Commencement 2012

The May 10 ceremonies at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary's Chapel of the Cross recognized 62 graduates who completed their degrees in Fall 2011 or Spring 2012. Thirty-six students graduated with a Master of Arts degree, five received a Master of Arts with a concentration in Biblical Languages, and twenty-one received the Doctor of Philosophy degree. Graduates are listed by degree and include their thesis title, area of study or school of affiliation, committee members, and thesis abstract; language specialization is noted for MABL graduates in lieu of thesis information. View photos on Facebook.

Doctor of Philosophy | Master of Arts | Master of Arts with a Concentration in Biblical Languages

Malik JoDavid Sales, Ph.D. Systematic and Philosophical Theology, addressed his fellow graduates.

Dr. Boyung Lee, Associate Professor, Pacific School of Religion, was recognized as this year's Sarlo Excellence in Teaching Award recipient.


Doctor of Philosophy

Ajit K. Abraham
Alternative Narratives in Contemporary Globalization: A Case Study of Visthar and Sebastian Kappen
Interdisciplinary Studies
Philip L. Wickeri (Coordinator); Judith A. Berling; Fumitaka Matsuoka; Muzafar Assadi, Mysore University
This dissertation explores how social movements, such as Visthar, and their secular social change agendas assist Indian Christian contextual theologians to critically respond to contemporary globalization. In this interdisciplinary case study, Visthar provides alternative narratives for theologians to construct models, to encourage churches, and to develop a critical language to address neo-liberalization in Bengaluru City, India.

Raymond Carr
Barth and Cone in Dialogue on Revelation and Freedom: An Analysis of James Cone’s Critical Appropriation of “Barthian” Theology
Systematic and Philosophical Theology
Michael J. Dodds, O.P. (Coordinator); James A. Noel; Paul S. Chung, Luther Seminary
This dissertation interrogates James Cone’s appropriation of “Barthian” theology, arguing that Cone appropriated Barth in a radical way, primarily because of his socio-political orientation. Ironically, however, when Barth is understood from a left-wing Barthian tradition, Cone’s interpretation is more radical than so-called “white” Barthians, but not radical enough. Barth is still ahead of Cone and a deeper solidarity with Barth can contribute to black theology.  

Young Hyun Choi
Hans Frei’s Postliberal Theology and Its Application to Korean Protestant Preaching
Jana Childers (Coordinator); Mary Donovan Turner; Charles L. Campbell, Duke University; Chang Bok Chung, Hanil University
The Korean Protestant church has been influenced by individualism and consumerism. In order to correct a trend toward individualism and consumerism in the Korean Protestant church, Korea Protestant preachers need to expand their homiletical focus. Hans Frei’s postliberal theology provides a foundation for constructing a broader homiletical model: a communal homiletic for Korean Protestant preachers.

Rebecca M. Berru Davis
Women Artists of the Early Twentieth Century Liturgical Movement in the United States: The Contributions of E. Charlton Fortune, Ade Bethune, and Sister Helene O’Connor, O.P.
Art and Religion
Michael T. Morris, O.P. (Coordinator); Mary E. McGann, R.S.C.J.; Jeffrey Burns, Academy of American Franciscan History; Susan Verdi Webster, College of William and Mary
Employing the disciplines of art history and liturgical studies, and drawing on primary source archival documents, identified extant art, and secondary research, this dissertation highlights the lives and situates the contributions of three little known women artists: E. Charlton Fortune, Ade Bethune, and Sister Helene O’Connor, O.P., within the context of the early twentieth century Liturgical Movement in the United States.

Elizabeth Ford Friend
The Writing Life: Narrative, Metaphor, and Emotion in the Spiritual Autobiographies of Teresa of Avila and Sarah Edwards
Christian Spirituality
Arthur G. Holder (Coordinator); Elizabeth Liebert, S.N.J.M.; George Lakoff, University of California, Berkeley; Eve Sweetser, University of California, Berkeley
This dissertation analyzes the spiritual autobiographies of Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) and Sarah Edwards (1710-1758). The dissertation employs the methodological lenses of autobiography studies and cognitive linguistics in order to identify key narratives and metaphors for the spiritual life and explore the significance of the interpretation process for lived spirituality.

John T. Handley
Bodying-Forth Ultimate Concern: Human Existence, Transcendence, and Religious Dimensions in the Art of Stephen De Staebler
Art and Religion
Michael T. Morris, O.P. (Coordinator); Peter Selz, University of California, Berkeley; Wilson Yates, United Seminaries; Sarah Clark-Langager, Western Washington University
De Staebler (1933-2011) studied religion at Princeton prior to becoming a sculptor. His career coincided with a period when the human form in art became distorted, and theologians began looking to art for answers to the question of human existence. De Staeblers’s art has been widely understood to address existential questions about ultimate concern and transcendence, especially his winged bronze figures like that on display at the Graduate Theological Union’s library.

Daniel J. Issing
Institutional Identity as Catholic at Catholic Colleges and Universities: A Theological and Ethical Analysis and Proposal
Ethics and Social Theory
James A. Donahue (Coordinator); Jerome P. Baggett; Karen Lebacqz; Edward Malloy, C.S.C., University of Notre Dame
This dissertation explores the identity of Catholic colleges and universities, a source of disagreement and controversy in Catholic higher education. It demonstrates the importance of the modern idea of the Catholic university, renews the conciliar church-world instinct, and proposes an ethic for dialogic decision-making that assures justice and charity in intellectual production, a critical challenge in today’s higher education marketplace.

Melissa M. James
“Gender Works in Mysterious Ways”: Making Sense of Service
Ethics and Social Theory
Martha Ellen Stortz (Coordinator); Jerome P. Baggett; Barrie Thorne, University of California, Berkeley; Anna Sims Bartel, Bates College
Using data from qualitative interviews with Diaconal Ministers of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and Lutheran Volunteer Corps participants, this dissertation analyzes how women in service-based work make meaning of their work, self and world. The study develops a framework for analysis called “bounded meaning-making,” which focuses attention on how meaning is shaped by power, institutions, and human agency. After employing “bounded meaning-making” to examine the respondents’ understanding of self, work, service and justice, the dissertation draws on their experiences in conversation with feminist theological ethics to offer a re-imagining of the concept of vocation. The author claims that vocation should be understood in terms of being called as embodiments of radical love shaped by and accountable to communities, for the work of prophetic diakonia provides an important tool for creating new ways of making sense of service and creating a just world.  

Bitna Kim
Shimjung Counseling: An Indigenous Pastoral Counseling Model for Koreans
Interdisciplinary Studies
Lewis R. Rambo (Coordinator); Boyung Lee; Gyuseog Han, Chunnam University
The dissertation proposes that Korean pastoral counseling can be enriched by engaging Korean cultural psychology. In order to provide a culturally informative pastoral counseling model, this study introduces three Korean indigenous concepts: Jung, Woori and Shimjung. This study reviews Shimjung counseling developed by San-Chin Choi, and proposes Shimjung pastoral counseling utilizing Shimjung narrative theory.

