Theology and Social Engagement

Practical theologians are concerned with movements of faith in the world, and the influence and potential influence of those movements on social and ecological wellbeing. The Center thus sponsors events, research projects, and visiting scholars to study  the interplay of theology and culture and the role of both in social transformation. Theology is embedded and expressed in diverse cultural forms, including pop culture and the wide diversity of ethnic cultures; thus, the study of culture reveals the deepest religions and ethical values of a people. Practical theologians also focus on how theology can be expressed for the good of the community, focusing on such issues as racism, teaching for freedom, and youth empowerment.

Recent events include forums on: Preaching and Postcolonial Theology; Popular Culture as Resource for Public Theology; and Teaching for Freedom. These involve Boston University faculty and students, in dialogue with visitors from the United States, Europe, and Asia. Some of these are part of sustained projects with multiple events and extensive research goals.

Research projects include: Faith and Film and Wisdom of Youth. Some of these projects have produced books and articles, and all involve public lectures and seminars. Faculty, students, and visiting scholars collaborate to conduct research that will transform religious communities and the larger society for the common good.


Teaching for Freedom

In November 2013, STH hosted two events on “Teaching for Freedom,” featuring international religious educators. These two programs continued our theme for the year, arising from the fiftieth anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Speakers addressed freedom as essential to God’s peace and justice and therefore to religious education.

In our first event, we held a panel discussion among Dr. K.H (Ina) ter Avest and Dr. Cok Bakker from the eNetherlands and Dr. Bert Roebben from Germany, who shared their recent discoveries about teaching for freedom in their contexts. In our second event, we featured Dr. Robert Jackson, a renowned religious educator in the United Kingdom, eminent researcher, and influential policy-maker. Jackson addressed human rights and education policy, especially in relation to religious ethnic diversities.

These two programs allowed doctoral students, masters degree students, and faculty to be enriched by international scholars, who stirred lively discussions and shared eye-opening global perspectives on religious education. They involved the School of Theology faculty and students with one another and with these leading global scholars. At least one doctoral student and one master student have continued what they learned in these events and are building their early insights into a doctoral research project and masters thesis.


Wisdom of Youth

The Center helped to sponsor the 2013 phases of the Wisdom of Youth Research project led by Mary Elizabeth Moore. With the Center’s support, three masters students and three doctoral students were employed as members of the research team, transcribing interviews and analyzing data. Five new interviews were also conducted during this time, and the analysis was concluded for the first 35 interviews. Dr. Moore presented three research papers during 2011-2013, two in the International Association of Practical Theology and one (co-written with a student) in the Religious Education Association. Two of these papers have been published, and one is in press. In 2014, this research continued with extensive data analysis, the collection of 15 new interviews, and the involvement of five doctoral students and one masters student.