On Thursday, June 18, 2015, Pope Francis released Laudato Si’, in English Praise Be to You: On Care for Our Common Home. This encyclical is the first to address the sweeping consequences of anthropogenic climate change, and it presents Pope Francis’ pastoral commitment to the integral flourishing of all life. Throughout this writing, Francis draws on ecumenical sources, the writings of his predecessors, and current scientific research to argue that our current ecological crisis implicates all people living on earth and that there is an urgent need for an ecological conversion. Over the span of 184 pages, Pope Francis ardently criticizes the rampant consumerism and individualism so characteristic of our late modern society while maintaining that caring for the environment is central to the Christian faith. He repudiates interpretations of Genesis that call for human domination of the earth and urges us to cultivate and protect the earth to which we are intimately tied. Francis situates this encyclical in a long tradition of Catholic social teaching by emphasizing that care for the earth is care for those suffering from poverty. This emphasis remains central to Pope Francis’s ministry because he recognizes that everything in creaturely life is connected. The suffering of the earth, those living in poverty, and the actions that have caused them (both quotidian and monumental) are related to one another.
Just as Laudato Si’ addresses people of every faith background and nationality, Professor Bruce Morrill, the Edward A. Malloy Chair of Catholic Studies here at Vanderbilt, has organized a panel discussion consisting of interdisciplinary voices to discuss the encyclical. Professor Morrill will provide the essential context of the encyclical, showing how it relates to other documents like it and discussing its integration of sacramentality and ethics. As a (very) recent graduate of Vanderbilt Divinity School, I will expound upon Pope Francis’ generative call for an environmental spirituality and education by looking particularly at agricultural practices integrated within ecclesial life in order to re-form the way we see and interact with creation. Dr. Barbara Muraca, assistant professor of philosophy at Oregon State University and leading forerunner of the notion of degrowth, will discuss political ecology, degrowth, and environmentalism of the poor. As a participant, I hope this discussion will encourage more environmental awareness at VDS and in the broader Nashville community.
To find out more about this event and others like it, visit www.eosprojectvu.org. The Eos Project is a University wide initiative to raise awareness of environmental issues across disciplines.
On Care For Our Common Home begins at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, January 22, 2016 in Vanderbilt Divinity School’s Reading Room.
John Compton, MDiv’15
Posted by Michelle Bukowski on January 20, 2016 in Events, Feature, Barbara Muraca, Bruce Morrill, Catholic, Christian, climate change, David Wood, event, faith, John Compton, Laudato Si, ministry, On Care for Our Common Home, Pope Francis, Praise Be to You, Vanderbilt Divinity School
Our monthly Alumni/ae Tuesday Guest Post has expanded! We’re proud to present #VDSGiving. We have invited VDS and GDR alumni/ae to write about what their Divinity School education meant to them, and to also write about the impact of the scholarship assistance they received. Our goal is to demonstrate how scholarship support has a lasting impact on our students, and to highlight the importance of giving.
Be sure to also check out the Divinity School Instagram feed every Tuesday for our Alumni/ae Instagram Takeover Day. Each week, we will showcase a different alumnus/a as they document their day in photos. Follow @VUDivinity on Instagram today!
If would like to contribute a post to the Alumni/ae Tuesday Guest Post series, #VDSGiving post or participate in our Alumni/ae Instagram Takeover Day, please email Addie Sullivan (firstname.lastname@example.org) in the Vanderbilt Divinity School Alumni/ae office.
Fourth grade was a big year for me. It was the first time I made a “B” on my report card, marring my straight “A’s” record and breaking my ten-year-old heart. My dog Promise passed away, the last pet I had that was a part of my family before I was born. And I remember knowing for the first time that I would have to earn a scholarship to be able to attend college. Obviously, I was a very serious fourth grader.
Once I heard God’s call on my life and heart, I knew for certain that scholarships would be vital in affording the theological education I desired and the United Methodist Church required in order to serve in full-time, ordained ministry. When it was time to start visiting and applying to graduate school, I began looking at two well-known Methodist seminaries where I knew friends, family, and my former ministers had been educated. With the encouragement of one of my mentors and a brochure about the Turner Leadership Scholar program given to me by my university’s chaplain, I added Vanderbilt Divinity School to the list.