Jung Hyung Kim
Cosmic Hope in a Scientific Age: Christian Eschatology in Dialogue with Scientific Age Cosmology
Systematic and Philosophical Theology
Ted Peters (Coordinator); Robert J. Russell; Martinez Hewlett; Jong Hak Woo, Seoul National University
In the face of the scientific prediction of the endless lifeless freeze of our physical universe, today’s theological formulation of cosmic hope for the future of creation requires two elements: reconstructing the foundation of cosmic hope from distinctively theological resources – in particular, biblical visions of the renewal and completion of the present creation as promised in the resurrection of Jesus Christ – and exploring possible scientific illumination on the scope and nature of the hoped-for renewed creation.

James F. Lawrence
And Speaking of Something Else: Biblical Allegories, Swedenborg, and Tradition
Christian Spirituality
Arthur G. Holder (Coordinator); Darleen Pryds; George Dole, Swedenborg School of Religion
This dissertation interrogates Swedenborg’s alleged ahistorical readings of the Bible. Three new historicist case studies constructing Swedenborg’s interlocutors for correspondence theory, Jewish and Christian Kabbalah, and Alexandrian-style allegoresis reveal the Swedish mystic profoundly indebted to earthly discourse for the structure and vocabulary of his new inner sense of scripture purportedly received from heaven.

Sang Hak Lee
Reclaiming the Understanding of Sin and Salvation from a Korean Experience of Han
Systematic and Philosophical Theology
George E. Griener, S.J. (Coordinator); Marion S. Grau; Lewis R. Rambo; Andrew S. Park, United Theological Seminary
Because the traditional forensic metaphors of sin as guilt or debt and salvation as forgiveness or remission of sin that prevail in the Korean church do not offer redemptive power in any meaningful way, the primary model of sin should be changed from a forensic image of guilt to a medical image of wound/damage; correspondingly, the primary model of salvation should be changed from a forensic image of forgiveness of sin to a therapeutic image of healing.

Richard A. Lindsay
The Camp and the Kerygma: Queer Readings of Hollywood Biblical Epics
Art and Religion
Michael T. Morris, O.P. (Coordinator); Jay Emerson Johnson; Erin Runions, Pomona College
This dissertation examines the significant spiritual importance that viewers have invested in Hollywood biblical epics. Nevertheless, these films often contain sexual and violent spectacle that is excessive, in a word, “camp.” The dissertation suggests these moments of camp open up the further negotiation of meaning in these films, including interpretations that take into account queer experience.

W. Eugene McMullan
Queer Witness: Religion and the History of the LGBT Movement in San Francisco, 1948-1981
Randi Jones Walker (Coordinator); Daniel Joslyn-Siemiatkoski; Mark D. Jordan, Harvard Divinity School
In conversation with queer and other post-structural accounts, this dissertation examines primary sources to construct a baseline narrative of the roles of Protestantism, Catholicism, and Judaism in the emerging lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender movement in San Francisco in the 1950s, 60s and 70s.

Catherine Passantino Mitchell
“Cum enim Ecclesiae causas agimus”: Rescriptive Form and Claims to Dual Responsibility in the Ephesian Correspondence of Leo I
Eugene M. Ludwig, O.F.M. Cap. (Coordinator); J. Rebecca Lyman; Thomas Turley, Santa Clara University
This dissertation explores Leo I’s Ephesian correspondence with the emperor Theodosius II. Leo’s use of a variation of the imperial rescript expressed his claim to responsibility for the rectitude both of ecclesial and temporal affairs. His unique use of literacy, namely imperial rescriptive form, marked Leo’s Ephesian correspondence as valuable evidence of the working relationships of the fifth century.  

Sang-Kyu Park
Spatial Eschatology: A Reading of the New Temple of God in the Fourth Gospel
Biblical Studies
Jean-Francois Racine (Coordinator); Herman C. Waetjen; Mary L. Coloe, Australian Catholic University
This study envisions a spatial eschatology of “being-in-the-presence of God.” In the Fourth Gospel, one discovers unexplored spaces such as the new Living Temple (Jn. 2:21), and the Enlarged Living Temple (Jn. 14:2) through the Spirit. This new Temple explains the Johannine community’s vision for the transformation (salvation) of the cosmos. “Thirdspace,” a concept from critical geographical theories, illuminates the eschatological significance of the new Temple: openness and possibilities.

Heather W. Reichgott
A Political Theology of Baptism
Systematic and Philosophical Theology
Michael B. Aune (Coordinator); Jay Emerson Johnson; Elizabeth Stuart, University of Winchester
Many influential voices in contemporary Christian communities make the theologically disturbing claim that Christian identity is tied in to heterosexuality. Far more central to the Christian tradition is the conviction that the identity of Christians is grounded not in sexual obedience but in baptism. This dissertation draws on Hans Urs von Balthasar’s theology of being able to claim that in baptism, we take on the identity of Christ at an infinite remove. Since Jesus has risen from the dead and lives today, Christian identity is determined by a living person, in paradoxical tension between individual personhood and shared personhood in Christ.

Malik JoDavid Sales
Saving Possibilities: Salvation, The Holy Spirit, and Variegated Resistance
Systematic and Philosophical Theology
Marion S. Grau (Coordinator); George E. Griener, S.J.; Tumara Roberts, University of California, Berkeley
This dissertation rethinks fundamental questions concerning Christian soteriology by dialoging with liberation theologies and performance theory. This project analyzes catastrophic events, such as Hurricane Katrina, the salvific multivalence of the Holy Spirit, and the liberating potential of performance and works of art. The dissertation was supplemented by the production of an accompanying album, The Infinite Struggle.

Nicanor Sarmiento Tupayupanqui
Andean Christian Theologies, Elements of a Rainbow of Theological Voices of the Indigenous Peoples of Abya Yala: A Missiological and Anthropological Study of the Andean Trilogy
Interdisciplinary Studies
Eduardo C. Fernandéz, S.J. (Coordinator); Judith A. Berling; Margaret Conkey, University of California, Berkeley; John Gorski, M.M., Catholic University of Bolivia
This dissertation explores, analyses, and systematizes the anthropological and theological elements of the Andean Christian theologies found in the Andean trilogy. The thesis fosters a systematic development of the Christian theologies deeply rooted in the cultural values and Christian traditions of the people through an interdisciplinary research framework called “tripolar dialogue.” The emergence of Andean theologies is situated in the context of cultural and intellectual decolonization, and renewal of the Andean local churches.

