ULS Faculty will participate in the annual meetings of the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature in San Antonio, TX, starting November 19.


Professor Reed Carlson

SV22-143: Social Sciences and the Interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures / Religions of Israel and Judah in Their West Asian Environment; joint session with: Social Sciences and the Interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures, Religions of Israel and Judah in Their West Asian Environment

11/22/2021, 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM

Presenting Paper: “The Apotropaic Ritual against Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) in Numbers 5:11–31”

The enigmatic procedure for investigating a woman suspected of adultery in Numbers5:11–31 has long puzzled biblical scholars. Conventionally referred to as the “śôṭâ ritual” according to the name of the relevant Mishnaic tractate, in form, it reflects a so-called “divine ordeal,” a prevalent type of ancient Near Eastern law. Yet, this passage is the only example of such in the Hebrew Bible. Consequently, approaches to interpreting the śôṭâ have varied. Those pursuing biomedical explanations have often focused on the “water of bitterness which curses” (vv. 19, 22) and the (likely euphemistic) consequences of drinking it while guilty (e.g. “womb discharge” and “uterus drop” NRSV v. 22). Others employing comparative religion approaches have labelled the ritual as a type of “magic” and suggested that it sits uneasily among other biblical legal traditions. Most interpreters, however, are agreed that the problem the ritual seeks to address is that of the wife’s supposed adultery. Without necessarily discounting many of the insights of previous approaches, this paper argues that the problem at stake in the ritual is less that of the woman’s supposed behavior than it is that of the husband, who has been possessed by a “spirit of jealousy” (vv. 14, 30). This spirit has provoked the husband to abusive and potentially violent behavior, which is a risk to his wife and the wider community. Since the supposed adultery is unverified (v. 13) it is unreasonable to assume that the woman is guilty a priori. Instead of an investigation, the śôṭâ ritual takes on an apotropaic purpose, not only appeasing the husband’s lurking jealousy but perhaps also exorcizing the offending spirit. By design, the concoction that the woman is coerced into drinking may in fact be harmless, thereby exonerating her and eliminating the threat of the spirit. Such a reading of the ritual is not as implausible as it may initially seem. Researchers have established a firm connection between instances of Intimate Partner Violence (IVP) and motivations of jealousy in a variety of cases. Additionally, in cultures where spirit possession is widely practiced, ethnographers have documented the connections that practitioners make between jealousy and pathological spirit ailments. Jealousy is widely portrayed cross culturally as an unpredictable and potentially violent passion that must be controlled. This is true also of biblical literature—especially wisdom texts (e.g. Prov 6:34; 27:4; cf. Job 5:2). In this way, an interpretation of the “spirit of jealousy” is consistent with other presentations of humans in biblical literature as being spiritually porous bodies whose most powerful emotions originate outside of the self. Against this backdrop, a portrait of the śôṭâ ritual develops in which the jealous spirit that has seized the husband is a problem that needs to be managed not just inter personally but also ritually.


Professor Crystal Hall

SV20-311: Bible, Myth, and Myth Theory
11/20/2021, 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM

Presenting Paper: “Murdering Remus and Abel: A Comparative Approach to the Mythical Foundations of City and Civilization”