On a beautiful November day, I first stepped onto Vanderbilt’s campus and fell in love. I conversed with students who were passionate about the time they were spending engaged in community and study. I listened to professors whose knowledge and wisdom overwhelmed me. I enjoyed delicious pastries and bagels that foreshadowed the future treats of coffee hour on Fridays. When I left that first visit, I knew two things for certain. One—that VDS was the right environment for me to learn and grow in ministry. Two—that without a scholarship, it would be a great financial burden on my future to attend VDS. Yet, I also left that day with the hope and promise from VDS’s admissions office that Vanderbilt would be generous with scholarship assistance, something that would be proven true when I received my acceptance of admission and a letter awarding a sixty percent tuition scholarship, an offer much greater than the other seminaries and divinity schools where I had applied.
A few weeks later, I received a call letting me know that I had been chosen to receive one of the Turner Leadership Scholarships, which would not only pay entirely for my tuition and fees but also would offer a stipend and three year United Methodist leadership program and internship with a local church community. Yet, the true gem of my VDS experience would come from the friendships and collegiality I formed with the other members of my cohort and scholarship program. The other students who walked alongside me during my years at VDS became fast friends and colleagues whose wisdom, insight, and experience of growth enriched and enhanced the academic and pastoral learning I gained while studying at Vanderbilt. Since graduating, these relationships have continued to strengthen my ministry. There aren’t many days I don’t reach out to one of those friends looking for insight, suggestions, or just a good laugh. I also meet each week via online video chat with friends from my VDS scholarship program for a covenant discipleship group, a safe space to work through the intersections of life, ministry, and my own spiritual journey.
I don’t know what I would do without the relationships I formed at VDS, but I do know that those relationships would have never happened without the generous financial support I received through scholarship. Because I know how vital scholarship was to my own experience, I give back financially to Vanderbilt Divinity School every year. Now, I am in full-time ministry, so my yearly gift is small and in no way can ever repay the generosity I was shown by those who support VDS. But, I trust, with every little bit I give, I am passing on the gifts of theological education and holy friendships that have changed my life.
by Amanda Hartman Westmoreland, MDiv’14
Posted by Michelle Bukowski on January 19, 2016 in Alumni/ae Tuesday, Giving Tuesday, #Alumni/aeTuesday, #GivingTuesday, Admissions, community, Divinity School, scholarship, theological education, Turner Leadership Scholar program, United Methodist Church, Vanderbilt
Each month, we ask a member of the Vanderbilt Divinity School faculty to recommend a book they are currently reading. Our January recommendation is offered by Forrest Harris, Associate Professor of the Practice of Ministry and Director of the Kelly Miller Smith Institute on the African-American Church.
Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God
By Kelly Brown Douglass
Kelly Brown Douglas has written a very timely and compelling book addressing the religious and racial myths underlying a “Stand Your Ground” culture which has been since 2008 a prominent feature in court proceedings and legal justification of the police killings of young unarmed black citizens. Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God dramatizes the intense passion of a black womanist scholar/mother and that of urban black parents whose children are rendered vulnerable and at risk in a culture of organized and legalized police gun violence. Kelly Brown Douglass unpacks the dangerous elements of the question raised by President Obama in response to the killing of an unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin, and the legal sanctioning and acquittal of the white neighborhood security officer who killed him. “If Trayvon was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk?”