Peggy Vernieu
The Muting of Samaritan/Ephraimic Voices in the Gospel According to John
Biblical Studies
Mary A. Tolbert, (Coordinator); Antoinette C. Wire; Daniel Boyarin, University of California, Berkeley
By calling attention to ethnic conflict embedded in the Gospel according to John, this dissertation amplifies Samaritan-linked voices that have been co-opted, muted, and obscured by the Judah-friendly, Greek-writing voice which controls the Johannine discourse by having the last word.

Daeseop Daniel Yi
An Enriched Christian Understanding of St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises Through the Process of Passing Over and Coming Back with Visuddhimagga: Path of Purification
Christian Spirituality
Elizabeth Liebert, S.N.J.M. (Coordinator); Judith A. Berling; Thomas Cattoi; Heng Sure, Institute for World Religions and Dharma Realm Buddhist University
This study focuses on a way to enrich Christians’ understanding of the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises, using the process of “passing over” and “coming back” with Visuddhimagga: Path of Purification. The major conclusion is that the two goals (union with God and Election) that have been asserted for the Spiritual Exercises cannot be separated from one another. Moreover, using vipassana meditation in a harmonious way in the Spiritual Exercises enhances the retreatant’s potential for attaining the ultimate goals.


Master of Arts

Abdel Ali
Islam, Race and the Maliki School: Racialized Thinking in Islamic Theological Reflection
Starr King School for the Ministry
Ibrahim Abdurrahman Farajajé (Coordinator)

This thesis reviews critical race theory and anti-black sentiment among some of the pivotal scholars in the Maliki School of Islamic law. Whether it is the subject of the “undignified” status of black women, the presumptive slave status of black people, or the aesthetic diminution of black skin, there is sufficient indication that a trend among some Egyptian Sufis of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries held institutionalized and/or perpetuated perspectives that contributed to widespread antipathy for African and dark skin. The thesis argues these subjective aesthetic sensitivities led to noticeable patterns of discrimination in the normative structures of law and theological reflection.

Jeremy Arnold
Watching the “Wandjina Watching”: Exploring Cultural Difference in the Appropriation of an Indigenous Australian Icon
Pacific School of Religion
Rossitza Schroeder (Coordinator); John Hilary Martin, O.P.; Michael T. Morris, O.P.
Between 2006 and 2008, a street artist graffitied hundreds of Wandjina images in Perth. The indigenous Wandjina-Wunggurr people religiously revere these spirit figures, which are depicted in their rock art and contemporary canvas paintings. This thesis analyzes the appropriation and argues the images represent the desires and struggles of two cultures (Western and indigenous) to visually define themselves.

Ali J. Ataie
Finding Muhammad in the New Testament: An Orthodox Muslim’s Interpretive Methodological Approach to the Christian Scriptures
Pacific School of Religion
Tat-Siong Benny Liew (Coordinator)
This thesis proposes a methodological framework by which an orthodox Muslim may read and interpret the New Testament. It attempts to answer the question, “What does a Muslim do with the New Testament and why?” The application of such a reasoned interpretive methodology will enhance the quality and substance of interfaith discourse and dialogue.

Tracy Colleen Barnowe
A Refugee is a Blind Man: A Critical Study of Blindness as Cognitive Metaphor in the Old Testament
Pacific School of Religion
Aaron Brody (Coordinator); Barbara Green, O.P.; Fred Tiffany, Northwest House of Theological Studies
This thesis is a critical study of blindness in the Old Testament as a cognitive metaphor for symptoms of exile, and as a reflection of the pervasiveness of population displacement and its associated symptoms within the socio-historical context. This study includes Lamentations 4:13-14, Lamentations 5:16-17, Job 11:20, Job 17:7, and the narratives of the Men of Sodom (Gen. 19:11), Isaac (Gen. 27:1), Samson (Jud. 16:21), Eli (1 Sam. 3:2, 4:15), Elisha and the Arameans (2 Kgs. 6:15-20), Zedekiah (2 Kgs. 25:7) and Tobit (Tob. 2:10).

Kathryn Bilotti-Stark
Compassionate Awareness and Transformation: The Relevancy of Mindfulness Teachings and Practices in Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care
Institute of Buddhist Studies
Daijaku Kinst (Coordinator); Richard K. Payne; Gil Fronsdal
This thesis explores the transformation of suffering and self-experience through the lens of mindfulness as applied to the experience of the chaplain and those they serve. In the thesis, mindfulness is highlighted as an essential competency of spiritual care. Providing a framework for the thesis is the Satipatthana Sutta – The Four Foundations of Mindfulness which sheds light on what the Buddha taught as mindfulness and why it is an important part of Buddhist practice. Included are findings from a survey conducted on the ritual aspect of Buddhist chaplaincy and the use of mindfulness practices by Buddhist chaplains.

Marina Zilbergerts Bitzan
Visions of Paradox: Redefining the Human in Modern Hebrew literature on the Living Dead
Center for Jewish Studies
Naomi Seidman (Coordinator); Holger Zellentin; Chana Kronfeld, University of California, Berkeley
This study examines the development of poetry on the living dead by Hebrew writers in the twentieth century. Poetry on the subject of the living dead revolved around the question of paradox, inherent in this oxymoronic figure, and in the role that it played for humanity in the modern world. Hebrew literature on the living dead spanned a period marked by unprecedented catastrophes, such as the rise of Nazism, as well as by immense changes in the world and Jewish history, such as the creation of the state of Israel. In a world where paradox was a part of everyday experience, Hebrew poets used the figure of the living dead to redefine paradox’s role in modern human life.

Robin Braverman
The Halakah of Hassagot Gevul: Authentic Jewish Boundaries for Mothers and Stepmothers in Divorced Families
Center for Jewish Studies
Deena Aranoff (Coordinator); Naomi Seidman; Barbara Green, O.P.
This thesis expands Jewish law to define appropriate behaviors and boundaries to be observed by mothers and stepmothers in divorced families. The thesis engages in ideas from past expansions of laws of hassagat gevul, from other concepts within Jewish law, and from Jewish feminist thinkers who proposed methods to extrapolate from male centered texts ideas that are specific to the experiences of women. The resulting new Jewish law is described in light of the halachic lens from each of the five American Jewish movements.

Kristin M. Casey
Towards Internarrative Dialogue: A Story of the Culture War In America
Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University
Jerome P. Baggett (Coordinator); Thomas Cattoi; T. Howland Sanks, S.J.
While responding to the question, “Does a culture war in America exist?” this thesis explores responses to abortion, education and 9/11 from magazines that represent religious, secular, progressive and conservative American voices. Ultimately, this thesis argues that dialogue between these groups (internarrative dialogue), might be modeled upon interreligious dialogue.

Diandra Chretain
Deborah’s Conflicted Relationship with Patriarchy: A Feminist Critical Analysis of Gender Roles in Judges 4:1-22
Pacific School of Religion
Aaron Brody (Coordinator); Barbara Green, O.P.
This thesis argues that Deborah is an intricately layered character who simultaneously challenges oppressive gender roles yet confines herself to androcentric ideals. The thesis demonstrates that Deborah’s leadership and authority are not as straightforward as they seem, but her character is an amalgamation of conflicted character traits.

