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Thanks for remembering. I got back at 5 AM this morning from Philadelphia. I was supposed to get back ll:30 PM yesterday, so I am still a little tired.

I promised to post the abstract, and I will do so later today. For the most part, I was pleased with the presentation. I would say that it got a rather good response, although there where clearly others who I think had some issues with it.

With respect to functional analysis, this borrows from sociology and anthropology in its analysis of religion and how it works in peoples lives. More attention is given to this than a substantive approach which tends to focus on doctrines, creeds, or assertions as to what one experiences. It is not to dismiss substantive analysis, it is just another way of looking at things.

The thesis was that Black Theology which employs a hermeneutic of liberation (understood socially, economically, and politically) leads to a distorted (misrepresentation) of African American religion and religious experience. I chose to show that it was inadequate using a functional analysis because liberation so defined is functional. One can also offer a substantive analysis as well.

Functionally, I noted that most African American churches or religious communities do not support militant/revolutionary theologies. They are not millenarian or ascetic. Moreover, I attempted to show the simple ascription of none "radical" churches as quietistic, as irrelevant, palliative, or "opiate", as seriously flawed functionally.

I will post more later. Again, thanks for asking.
Moreover, I attempted to show the simple ascription of none "radical" churches as quietistic, as irrelevant, palliative, or "opiate", as seriously flawed functionally.---kresge

Congrats on your presentation.

Do I feel the 'chill' of Dr. Cain?

I didn't 'come to grund' with all of what you said, but that last statement seems aggressive to the prevailing church.



PEACE

Jim Chester
quote:
Originally posted by James Wesley Chester:
Moreover, I attempted to show the simple ascription of none "radical" churches as quietistic, as irrelevant, palliative, or "opiate", as seriously flawed functionally.---kresge

Congrats on your presentation.

Do I feel the 'chill' of Dr. Cain?

I didn't 'come to grund' with all of what you said, but that last statement seems aggressive to the prevailing church.



PEACE

Jim Chester

No, Dr. Felder was not there. It was more a critique of James Cone. Dr. Cone got to the session late, so missed my paper as it was the first. He was chatting with my adviser though during the question and answer time. I spoke to him briefly, and said that I definitely wanted his feed back before I published. It is likely what we may still disagree, but as Theodore Walker holds, criticism within the academy is (or at least should be about) win/win scenario's.

The attendance was pretty good this year all around. I sat in one section next to Cone and just in front of Cornel West. He was not presenting this year, but one of the papers in this particular section was a comparison of his project with that of Soren Kierkegaard as it relates to suffering and dread.

Other Black religionists in attendance included lots of folks that I have mentioned and referenced here in the past. Vincent Wimbush, Stephen Reid, Randall Bailey, Gay Byron, Cheryl Townsend Gilkes, Emile Townsend, Dwight Hopkins, Eddie Glaude, Anthony Pinn (my advisor), M Shawn Copeland, Theodore Walker, Stacy Floyd Thomas, Barbara Holmes, Henry James Young, Kelly Brown Douglas, Cheryl A. Kirk-Duggan, Charles Long, Peter Paris, Traci C. West, Lynn Westfield and Cheryl J. Sanders to name a few. Some names to be on the lookout for include Monica Coleman (process and womanist theology) and Darnise Martin (her dissertation is called Beyond Christianity and was snatched up quickly and published by NYU).
I sat in one section next to Cone and just in front of Cornel West.---kresge

That's very heady company.

A thread was just initiated discussing the 'accumulation of wealth' (trans-generational) in African America. Your closing paragraph holds a mirror to that concern.

It is easily visible in religion. It is not that easily demonstated in the other disciplines, but is there nonetheless.

Congrats again.


PEACE

Jim Chester
Here is the abstract for the paper I gave last weekend.

Thesis:
It is my contention that contemporary black theology offers a rather anemic understanding of African American religious experience. Additionally, I maintain that this weakness stems from a lack of attention to theory and methodology within the discipline. Moreover, I believe that methodologies associated with postmodern social theory might be employed to great effect to the study of black religion and black religious experience. Specifically, I intend to show in this paper that the methodologies of Niklas Luhmann and Michel de Certeau demonstrate that African American religious experience is best understood as "oppositional." By oppositional, I mean that which resistances, circumvents, evades, or opposes oppressive dimensions of power, particular in relation to the construction of society. Such an understanding subsumes while going beyond descriptions of African American religious experience as liberative, such as found in the work of James Hal Cone.

