, this paper addresses how teaching world religions at Catholic institutions can con- tribute both to teaching justice and to teaching justly. To open the discussion, we first overview the development of the discipline of the History of Religions, the field with which the teaching of world religions is most explicitly associated. We then compare the changes experienced in the understanding of the History of Reli- gions to those occurring within Catholic education. These changes have forcefully elicited the question of justice, particularly as it re- lates to issues of power and dominance. Against this background, I outline some of the crucial issues relating to justice and the teach- ing of world religions in Catholic institutions. In light of the ques- tion put to me by Yusuf Gulleth, I argue that teaching world reli- gions allows a methodological and imaginative space not only for the comparative discussion of justice, but also for teaching justly. A History of the History of Religions There are many ways to understand the development of the aca- demic study of religion. Most recently, many scholars of religion have attempted to retrieve a subaltern tradition of “explaining re- ligion” that includes the work of thinkers such Giambatista Vico, David Hume, and Sigmund Freud among others (Preus, 1987).
  4. 4. Teaching Justice and Teaching Justly 3 But these explanatory efforts are valorized often in explicit con- tradistinction to how “world-religions” has been taught within the academic area of specialization that has come to be called “the His- tory of Religions.” While the History of Religions has developed in institutions other than those shaped by the Jesuit tradition, an instructive comparison can be made of the development of History of Religions with the development of Catholic higher education. Indeed, History of Religions’ struggle with postmodernism pro- vides an interesting parallel to Catholicism’s effort to rearticulate its educational mission in the wake of Vatican II, since both ef- forts remain concerned with how issues of justice and power shape scholarly inquiry and pedagogy.Downloaded By: [Villa, Marcos] At: 03:06 12 April 2011 Theological Liberalism and Comparative Religions The History of Religions initially developed as an interdisciplinary project informed by philology and liberal theological sensibilities. The beginning of the discipline is most immediately identified with the philologist Friedrich Max Muller. In his lectures at the Royal In- stitute of London in 1867, Muller (1882) coined the term “religion- swissenschaft” to refer to the idea of a science of religion as an aca- demic discipline. Muller was concerned with “the original natural religion of reason,” an entity that could be retrieved by seeking to understand the broad progression of religious phenomena within human history (see also Kitagawa, 1959, p. 17). With Muller’s work exerting a formative influence, the later half of the nineteenth cen- tury saw a marked increase in the attention given to the study of re- ligion as whole. For example, James Freeman Clarke published Ten Religions: An Essay in Comparative Religions and assumed the chair of natural religion and Christian doctrine at the Harvard Divinity School (Kitagawa, 1959, p. 2). A profusion of works followed and the turn of the century saw most notably the publication of C. P. Tiele’s (1897) Elements of the Science of Religion and William James’s (1990) The Varieties of Religious Experience. But the most significant event for the academic study of religion was the World Parliament of Religions, convened in Chicago in 1893. As Joseph Kitagawa (1959, pp. 3–4) recalls, the statement of purpose for the Parliament affirmed its mission: “to unite all Religion against irreligion; [and] to make the Golden Rule the basis of this union.” Within three decades, the study of religion had passed from an idiosyncratic
  5. 5. 4 M. N. Schmalz concern of philologists and liberal-minded theologians to a public effort to find some unifying ground for all religious traditions. This idealistic endeavor to unite all religions quickly passed and instead became an exclusively academic project to study religion as an irreducibly unique phenomenon. The intellectual sophistication and rigor of the History of Religions in the 20th cen- tury can primarily be associated with two scholars teaching at the University of Chicago: Joachim Wach and Mircea Eliade. Joachim Wach, who began his career at the University of Leipzig, focused his work on developing a broad taxonomy of religious experience. In his major works, Types of Religious Experience (1951) and The Sociology of Religion (1944), Wach diagramed a schema of religions by focus- ing upon key elements within religious life that structure religiousDownloaded By: [Villa, Marcos] At: 