Benjamin Cudlip
Epictetus On Education
San Francisco Theological Seminary
Christopher Ocker (Coordinator); Eugene M. Ludwig, O.F.M. Cap.
This thesis explores Epictetus’ definition of education in terms of Stoic philosophy. This thesis concludes that he defined it in terms of the Stoic ideals of health/well-being; of pleasing God/s; and of freedom, happiness, virtue, and infallibility.

Hilary Dotters
“Religion is for God, the Fatherland is for Everyone”: The use of Spare in Iraqi Jewish Literature
Center for Jewish Studies
Naomi Seidman (Coordinator); Ibrahim Abdurrahman Farajajé
To better understand the national identity of Iraqi Jews this paper will explore the role and place literature has had in shaping and representing Jewish sentiments toward Iraq, from its inception as a nation in 1920 to the time when most Jews fled in 1956. This thesis assesses whether one can discern an Iraqi identity given that Iraq, for these writers, was young, post-colonial, and made up of long standing decisions.

Janet Ferree
The Need for Diocesan Awareness and Education in the Fight Against Human Trafficking
Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University
William R. O’Neill (Coordinator); Lisa Fullam; Hugo Cordova-Quero
Human trafficking is a heart-wrenching global plague from which the United States is not immune. The Roman Catholic Church is a faith tradition concerned with social, political, and theological influences that affect the world’s poor and vulnerable. To date, current international efforts to fight trafficking and slavery have been unsuccessful. This thesis identifies many elements of trafficking and slavery and demonstrates how individual Catholics – already directed towards helping the poor – can be the missing element to an effective abolition movement when exposed to this phenomenon through a diocesan awareness program that empowers the faithful with tools to recognize and assist those persons caught in the trafficker’s web.

Koji Fukaya
The Conversion of Joseph Hardy Neesima: A Critique of Tokuda Yukio’s Theory
Pacific School of Religion
Randi Jones Walker (Coordinator); David Matsumoto; Lisa Grumbach
This thesis is an investigation of the conversion of Joseph Hardy Neesima, one of the most influential Japanese Christian leaders of the nineteenth century. The thesis focuses on how one can introduce a transcendental concept, typically God, as a factor to work in conversion phenomenon by examining Tokuda Yukio’s theory and its application to Neesima’s case.  

Tyler Duane Gardner
American Literature and A Secular Age: Emerson, Thoreau, and Melville
Pacific School of Religion
Devin Zuber (Coordinator); Jerome P. Baggett; Randi Jones Walker
Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age articulates the fundamental change in conditions of belief throughout Western society’s transition from ancient to modern. This thesis uses A Secular Age as a lens through which to explore the religious dimensions of American literature in the 19th century, focusing on the work of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Herman Melville.

Jakob Hero
Virtue Ethics and Transsexual Flourishing
Pacific School of Religion
Randall Miller (Coordinator); Lisa Fullam; Mark D. Jordan, Harvard University
This thesis articulates an ethics of human flourishing and virtue by addressing the particular needs of transsexuals. It looks at the transsexual as a whole person, not a product of medical intervention. It simultaneously asserts the importance of biotechnology and challenges its limitations for a holistic understanding of fulfillment. It concludes with the examination of four virtues as cardinal for transsexual flourishing: prudence, integrity, fidelity and justice.

Benjamin Heykes
White Ribbon Women and the Golden Gate of Heaven: Religion, Nature, Region, and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union of California
American Baptist Seminary of the West
Margaret McManus (Coordinator); Randi Jones Walker
The California Women’s Christian Temperance Union mirrored the national movement, but it also exhibited distinctions that, when analyzed, reflected the imprint of California’s natural environment. The environment influenced their Christianity, their ideas of women’s roles, and their expressions of their ultimate goals, distinguishing the California Union and showing the importance of nature’s influence on women in the American West.

David Mark James
Agony Without Ecstasy? Discernment of “The Dark Night of the Soul” in Historical and Theological Context
Franciscan School of Theology
William J. Short, O.F.M (Coordinator); Joseph D. Driskill
In recent years, Dark Night, by St. John of the Cross, has become increasingly popular. However, many contemporary works about Dark Night tend to blur St. John’s theological stance and his fundamental purpose for writing. To understand fully St. John’s treatises, one must be cognizant of their historical and theological context.

Carmel Rose Javier
Dialogue and Mission: Reform in the 20th Century
Franciscan School of Theology
Joseph P. Chinnici, O.F.M. (Coordinator)
John Kiesler, O.F.M.
This thesis investigates twentieth century shifts in growth and viewpoints of the Catholic Church’s relationship to non-Catholics by examining magisterial documents of the popes and Holy See. Given the Church’s support for human rights, particularly the right to religious freedom, the study argues that the Church needs to continue to dialogue with others in light of its eschatological vision.

Cecilee R. Jones
Families of Faith: A Snapshot of Muslim-American Motherhood
Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University
Jerome P. Baggett (Coordinator); Marianne Farina, C.S.C.
This thesis locates and analyzes the ways in which seven Muslim women living in Central California are raising their children. It portrays motherhood in three unrelated, but distinct capacities: mother as self-identity, as religious negotiator, and as a cultural mediator.

Derrick Leung
Rahnerian Anthropology and Human Identity Today
Franciscan School of Theology
Joseph P. Chinnici, O.F.M. (Coordinator); George E. Griener, S.J.
This thesis intends to reframe a spiritual discipline from popular culture to the theological framework of Karl Rahner. By deconstructing practices derived from The Power of Now as an archetype of popular spiritual discipline, Rahner’s anthropological assumptions of freedom and time are revealed to be inherent in forms of popular spirituality.

Alex McDermid
Gender in Jodo Shinshu Temple Families
Institute of Buddhist Studies
Lisa Grumbach (Coordinator); David Matsumoto
Gender in Jodo Shinshu Temple Families examines cultural expectations and prescriptions based on gender within temple families of the Jodo Shinshu denomination of Japanese Buddhism. Practitioners opinions and experiences of gender are shown in interview data collected from fieldwork in Japan.

Kyung-A Park
In Search of the Feminine: Individuation through Study of the Symbol of Good and Evil in Genesis 2:46-3:24
San Francisco Theological Seminary
Robert B. Coote (Coordinator); Joseph D. Driskill
A Jungian approach to Genesis 2:46-3:24 uses the metaphor of the sacred marriage between the feminine and the masculine as an alternative to the traditional sin and fall interpretation of the text. Individuation described in the text is summed up as human understanding of the binary elements of good and evil in reality.