A striking feature of the interpretative lens Brown deploys in her analysis dramatizes why as an African American Black church scholar and theologian, I could not read this book without painful tears. Brown contextualizes American racial history and the perpetual bridge black bodies continue to cross as “guilty chattel” that demands a reckoning with the pain of why black bodies are criminalized and deemed a threat to the “cherished property” and social spaces of white exceptionalism. Brown’s narrative of America’s continuing dilemma and consciousness of race is unquestionably a serious theological account of why black bodies are susceptible to white violence in America. Brown states “what happened to Trayvon Martin on February 26, 2012, is a result of America’s narrative of Anglo-Saxon exceptionalism.” Drawing from the keen insights of womanist compassion and care for black life, Douglas traces the Anglo-Saxon myth of “racial purity” and “hyper valuation” of whiteness and the denigration of blackness” to the grave of Trayvon Martin. Having brought the reader to the ground where Trayvon Martin stood on the eventful night of his death, Brown forges theology of hope in the midst of the perverse and tragic paradoxes of black life. “What is the meaning of the Justice of God for Black bodies in a Stand Your Ground culture? Is or is not such a culture an affront to God? Avoiding the trappings of the wordy discipline of theology, Kelly Brown Douglass anchors and posits her response in the existential struggles and emergence of “black faith” midst death and suffering from slavery to the present moment. Brown leaves us with hope. “The movement of God in human history” for black faith demands more than doctrinal affirmations void of justice but liberating faith to negotiate the contraction between black life and black hope.
Posted by Michelle Bukowski on January 17, 2016 in Read This Book, African-American Church, Black Bodies, Forrest Harris, God, Justice, Kelly Brown Douglass, Kelly Miller Smith Institute, Practice of Ministry, racial history, religion, Stand Your Ground, Trayvon Martin, Vanderbilt Divinity School
Bishop Joe E. Pennel, Jr, Professor of the Practice of Leadership, writes about his concern for the chaos in today’s world and his attempt to understand the source as informed by the faith that gave birth to the Church.
Fear is a sign of our time in history. Fear captures the hearts of people from every smooth and hilly part of the world. It is so powerful that it can keep us from seeing the flowers in the ditch.
Fear is a signal that there is a great and wide gulf between the spirit of love and the signs of our times. It is a natural reaction to an objective identifiable danger which may involve either flight or attack in self-defense. When fear grips us, we either fight back or take flight.
In 1963 Dr. Langdon Gilkey, one of my professors at Vanderbilt Divinity School, took a group of students to visit the Monastery of Gethsemane to have a conversation with Thomas Merton. Gethsemane is located in Kentucky.
I, as a young Methodist seminarian, had never been inside a Roman Catholic monastery. It was an experience like no other. On that visit, I was introduced to the importance of nurturing the inner life. Father Merton spoke about the importance of a sincere faith being of both the head and the heart. As we sat in a circle on the floor one of the students asked, “Father Merton, what is the cause of war?” Father Merton prayerfully replied, “Fear is the cause of war.”
The contemporary presence of fear points beyond itself to the mess in which we find ourselves. On the one hand we are capable of hating and hurting. Confuse us, and we lash out. Crowd us, and we kill and destroy. Deprive us, and we retaliate. Threaten us, and we bomb and burn. Enslave us, and we revolt. If we are not loved, we never learn to love.
On the other hand, the human family is also equipped for loving and healing. Our bite can be sweet; our hands can offer a healing touch; our feet can take us to those in need, and our talents can create that which is both useful and beautiful. Our minds can ponder what it would take for all of God’s siblings to experience the comfort and joy of peace.
Society is also a great composite picture of our ability to do something good. Art, culture, philosophy, order, writing, and religion have all been used to tame the tiger within us. These are expressions of the common good, and we cannot have too much of this. The highest teachings of every major religion give instruction about the importance of working for the good of all people—no matter whom they are or where they live.
Every religion speaks about the way of peace. The essential teaching of every religion says, without reserve, that love overcomes fear. This does not mean a one-sided love where we love only those who belong to our nation, our race, our religion, our rituals, or our reference group. Love is the way to peace.
The Bible is clear about this. It says, “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear, for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love” (I John 4:18) Some would say this is too idealistic and out of touch with the issues of our day. I would say this is God’s dream for the world. God’s dream is that every individual, every tribe, every nation, every religion will express love and mutual respect for one other.
It is sad that we have lived on this earth for all of these years and have not learned how to love each other. Fear will continue to manifest itself until we learn that there is another way.
Joe E. Pennel Jr.
