From Mandalas to dance in Hinduism to morality in animals: The CSEE and AAR/SBL conferences are a big ecumenical tent

By Kristen Johnson and Brian Blackmore

During the first weekend of the November break, Kristen and Brian went to Atlanta to attend two conferences: The Center for Spiritual and Ethical Education’s (CSEE) Annual gathering of Religion Teachers in Second Schools and the American Academy of Religion/Society of Biblical Literature (AAR/SBL). The CSEE event is an important and rare opportunity for faculty in the Religion department to network with other professionals in the very small field of Religious Studies in Secondary Education.

The morning sessions this year were about secular funeral rites, performance and gender in South Indian Goddess worship, and diversity in Judaism. The AAR/SBL conference which followed CSEE is the largest gathering of religion and theology scholars in the world. Brian attended a workshop about how to teach about sexual diversity and sexual violence to young people, a session on incorporating dance into lessons on Hinduism, and many others. He also presented a paper at the conference titled “Towards a Crip Theology: Biblical Foundations of the Queer Disability Drive.”20151122_094650 His paper is about a conversation within the Hebrew Bible about characters which cannot or refuse to procreate. He questions how these figures (barren women, homosexuals, and the disabled) might be included within a covenantal theology, despite the Bible’s frequent pressures to “be fruitful and multiply.” Kristen went to a powerful session on Synoptic authorship and influence and a panel featuring Cornel West about Race and Religion.  She met author Steven Prothero who discussed his book  “God is not One”, which she uses in part in her World Religions class. She also went to a plenary session with Emory biologist Frans De Waal who is a leading researcher in morality in animals and was able to use much of his information in the curriculum of her Science and Religion class. The AAR/SBL is an intellectually stimulating and packed event, but it was also an opportunity for Brian and Kristen to reconnect with former colleagues at other institutions and forge new relationships with important thinkers in our field.


PS – Check out the picture of Tibetan Monks making a sand Mandala over three days!






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