Robert Peach
Raids on Theology: Thomas Merton’s Raids on the Unspeakable as Political Theology in a Metzian Key
Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University
Bruce Lescher (Coordinator); Inese Radzins
This thesis interprets Thomas Merton’s Raids on the Unspeakable as a political theology in a Metzian key, whereby it is implicated in a conceptual framework for critical reflection on unjust and alienating socio-economic/political structures in modern society.

Jonathan Potter
Time, Social Order and the Episcopate: Samuel’s Seabury and the Age of Mobilization
Church Divinity School of the Pacific
Daniel Joslyn-Siemiatkoski (Coordinator); Jerome P. Baggett
Using a historiographic framework from Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age, this thesis investigates the political writings of Samuel Seabury in order to highlight timeless qualities of the English episcopate and compare them with the immanentism of late-eigtheenth century American social structures. This work fits into the greater conversation of secularism and how grand historical theorizing can be both problematized and reinforced by specific events.

John Franklin Rhodus, Jr.
Keys to the Revival: An Analytical Study of the Architecture of Al Ghazali’s Ihya’ ‘Ulum Al-Din
Center for Islamic Studies
Marianne Farina, C.S.C.
Abu Hamid al-Ghazali was one of the most renowned scholars in the history of Islam. His scholarly contributions number well over a hundred; however, his magnum opus is the Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din (The Revival of the Religious Sciences). This thesis explores how the integrative aspect of Ghazali’s thought is reflected in the architecture of his greatest work – the Ihya’.

Scott Riley
Martyrdom and Agency: The Agentive Turn and Narratives of Martyrdom
Church Divinity School of the Pacific
Marion S. Grau (Coordinator); Daniel Joslyn-Siemiatkoski; Steed Davidson
This thesis investigates portrayals of agency in late antique Jewish and Christian martyrdom texts. In particular, it attends to the way agency is performatively demonstrated in these martyr texts, and how these portrayals reflect an “epistemic shift” in the Jewish and Christian community of late antiquity.

Kelsey Lynne Schleusener
One Love, One Heart: The Trinitarian Pneumatology of Jurgen Moltmann
Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary
Carol Jacobson (Coordinator); Ted Peters
Through the Holy Spirit, Christ is the vehicle of God’s love coming to this world. Jurgen Moltmann’s pneumatology is the articulation of this understanding of the Trinity. This thesis evaluates our personal, historical, and theological experiences of the Holy Spirit to establish a divine and human fellowship with the Trinity.

Susan Shay
Other Voices: The Transforming Voice of Women and the Sacred Feminine in the Life of Thomas Merton, 1958-1968
San Francisco Theological Seminary
Elizabeth Liebert, S.N.J.M. (Coordinator); Bruce Lescher
This thesis is an exploration of two profound influences on Thomas Merton during the last decade of his life- Women, and the Wisdom transition within the Christian faith, wherein the feminine nature of God is understood as an ontological reality and active power of transformation permeating all things. These inextricably linked influences touched Merton at every level of his being – spiritually, intellectually, and emotionally – and became central to his understanding of himself both as a man and as a man of God.

Jhos Singer
Judaism in a Bottle: The Life and Times of Manischewitz Wine
Center for Jewish Studies
Naomi Seidman (Coordinator); Deena Aranoff; Ari Y. Kelman, Stanford University
Manischewitz wine is a prop in Judaism’s most sacred rituals; yet it is a cheap, extremely sweet, and low quality wine. Why does Judaism embrace this product? Is there more to it than meets the palate? This thesis seeks answers to those questions and what they say about American Judaism.   

Vik Slen
The Local Church, the Middle Judicatory, and the City of God: Lessons of Cooperative Ministry in San Francisco
Church Divinity School of the Pacific
Susanna Singer (Coordinator); Donn F. Morgan
Congregations should do ministry in cooperation with one another, yet they seldom do. Field research of cooperative ministry among Episcopalians and Lutherans in San Francisco concludes that church structure, more than attitudes or cultures, inhibits such cooperation. This thesis further concludes that the current theological notion of the local church is oversimplified.

Anne Cottrell Spencer
Jodo Shinshu in America: A Demographic Survey of the Buddhist Churches of America
Institute of Buddhist Studies
Scott Mitchell (Coordinator); Daijaku Kinst
The Buddhist Churches of America (BCA) has served Jodo Shinshu Buddhists for over a century. Although it initially served Japanese immigrants and their descendants, it now serves a more diverse population. Survey research was conducted to better understand the changing demographics and attitudes of the BCA. The thesis concludes that the BCA is successfully integrating with dominant culture while maintaining teachings and practices from Asia that members find meaningful.  

Orna Teitelbaum
The Niddah’s Bloody Trail from the Bible to the Baraita De Niddah
Center for Jewish Studies
Naomi Seidman (Coordinator); Daniel Joslyn-Siemiatkoski
The Niddah in the Baraita De Niddah evolved both diachronically and synchronically. Her Jewish journey from the Bible to the Baraita De Niddah included crucial stops where she engaged with and borrowed from surrounding cultures and religions. Constructing the early and medieval Jewish and Christian Niddah through menstrual discourse was one of the ways that each religion defined its identity as distinct from the other. The similarities in their approaches, attitudes, and laws demonstrate their interactions, just as their differences marked their borders.  

Diana Thompson
Narratives of Evil: A Comparison of the Ajatasatru Story and Batman Graphic Novels
Institute of Buddhist Studies
David Matsumoto (Coordinator); Scott Mitchell
Narrative or narrative language is often put to effective use in the attempt to convey an abstract idea or concept. Particular problems are encountered when one seeks to express the notion of evil or the evil person in conceptual or philosophical terms. Telling a story about an evil person can offer a clearer description of evil through a narrative of the action or personality of a fictional character. Further, while narrative language itself will vary depending on the time and location, it nonetheless can reflect the social mood and bring fresh eyes to the concept under consideration. The evil person has been defined in a variety of ways by different people and different cultures. A close examination of two narratives – the tale of Ajatasatru from the Nirvana Sutra and the story of Batman as told in modern comic books – reveals commonalities in their descriptions of the evil person and suggests effective means to convey Shinran’s perspectives on evil in the contemporary world.

Christina R. Yanko
Aspects of Yogacara in the Discourse on the Pure Land  
Institute of Buddhist Studies
David Matsumoto (Coordinator); Richard K. Payne
Because the lack of clear allusion to Yogacarin in ideologies in Vasubandhu’s discourse on the Pure Land, it is typically read without referencing his previous yogacarin material. However, interpreting the discourse on the Pure Land through the lens of Yogacarin ideology can offer new insight with regard to the process of cognition in the discourse on the Pure Land.

Seung Hyun Yoo
God – The Salvation of the World: A Holistic Horizon of Universalism in Jürgen Moltmann and Wolfhart Pannenberg
Pacific School of Religion
Inese Radzins (Coordinator); Ted Peters
This purpose of this thesis is to understand the concept of universalism in a holistic horizon. Rather than re-debate the simple confrontation between double destiny and universal salvation, discussions of universal salvation are best understood within the holistic horizon of eschatology through Moltmann’s dialectic view of God’s self-limitation and glorification and through Pannenberg’s idea of the priority of God’s unity encompassing the whole universe.  