03:06 12 April 2011 organization and experience. While Wach advocated a historical method that also drew heavily on philology, he finally maintained that History of Religions must be resolutely hermeneutic in its focus upon the meaning embodied in religious phenomena (for a helpful discussion of Wach, see Long, 1985). This approach reached its greatest exposition in the work of Rumanian-born scholar Mircea Eliade. Eliade propounded a phenomenology of religion that drew upon the methodological stance of Geradus van der Leeuw (1938) by employing macron epoche, or the bracketing ¯ of religious phenomena. For Eliade, religion was sui generis and must be studied in and of itself without any kind of normative evaluation. Within this methodological framework, Eliade (1974) traced the morphology of the Sacred—from “hierophanies” in which the Sacred was made manifest, to the “kratophanies” that constituted emblematic expressions of religious power. As articu- lated in Myths, Dreams, and Mysteries (1967, pp. 231–245), Eliade’s goal was not only a “science of religion,” but a new humanism, founded upon the History of Religions, that would reclaim the Sacred in an era that had lost its myths of transcendence. During its one hundred years of development, History of Re- ligions drew upon what Joseph Kitagawa (1985, p. 128) has called two “maps of reality.” The first map of reality was drawn by the extending hand of the Enlightenment. The contours of this map were cast in bold relief by characteristically Enlightenment atti- tudes concerning the primacy of reason and by associated aversions to dogma, ecclesiastic authority, and the pretenses of particular religious traditions (Kitagawa, p. 129). But as Kitagawa also ob- served, historians of religion also came to view religion in a more
  6. 6. Teaching Justice and Teaching Justly 5 positive light by arguing that the underlying essence of religion had become obscured by “layers of historical accretion” and must be retrieved (p. 129). But both these maps had a cross-cultural span since the central claim of the History of Religions was that religious phenomena could be compared across time and space. Hinduism thus could be placed alongside Christianity and com- pared to Islam. In this comparative discussion, however, any nor- mative evaluation of religious phenomena needed to be carefully circumscribed so that religious phenomena could emerge in their clarity as sui generis manifestations of the Sacred. The Problem of HistoryDownloaded By: [Villa, Marcos] At: 03:06 12 April 2011 The idealism and expansive claims of the History of Religions even- tually led to its fragmentation if not collapse. Strangely, perhaps, the History of Religions had become resolutely ahistorical. Indeed, within Eliade’s morphology of religious manifestations, history had to be bracketed out as accident. Because of this, the History of Re- ligions became subject to a variety of postmodern critiques. Chief among the criticisms leveled against the History of Religions was the charge that it made no methodological sense to ignore history in humanistic scholarship. Since all knowledge is inevitably situ- ated within the social and temporal context of human activity, the effort to excavate or retrieve essences remained fundamentally mis- guided. Moreover, the very idea of reclaiming the Sacred sounded much like a theological project as opposed to a religio-historical investigation. Most recently, Russell McCutcheon (2001) has ar- gued that scholars of religion must become “critics, not caretak- ers” and dispense with the romantic visions that have often brought the academic study of religion perilously close to theology. Under the withering fire of both postmodernist and empiricist attacks, the idea of a religionswissenschaft was seen as a mask concealing a metanarrative that served universalizing religious interests. The crucial point made in the criticism of the History of Religions was that the discipline ignored relations of power. The claim that religion was unique, so central to the projects of Eliade and Wach, became understood as a kind of ontological claim as opposed to an ordinary feature of classification in which all phenomena were reciprocally unique. While some historians of religion now attempt to classify religious phenomena much as
