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Thursday, November 05, 2009

Alejandro García-Rivera/Sandra Schneiders

Today I saw an interesting essay by Alejandro García-Rivera in the book Exploring Christian Spirituality: essays in honor of Sandra M. Schneiders, entitled Interfaith Aesthetics: Where Theology and Spirituality Meet.

I came upon this accidentally while looking up Sandra Schneiders, a professor at Berkeley's Jesuit School of Theology and a sister who's been very outspoken about the Vatican visitation of US religious women (link) .... I had just read a pretty disturbing post at America magazine's blog - Cardinal Rode on "Feminist Spirit" in US Nuns - and wanted to see if she had commented on this, but couldn't find anything.

Anyway, here's just the beginning of Professor García-Rivera's essay .....

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Some time ago, Prof. Ronald Nakasone and I had a lengthy discussion on some of the failings of the interfaith dialogue. We both came to the conclusion that approaches concentrating on written texts (the True) or moral paradigms (the Good) often lead to an impasse or mere niceties between members of the dialogue. We wondered if the arts or aesthetics (the Beautiful) could bring some new notions or life into the interfaith project. Perhaps, we thought, the aim of an interfaith dialogue is not to find a common truth or a common paradigm of moral behavior. If we can come to appreciate the beauty of another's faith, perhaps we can also learn how to love the other's faith. Love, then, ought to be the major aim of an interfaith dialogue.

In the background of our conversation lay my deepest admiration for the work of Sandra Schneiders in the field of spirituality. Her demonstration of the border-crossing ability of Christian spiritual traditions gives hope to the possibility of a corresponding border-crossing project among very different faiths. Also in the background was my conversion to the value of spirituality in the field of theology. This conversion came in reading von Balthasar's seminal article "Theology and Sanctity" in which he argues for a reunion of spirituality and theology. Von Balthasar's article articulated a deep belief that comes from my study of Latin American popular Catholicism, yet in conversations with Prof. Nakasone I came to the conclusion that some important distinctions need to be made in order to understand the proper relationship between spirituality and theology. I believe that the essence of this relationship lies in the distinction between the particularity of religious identity and the expansiveness of lived community. In this essay I propose that an interfaith aesthetics offers this proper relation between theology and spirituality by joining the particularity of religious identity with the expansiveness of a community whose faith has been formed by the love of a Beauty seen and loved through the eyes of the "other" ..........

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