Well, sorry for the radio silence these last two days. I am at Iona College for the 2011 Annual College Theology Society (CTS) conference. This afternoon I presented my paper, “The (Im)possible Poetics of John D. Caputo: The Grammar of the Kingdom in a World of Violence,” in the Contemporary Theologies session. The session was good, a nice turnout with some excellent discussion after my paper. I really appreciated the insight, challenge and interest that was offered as we discussed postmodern continental philosophy and its potential value as a resource for contemporary systematic or constructive theology. As those who attended my paper know well, I am particularly interested in the implications this current of thought presents for Christian discipleship today.
It has been absolutely wonderful to connect with so many friends (some old, some new) in the theological world. As I just commented to someone on my way to dinner, the theological world is indeed a small one — I have been wonderfully surprised at how many folks have mutual friends or know each other in one form or another. I have been humbled by a number of folks who knew who I was before I introduced myself from this blog and other ways. And I have been especially grateful to meet — in “real time,” as I like to say — several people that I have corresponded with or have come to know only online.
All of the current session papers that I have attended have been well done. Two from this morning were particularly interesting and worth mentioning. The first, by Fordham University grad student Scott MacDougall titled, “Scapegoating the Secular: The Irony of Mimetic Violence in the social theology of John Milbank.” As someone who has spent a lot of time studying the Radical Orthodoxy movement in general, and John Milbank’s contributions in particular, I was delighted to hear such an excellent paper critiquing Milbank’s apparent contradiction in theological practice. He succumbs, as it were, to the same problem he critiques while writing about René Girard and violence. MacDougall did a very good job convincingly arguing for this point, one that I publicly concurred as it pertained to the Radical Orthodoxy Scotus sub-narrative.
The second paper was by Phyllis Zagano, a professor at Hofstra University and a well-known scholar in the fields of ecclesiology and spirituality. Her paper, titled, “Violence, the Vatican and Women Religious,” was an historical and contextual presentation of the recent Vatican visitation of women religious in the United States, while providing an insightful analysis and commentary of the event. A related article was recently published Zagano in the journal New Blackfriars.
The two plenary sessions so far have been very good. Last night William Cavanaugh, formerly of the University of St. Thomas and now of DePaul University, delivered a lecture titled, “Violence Religious and Secular: Questioning the Categories.” As with so much Cavanaugh does, this was top-notch! The second plenary session was this afternoon by renown feminist theologian M. Shawn Copeland, of Boston College, titled, “God Among the Ruins: Companion and Co-Sufferer.” James Logan of Earlham University in Indiana responded. This session was also excellent as it was challenging.
All in all this continues to be a great conference. While such events are oftentimes exhausting (lots of thinking and discussing) the opportunity to have such lively, enlivening and rich conversations with people who absolutely love doing that which you also love to do — theology — is nothing short of delightful.
Here is the National Catholic Reporter’s story on the conference: “Religion Professors Discuss Sources of Violence.”