Bishop of the United Methodist Church (retired)
Professor for Leadership—Vanderbilt Divinity School
(joe.e.pennel @vanderbilt. edu)
Posted by Michelle Bukowski on January 13, 2016 in Feature, bilbe, Bishop Joe Pennel, Church, Dr. Langdon Gilkey, fear, leadership, Methodist seminarian, Monastery of Gethsemane, Roman Catholic, Thomas Merton, Vanderbilt Divinity School
Our monthly Alumni/ae Tuesday Guest Post series on the VDS Voices blog highlights posts written by VDS and GDR alumni/ae. Hear firsthand about their important work in the community, collaborations with other alumni/ae and faculty, and much more.
Be sure to also check out the Divinity School Instagram feed every Tuesday for our Alumni/ae Instagram Takeover Day. Each week, we will showcase a different alumnus/a as they document their day in photos. Follow @VUDivinity on Instagram today!
If would like to contribute a post to the Alumni/ae Tuesday Guest Post series, or participate in our Alumni/ae Instagram Takeover Day, please email Addie Sullivan (email@example.com) in the Vanderbilt Divinity School Alumni/ae office.
by Mike Zimmerman MTS’10
Program Coordinator, Office of University Chaplain and Religious Life
Where one starts in a career path or vocational training can truly be different than where one ends. Through my experiences in life, and more that would come while at the Divinity School, I would come to see that allyship was quickly becoming a flagstone to which I was drawn in the academic world. While I, as a Catholic, was a minority at the Divinity School, I became acutely aware of the limited experiences that people have with faith traditions other than their own. While they may have heard of these faiths or practices, they oftentimes did not know anyone personally of that faith tradition. As I became more aware of the differences in attending a school in the South, I began to see the similarities in the challenges for students of other faith traditions that are often in the minority among students. My time at VDS helped me not only deepen my own faith but gave rise to learning more about others’ faith and supporting them.
Upon having the opportunity to come back to Vanderbilt and work in student affairs through the chaplain’s office, I was able to engage with students—undergraduate and graduate—of every faith tradition. I saw the opportunity to speak for the students who did not have a voice on campus. Although being a religious minority often isolates students to practice their faith in what has been offered and not expect more, being able to speak for these groups has enabled me to make great strides for them. Creating a space on our campus for Buddhist students with a Zen Rock Garden, advocating for Halal food on campus for our Muslim students, programming to ensure that the holy day festivals of our Hindu students are not celebrated and viewed only as cultural festivities, and helping organize university-wide sponsored Advent and Chanukah services are all opportunities that have given the wider University and all its students, staff, and faculty the ability to see the rich diversity that our campus holds inside.
The plurality of voices and differences among us does not divide us but rather brings us together when we embrace the diversity of beliefs in the natural world. Encouraging the recognition of something greater than the self (which can bog down academics that overly strive to break new ground and change the world) is the common thread that can build a community out of a pool of aspirations. VDS helped me to see others and take up their cause as my own as an expression of my own faith. A plurality of voices, viewpoints, and practices is what continues to make Vanderbilt continue forward.
Posted by Michelle Bukowski on January 12, 2016 in Alumni/ae Tuesday, Advent, Buddhist, Catholic, Chanukah, chaplain, diversity, Divinity School, faith traditions, graduate, Hindu, minority, Office of Religious Life, undergraduate, VDS, Zen Rock Garden
The long quiet has settled in the halls of the Divinity School. Students depart to visit family and friends across town and around the world. Faculty retreat to cozier spaces to grade papers and prepare for the new term.
Around our building, the staff is keeping the lights on, holding our steady vigil over daily tasks not beholden to the academic calendar. We know this silence well. In the summertime, we crack jokes about the ease of getting work done when there are no students around. But in the winter darkness, the mood is more somber, the silence aching to be filled with sound and life.
We read in the Advent story of a young woman whose body holds a secret treasure. From the dark and quiet stillness of her womb, Light and Life are about to emerge. She bears within herself the great mystery—that God will upend the status quo—not with princes and armies, but with a helpless babe, in a ramshackle stable, in a backwoods town. She waits to meet the one who will redeem a broken and brokenhearted world.