  7. 7. 6 M. N. Schmalz a biologist would classify the organisms inhabiting the natural world, such a project seems pretentious within a current academic climate that would understand this and other totalizing aspirations as the products of a crude scientism. Instead, the History of Reli- gions has attempted to become more historical by understanding religion as an intimately human phenomenon enmeshed within discursive and nondiscursive relations of power. Contemporary religio-historical studies, such as Bruce Lincoln’s Discourse and the Construction of Society (1989) and Holy Terrors (2003) or Wendy Doniger’s The Implied Spider (1998), see religion as a cross-cultural manifestation of very human efforts not only to understand existence but to dominate and control it and others. Within this framework, History of Religions often becomes a demystifyingDownloaded By: [Villa, Marcos] At: 03:06 12 April 2011 hermeneutic that unmasks the totalizing pretenses of religious claims to divine truth. In this sense, historians of religions now chart a kind of postmodern narrative of emancipation in which justice becomes a central and abiding concern. Catholic Education and the Concern for Justice The trajectory of Catholic education in the United States followed a much different course from that charted by the History of Re- ligions. But if the History of Religions was in some ways disman- tled in relation to postmodern critiques of knowledge, then so too has Catholicism found itself forced to respond to contemporary society and academic culture. Catholic education has tradition- ally not found a place for the History of Religions, for, as Jacob Neusner (1968, p. 37) has observed, the academic study of reli- gion developed in an ethos of “cultural Protestantism” and was explicitly accepted by liberal Protestant or secular institutions. But as Catholicism has moved to consider the implications of educa- tion for justice, it has created a space where its concerns meet those of the History of Religions. Pre–Vatican II Catholic Higher Education For well over one hundred years, American Catholic higher ed- ucation endeavored to maintain its own distinctive academic cul- ture (see Marsden, 1997, p. 103). Catholic colleges in the United States were structured by an initial orientation to the seminary
  8. 8. Teaching Justice and Teaching Justly 7 (Power, 1958, p. 56). Jesuit schools in particular were informed by the educational ideals of the Ratio Sudiorum with its three divi- sions of study: philosophy, theology, and the humanities (Power, p. 64). Students were trained in classics, English, and associated disciplines, with instruction embodying a pervasive moral empha- sis. As Catholic education developed and expanded in the 19th century, it maintained its clerical control and its aversion to partic- ularistic or overly vocational emphases in curricula. Throughout the 19th century, Catholic education found no room for the recon- sideration of religion as a phenomenon, an approach tentatively embraced by the institutions that endowed the first chairs in Nat- ural Theology. To study other religions, or to study religion itself as a phenomenon, would of course mean compromising CatholicDownloaded By: [Villa, Marcos] At: 03:06 12 April 2011 claims to truth. The philosophy informing Catholic education became a cen- tral issue as the Roman Catholic Church continued to consider its mission within American society in the 20th century. In his charac- terization of Jesuit education at the turn of the century, John Court- ney Murray (1964, p. 235) observed that instruction focused upon stylistic, literary, and analytic skills that the Society of Jesus had adapted from the educational curricula of the Renaissance human- ists. This instruction culminated in the study of Thomistic philoso- phy that provided a unifying vision of transcendent truth (Gleason, 1967, p. 46). Yet within this vision, the study of religion itself was not necessarily considered to be an object of speculative inquiry. In- deed, as late as 1964, John Mahoney (1964, p. 245; for comparison see also Lauer, 1963) argued that in Catholic institutions “theol- ogy is an academic limbo, whose concerns are irrelevant to the stu- dents advancing knowledge in other subjects, not only because the integration of theology with other learning is not accomplished, but because such integration is a sheer impossibility.” Whether or not such criticism was accurate in all cases, it is clear that Catholic education maintained an alternatively triumphalist and defensive posture until the convening of the Second Vatican Coun- cil (see Gleason, 1998). Perhaps no better example can be found of these attitudes than articles and editorials published in the Catholic journal Thought that consistently inveighed against exter- nal threats to the unifying integrity of the classical and Thomistic heritage of Catholic higher education. Communism, secular democracy, and prevailing trends in American higher education were all seen as emblematic of a modern dissolution of values
