Rev. Thandeka

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Articles & Publications

"Thandeka is a bridge-builder. She is building bridges (1) between religion and neuroscience, (2) between contemporary theology and the great nineteenth century theologian, Friedrich Schleiermacher, (3) between mind and body, reason and feeling, (4) between people who are religiously affiliated and those who are, by their own definition, spiritual but not religious, and ... (5) between religion and music. And that's just the beginning.

Her particular focus is on the religious lives of those who espouse one or another form of liberal Abrahamic- influenced theology. Her specific audience ... is Unitarian Universalist seminarians. She wants them to claim the emotional sides of their religious lives..." > Read more

Jay McDaniel,
'On Music and Being Alive'

Books

Continuum (November 1, 2000)

Thandeka explores the politics of the white experience in America. Tracing the links between religion, class, and race, she reveals the child abuse, ethnic conflicts, class exploitation, poor self-esteem, and a general feeling of self-contempt that are the wages of whiteness.

State University of New York Press (July 31, 1995)

This book investigates the philosophic notion of self-consciousness found in the work of Immanuel Kant, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and Friedrich Ernst Daniel Schleiermacher. Its central focus is on Schleiermacher's Dialektik, a posthumously published series of lectures delivered in Berlin between 1811 and 1831. In these lectures, we find Schleiermacher's most detailed delineation of the two-tiered structure of feeling (Gefuhl) that established him as the father of modern Protestant theology. We also find his solution to the gap between the noumenal and empirical self in Kant's theory of self-consciousness that post-Kantian idealists attempt but failed to resolve. Schleiermacher correctly foresaw the nihilistic end to which the philosophical tradition of speculative self-consciousness would lead...

Book in Progress:

Love Beyond Belief: Recovering the Lost Emotional Foundation of Liberal Christian Faith – An Affect Theology Project

Salem, OR: Polebridge Press, 2015

Unitarian Universalist Theology Series

A Tapestry of Faith Program for Adults

Providing a framework for deep and longtime Unitarian Universalists to engage in theological reflection, not as an intellectual exercise, but as a process of meaning-making that equips one for living in the world as a Unitarian Universalist person of faith, this program explores the life experiences of both historic and contemporary Unitarian Universalist theologians, highlighting that which caused in them a change of heart, a new direction, new hope, and a deeper understanding of their own liberal faith. These workshops offer participants a chance to engage with and bring their personal experiences to bear on the very questions explored by each theologian in turn. The program offers a pathway for developing not only one's own personal theology but also one's deep understanding of the threads of our Unitarian, Universalist, and Unitarian Universalist theological heritage.

Articles & Essays

Tikkun, December 2014

It’s almost Armageddon time. The premeditated slaying of two New York Police Officers by Ismaaiyl Brinsley, followed by the fatal shooting of yet another black teenager by police in Missouri, has brought us to the brink of urban chaos and race riots. We may be headed toward a world in which racists turn our streets into killing fields, cops go on killing sprees beyond their current rate of killing one black American every twenty-eight hours, and more cops are slayed by avenging black men. To avert mass bloodshed we must start peeling back the colors that hide aggrieved feelings...

Tikkun, October 2014

We are at the dawn of a new era in progressive faith and politics in America. This new era has not yet emerged because most of its members – millions strong – are spiritually leaderless and do not have a shared identity. Moreover, they lack the institutional gravitas of sanctuaries networked together to create a force field in American politics.

This essay serves as a formal introduction to affect theology for the Continental Gathering of Unitarian Universalist Seminarians. I will highlight the history of affect theology as an academic field and show how a foundational deficiency in liberal theology can not only be explained by this history, but also corrected by introducing affective theological studies as a new field of inquiry for liberal ministry today.

American Journal of Theology and Philosophy, January 2009

Friedrich Schleiermacher gave liberal theology a foundation no one could find. He accomplished this amazing feat by making a neurological fact of consciousness the foundational referent for his new theological system. Schleiermacher called this neural material Affekt [affect] and defined it as the product of stimulated “nerves or whatever else is the first ground and seat of motions in the human body.”1 But the science needed to find this neurological fact of consciousness was established two centuries later...

UU World, Fall 2012

Despite his childhood exposure to Unitarian Universalism, Barack Obama found his religious home elsewhere, just as too many of our young people do.

East Shore Unitarian Church in Bellevue, Washington, was too good a deal to pass up for Stanley Dunham, a freethinking bargain hunter for religious ideas. So in the early 1950s he enrolled his family in the church and sent his daughter, Stanley Ann, to the Sunday school.

“It’s like you get five religions in one,” Dunham liked to say. His wife, Madelyn Lee Payne Dunham, shot back, “For Christ’s sake, Stanley, religion is not supposed to be like buying breakfast cereal.”

So their grandson, Barack Obama, recalled about his grandfather’s “only skirmish into organized religion” in his 1995 memoir Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance...

Two events compel me to make a public statement against the anti-racist theology and programs of our association. The first event occurred two years ago, when General Assembly passed a resolution calling upon the Unitarian Universalist Association, its congregations, and its community organizations to become anti-racist, multi-cultural institutions - terms that have a special meaning and history in our Unitarian Universalist context. To this end, the UUA Board of Trustees was urged to establish a committee to monitor and assess this process. The second event occurred last spring...

Interpreting Religion: The Significance of Friedrich Schleiermacher’s Reden über die Religion for Religious Studies and Theology, Eds. Dietrich Korsch and Amber L. Griffioen, Tübingen:Mohr Siebeck, 2011

The term religion is indispensable to the subject matter of both religious studies and theology. Many approaches attempt a reductive , essentialist, functionalist, or other type of unifying definition, but these approaches tend to rest on various, often controversial sets of presuppositions. Indeed, it seems impossible to overcome the vast plurality of understandings of religion as the academic fields that deal with religion splinter and proliferate, thereby inhibiting the rational treatment of a very important dimension of modern society...

