Skip to main content

Department ofReligious Studies


Faculty Updates Spring 2019

David DeCosse

In the aftermath of the publication of the Mueller Report, Religious Studies Faculty Member David DeCosse published an essay in National Catholic Reporter that analyzed questions of justice associated with the Trump Campaign's response to Russian intervention in the 2016 American election. DeCosse teaches the Ethics of War and Peace in the Religious Studies Department.

Diana Gibson

Teaching matters at Santa Clara University and Diana Gibson who has been with SCU since 2008, is an excellent example of best teaching. Her love of teaching is evident in all she does, how she speaks about her love for students and her philosophy of learning ‘with’ students. She says, “Students make me think and I make them think. They challenge me and I challenge them.” The hardest part she says is that the quarter is so short!

When asked which course(s) are most timely, and the most meaningful for students today, she says Biblical Women and Power; and, Human Suffering and Hope, both scripture courses. The Biblical Women course considers questions of gender and power from many perspectives; and, especially meaningful is intersectionality as it resonates with students today.

Why would a young person take a class entitled: Human Suffering and Hope? Gibson says that “students have their own sensitivity to suffering and want to explore it.” She has students write an anonymous paper discussing a personal experience with suffering. It is their choice, no pressure. Writing a paper anonymously helps ‘free’ them to seriously and honestly reflect and according to Gibson, they do share. . . a lot. She adds the class also looks at social suffering. For example, they took up the Kavanaugh hearings and “students brought up many points” so I didn’t have to! This shows the value this course adds to the study of religion and the human experience.

A teaching technique Gibson uses to have students apply a close reading of scripture is where groups become a character in a story. For example Genesis. One group is Hagar; one group Sarah; one group the biblical Narrator; one group God; one group Abraham. The class as a whole reads carefully through the text, and Gibson then poses questions to each representative group such as: to “Sarah” she asks: have you ever called Hagar by name? Students must have studied scripture closely to be able to answer that! This embodiment of a character helps students read and consider scripture and its meaning, more closely and therefore with a memorable takeaway.

Diana Gibson offers some of the best teaching practices at SCU and at the end of each quarter wishes she had more time with students. That is loving what you do!

Illumination of the Hidden Meaning

David Gray

David Gray’s most recent book Illumination of the Hidden Meaning: Yogic Vows, Conduct, and Ritual Praxis (sbas don kun gsal) Part II: Chapters 25–51 By Tsong Khapa Losang Drakpa (Wisdom Publications/American Institute of Buddhist Studies, 2019) was just published in April. It is the second volume of an English translation of an important commentary on the Cakrasamvara Tantra by the Tibetan scholar, Tsong Khapa. It represents a major milestone for Gray, as he started working on this text in 1995 when he was a graduate student at Columbia University.

Corinna Guerrero

Having experts in religious studies at SCU offers the larger community the benefit of calling on scholars to join in community engagement. An event in March was made richer by Prof Corinna Guerrero who joined a panel in dialogue on feminism and religion.

Following International Women’s day which was celebrated March 8, with a lot of fervor and promise about feminism, the Ahmadiyya Women’s Association held an interfaith symposium at their mosque in Milpitas; Baitus Baseer, on March 10, 2019.

Women from many different faith backgrounds and nationalities filled the room. The panelists spoke about topics ranging from their journey into faith to how their faiths view feminism and women’s rights. Guerrero was there and tells of her contribution to the event:

For International Women’s Day, I shared space and voice on the interfaith panel discussing faith and feminism. Together at the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Center, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim women offered thought, critique, and hope regarding the whys and ways female liberation has a place in contemporary religiosity. As a Roman Catholic Christian and a biblical scholar, I explored the virtues of education, context, and critical thinking as formative for a faith journey.

Saadia Ahmed, one of the coordinators says, “Events such as these foster a sisterhood among women who come from various walks of life and geography to promote greater understanding of each other. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association actively engages and promotes community activities to foster sisterhood among women of different background.” Ahmed sends thanks and appreciation to Guerrero in volunteering for this worthy and timely event.

Shiva, Teresia, and Swami

Teresia Hinga

Teresia Hinga has a new chapter, "Of Rainbow Nations, Kente Cloth and the Virtue Of Pluralism: Navigating the Beauty and Dignity of Difference in the Search of a Livable future in Africa," in Finding Beauty in the Other: Theological Reflections Across Religious Traditions. (Peter Cassarella and Muni’m Sirry, Eds); Cross Roads Publications: 2019.