In our present time, my colleagues and I in the Office of Admissions are waiting, too. Who is even now walking the path that might one day lead them here? What gifts will they bring? What hopes? Fears? Possibilities? We wait to see how our small corner of God’s kingdom is about to be transformed.
In our wonder, we find pieces of our own story inside the stories of those who have waited in wondrous expectation before us. With thrill and fear, we are Mary, leaning into the “not yet” of the next stage of our life’s journey. We are Joseph, seeking to be faithful despite his surprising role in a story he could never have anticipated. We are God’s people, longing for the One who will bring plenty into a world that declares there is Never Enough.
We are all waiting to see what God will do next.
Perhaps the good work that God is about to do is in you, or in me. What might my small influence do to move the waiting world toward greater justice and compassion? Will I sing the song of Zechariah, praising the God who calls us toward greater mercy and peace? Will I shake up Bethlehem, dismantling its lies about who should be welcomed, and who is excluded? Will I welcome the refugee child and call him Son of God, God With Us?
In the stillness of the season, may our words and works declare that light will outshine the darkness, hope triumph over despair, and new life emerge in the most surprising places.
by Katherine H. Smith, Assistant Dean for Admissions, Vocation, and Stewardship
My experience of my first semester at Vanderbilt University Divinity School has been one of inverted expectation, though (now) beautifully so. I came here as a second-career student, determined to be the scholar that I hadn’t been eight years ago as an undergraduate; I know my purpose for being in school this time around. Unfortunately for that dream, I quickly discovered that my pursuit of ordination in the United Methodist Church gobbles up a significant portion of my credits, so I won’t be pursuing ministry as directly through my classes as I had planned.
This shifted me, however, to broadening my knowledge of VDS and its opportunities for exploration and creation rather than solely what is already structured—and it’s a lot! The people are the first and foremost joy of being here. I have joked with a couple of friends since arriving that, “Everyone is so nice! We’re in the norming stage, so I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop and the masks to come off. But this is divinity school and it’s been three months, so I also think that everyone might genuinely be this nice!” And so far, that has held true not just with fellow students, but also with staff and faculty who, in my experience, are just as excited for and invested in our health, well-being, and journeys as we are our own. I have lost count of the number of times that I discussed my ministry with anyone—and their excitement, suggestions, and feedback, about what at times is humdrum—for me has renewed my passion for my work.
I also have been continually reminded that there is such a time and place for specific moments in our lives. For me, there have been no better moments than discovering—be it through events, lectures, or conversation—that my call or ministry aligns or overlaps with someone else’s, and we’re suddenly not quite so isolated on this holy journey as previously believed. I am honored to be in the midst of so many others determined to make ministry live, breathe, and move. I changed from the MTS to the M.Div. program after several conversations helped me refine my ministry in a way I hadn’t been able before arriving here. I now see clearly the value of field education and in general an environment that supports and inspires my vision, and will challenge and help propel me to where I’m seeking to go.
One semester down; I’m joyfully anticipating the discovery in the final five.
by Joy Bronson, MDiv’1
Posted by Michelle Bukowski on December 16, 2015 in First Year Experience, MDiv, ministry, MTS, Nuns on the Bus, Phillis I. Sheppard, second-career student, United Methodist Church, Vanderbilt Divinity School
My first Thanksgiving in the United States of America coincided with my first 100 days at a time in this country. Perfected timing. I too joined the chorus of Americans in celebration of this day. What am I thankful for this year?
November 26, 2015, as I sit around a table full of baked turkeys, turkey dressing, cranberries and all the traditional Thanksgiving pies, I reflect on these days and the journey that led me to Nashville, Tennessee. I could not help but think of two faces: Katherine Hande Smith and Tim Tanton. The first is assistant dean for admissions, vocation, and stewardship in the Divinity School, and the second is executive director of global voices, news and information of The United Methodist Church Communications Agency.