Master of Arts with a Concentration in Biblical Languages

Karen J. Hastings-Flegel
Pacific School of Religion
Jean-Francois Racine  (Coordinator); Tat-Siong Benny Liew
Biblical Greek (Primary); Biblical Hebrew (Secondary); French (Modern Language)

Elekosi Lafitaga
Pacific School of Religion
Tat-Siong Benny Liew (Coordinator); Albert Paretsky, O.P.
Biblical Greek (Primary); Biblical Hebrew (Secondary); English (Modern Language)

Brian D. Lee
San Francisco Theological Seminary
Annette Schellenberg (Coordinator); Barbara Green, O.P.
Biblical Hebrew (Primary); Biblical Greek (Secondary); German (Modern Language)

Christina Siva
Pacific School of Religion
Aaron Brody (Coordinator); Steed Davidson
Biblical Hebrew (Primary); Biblical Greek (Secondary); Spanish (Modern Language)

David Ian Spencer
Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology
Albert Paretsky, O.P. (Coordinator); Jean-Francois Racine
Biblical Greek (Primary); Biblical Hebrew (Secondary); German (Modern Language)


Faculty Remarks — "Marking and Making Time"

Bismi-llāhi r-raḥmāni r-raḥīm

Bismi-llāhi r-ramāni r-raīm

In the name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful.

As-salaamu alaikum, greetings of peace.

President Donahue, Chairman Leach, Dean Holder, Dean Maloney, Dean Kook, Presidents and Deans of the Consortial Schools, dear colleagues, beloved family and friends, distinguished graduates, and today’s graduating student speaker, Dr. Malik Sales, it is a distinct honor and privilege to share this time with you and I congratulate you for your wonderful achievements. This graduation and commencement, both of which have embedded in them notions of time – completion and conferral of degrees, and a beginning -- connects this present with the past and the future. As we mark this auspicious day, imagine, this configuration of people, these celestial constellations, these alignments, will never be exactly the same again. Time is indeed a precious gift.

When I was invited to give the faculty address, in addition to the deep gratitude I felt, and humbled to represent the GTU faculty, I was overjoyed to give this address on my 5th year at the GTU, and on the 5th year anniversary of Center for Islamic Studies, with the very first graduate of our MA program in Islamic studies, John Franklin Rhodus, Jr, also known as Yahya Rhodus. Throughout this semester I have been deep in the midst of teaching and preparing for several public lectures and really in my head about different conceptions of time. Considering it as a topic for this faculty address, I wondered, what could I say about time that didn’t sound too abstract, and that would have the balance of enough celebration, wisdom, and humor? What would I share for example about time as it relates to issues of liminality -- that oh so cool, cosmopolitan, in-between space of time, of being neither here nor there? And then the connection occurred, that time was in fact directly related to this beautiful Rite of Passage, Commencement. I know, I know, many of you are saying, and most certainly your family and friends are saying, IT’S ABOUT TIME!

Marking and Making Time.

Imagine all the different ways in which we have come to conceive of time in our studies, and in our lived experiences. In some traditions, time is conceived as cyclical, for example in Hinduism and in many native traditions. The present moment in Buddhism. Then we have Biblical time and Qur’anic time, thought of as linear. We have religious time, sacred time, mythical time, physical time, secular time. And of course we can’t escape, especially in our theological and religious studies, creation, end times, and the hereafter. Then we have studied things like homogenous empty time, synchronic and diachronic time, and just about now, you are saying, enough already, it’s party time!

Time as the fourth dimension of space, regulates so much of our lives. Does time schedule us, or do we schedule time? It is a given, that agency – that fashionable term in graduate school, is a give and take between the calendar and clock that regulates most life today. We literally need to carve out time, and relegate time, to distinguish between work and play, and time to pray. The diversity of our traditions, and the realities of our theses and dissertations, mark our days differently. Most of us distinguish between the weekdays and weekends, religious traditions mark out different days – for Muslims, Yawm al-Jumu’ah, Friday, a day of work marked by congregational prayer, Shabbat on Friday sundown which is really Saturday, and the Lord’s Day and day of worship on Sunday. Depending on what part of the world we are in, we number the days differently – Sunday being the first day in the Hebrew and Arabic, and also a working day in many parts of the world. If you are a graduate student, much of this is often blurred – only for those around you to remind you of what day and time it is, or regulating your time by the due dates for your exams and papers. For other graduates, the pressures of academic life, intensify your faith and belief – how many times you apologize to God and make promises that you will fulfill all your duties, if God will just get you through this exam. Depending on your traditions and beliefs, you are not even sure if God intervenes in such ways – wait, this is that beautiful and complex relationship between immanence and transcendence. But in addition to your study of such concepts, your belief is intensified and even questioned, often depending on whether or not you passed the exam or got that paper in on time.

Perhaps this is really about time management – something else you learn, often organically when such severe and oppressive final paper deadlines are imposed on you. You are demanded to narrow down your paper, focus it, provide a thesis statement, and of course check with Turabian for footnotes and style. And not only are you asked to do that by your professors, but imagine, you are asked to submit it on THEIR time. Enough trauma already! But herein comes the art of negotiating, balancing life, family, friends, jobs, and of course imagining newer and creative excuses for not submitting things on time. I have heard with great empathy and admiration the sophisticated ways in which students ask for extended time on their assignments. In this media and information age, time-saving technologies and extensive gadgets alter our globalizing world considerably, but they also seem to fragment us. And then if those assignment pressures weren’t enough, you were still short the number of courses you were required to take, so you signed up for the intersession in January, thinking it would ease up the pace between the fall and spring semesters. But that intersession course, intercession with a C, found no deliverance or no one to mediate on your behalf. Intersession with an S remained just that – an intensive session between two semesters which taught you to sharpen your skills in time management even further.

You have weathered it all, you are now experts.

One of the most beautiful things about the GTU and all of us here is that we inhabit and embody these different times. Who knew at the start of this ecumenical project amongst Christians, that we would have among other traditions, centers, and institutes, a Center for Jewish Studies and a Center for Islamic Studies that would develop such a beautiful relationship including based on the lunar calendar? A lunar calendrical relationship!

