New students’ approaches to religious texts exhibit scant sensitivity to the complex recipes by which hearers and readers construct meaning. Yet interpretive skills are useful for making sense not only of sacred texts but of all texts, and of other communication tools as well.
One of my grad school teachers said that anyone teaching bioethics should adopt Anne Fadiman’s The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. Upon arriving at Baylor I took up her suggestion, and I have taught the National Book Critics Circle Award winner twice a year for nearly a decade.
Shusaku Endo’s novel recounts the spiritual descent of an earnest Portuguese priest and his small, beleaguered flock of believers in 17th-century Japan. Ever since I discovered it in 1979 thanks to a review by Douglas John Hall, it has remained among my top three candidates for items I would want to have with me if I were stranded on a desert island.
This study of Christianity as it is described and expressed in Asia looks at how to circumnavigate power, both missionary and colonial, and how to address plurality in all its manifestations to give rise to an articulation of the Christian faith that has an authentic Asian flavor.
The 12th-century Muslim mystic Ibn Tufayl relates the story of a spontaneously generated child raised by a gazelle on a desert island, and the process by which he attains union with God through the naturally acquired art of mystic contemplation.
For 20 years I taught James Joyce’s Ulysses every year, but I don’t get to anymore—new university, new job description. I miss it terribly, even though my opinion of its quality wavered from semester to semester.
"What does it feel like to be a problem?” For the first time in college, a line from a book rang in my head for days. W. E. B. Du Bois’s realization of his racial reality and the question of how he would choose to exist in the face of this new knowledge struck me as a deeply theological question.
As I was in the midst of teaching the ancient Roman Stoic Epictetus at Oakdale Prison, an inmate stood up and launched into an argument that Stoicism is a loser’s philosophy. I challenged him: “What does it mean to be a loser? Was Jesus on the cross a loser?