The Oxford University Handbook of Feminist Theology: Essays on Feminist Theology and Globalization, Eds. Sheila Briggs and Mary McClintock Fulkerson, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011

Today, 58% of women executives voluntarily choose flexible work options or a variety of other nontraditional career paths that take them far afield from the traditional, male, linear ascent to corporate power and success, and 37% of these highly qualified women voluntarily leave their careers for some period of time. They leave to have babies, to take care of aging parents, or for other such gender-based roles, and one-fourth do not return to their previous jobs. The collective impact of these individual, gender-based decisions made by women has created a near panic among US corporations...

A talk by Thandeka, Visiting Associate Professor of Theology at HDS, Senior Research Professor at Meadville Lombard Theological School, with respondents Ilene Stanford (ThD student in Religion, Gender, and Culture) and Stephanie May (ThD student in Religion, Gender, and Culture).

The Study of Women and Gender in Religion Forum is organized by Janet Gyatso, Hershey Professor of Buddhist Studies, who introduces this talk.

The Cambridge Companion to Friedrich Schleiermacher, ed. Jacqueline Marina, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005

To explain the current impasse in scholarship on Schleiermacher and feminism, a key is needed. Contradictory conclusions have hindered the advance of Schleiermacher research in this area. For example, some scholars emphasize Schleiermacher's high valuation of women's moral and religious character and his 1798 “Idee zu einem Katechismus der Vernunft für edle Frauen”...

Small group ministry creates a sacred time where the stories of our lives are heard.

Recall a time when you were filled with joy. Where were you? At home? At a concert? A party? Maybe you were in a religious service or on vacation. Perhaps you were on a hike or seated on the sand at a beach, watching the tide roll in. Were you alone or was someone with you? Maybe you were making love, gardening, telling a joke, or jogging.

Now pay attention to how you recalled this time. You found things: memories, sensations, experiences. You gathered them together and by so doing filled a moment of time. You packed it full of thoughts and feelings, places and things, and bound them together as yours...

Small Group Ministries work. They grow congregations, increase pledges, re-energize congregants, and transform our sense of calling and ministry. Most of us doing Small Group Ministry have relied on Carl George's books to help us organize and make sense of this new model of ministry. This, however, has presented us with a special challenge...

Tikkun, May/June 2005

After she heard the heartbeat, she couldn't do it. That's how Andrea Brown, an unmarried pregnant woman, explained her decision not to have an abortion. "When I had the sonogram and heard the heartbeat—and for me a heartbeat symbolizes life—after that there was no way I could do it." As for Andrea, so also for thousands of women like her, who are targets of the latest strategy by conservative church groups to stop abortions (New York Times, February 2, 2005). When these women hear the heart and see images of their fetus, they are often flooded with feelings of grief, guilt, and shame about what they were going to do. Deciding not to have an abortion is one way they can feel good about themselves again...

Tikkun, May/June 2004

Unless John Kerry can make human emotion rather than political platforms the center of his campaign, George Bush will win the presidential election by the end of June. Kerry won't know what hit him until it's too late.

Here's how Kerry will lose. When Kerry clinched the democratic nomination of March 2, most voters did not know much of anything about him. A window of opportunity opened up for voter education. However, the factual information the Kerry campaign is trying to shove through this window will not shape voters' political judgment-their emotional responses will. As political scientists Richard Nacleau, Richard G. Niemi, and Timothy Amato have trenchantly argued in their essay "Emotions, Issue Importance, and Political Learning," voters may forget the information they initially learned about the candidate, but they will hold onto their emotional attitudes...

Most white Americans believe they were born white. Yet their own stories of early racial experiences describe persons who were bred white. Which is it-nature or nurture? Neither. The social process that creates whites produces persons who must think of their whiteness as a biological fact.

The process begins with a rebuke. A parent or authority figure reprimands the child because it's not yet white. The language used by the adult is racial, but the content of the message pertains to the child's own feelings and what the child must do with feelings the adult doesn't like. Stifle them. Philosopher Martha Nussbaum, in her book Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education, tells how she learned to do this as a child being taught to be white...

Tikkun, January/February 2000

When God began to recreate the heavens and the earth in the year 2000 CE, darkness was everywhere in the United States. Most Americans worked long hours at demeaning jobs that destroyed the environment. Personal  debt was endemic and a pervasive feeling of failure and despair engulfed every heart...

UU World, September/October 1999

Most middle-class Americans are class-passing by pretending to be what they’re not: well-off. They live in houses they can’t afford, drive cars they don’t own, and wear clothes they’ve bought on credit. Worse yet, toward the end of each pay period, many use their charge cards to buy food. My term for their condition is middle-class poverty. This late-20th century phenomenon has crippled the American soul...

Drama

A one-act play about job loss as an invitation to congregations to create and roll play the next act of the play – i.e., to dramatize what happens when Job goes to talk to his minister and to the members of his congregation.

Book Review

by David Williams

UU World, November/December 1999

The importance of David Williams’s new book, Rich Man’s War: Class, Caste, and Confederate Defeat in the Lower Chattahoochee Valley, cannot be overestimated. Without setting out to do so, it gives us the historical background we need to understand why white hate groups in America today are filled with people who see themselves as race victims of their government’s social policies. Williams accomplishes this stunning feat by studying the socioeconomic factors in the South that led first to the Civil War and then to the defeat of the Confederacy, focusing primarily on the thriving industrial center of Columbus, Georgia, and its surrounding area, which by 1860 was producing almost a quarter million cotton bales annually...