Vitriol and venemous rhetoric dominate political discourse. Vulgar language and personal attacks have become de rigueur. Racism and dehumanizing propoganda are commonplace. In this important conversation, Derrick Harkins will moderate a discussion between R. Marie Griffith, Samuel Cruz, and Andrea White about how our government reached this deplorable state, and what we can do to fix it.
R. Marie Griffith, the John C. Danforth Distinguished Professor in the Humanities at Washington University in St. Louis, is currently the director of the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics and the editor of the Center’s journal,Religion & Politics.
Professor Griffith obtained her undergraduate degree at the University of Virginia in Political and Social Thought and her Ph.D. in the study of religion from Harvard University. Before moving to Washington University in 2011, she served as professor of religion and director of the women and gender studies program at Princeton University and later as the John A. Bartlet Professor of New England Church History at Harvard. She is the author or editor of six books, including God’s Daughters: Evangelical Women and the Power of Submission (1997), Born Again Bodies: Flesh and Spirit in American Christianity (2004), and the newly released Moral Combat: How Sex Divided American Christians and Fractured American Politics (2017).
Griffith’s research focuses on current issues pertaining to religion and politics, including the changing profile of American evangelicals and ongoing conflicts over gender, sexuality, and marriage.
Samuel Cruz, Associate Professor of Church and Society at Union, completed his Ph.D at Drew University, Madison, NJ in 2002 under the directorship of internationally renowned Philosopher and Sociologist of Religion, Dr. Otto Maduro. Dr. Cruz also completed the M. Phil from Drew University in 1999. He received the M.A., Magna Cum Laude, from New Brunswick Theological Seminary in New Brunswick, N.J., and is a 1987 graduate of the College of New Rochelle in New Rochelle, N.Y.
Dr. Cruz comes to Union from Rutgers, the State University, New Brunswick, N.J., where he has been a lecturer in the Latino and Hispanic Caribbean Studies Department.
Dr. Cruz’s publications include two books, Masked Africanisms: Puerto Rican Pentecostalism (Kendall Hunt Publishing, 2005) as well as Christianity and Culture in the City: A Post Colonial Approach(Lexington Books, 2013), he is currently working on a book project “Latinas and the LGBT community: Implications for the Church and Beyond. He has published a number of book chapters and journal articles on Latina/o and global Pentecostalism and on the sociology of religion– two principal areas of his research and teaching. He has published columns on civil rights for El Diario la Prensa and The New York Daily News, most recently advocating for civil rights for the LGBT community, humane immigration policies, opposing “Stop and Frisk” police practices and critiquing the prison industrial complex. Dr. Cruz has been recently featured in the Stop and Frisk docu-series: “The Pastor.” He is a frequent guest on MSNBC, Melissa Harris Perry show, frequent contributor to WBAI, and various other media outlets.
Andrea White, Associate Professor of Theology and Culture at Union, specializes in constructive Christian theology, especially womanist theology and postmodern religious thought with research interests in theologies of otherness, doctrine of God, theological anthropology, and the relationship between philosophy and theology.
She is a recipient of the Lilly Theological Research Faculty Fellowship from The Association of Theological Schools and The Louisville Institute Book Grant for Minority Scholars, both awarded for her research culminating in the forthcoming volume The Scandal of Flesh: Black Women’s Bodies and God Politics (Palgrave Macmillan).
Professor White’s first monograph, The Back of God: A Theology of Otherness in Karl Barth and Paul Ricoeur(forthcoming) places Barth’s doctrine of God as “wholly other” in conversation with Ricoeur’s hermeneutic phenomenology of the self as other and presents the possibility for divine-human relation on the basis of transcendence, rather than in spite of it. Her second monograph, The Scandal of Flesh, follows from the study of subjectivity in the first and addresses revelation, recognition politics, theological anthropology, narrative, and eschatology in womanist thought. She is also editor of a forthcoming volume, Feminist and Womanist Theologies (Fortress Press).
Derrick Harkins is Union’s Vice President for Innovation in Public Programs. Prior to Union, he served as pastor of the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church in Washington, DC, where he led the congregation in initiatives ranging from providing health education and access, to international relief and development. Before beginning his pastorate at Nineteenth Street, Dr. Harkins served as the Senior Minister of the New Hope Baptist Church of Dallas Texas. There he served as President of the Greater Dallas Community of Churches and was a founding board member of The Dallas Leadership Foundation. In Dallas Dr. Harkins was a leading voice in the efforts toward reconciliation between the African-American and Latino communities. During the 2012 presidential campaign, Rev. Harkins was named National Director of Faith Outreach for the Democratic National Committee, and has advised the Obama Administration on a number of faith related issues.
Dr. Harkins’ ministerial career began at the Historic Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, New York where he was a seminarian intern before becoming Assistant Minister. He has been a guest lecturer on the church and social action at a number of colleges and universities including, Bucknell, Cornell, Iona College, and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
Formerly a Vice President with the North American Baptist Fellowship of the Baptist World Alliance, Dr. Harkins continues to be engaged with a number of religious and civic organizations. He has preached and been extensively engaged in relief and development work in Rwanda, Burkina Faso, and Jamaica, and has also contributed to the work of Search for Common Ground USA, and Many Voices on the issue of marriage equality. An active voice in the debate for comprehensive immigration reform, he has worked closely with the Immigration Policy Center, and Esperanza for America to expand the combined immigration reform efforts of the African American and Hispanic communities. He has appeared in a number of media outlets, including CNN, MSNBC, Fox, and NPR, and has written for the Sojourners blog God’s Politics.