Professor of Religion
Director, Steel Center for the Study of Religion and Philosophy
Ph.D., Philosophy of Religion and Theology, Claremont Graduate University
B.A., English Literature and Philosophy, Vanderbilt University
Teaching and Research Interests:
• Constructive Religious Thought
• Contemporary Christian Theology
• Contemporary Buddhist Thought
• Inter-Religious Dialogue
• Process Philosophy and Theology
• Religion and Ecology
• Mysticism, Meditation and Prayer
• Chinese Culture and Philosophy
Trained in the philosophy of religion and theology, my specialty is Process or Whiteheadian thought. My Ph.D. dissertation was on Whitehead and Buddhism, with particular focus on whether and how, with help from Whitehead's way of thinking, human beings might jointly awaken to the wisdom of Buddhist enlightenment and simultaneously live from faith in God. Since writing the dissertation many years ago, I have had the privilege of teaching the religions of the world, and my interests have grown to include them all. Even though all religious traditions are finite and none can be said to have all the truth, I am impressed with the various kinds of wisdom that each contains: wisdom that seems relevant not only to their adherents but also to the wider world. I am simultaneously impressed by the need on the part of people in the many different traditions to develop forms of awareness that are sensitive to the value of the more-than-human world- that is, the plants and animals, the hills and rivers- and to engage in dialogue with one another for the sake of peace and mutual transformation. Accordingly, I have written books on religion and ecology, religion and inter-religious dialogue, and spirituality in an age of consumerism. My current interest is to see how these myriad concerns might unfold in China. I have taken students to China several times and have made many good friends in China myself, thanks to the work of the China Project, which is based at the Center for Process Studies in Claremont, California. In the summer of 2006 I taught the first annual "Whitehead Summer Academy" in China, taking three Hendrix students with me as teaching assistants.
My aim as a teacher at Hendrix is to help students understand how people live and think in different parts of the world when they are shaped by religious points of view. It is also to help students develop "philosophies" and "theologies" of their own in dialogue with the many religions and also with people who are not interested in religion. I think of myself as a "constructive theologian" and encourage my students to recognize that they, too, can be creative thinkers in their own right. Understanding others and creatively responding to what one learns: these are the guiding ideals of my teaching.
Projects and Publications:
I have written five books and edited three. These include With Roots and Wings: Christianity in an Age of Ecology and Dialogue; Living from the Center: Spirituality in an Age of Consumerism; and Gandhi's Hope: Learning from Other Religions as a Path to Peace. My current project is to write a book that can be used in China and in the United States to facilitate cross-cultural interchange. It uses the philosophy of Whitehead as a bridge by which people in the two cultures can communicate with one another and as a bridge by which people in both cultures, each in their own way, can move forward into the twenty-first century in ways that are socially just, ecologically sustainable, and spiritually satisfying. I am also interested in taking students from Hendrix to China and helping others get to know Chinese people. Toward that end I work closely with several universities in China and the United States.