February 7-9, 2019: Participant and Panel Presenter at the University of San Francisco Conference, Black Theologies of Liberation and Racial Justice: In Memorium: James H. Cone and Katie G. Cannon. The title of Hinga’s presentation was "Black Theology of Liberation And the enduring quest for Somebodiness: Womanist/Africana theo-ethics in Conversation with Dr. James Cone."

On March 9, 2019, Hinga gave a Panel Presentation "Innovative Faith Responses to Globalization and Emergent (Radical) Inequalities in Global Cities: The Case For Clinical Economics and Better Samaritan Approaches" at Faith and Innovation Conference 2019 at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in, Saratoga.

On October 17, 2018, Hinga was interviewed on Watertalk about her book: African Christian Feminist: The Enduring Search for What Matters. Sponsored by WATER (Women Alliance on Theology, Ethics and Ritual).

On November 4, 2018, Hinga participated in Parliament of World Religion. Respondent to Vandana Shiva ‘s keynote talk on Food and Earth Democracy in Toronto, Canada. (Photo: Shiva, Hinga, and Swami)

Karl Lampley

The week after Easter Karl Lampley preached a sermon on Doubting Thomas (John 20:19-31) at Castro Valley United Methodist Church. He also preached a sermon on Spiritual Gifts (1 Corinthians 12:1-11) at a retreat in January, held at Redwood Glen Church Retreat House.

Karen Peterson-Iyer

Karen Peterson-Iyer's essay, "Contingency, Gender, and the Academic Table," examines the gendered nature of contingency in academic institutions. Because women are disproportionately represented among contingent ranks, the marginalization of contingent faculty within the academy translates into an issue of gender justice. It also (and simultaneously) functions to dampen important moral perspectives, perspectives disproportionately held by women. Thus, our institutions are ultimately impoverished by such exclusive structures and practices.”

Jody Pinault and pangolin

David & Jody Pinault

In the fall of 2018 Ignatius Press published David Pinault’s new book, The Crucifix on Mecca’s Front Porch: A Christian’s Companion for the Study of Islam.  Since then he has done some two-dozen radio and television interviews concerning this publication.  Among these interviews was a live broadcast (including questions from the studio audience and phone-in calls from at-home viewers) in March 2019 in Irondale, Alabama at the broadcasting studios of EWTN (the Catholic Eternal Word Television Network).

In December 2018 David and Jody Pinault served as volunteers at two wildlife rescue centers in Southeast Asia. The first was in Vietnam, at an NGO called Save Vietnam’s Wildlife. They were responsible for looking after pangolins that had been rescued from traffickers trying to smuggle these creatures from northern Vietnam into Communist China (the world’s largest market for pangolins and many other protected animal species). The second site was in Laos, at LCTW (the Lao Conservation Trust for Wildlife). At LCTW the Pinaults served as animal husbandry volunteers taking care of a variety of creatures, including gibbons, sun bears, and moon bears. (The bears had been rescued from captivity in the “bear-bile farm” industry.)

These experiences were shared with students in an SCU course David Pinault taught for the Department of Religious Studies in the Winter 2019 quarter, RSOC 79: Religion and Animal Suffering.  One component of this course involved volunteer service on the weekends at local Bay Area animal shelters in which the instructor and the students participated together, including a “wellness clinic” in San Jose for homeless clients and their K9 companions.

Before the beginning of the Winter 2019 quarter, the Pinaults also visited Hong Kong, where they interviewed Cardinal Joseph Zen, an advocate for freedom of conscience in Communist China and a defender of freedom of worship on behalf of China’s Christian population, Uighur Muslims, Falun Gong, and other persecuted communities. Cardinal Zen is a longstanding critic of the Chinese Communist Party. The results of this interview were published in January 2019 as an article entitled “An Advent Dinner with Cardinal Zen,” in Catholic World Report.

Eugene Schlesinger

Eugene Schlesinger

Eugene Schlesinger wrote two articles, “Revisiting Anglicanism’s Vocation to Disappear” in the Journal of Anglican Studies, 2019, 1–23; and “The Quest for Liturgical Meaning: Schmemmann, Ressourcement, and Scholasticism” in We Give Our Thanks Unto Thee: Essays in Honor of Alexander Schmemann, edited by Porter C. Taylor, 35–51. Eugene: Wipf and Stock (2019).

Additionally, he reviewed Cavanaugh, William, ed. Fragile World: Ecology and the Church. , Vol. 4. Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2018. Pp. xix + 368. in Theological Studies 80.2 (2019): 492.

Schlesinger's book, Missa Est! A Missional Liturgical Ecclesiology, was reviewed in the International Journal of Systematic Theology 21 (2019): 100–103.