Myths shape how people understand their origins, how “beginnings” inform their values and ideals. Using an interdisciplinary approach, this paper will compare the founding myth of the city of Rome with the founding myth of the city of Enoch in Genesis 4. Both myths center on two brothers at “the beginning,” one murdering the other, in the founding of the first city. The casualties of these foundings are Remus and Abel respectively. This paper will interrogate the implication of associating “beginnings” with city as a symbol of civilization, and the implications of laying these foundations through domination in the extreme form of murder. While typically understood as “creation” in biblical studies, in the Greco-Roman world the Greek ktisis was a term associated with the founding of cities. Beginning in the Republic and continuing in the Empire, cities were a key means through which Rome organized itself politically, socially, economically and ideologically. Archeological evidence points to cities not only encompassing urban areas but also organizationally the surrounding towns and villages. This paper will approach the myth of Romulus and Remus through literary analysis. Greco-Roman recountings of this myth from the first century BCE through the second century CE will include a preliminary comparison of Livy’s From the Founding of the City, Plutarch’s Life of Romulus, Dionysius of Halicarnassus’ Roman Antiquities and Cassius Dio’s Roman History. In parallel, this paper will also take a literary approach to the myth of Cain and Abel in Genesis. While not always categorically treated as “myth,” often in favor of “creation account,” or even in more literalist interpretations as “history,” this paper will treat the story of Cain and Abel as myth to draw comparisons with Romulus and Remus. Genesis 4 will be read with the anti-city bias of the entire primeval history (Genesis 1-11) in view, which connects Cain’s murder with the founding of the first city, and the blood of Abel crying out from the ground. This analysis will briefly consider the “afterlives” of Abel in Second Temple literature and the New Testament, in which he is portrayed as “righteous/just” and a proto-martyr. This paper will conclude by drawing out preliminary implications for how these founding myths continue to shape narratives surrounding cities in western cultures today, especially with an eye toward the continued narrative that civilization, like the first brothers, necessitates the construction of a strong “Self” over and against a weak, disposable “Other.”

S23-112: Ecological Hermeneutics
11/23/2021,9:00 AM to 11:30 AM

Chairing Panel: “Inter connectedness, Trauma, and Response (HB Prophetic Literature and NT)”


 Professor Kyle Schiefelbein-Guerrero

A20-314: Comparative Theology Unit and Religions, Medicines, and Healing Unit
11/20/2021, 3:00 PM to 4:30 PM

Participating on Panel: “Disease in Comparison”
The COVID-19 pandemic challenges all religious traditions to think theologically about their understanding of disease and suffering and its physical, emotional, and spiritual manifestations. It invites, even necessitates, renewed thought about the role of illness and suffering in the human-divine relationship. While sickness and suffering are, generally speaking, parts of every human life regardless of religious affiliation, their meaning and healing vary from religion to religion. Furthermore, various academic disciplines come with their own perceptual tools for understanding the pandemic. This roundtable seeks to provide a forum for discussion on how multiple traditions provoke further thought in one’s own. How do different traditions wrestle with the challenge of disease historically, theologically, and ritually? How do the insights of different traditions illuminate, and perhaps critique, one’s own? This interdisciplinary panel includes a variety of remarks from different methodological and theological perspectives that seek to address the aforementioned questions. 

AV21-319: Martin Luther and Global Lutheran Traditions Unit
11/21/2021, 3:00 PM to 4:30 PM

Participating on Panel: “The Ubiquities of Christ, COVID and Computer: Global Conversations on Digital Worship”
While discussions about technologically-mediated liturgical and sacramental practices are not new, the current coronavirus pandemic has moved them from an ancillary(and sometimes novel) position to a critical one, with scholars and practitioners advocating everything from fasting from the Eucharist to using household food staples in front of a computer screen to something in between. Some Lutheran church bodies opted to provide guidance around alternative sacramental practices, and others explicitly forbade practices that deviated from pre-pandemic times. The ubiquity of Christ and the ubiquity of the internet have either congealed or collided (depending on one’s theology) in debates about virtual communion. The multi-layered theologies of worship and sacraments have made it difficult to find consensus. This panel of scholars and practitioners will explore the liturgical practices that have emerged during the pandemic with particular attention to ritual, participation (access),sacraments, and emerging post-pandemic practices. They will also address how pandemic practices will influence what it means to be the global Church in the21st-century.


 Professor Teresa Smallwood

AV19-203: Status of LGBTIQ Persons in the Profession Committee
11/19/2021, 12:30 PM to 2:00 PM

Chairing Panel: “Black Queer Responses to Injustice Through a Pandemic”
The Committee on the Status of LGBTIQ Persons in the Profession is pleased to offers this Special Topics Forum as an opportunity for discussion of how our panelists see their work as critical interventions and innovative responses of Black queer thinkers and teachers to the pandemic, police brutality, and other inequities and challenges.
This virtual session will include presentations, a response, an opportunity for small group discussions in Zoom breakout rooms, and a concluding open forum.