Celebrating the 5th year of the CIS is a time to extend our deep gratitude, and it is indeed a celebration of the entire GTU, its vision and commitment to scholarship, study and dialogue within and across traditions and institutions, including all the GTU member schools and centers, UC Berkeley, Stanford, Zaytuna College, the AAR, and so many others. For me it also has a very personal story attached. The week of my job interview here at the GTU in February 2007, my father passed away. May God have mercy on him. My interview was postponed a couple of weeks. But just prior to my father’s passing, I had spent a lot of time with him. I remember him asking me if I had found a job now that my post-doc was coming to an end. He didn’t really know what a post-doc was given that he hadn’t finished high school himself. All he knew is that he wanted me to be stable after all the great instability of his own life. Not knowing about what next, I had told him that all was well with job offers, so his fragile heart could rest easy. In his broken English, inflected with the Kiswahili of his birth place, Moshi, Tanzania, and in an Indian accent, he would say, “My sonny is the toppest in THE Canada,” – it’s where I grew up and where he lived. For me, this story builds on a more foundational story, the story of my single mother and my dear brother who in 1993 encouraged me to pursue my educational dreams of graduate school in the study of religion and later anthropology. They had no idea about the educational system, but they knew that it was important for me, and could serve as a future example to my extended family, none of whom had a higher degree. And all that time I thought the emotional separation was about this Canadian kid heading to a foreign country called the United States!

As a student of communications and media, the film Malcolm X had just come out, and it was my turning point to learn more about my own Islamic tradition, and the long history of Muslims in the Americas, who were first brought over as slaves from Africa in the Atlantic Slave Trade. Malcolm X and his line still sticks: “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” For my mother, it was clear, that the search and travel for education could only be good. Indeed the first revelation of the holy Qur’an begins by God saying, “IQRA BISMI RABBIKA -- READ IN THE NAME OF THY LORD.” It is the first imperative, to seek knowledge. This is the gift my mother gave to me. The time to study and teach. Alhamdulillah. Praise God.

We live in turbulent times marked by war, poverty, and environmental catastrophes. Religion indeed has a huge, positive role to play. With the rise of Islamophobia, and as so many Muslims alongside many others are continuously monitored, our academic and religious freedoms curtailed, and consistently misrepresented, narrowing us down to terrorist males and oppressed females, we need to reframe and widen the stories, not just of Islam and Muslims, but of religion in general and all people of faith. Often humor helps to ease these difficult times we are in. Muslims are constantly asked to prove their loyalties as American, and my own way of doing this is relating myself to the President of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama.

They say he was born in Kenya, I was born in Kenya!

They say he is a Muslim, I am a Muslim!

He is seeking a 5th year, marking the beginning of his 2nd term in office, the Center is celebrating its 5th year at the GTU!

He gave the Nobel Peace Prize address, and I am giving the GTU faculty address to an even more distinguished crowd!

His middle name is Hussein, oh wait, that one doesn’t work -- a shout out to Dr. Mahan for that one!

As my time is almost over, I want to share with you these parting thoughts. As we MARK this TIME and celebrate with you, continue to MAKE the TIME in whatever capacity you can, to give back. You have incredible stories and journeys, share them. You have a rare and precious degree from a world class institution that has helped you not only to think critically, but to largen your hearts and your generosity of spirit. Travel across time zones, physically and imaginatively, and don’t worry about the jetlag. Be in new places and with new people. Make efforts in translating yourselves so that you can widen your friendships. And while you are at it continue to translate your theses and dissertations, not only so that your friends can understand them, but so that your written texts can find multiple contexts.

The pressure to narrow your work is now a chance for you to expand it. As we are online twenty-four hours, assert your rights to be a little offline. Use fewer gadgets. Remember, most of the world is still not online and still doesn’t have the access we do. Text less, including those of you texting right now, stop it! See people more, with quality time. Neutralize the speed of life and balance the acceleration with being in different times – religious, cyclical and other. Distrust the “progress” in progressive as the ultimate sign of modernity, and resist the temptation of secular time that relegates religion to the past. And remember that celebrating liminality might in fact be an elite pastime, where most of the world, especially the disenfranchised, searches for centering, stability and Truth.

As the shofar blows, and the bells toll, and as the adhaan is called, as the distinct sounds mark the times of our many traditions, let us celebrate the polyphony of life, which we so sweetly experience here at the GTU. With deep gratitude to you all, I offer a prayer of peace from the Islamic tradition: Allahumma Antassalaam….

Oh God, Thou art the peace, and from Thee is the peace and to Thee returneth the peace. Oh our Maintainer give us a life of peace and usher us in the abode of peace. Blessed Thou art our Lord the most high, the Lord of majesty and reverence. Amen.


Student Remarks — "From Whence We Have Come and Where We Are Going"

Malik JoDavid Sales, Ph.D. Systematic and Philosophical Theology

Faculty, family, friends, moms and dads, spouses and partners, children, colleagues, advisers, coordinators, and graduates… A special thanks to President Donahue, and Deans Holder and Maloney.  It is an honor, privilege, and pleasure to be this year’s graduate commencement speaker… And to my wife, Keedra, who loved and had to deal with my absent-minded, zombie self, everyday while I was finishing the dissertation, I love you and am thankful for you.

Commencement signals the beginning and end of a journey. As I deliver this address, my heart and mind go back and lean forward.  I am remembering my grandparents, thinking about future generations, and wondering how my life ties into the past and the yet to come… This PhD is more than a degree or a mark of social status. It represents a journey that began before I was born.

I cannot help but think about my paternal grandfather, Joe Sales, whose name I carry. He died shortly after I was born. All I have are stories of him; my family called him “Pop.” Pop never finished school. He thirsted for education so much that he and a friend determined that they were going to walk from Jemison AL, his hometown, to Talladega College some one hundred miles away. They got as far as Birmingham, 40 miles, but turned back. Although unschooled and living in the segregated south, his bookshelf contained the musings of Nietzsche and Schopenhauer… I am here because of him.

My maternal grandmother, Mollie Louise Boddie, who I called, “Gran’mama,” passed away almost thirteen years ago. Gran’mama only made it to the eighth grade; because at the time, the state of Alabama did not fund public education for black folk entering secondary school. She wanted to go to Tuskegee in order to finish her secondary education, but was unable to. She told me she knew I was going to be a preacher and gave me this sage advice: “Joe-Baby—(that’s what she called me)—Joe-Baby, God gave you two ears and one mouth, so you should listen twice as much as you speak.” She always stressed that education was more than a passageway to a job; she taught me that education affirmed one’s humanity in a world of dehumanization. She would say, “no matter what they do, they can’t take your mind or your education from you.” I am here because of her.

My maternal grandfather and paternal grandmother are still alive, and I consider it a blessing. I dedicated my dissertation to them and every time I talk to them on the phone, they continue to instill hope and strength in me.

My maternal grandfather, “Granddaddy” I call him, stays positive.  Granddaddy is 93 years old now. He spent 57 years in active ministry in the African Methodist Episcopal Church and has buried five of his ten children and his wife. But ask him how he is doing, and he will tell you, “It is well.” Every time we conclude a phone conversation, he declares in shades of the Apostle Paul, “Keep looking up and pressing on.” However, my grandfather is aware of the valleys of life. He possesses a deep trust in a God who makes a way out of no way.