  9. 9. 8 M. N. Schmalz (for example, see Kelly, 1938). From this standpoint, to study other religions alongside Catholicism would only hasten the process of fragmentation that Catholic education must fight against. The Second Vatican Council brought into question many of the traditional assumptions of Catholic education. Crucial to how the Second Vatican Council changed the ground of discourse was its description of the modern world. The seminal document, Gaudium et Spes (Flannery, 1975, p. 907) drew attention to the gap between rich and poor, the increasing power of science and tech- nology, and also articulated a vision of the human race inhabiting “a dynamic and more evolutionary” reality. The document extolled the virtues of research and the autonomy of the sciences and other methods of inquiry. To the effect of Gaudium et Spes, we could alsoDownloaded By: [Villa, Marcos] At: 03:06 12 April 2011 add the document Ad Gentes that evinced a more progressive un- derstanding of Catholicism’s relationship to other world religions. Religion and religious discourse thus must engage the world of which they are inevitably a part. The Society of Jesus and the Concern for Justice For the Society of Jesus, reflection on the implications of the Sec- ond Vatican Council came to emphasize the theme of justice. Un- der the stewardship of Superior General Pedro Arrupe, the Soci- ety of Jesus addressed itself specifically to the question of justice in its 32nd General Congregation in 1974–1975. In the decrees issuing from the General Congregation, the society enunciated its vision of the promotion of faith and justice as a necessary response to the challenges of the modern world. Specifically, the decrees identified three characteristics of the modern age that required a discerning call for justice (1977, B.24–28): first, a pluralism that demands evangelization; second, the rise of technology and con- comitant secularization; and third, the actual ability of human be- ings to make the world more just. Given these pervasive charac- teristics of the contemporary age, the 32nd General Congregation emphasized that the promotion of justice must find concrete ex- pression not only in evangelization and theological research but also specifically within the society’s educational ministry. This em- phasis on justice requires not only sensitivity to the marginalized and the voiceless but also active solidarity with the poor, a point made quite eloquently by Ignacio Ellacuria (1990, pp. 147–151) in
  10. 10. Teaching Justice and Teaching Justly 9 an address in which he diagrammed the mission of the Christian university. Within the contemporary context of Jesuit education, the phrase “men and women for others” is often repeated as an exhortation to promote the justice that the society has committed itself to achieve. Decrees of the 32nd General Congregation had a great ef- fect, not only because they were bold, but also because, to some, they were controversial and even vague (see Tripole, 1994). But it is also important to emphasize that the theme of the promotion of justice was not something entirely new to Catholic theology. In an engaging overview of themes within Catholic social teach- ing, David Hollenbach, S. J. (1997) diagrams a clear line of devel- opment and thematic unity in Catholic social teaching from LeoDownloaded By: [Villa, Marcos] At: 03:06 12 April 2011 XIII’s Rerum Novarum to Gaudium et Spes and beyond. Hollenbach (p. 227) argues that Catholic conceptions of justice have always been associated with the themes of human dignity, mutuality, and participation in community. From these themes issues an eschato- logical vision of “sharing” in the death and resurrection of Christ God with “Christian justice”—in Hollenbach’s words (p. 227), “a specification of how this sharing is to be made present in the re- lations between persons in history.” The call to promote justice in education is then simultaneously a prophetic call to critique, as well as an invitation to solidarity and discernment. Catholic education and the History of Religions were both shaped by the very real demands for a more relevant discourse about religion and its relationship to the contemporary world. In pursuing the rather contrived comparison between contem- porary Catholic discourse about justice and the concerns of the History of Religions, what is clear is that in both spheres of dis- course there is a fundamental appreciation of religion’s complex place within human life. Religion is not somehow disengaged from human reality but enmeshed within it. Moreover, the very fact of contemporary pluralism requires new methods of understanding religion in connection with issues of both power and justice. In this concern, both Catholicism and History of Religions have often embraced methodological forms of unmasking—whether in the form of prophetic critique or through deconstructionalist analy- sis. Issues of justice and power are not necessarily synonymous or isomorphic, but they do clearly have a very intimate relationship. If this is so, then the History of Religions does have a place within