AV21-106: Status of LGBTIQ Persons, People with Disabilities, Racial and Ethnic Minorities, and Women in the Profession Committees
11/21/2021, 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM

Participating on Panel: “Telling the Truth of Our Lives,2.0: Deepening Intersectional Coalition Building as Scholars, Educators, and Activists”
What do we mean by the labels, scholar and activist? How have these terms been understood historically and in the present? Do they come with loaded understandings and how do we understand the political powerplay that intersects them and separates them? Scholars of religion often find themselves threading together their work mixed between being scholars, educators, and activists. Building on the work begun in last year’s Presidential Plenary session, in this Special Topics Forum, members from the 4 AAR status committees provide an opportunity for all present to explore the complexities that emerge when we discuss what it means to be scholars, educators and activists. Does the academy judge those who don’t first and foremost label themselves as scholar? To what extent are these labels solidified in the hierarchies of our academy from pre-tenure, precarious, tenured, etc.? Panelists will begin by discussing how they understand their work and the complexity of the term scholar activist. A particular focus of this panel is on how they came to be involved in their respective AAR status committees. The panelists will then lead a skills-building workshop in which participants will practice the work of advocacy through analyzing power relations, capacity building, relational curiosity and consciousness raising.

AV22-209: Black Theology Unit and Womanist Approaches to Religion and Society Unit
11/22/2021, 12:30 PM to 2:30 PM

Participating on Panel: “Moved by the Spirit: Religion and the Movement for Black Lives”
Moved by the Spirit: Religion and the Movement for Black Lives
 examines the relevance of religion for the Movement for Black Lives and how the movement is changing our understanding of religion. The Movement for Black Lives emerged in the wake of the persistent and pernicious patterns of police violence and killing of Black people. Its demand to respect the dignity of Black life has left no aspect of culture in the U.S. and globally untouched. The panelists will discuss the significance of this for religion. The authors of this edited volume include activists, theologians, organizers, chaplains, ethicists, biblical scholars, Womanist and Black feminist scholars, and pastoral theologians. The panel should interest scholars concerned about the multiple ways the Movement for Black Lives and religion are affecting a wide range of issues from politics and abolition as well as gender and sexuality. This book will be essential reading for religious scholars interested in this movement.


 Professor Storm Swain
AV20-133: Exploratory Session
11/20/2021, 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM

Presenting Paper: “Emerging Ecclesiologies in the Episcopal Church”
Emerging ecclesial entities may constellate as worshipping communities rather than congregations of worship, describing themselves with appellations such as “Dinner Church,” “Farm Church,” “Bi-lingual Church,” “Digital Church,” “Praxis Communities, ”or their own unique identifier. This presentation will briefly examine five emergent congregations and communities in The Episcopal Church through the lens of the CAIRA model of Pastoral Formation (Swain, 2000), seeing how they express mission and are undergirded by an understanding that is reflective of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s statement that this denomination is “the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement” - an ecclesiology that reflects ‘Christianity’ rather than ‘Churchianity.’ Through a brief examination of Collegiality, Authority, Identity, Responsibility, and Accountability in these emergent communities we will highlight aspects of how fresh expressions are grounded in Anglican sensibilities, whilst shifting the boundaries of our being as ecclesia for the 2020’s and beyond.


AV22-225: Psychology, Culture, and Religion Unit
11/22/2021, 12:30 PM to 2:30 PM

Chairing Panel: “How Are Religious and Spiritual Leaders Faring? – 1”
This panel features papers that present findings of studies of religious leaders during the global pandemic(s) of 2020-21. Papers will engage religious, spiritual and psychological analysis or assessments of the ways religious leaders, including chaplains, pastors, imams, rabbis, priests, teachers, monks, sisters, chieftains, pastoral counselors, and/or religious leaders of any faith group are coping with the challenges of the times.

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