Katherine and Tim are two public faces of institutions for which I am thankful for in these 100 days: Vanderbilt University Divinity School and United Methodist Communications and Discipleship Ministries. Mandated by their respective organizations, they work hand in hand with me to overcome all the hassles that financially challenged international students have to face to pursue higher education in the United States. They proved wrong one of my friends who had a bad educational experience in the US. I remembered his words in April: “These people may roll out the red carpet. But, once you are there, they disappear.” During each of these 100 days, Katherine and Tim have been present.. They have stood with me as I started my first day of class. They have stood with me in the corridors of the Divinity School. They have stood with me on my way back and forth to school. They are still standing with me daily and through emails and phone calls.
My faith journey started in Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), a country on the west coast of Africa that many Americans cannot locate on a map. The United Methodist Church has a strong presence (more than 1.3 million, 1,030 local churches) but with a very small number of pastors to serve the people (196). My 16 years of communication experience in the Côte d’Ivoire Episcopal Area and my continental forays as a church journalist in countries like Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Israel, India, and The United States of America have fanned the flames in me to proclaim God’s word to those who have and have not accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. As a result, I answered a call to pastoral ministry.
Then came the challenge of getting the best possible theological education to break cultural and spiritual boundaries. Receiving a full-tuition scholarship to attend Vanderbilt University Divinity School has, in 100 days, enriched my academic and professional foundation and enabled me to engage in ecumenical dialogues with like-minded seminarians for the common good. The best is yet to come.
I am a huge devotee of the Wesleyan tradition, and this has been my backbone for doing my ministry. In 100 days at the Divinity school, I have found in the Methodist Student Association and the Black Seminarians Association a way to keep ties with my faith and cultural traditions. My course in United Methodist polity and practice with Bishop Joe E. Pennel, my academic adviser, helped me learn about the scope of United Methodism in the World as I too shared its practice in Africa. Yet, in 100 days, I have also been empowered to understand and practice ecumenism. Besides, the weekly interfaith services, I engaged in an interreligious experience with “Sacred Borders”, by speaking and visiting with friends in their communities. I experienced worship, for the first time ever, in a mosque and meditated in a Buddhist center.
I would have not survived these 100 days without the strong support of the faculty, professors, teaching assistants, writing tutors, and classmates whose patience ensured a smooth immersion in the English and theological world. They keep reminding me, “Never hesitate to ask… We are here for you.” I had doubting days too, but the smile of Angela Dillon brightens them.
In 100 days, Katherine and Tim have been instrumental, yet Vanderbilt University Divinity School, United Methodist Communications and Discipleship Ministries have proven that these two faces are only the tip of the iceberg. The people supporting my theological education are too many to name. They are my family far away from my family. I wish I could help them in return. I would not have been able to achieve my God-given purpose without this scholarship and friendly support.
Above all, in these 100 days, I am grateful to God, the Creator who has called and sustained me though His servants, and who is watching over Oheneba Jason, my ten-month-old son; Diane, my wife; and my beloved ones in the remote area of West Africa.
Thanksgiving Day has come and gone. Yet, I want to live everyday as a thankful person for the past, the present, and the future. Armed with this seminary experience, I already know I can be a conduit of hope for the world by providing to people the necessary means and information for discerning the will of God in order for people to reclaim their destinies from a wicked world. As I am becoming educated at Vanderbilt University Divinity School serving in internships at United Methodist Communications and Discipleship Ministries, the Lord is opening new channels for me to tell life-changing stories. Thanks be to God.
by Isaac Broune, MDiv’1
Posted by Michelle Bukowski on December 9, 2015 in Feature, Africa, America, and Stewardship, Assistant Dean for Admissions, Côte d’Ivoire, Executive Director, Global Voices, Information, international student, Ivory Coast, Katherine Smith, ministry, News, pastor, Thanksgiving, The United Methodist Church Communications Agency, theological education, Tim Tanton, United Methodist Church, Vanderbilt Divinity School, vocation
Prospective master of divinity and master of theological studies students are invited to join Dean Emilie M. Townes and a featured faculty member for an informal dinner and faculty research presentation. On Tuesday, 3 November 2015, Jaco Hamman, director of the Program in Theology and Practice and associate professor of religion, psychology, and culture addressed the topic of technology and the self.