Proposal:
Perhaps the most intriguing question that has beset me with respect to the study of black theology and black religious thought has to do with the nature of religious experience. What is one to make of the experience of God or the Divine among the poor, the oppressed, and the disinherited? These experiences range from the "God who is there in the midnight hour" or "the God who makes a way out of no way" to experiences of grief, lament, and suffering that cries out for the God who is not there, the Hidden One, Deus Abscondus or Deus Otisus.
How does one assess such "religious" experiences? Are such religious experiences indicative of religion as at best a palliative or prophylactic and at its worst a form of psychosis (Freudian perspective) or a prop for oppression, an opiate (Marxian view)? I would assert that such questions should be of paramount concern for theologies that profess to take the lived experience of the oppressed and marginalized as a source. Black theology is of this type.
Theologians and philosophers of religion have wrestled with the phenomena of religious experience at least sense Schleiermacher and have described these moments of consciousness, these encounters and events with expressions such as intuition, unmediated awareness, a feeling, a non-rational immediacy, and revelation. It would seem that a black theology informed by black experience must begin to wrestle with this issue. In this paper, I will compare and contrast the understanding of African American religious experience as presented in the work of James Hal Cone with one informed by the postmodern theories of Niklas Luhmann and Michel de Certeau.
It is my claim that while James Cone asserts the primacy of black experience in the construction of his theology, he does so in a way that is incomplete and ultimately inadequate. To be sure, I assert that one would be hard pressed to find serious and sustained reflection on the nature of African American religious experience in Cone's oeuvre. Moreover, Cone does not offer a theory of African American religious experience. Indeed, to the extent that a particular methodology can be inferred or discerned, it is governed by Cone's theological conception of liberation.
Indeed, I would argue that with the exception of the eminent African American scholar Charles Long and those influenced by him; little attention has been given to methodologies best suited to the study of black religious experience. Long has been an advocate for a move within black religious studies from traditional theological discourse to one which enables the scholar to better navigate the multifarious terrain of black religious experience. As a historian of religion, Long has proffered a hermeneutical approach to the study of African American religious phenomena. While I believe that the phenomenological/hermeneutical tradition has much to commend it, I think that other strategies are worthy of exploration. Thus, my turn to contemporary social theories that fall under the rubrics of postmodern (Luhmann) and post-structuralist (de Certeau).
First in Religious Dogmatics and the Evolution of Societies (1984) and then latter in Observations on Modernity (1998), Luhmann views religion as a unique social phenomenon. Utilizing the modal logic characteristic of system theory, Luhmann maintains that human society follows an evolutionary trajectory governed by efficiency. Society moves through stages he characterizes as symmetrical, asymmetrical (stratified), and functionally differentiated. Religion (language, experience, etc), however, offers parallel and antagonistic claims about what is normative. Though it is clear that Luhmann disapproves of religion due to its claims of ultimacy, Luhmann's functional methodology insinuates the "oppositional" potential of religion, which I maintain is a constitutive of all African American religious experience.
A scholar in the French post-structuralist tradition and a Jesuit priest, the late Michel de Certeau looked at religious experience in a number of his works, particularly in the context of the mystical as in The Mystic Fable: The Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (1995). Additionally, in his text, The Practice of Everyday Life (2002), he introduces the notion of "oppositional tactics" available to the common man for reclaiming his own autonomy from the all-pervasive forces of commerce, politics, and culture. In essence, de Certeau challenges Michel Foucault's concept of panopticism in a disciplinary society presented in Discipline and Punish (1977). De Certeau's scheme restores the concept of agency and the place of the subject in post-structuralist thought, after Foucault's deconstruction. If, as Anthony Pinn contends, African American religion is a quest for complex subjectivity, I posit that a de Certeauvian analysis of African American religious experience will also support my thesis of its oppositional nature.

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