Research

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I.  One set of research concerns touches on the 18th and 19th century history of Western European theology, with a focus on developments in Roman Catholic theology from 1650 to the beginning of the 19th century.  This is frequently referred to as the period of Roman Catholic enlightenment theology.  But for both Catholic and Protestant thought, it was a period in which the relationship between church and society/state was changing rapidly.

Political thinkers were setting the intellectual foundations for emerging nation states which did not require religious authorization, a process which has been called "political enlightenment." Similarly, philosophers were trying to disentangle philosophy from confessional religious presuppositions: this is the "philosophical enlightenment" properly so called. Both reflected massive changes in the dynamics of European cultures and societies.

Recent public discussion of the relationship between religion and modernity, especially following the attacks on the World Trade Center towers in New York, seems to imply that some religions have successfully made the transition from a pre-modern to a modern social order, i.e., Christianity, while others have not, presumably Islam.

This is a controversial interpretation on two scores. First, that Christianity’s move into the modern world has been a successful one. Second, that Islam, at least in its more fundamental expressions, has not been successful in this transition.  

Regarding Islam, Ahmad S. Moussali's The Islamic Quest for Democracy, Pluralism, and Human Rights (University Press of Florida 2001) might be a place to start.  

 

Several modern Christian interpreters would argue that Christianity’s "success" has been a mixed bag.  Keith Pavlischek's 1994 study, John Courtney Murray and the Dilemma of Religious Toleration (Thomas Jefferson University Press) highlights the ambiguity of at least one modern Roman Catholic's attempt at a solution.  

I am trying to read 18th and 19th century European theology to explore the question.

II.  A second area of research is a theological exploration of human suffering.  I offer a course on this topic on a regular basis through the Graduate Theological Union.  Present interest focuses on artistic expressions of suffering in art, literature and film, as well as cultural-performative-ritual expressions found in  song and music.  Examples of the latter might include the Korean one-person opera, or tragic ballad form,  the P'ansori.  The following link, P´ansori, die koreanische Einmannoperette, includes five short audio clips from P'ansori performances.

III.  A third area of "research" is more cultural/historical: namely, to explore several of the cultures of East and South East Asia through history,  film  and modern literature (in English translation!).  I am presently looking at China, Korea and Japan.  Chinese author Mo Yan, and Chinese film director Zhang Yimou have been found especially accessible.