Neither Good, nor Bad, nor Neutral
By Jaco Hamman
Associate Professor of Religion, Psychology, and Culture
Director of the Program in Theology and Practice
Historian of technology, Melvin Kranzberg, states that “Technology is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral.” Kranzberg’s “law” is one of six he drafted to guide conversation around the human/technology encounter. Kranzberg’s first law challenges every person who is an extended self—a self with a cell phone, with a tablet, with a smart watch, or with a laptop or larger screen. We best heed psychologist William James’ wisdom in his The Principles of Psychology (published in 1890): “[The self is] the sum total of all that a man CAN call his, not only his body and his psychic powers, but his clothes and his house, his wife and children.” Talking of a person as a complete subject is impossible, for the extended self is a person with possessions. James reminds us that our emotional lives are intricately tied to what we call our own.
Kranzberg’s dictum and the extended self demand discernment over a wide spectrum else risking becoming a gadget oneself, losing core aspects of one’s human nature. Theological anthropology can help us rediscover the importance that we live a facial existence as we engage an in-your-face God (See Numbers 6:24-26); Psychology elucidates how we enter into deep relationships with subjects and objects as we shape a personal identity; Sociology explicates the forces that shape community, whether online or face-to-face; Philosophy seeks answers to personhood and the meaning of life; Neuroscience explains why we feel anxious when we do not check in with our devices and more relaxed when we do so; Economic theory describe the birth and exploitation of the commodified self; Technological science provides ways to enhance and diminish human nature. It requires multi-disciplinary discernment to reflect on today’s self.
Kranzberg’s sixth law states that “Technology is a very human activity—and so is the history of technology.” At Vanderbilt University Divinity School, the contemporary self is embraced and studied. We know that the question of leadership is also the question of human nature. Flourishing and ethical leadership beckons a deep awareness of the extended self. Implicitly the discernment anticipated by the dictum that technology is neither good, nor bad, nor neutral is never ending. As we remain driven by technological advances and as robots increasingly replace persons in the workplace or as partners, Vanderbilt Divinity students have access to a seasoned, published faculty to inform conversation and discernment as we strive for a just society where all persons flourish. Students also benefit from a university context that stimulates conversations. Do visit with us and discover who we are and how we can equip and empower you for leadership.
Posted by Michelle Bukowski on December 2, 2015 in Dinner with the Dean, culture, Dinner with the Dean, Emilie M. Townes, Jaco Hamman, Melvin Kranzberg, neuroscience, psychology, religion, technology, The Principals of Psychology, theological anthropology, Theology and Practice, Vanderbilt Divinity School, William James
by Kimberly A. Goins, MTS1
As I reflect upon my first year experience at Vanderbilt University Divinity School, I cannot help but think what I wrote in my personal statement:
I want to pursue the master of theological studies degree because I have a myriad of ideas about the connections among politics, racism, social justice, the law, feminism, spirituality and Christianity. I want to learn more from an academic standpoint about Christianity. I would like to attend Vanderbilt Divinity School so that my beliefs can be challenged and refined so that I will grow spiritually. Scripture states, “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). I want to gain more knowledge so that I can eagerly engage in theological inquiry.
After having experienced almost a semester at VDS, I can honestly say that I have met many of the objectives of which I wrote. For instance, I have learned more about Christianity from an academic standpoint, and I have grown spiritually while also finding outlets for my ideas about social justice. I find myself gaining new perspectives on Christianity as I take my elementary Hebrew class and the Hebrew Bible course, and I examine verses in the original Hebrew. I have been inspired in my formation of Christian traditions course as I read and write about desert fathers and mothers who practiced asceticism in order to grow closer to God. I have found myself discussing and writing about social justice in my religions and cultures of the Ancient Near East course when I wrote a paper about laws and ethics for Ancient Near East cultures.
Although I have only begun my journey at VDS, it has already surpassed everything I was hoping it would be, and I know that much more is in store for me and my family (my spouse and daughter), as I continue to experience Divinity School.
Posted by Michelle Bukowski on November 25, 2015 in First Year Experience, Christianity, feminism, First Year Experience, Hosea 4:6, politics, racism, Social Justice, spirituality, theology, Vanderbilt Divinity School