  11. 11. 10 M. N. Schmalz the continually developing Catholic discourse on education and the promotion of justice. Teaching World Religions and Teaching Justice In an essay in Justice and Peace Education, Monika Helwig (1986, p. 15) argues that there is no discipline better suited for social jus- tice and peace education than religious studies. In her carefully argued piece, Helwig diagrams a variety of themes that religious studies courses could emphasize in their consideration of justice: sin, redemption, materials from liberation theology and scripture. But to this rich proposal we might also add that religious studies includes the History of Religions and that, in the effort to en-Downloaded By: [Villa, Marcos] At: 03:06 12 April 2011 gage questions of justice, the History of Religions and Catholic theology could have a fruitful, if sometimes contentious, partner- ship. All too often in Catholic institutions, History of Religions has become simply “World Religions.” Within this classification, Catholicism is usually considered within the domain of theology, while all other religions are relegated to broad World Religions survey courses. But if mutuality and community lie at the heart of Catholic conceptions of justice, then a comparative consideration of other traditions alongside Catholicism might lay the ground for a broader discourse about justice, human community, and solidar- ity. Put more polemically, to so privilege Catholicism and Catholic discourse about justice often militates against articulating a vision of justice sensitive to both pluralism in the classroom and in the world as a whole. While it is important to consider both normative and foundational questions in discussions of justice, I would argue that the History of Religions offers a necessary complement to ex- plicitly Catholic considerations of justice precisely by setting such a discourse within a comparative framework that is open to critical self-examination. Theology and the Academic Study of Religion One of the most suggestive recent efforts to approach “world re- ligions” in a way that is sensitive to questions of both teaching justice and teaching justly is Francis Clooney’s Hindu Wisdom for all God’s Children (1998). A Jesuit priest and comparative theolo- gian, Clooney moves beyond the conventional understandings
  12. 12. Teaching Justice and Teaching Justly 11 of justice education as a rather static exercise in what var- ious religious traditions “say” about justice. Instead, Clooney presents a multilayered approach to understanding Hindu reli- giosity that invites the reader to an openness that “is mindful enough to welcome the stranger at our gate” (p. 136). Clooney presents the visions of Mohandas Gandhi and Mahasweta Devi (who chose to live with the poor) while also introducing as- cetics and mystics such as Ramana Maharishi and the Tamil saint Satakopan. Throughout Hindu Wisdom for all God’s Children, Clooney draws the reader into the complexity of the Hindu re- ligious imagination by focusing upon how existential questions and symbolic imagery are joined. For example, when discussing Hindu creation narratives, Clooney draws attention to how im-Downloaded By: [Villa, Marcos] At: 03:06 12 April 2011 ages of “male and female” as well as the “the eater and the eaten” articulate both the “complementarity and conflict” at the heart of the continuing creation and recreation of the world (pp. 7–10). In relating Hindu visions of creation to traditional Judeo-Christian accounts, Clooney’s discussion moves back to the familiar, having radically expanded the ground for appreci- ating both the differences and similarities between the Hindu and Christian traditions. Through Clooney’s discussion, Hindu wisdom remains firmly situated within its Indian context but also moves to engage more abstract questions that are nonethe- less rooted in the very specificity of human life. Clooney thus not only teaches “justice” through his exposition of Hindu un- derstandings of the purpose and nature of human life, but he also teaches “justly” by refracting Christianity through a Hindu lens and thus reversing the conventional tendency to understand Christianity as “normative.” But this emphasis upon “Hindu wis- dom” in no way makes Clooney’s investigation less Christian. Indeed, Clooney describes his work as a “spiritual task” and observes: Those of us who are Christian can keep looking upon the face of Christ, never imagining that we need something more than Christ; in Christ God keeps giving us more, so that we can also contemplate in Christ all the experiences and wisdom of the religious traditions around us. The call to open oneself to Hindu wisdom for Clooney is ultimately a call to open oneself to Christ who reveals Himself in all things.
