Union Presbyterian Seminary faculty join #ScholarStrike

Nationwide social justice action designed to draw attention to racial injustice

by Union Presbyterian Seminary | Special to Presbyterian News Service


RICHMOND, Virginia — Several Union Presbyterian Seminary faculty members are participating in a nationwide social justice action Tuesday and Wednesday to draw attention to racial injustice in the United States. During Scholar Strike, inspired by the actions of professional basketball and baseball players who struck last month, faculty members will set aside many of their usual institutional duties to engage in activities with students and the public that promote change.

At the heart of Scholar Strike action is a national “teach-in” on YouTube featuring 10-minute presentations from academics across the country. These presentations will focus on practical ways that faculty members and students can practice anti-racism and promote personal, institutional and public policy changes.

Faculty member action plans at Union Seminary reflect professors’ diverse fields as well as their shared concern for social justice:

Drs. Christine Luckritz Marquis, Associate Professor of Church History, and Karen-Marie Yust, Rowe Professor of Christian Education, are inviting students in the Master of Theology program to focus on ways whiteness informs our national gaze and warps how white people engage with Black and brown peoples.

Luckritz Marquis will also lead a teach-in with her History 1 students, inviting them to consider how reading bodies is always culturally constructed by the dominant/oppressing culture.

Yust will also facilitate two online conversations in coordination with the Scholar Strike. One, with faculty colleagues, will focus on theological education as an anti-racist practice. This discussion will build on the faculty’s commitment, expressed in its June 5 statement on oppression, systemic racism in the U.S., to “forthrightly examine our own practices of teaching and learning, student and faculty recruitment, curricular design, and faculty support and evaluation in order to identify, acknowledge, and transform any that are complicit in the reinforcing of systemic racism.” A second conversation on Tuesday from 4-5 p.m. Eastern Time will invite conversation among all members of the Union community with selected ‘teach-in’ resources posted on the #ScholarStrike YouTube channel.

Dr. Carson Brisson, Associate Professor of Bible and Biblical Languages, will introduce students in his Anthropology of the Psalms course to the rich diversity of biblical interpretation resources and share how important attention to such diversity is at all times and particularly in this moment in time. Students will be given an in-class, non-graded assignment that requests they correlate selected biblical material (in the Psalms or otherwise) to their understanding of and hopes and prayers for the present and future of race relations.

To underscore that theologies are constructed ways of seeing the world around us, Dr. Paul Galbreath, Professor of Theology, will begin his Introduction to Theology course by having students examine murals that offer different perspectives on the place (or absence) of women and people of color in sacred portraits of divine encounters.

Dr. Megan Fullerton Strollo, Assistant Professor of Biblical Languages, will contextualize issues of racial and gender justice within translations practices for her Biblical Greek and Biblical Hebrew students, focusing on how social context affects how one reads biblical texts as messages of hope, hurt, justice and injustice.

Dr. James Taneti, Assistant Professor of World Christianity, will share thoughts and ideas for addressing racism on social media. As a Dalit, a community in South Asia often at the receiving end of police brutalities, he is in solidarity with victims.

Dr. Dorothee Tripodi, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Supervised Ministry, will invite student interns and their site supervisors to examine how the current anti-racism protests have impacted life in communities and how people of God might address and participate in systemic change.

Dr. Joshua Lunde-Whitler, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Christian Education, will foreground racist power systems as a necessary starting point for theological reflection that informs faithful action in his Contemporary Theology and Education course.

Dr. Rachel Baard, Assistant Professor of Theology and Ethics, will draw on the work of James Cone to introduce Theology 1 students to the field in relation to historic and current conversations about race.

Dr. John Carroll, Fitts Memorial Professor of New Testament, is incorporating racial justice concerns centrally in his New Testament and Contemporary Ethical Challenges course this fall and will support the Scholar Strike through social media engagement.

Dr. Rebecca Davis, Associate Professor of Christian Education, will partner with alumna Dr. Lynn Miller and Doctor of Ministry student the Rev. de’Angelo Dia to offer a Zoom class exploring the ways in which art can express our deepest dissatisfaction with injustice and our brightest hope for a better world. Participants will encounter and engage in artistic expression that sustains our souls in the work of advocacy.

Dr. Adrian Bird, Affiliate Assistant Professor of Church History, will incorporate reflections from post-colonial theologian Dr. Musa Dube regarding the “colonial context” in which the Gospels were constructed, which is designed to help students in Church History I identify both overt and covert dynamics of power prevalent within early Christian identity formation.

Dr. Frances Taylor Gench, Professor of Biblical Interpretation, will introduce exegesis in New Testament I through engagement with the Gospel of Matthew’s story of Jesus’ encounter with a Canaanite woman (Matt 15:21-28) — a story that spotlights boundary issues that continue to divide the human family:  racial, ethnic, and religious boundaries; gender boundaries; socioeconomic boundaries; and urban-rural boundaries.

Dr. Samuel L. Adams, Professor Old Testament, will foreground the importance of Black Lives Matter for biblical studies and the prophetic witness of civil rights leaders in his Bible and American politics course. Guest speakers and readings will add to the discussion of racial justice, as we examine the malicious use of biblical texts to justify and perpetuate systemic oppression.

Dr. Sung Hee Chang, Associate Professor of Supervised Ministry, is inviting students to find ways to incorporate anti-racism perspectives and critical social analysis into their learning covenant-making process, as well as their “understanding congregations and agencies” assignment.

Dr. Alison Acker Gruseke, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Old Testament, will emphasize the Old Testament’s ongoing call to justice and modern underwritings of injustice by the (mis-)use of Scripture. Her Old Testament 1 course will highlight biblical views and voices of the marginalized “Other,” engage the work of non-white scholars, and, following a recent call by Dr. Aaron Brody with Pacific School of Religion, focus on ancient Cush (modern Sudan) in ancient Israelite history and biblical storytelling.

Dr. Rubén Arjona, Assistant Professor of Pastoral Care, will invite students to reflect on the intersections between pastoral care and liberation, the care of souls and injustice, and individuality and community. For this purpose, he and his students will draw on the works of African American and Latinx pastoral theologians.

Union faculty are extending their #ScholarStrike to five days (Tuesday through Saturday) because of the diverse teaching schedules of the school’s Richmond and Charlotte campuses.

The action was organized by Dr. Anthea Butler, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, and Dr. Kevin Gannon, Professor of History at Grand View University. “Scholar Strike is both an action, and a teach-in,” said Butler and Gannon. “Some of us will, for two days, refrain from our many duties and participate in actions designed to raise awareness of and prompt action against racism, policing, mass incarceration and other symptoms of racism’s toll in America.”


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