Religious Studies

RELC 2057: Christian Theologies of Liberation [3]


Paul Jones, Associate Professor

"Liberation theology" refers to recent Christian perspectives that connect theological and political inquiry. Specifically, authors attempt to link theological reflection on God, Jesus of Nazareth, human beings, creation, the Holy Spirit, and Christian ethics with normative analyses of race, sex and gender, economic in/justice, poverty, sexuality, post-colonialism, and human rights. In this class we'll read from some landmark texts by liberation theologians and will analyze and discuss the theological and political arguments advanced therein. While there is an emphasis on liberation theologies from the Americas (Black theology, feminist theology, and Latin American liberation theology are the three major sections of the course), we will also consider works from other parts of the world. Among the authors we will read are James Cone, Delores Williams, Gustavo Gutierrez, Serene Jones, Leonardo Boff, Marcella-Althaus Reid, and Mercy Amba Oduyoye. Students will be evaluated in light of in-class discussion and by way of a take-home final exam.

RELC 2559: The Spiritual Life: Visions, Contemplations, and Mystical Experiences [3]

Kevin Hart, Professor


This course introduces students to spirituality, primarily as expressed in the Christian tradition yet with reference to other religious traditions. In particular, it concerns itself with three modes of the spiritual life: visions, contemplations, and mystical experiences. Students are invited to consider the spiritual or inner life in two ways: (a) texts, and (b) problems that arise from those texts. The main texts to be read and discussed are works by Julian of Norwich, Teresa of Avila, Meister Eckhart, and the Cloud-Author: two English authors, one Spaniard, and one German; two women and two men. Among the questions to be considered are these: What differences are there between visionary, contemplative, and mystical writings? Do all these refer to experience in the same ways? Do male and female writers speak of the same things? What sense may we give to "transcendence"? Is spiritual life at the center or at the margin of institutional religious life? Does the spiritual life in Christianity resemble in important ways the spiritual life in other world religions? Attention will also be given to historical changes in the understanding of the spiritual life, especially the formation of the modern notion of "mystical experience."


Gretchen Wallace, Visiting Lecturer


In January 2014, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy and the Contemplative Sciences Center at UVA will partner with Global Grassroots to launch a unique program in Conscious Social Change at the intersection of personal leadership, global citizenship, social entrepreneurship, community engagement, and contemplation. The Conscious Social Change course, which would be offered at UVA as a two week JTerm course, is an experiential education program designed and taught by Gretchen Wallace, president of Global Grassroots, in coordination with UVa professors David Germano (Contemplative Sciences Center, Tibet Center) and Christine Mahoney (Batten). The course provides future leaders with the skills to invest in their own self understanding and initiate social change or engage in community service mindfully, sustainably and with impact at home or abroad. The program incorporates four components: conscious leadership practices, social entrepreneurship tools, conscious social change methodologies, and contemplative ideas and practices. After completing this program, students should be equipped with the knowledge and tools necessary to:

  • Deepen cultral awareness and global citizenship skills and work collaboratively under a conscious social change and participatory paradigm in a foreign or domestic context to support communities in advancing self-sufficiency and wellness.
  • Employ social entrepreneurship frameworks to diagnose the root causes of an issue and to design a solution that will create conscious, sustainable, and systemic change
  • Pursue personal growth practices that foster responsible, ethical, and compassionate leadership