  13. 13. 12 M. N. Schmalz Francis Clooney writes as a Catholic theologian and speaks to a primarily Christian audience. Within the context of educa- tional institutions with a religious identity, Clooney’s work could be well complemented by an approach that draws upon the scholarly methodology provided by the History of Religions. Historians of Religions would query Clooney’s understanding of “wisdom” and ask to what extent wisdom is often determined by relations of power (Schmalz, 2003). Sensitivity to issues of power would also lead Historians of Religion to observe that in presenting “Hindu wis- dom,” Clooney engages texts which only members of the Brahmin caste are eligible to read and explicate. Finally, Historians of Re- ligions would reflect upon the implications of appropriating the texts from another religious tradition for use within an explicitlyDownloaded By: [Villa, Marcos] At: 03:06 12 April 2011 Christian context. For example, does such a move finally subsume Hinduism within Christianity or the figure of Christ? In this ef- fort, do Hindu wisdom and conceptions of justice become simply expressions of Christian wisdom and Christian understandings of justice? Such questions would not be to dismiss or to undermine Clooney’s project, but rather to bring theology and the academic study of religion into critical and self-reflective engagement over what it means to teach justice and teach justly. Critical self-examination or reflexivity provides the materials for constructing a bridge over and between the contested aca- demic turf occupied by theology and the History of Religion. The strongest objection to any joining of theology with the aca- demic study of religion is that they reflect two fundamentally op- posed ways of understanding religion itself (for an early reflection on this issue, see Kim, 1972). The differences between theology and the academic study of religion were brought into sharp relief in a series of heated exchanges between the Catholic theologian Paul Griffiths (2000) and the critical historian of religion, Donald Wiebe. In a collection of essays, Wiebe (2000) explicates the theo- retical foundations of the approach to religious studies now most aggressively advocated by his former student Russell McCutcheon. Wiebe argues for a robust scientific paradigm for religious stud- ies, a paradigm that embraces a rigorous “naturalism” in order to explain religious phenomena. Against this position, Griffiths observes, quite correctly, that the term “religion” is an eminently Christian creation that loses much of its relevance when applied to other forms of life such as Hinduism or Islam. Because religion as
  14. 14. Teaching Justice and Teaching Justly 13 a category is born from Christian theological reflection, to assume that it exists independently of theological discourse is to be funda- mentally mistaken. Griffiths pushes his critique further by observ- ing that science and other forms of “naturalism” also make episte- mological claims which Wiebe and his followers fail to recognize as eminently contestable. Interestingly, however, both Griffiths and Wiebe would probably join together in resisting the postmodern trend in the History of Religions: Griffiths would collapse the His- tory of Religions into theology, while Wiebe would surely maintain that the subject and object of academic inquiry become hopelessly blurred in what I have described as the “postmodern narratives of emancipation” that characterize much scholarly work in religious studies.Downloaded By: [Villa, Marcos] At: 03:06 12 April 2011 For both Griffiths and Wiebe there is a strong desire for both intellectual clarity and, indeed, existential firmness in scholarly work—although both Griffiths and Wiebe sharply disagree as to where this intellectual and existential ground can be found. But scholarly disciplines are curious things; they change as they are continually shaped not only by intellectual investigation but also by configurations of power. In a thoughtful response to Alasdair Mac- Intyre’s After Virtue (1984), the philosopher D. Z. Phillips (1992) observes that there is a strong tendency to romanticize how re- ligious traditions and, by extension, scholarly disciplines seek to present a coherent vision of the world and human activity. Draw- ing upon the work of Ludwig Wittgenstein, Phillips would call at- tention to how messy human “forms of life” can be—a view that would be echoed in the writings of the former Jesuit Michel de Certeau (1990) who observes that much of human life is funda- mentally about “making do.” While hardly a popular position, one could argue that scholarly disciplines, whether theological or sci- entific, are also ways of “making do.” In specific response to both Griffiths and Wiebe, one could also argue that the History of Reli- gions occupies a provisional middle ground between theology and the social sciences. The academic study of religion then becomes an imaginative construct, not unlike alchemy, that is produced in a continuing exploration of and negotiation with contemporary religious pluralism and cultural diversity. While the History of Re- ligions is not a discipline in the conventional sense, it is perhaps because of its ambiguous status that it can have the power to create new vantage points of perspective and destabilizing insight.
