“¡Presente! Political Theology at the Gates of Fort Benning”

Committee: Gerald McKenny (director), Ann Mische, Atalia Omer, Ted A. Smith, Todd Whitmore

Movements seeking to nonviolently disrupt, engage, and transform structures of violence such as US militarism face a number of moral and political dilemmas. They must balance, on the one hand, their commitment to the faithful practice of the moral and religious commitments and, on the other, responsible engagement in political change. Against temptations to collapse the tension between effectiveness and faithfulness, my dissertation offers a working account of practical reasoning that leaves both principles in play. I pursue this aim by executing an extended case study of the School of Americas Watch (SOA Watch), one of the longest running nonviolent social movements currently active in the US. I analyze four sites of practical reasoning—dilemmas related to liturgy, pluralism, law, and exemplarity—and in doing so theologically describe the ways in which SOA Watch activists deploy considerations of faithfulness and effectiveness as they discern how to engage politically. Rather than collapsing or evading the relationship between the two principles, these four dilemmas demonstrate a constellation of common forms in which nonviolent actors engage in the tasks of practical reasoning.

Works in Progress

“Taking a Stand (or a Seat) in the Peace Studies Classroom” (under review)

“Mourning the Dead, Following the Living: Exemplary dead and charismatic leadership” (under review)

“Lovers of God’s Law: Politics of the higher law and ethics of civil disobedience” (revise and resubmit)

Review of Cathleen Kaveny, Prophecy without Contempt: Religious Discourse in the Public Square, Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics (forthcoming)

Conference Presentations

“Just Peacemaking: Practices, norms and ends after twenty-five years”
Annual Meeting of the Society of Christian Ethics (upcoming), January 2018.

“Lovers of God’s Law: Politics of the higher law and ethics of civil disobedience”
Annual Meeting of the Fellowship for Protestant Ethics, June 2017.

“A Just War on Climate Change?”
Annual Convention of the Catholic Theological Society of America, Moral Theology Group, June 2017.

“Strategic Nonviolence and the Eclipse of Ethics”
Annual Convention of the International Studies Association, Peace Studies Group, February 2017.

“Conflict and Communion: Anglicanism’s Crisis as Transformative Opportunity”
World without End: The New Shape of World Christianity, Georgetown College, January 2017.

“Iconography of Peace: Motivating Movement Participation through Rituals of Lament”
Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion, Religion, Social Conflict and Peace Group, November 2016.

“Mourning the Dead, Following the Living: Exemplary Dead and Charismatic Leadership”
Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion, Ethics Section, November 2016.

“‘How Long O Lord?’ Lamentation and Political Agency”
“Biblical Ethics in the 21st Century,” Marquette University, April 2016.

“Crossing the line: Liturgical protest and the tasks of deliberation”
Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion, Ecclesial Practices Group, November 2015.

“Gospel Obedience: Transgression, affirmation and appropriation of the law at the gates of Fort Benning”
“Beyond Boundaries: Shifting Dynamics in Peace and Conflict Studies,” Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame, November 2015.

“Strategic Nonviolence and the Eclipse of Ethics”
Annual Conference of the Peace and Justice Studies Association, October 2015.

A Dark Theme Revisited: Reading John Howard Yoder’s Sexualized Violence”
Collaborative presentation with Brian Hamilton, Moral Theology Colloquium, University of Notre Dame, March 2015.

“‘How Long O Lord?’ Practices of Lamentation and the Restoration of Political Agency”
Duke Graduate Conference in Theology at Duke Divinity School, October 2014.

“¡Presente!: Eschatological memories and political praxis”
“Eschatology and Moral Order,” University of Chicago, March 2014.

“Human Rights in Pacem in Terris: Universal order, Lingua franca, unicorn or diagnostic tool?”
Biennial conference on the Catholic Social Tradition, University of Notre Dame, March 2013.

Selected popular publications

“A One to One on the Road to Emmaus” Daily Theology, 2017.

“What’s ethical about popular casuistry?” Contending Modernities Blog, 2016.

“Engage survivors more, and Yoder less” (co-authored with Brian Hamilton), National Catholic Reporter, February 26 – March 10, 2016.

Research Languages

Spanish (intermediate)

French (reading)

Biblical Hebrew (reading)

Latin (reading)

Professional Research Experience

Contending Modernities with Atalia Omer, Ebrahim Moosa and Scott Appleby, University of Notre Dame, 2013, 2016-present.

  • Participated in Prof. Appleby’s Contending Modernities research seminar along with Prof. Sumanto Al-Qurtuby, contributing original research on the status of Islamic peacebuilding.
  • Worked as a research associate with Prof. Omer to write, edit, and solicit articles for the Contending Modernities website on the dynamics of religious and secular forces in late modernity.

Born of Lament with Emmanuel Katongole, Associate Professor of Theology and Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame, 2014.

  • Supported Prof. Katongole’s research for his forthcoming book Born of Lament on the peacebuilding practices of lament in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo by submitting reviews of relevant literature, editing major grant applications, and assisting with a doctoral seminar on the topic.

Weird John Brown with Ted Smith, Assistant Professor of Ethics and Society, Vanderbilt University Divinity School, 2011.

  • Supported Prof. Smith’s research on his book Weird John Brown on divine violence and the limits of ethics by submitting reviews of relevant literature and editing drafts of proposals and chapters.