My paternal grandmother, Nanny, once told me: “Life will do it to you, honey. Life will process you.” Although my grandmother is clearly aware of the vicissitudes of life, she cherishes life and celebrates it. She loves gospel music, spirituals, and hymns, and believes in the transformative power of music and performance. “I’m telling you Joe, ain’t nothing like a good song,” she said to me last week. I am here because of her…

My grandparents may not have had a full, formal education and they would never claim themselves to be flawless; however, they were and are sages of the highest order, students of life and of the human condition. These insights flowed into my wonderful parents, who instilled them in me, along with their own modifications. Undeniably, my theology stands influenced, though not exhausted, by them. I developed a theological perspective that connected faith in God with the indomitable risk-taking hope of Pop, the informed resistance of Gran’mama, the positive perseverance of Granddaddy, and the critical honesty of Nanny. In other words, theology for me is paradoxical God-talk. It includes faith and doubt; it celebrates life and mourns death… And it has a keen eye on those who suffer, particularly on those who are marginalized and oppressed. A faith that tells you that you are somebody when those who seem to have all the power tell you that you are nobody or less than. The dreams of my grandparents are alive in me as they are in all of their children, grandchildren, and community. So when I got hooded, they got hooded. When I finished the dissertation, we finished the dissertation.

I am sure my graduating class feels the same; or anyone who has undertaken graduate work. These degrees are more than classes, presentations, theses, or dissertations. They are more than the hours we spent typing and the hours we didn’t sleep, the footnotes that we forgot, or formatting one and a half inch margins on the left side of the page… Our families and friends had to put up with us, support us, get out of the way for us, in order for us to get done. Sometimes we didn’t know what we were writing or saying (and still don’t); other times, our words conveyed exactly what was in our hearts, minds, and bodies.  Life moves when you are in graduate school. It doesn’t stop. And the years… the many years you can spend in a doctoral program will assure you a few trials outside of academia. But despite our own personal struggles, we made it to this day.

But one should be careful not to make an idol out of one’s experience alone. No. Coming to the GTU meant that I had to be aware - that we have to be aware - of stories, beliefs, and perspectives similar and different than our own. Everyone comes from a community that shapes them; yet, it is important to recognize the limits of where my story ends and other stories begin. Indeed, religion meets the world here; and I think we all have met some folk and have had some experiences that we will never forget. I have had the privilege of having conversations with folks from Indonesia, India, Korea, Japan, Canada, El Salvador, Germany and Ghana, just name a few… and all across the United States. At the GTU, stories and experiences will expand and be challenged; one will encounter diverse religious and cultural traditions.  Sometimes we put our foot in our mouths; other times we learned how to listen; other times we have to stand up for our context; and other times we realize that one’s context cannot speak for the entire world; but all in all, the hope is that we learn how embrace and recognize what we have in common and what we do not. The world is a small and a large place, and the resistance, hope, perseverance, and critical honesty I received from my community - these treasures would have to meet other treasures, other hurts, other joys, other people… Meeting and welcoming the other is risky business. Meeting, welcoming, and being welcomed by others within the GTU community has caused my own beliefs to change and to be strengthened.

Thank goodness for the GTU. Thank goodness for my committee. I wonder if another theology department in the country would have approved the doctoral project I did. As far as I know, no theologian has ever simultaneously produced a dissertation on Christian systematic theology and an alternate version of it in the form of an 18 song musical album. Maybe I am a glutton for punishment. But then, we are in Berkeley and the GTU values creativity. My dissertation attempted to elucidate in academic form, something I see in worship services every Sunday: a compassionate, critical, and hope-filled theology that used musical performance and works of art as a means of resistance and hope. And yet while I affirmed my tradition, I also had to ask difficult and pressing questions, and two of them were paramount: how can Christian models of salvation prevent us from seeing suffering as suffering and how can models of salvation cause us to settle into routine analysis and responses to bad things?” Within my own community and many Christian communions, salvation is seen as salvation from sin through Jesus’ death and resurrection. And while the belief that “Jesus saves us from sin” gives my community resolve and strength, it can simultaneously and theologically cover up the fact that we face multiple problems and require multiple responses.  For those who have faced years of dehumanization, neglect, and violence, a “one problem, one solution” form of salvation can be deeply problematic if taken as exhaustive.

When I considered that I come from a community where African Americans are disproportionately affected by incarceration, Hurricane Katrina, diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure, I could not, as a teacher and clergyperson, say that sin or human activity is the only culprit for suffering, death, and hopelessness. For instance, even if I admitted that stress caused by racism and poverty were contributing factors to high blood pressure, I also had to contend with personal choices of diet. And what about things that don’t deal with a person or community’s choice, like genetic predisposition? And what about the fact, that as a material living organism, all human life is subject to decay and death? And then there’s that pesky recognition that every moment of suffering is unique. My dissertation argued that catastrophic, damaging situations are composed of concomitant factors that need to be addressed in their diversity and unity. I argued that the Holy Spirit, like the wind, blows where it pleases and that the Spirit is a source of concrete, diversified resistance against injurious, death-dealing, and senseless catastrophes.

Life is not always catastrophic, but it does have its ups and downs. Commencement is a beginning and end, and some of us may not know what the next step holds. Some of us know our next move, but still may possess trepidation about the future. In the spirit of my ancestors and faith community and in order to respond to those concerns, I would like to close this address with a verse from a song that appeared on my dissertation album. The song is entitled “Even Though, Even If,” and I believe it resonates with commencement and the uncertainties of the future. When I wrote these lyrics, I knew that I did not want to recite these words by myself. So I asked family, church members, and friends at the GTU to help me. In total, 15 people lent their voices and we became a choir. Although the word “I” is used, when 15 people are saying “I,” the “I’s” converge into “we.” And it goes a little something like this…

Even though I can’t see the future/ Even though I don’t have an answer/ Even though I feel alone/ Even if it seems not to matter/ Even though no one knows/ Even though I’m exhausted/ Even though I have issues/ Even if it’s hopeless/ Even though compassion lacks/ Even though I wanna crack/ Even though I wanna snap/ Even though no one calls me back/ Even though I’m overworked and underpaid/ Even though I’m in debt/ Even though the system fails us/ Even if I feel unloved/ Even though compassion goes punished/ Even though selfishness is rewarded/ Even when God seems silent/ Even when the Spirit goes cold/ Even when I don’t understand/ Even though I have every reason to stop

But I can’t stop/ Naw we can’t stop/ So we won’t stop / Cuz it don’t stop
So we can’t stop/ No we can’t stop/ Cuz it won’t stop/ So we don’t stop

So to all of my fellow graduates, I implore you not to stop; keep on keepin’ on. I don’t know exactly where we are heading, but we can’t, won’t, don’t stop… Don’t stop with your research. Don’t stop dreaming. And don’t give up the call to justice. Peace be with you all. Thank you.