  15. 15. 14 M. N. Schmalz Teaching Justice If pluralism and diversity are generally recognized as crucial is- sues in the contemporary world, then no discourse about justice can proceed in a context bound by exclusively one tradition. With specific regard to Catholic claims about justice, while they arise from a coherent tradition of inquiry, they exist within a broader context of often competing understandings of the nature of jus- tice itself. A comparative examination of Catholic understandings of justice with those of other religious traditions would recognize the pressing demands of contemporary pluralism and also open new possibilities for mutual understanding and collective action. For example, a course that extends Clooney’s approach in HinduDownloaded By: [Villa, Marcos] At: 03:06 12 April 2011 Wisdom might focus on conceptions of the Self in Christianity and Hinduism and proceed by contrasting Christian conceptions of the Self as a teleological whole to Hindu understandings of the Self as fluid and changing in its interactions with others. Such a course might then move to consider the views of justice that proceed from these differing conceptions of Selfhood, initially focusing on Catholic documents that make strongly universalistic claims about the nature of justice and then examining Hindu texts that reflect a contextually sensitive understanding of justice and its demands. The course might conclude by examining how these differing con- ceptions are expressed in practice. While attempting to preserve difference, a comparative discussion of Dorothy Day and Mahatma Gandhi, for example, might lead to an interesting consideration of similarities in social praxis that allow for solidarity across cultural and religious boundaries. A comparative approach to questions of justice would then draw upon the methodology of the History of Religions by understanding Christianity and Catholicism precisely as world religions. Beyond a comparative approach to teaching justice, the His- tory of Religions offers an important corrective to totalizing dis- courses based upon exclusive understandings of religious iden- tity. The strength in making claims about justice, at least in a Catholic Christian context, is that they are normative. Such norma- tive claims, however, can often too quickly sweep aside the diversity and specificity of human life. This is precisely the argument made against the universalizing projects of historians of religion like Mircea Eliade and Joachim Wach: too often they ignored history
  16. 16. Teaching Justice and Teaching Justly 15 and the contingency of human life. To understand religion and religious understandings of justice is to examine a particular form of discourse—a discourse made possible not only by individual and collective spiritual longings and intellectual inquiry but also by discursive and nondiscursive formations of power in the speci- ficity of human relations. To address the question of justice within such a framework is not to dismiss it but to offer an important cor- rective to claims that move too quickly into generalization about the complex and culturally defined nature of human experience. Openness to critical self-examination is essential to any religious tradition, especially given the all too human tendency, pithily de- scribed by the singer Bruce Cockburn, to want “justice done on somebody else.”Downloaded By: [Villa, Marcos] At: 03:06 12 April 2011 Teaching Justly When Yusuf Gulleth asked me to explain the Eucharist, he was rais- ing an issue about whether I was teaching justly. Just as universal- izing claims about justice can often ignore cultural specificity and difference, so too can generalizing assumptions about the compo- sition of the classroom marginalize those whose voices most need to be heard. To deprivilege Catholicism in the classroom of a Jesuit college might seem at best counter-intuitive or at worst a violation of the very mission of the institution. But, as Yusuf Gulleth gently pointed out to me, Catholics are not the only ones who fill the seats in the Catholic classroom. If one of the crucial themes in Jesuit discussions of justice is concern for the marginalized, then Catholic institutions must be sensitive to this issue within the aca- demic communities they seek to build. Beyond the specific issue of classroom diversity, it is crucial for Catholic students to begin to understand their own tradition not only as it relates to others but also as it is seen by others. To this end, understanding Catholicism within the framework of the His- tory of Religions offers a mode of discourse that is sensitive to the cross-cultural variations of religious expression. When employed in this way at Catholic institutions, the History of Religions assumes a role not dissimilar to that envisioned in the early development of the discipline. Indeed, by emphasizing an initial bracketing of nor- mative claims about religion and justice, the History of Religions could be seen as an initial step in the eventual cooperation of
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