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Annual Convention 2018

at St. Catherine University (St. Paul, Minnesota)

Thursday May 31-Sunday June 3, 2018

The College Theology Society holds its Sixty-Fourth Annual Convention from Thursday evening, May 31 through Sunday morning, June 3, 2018, at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota. (Sectional Calls For Papers available here.)

Conference Theme:
"You Say You Want a Revolution?"

1968-2018 in Theological Perspective

Convention Chairs/Volume Editors: Susie Paulik Babka, 
Elena Procario-Foley, and Sandra Yocum

“We all want to change the world,” sang the Beatles in August 1968.  When they recorded this album, one of the most extraordinary years of the twentieth century was still playing out, and revolutions of all kinds, some violent, such as the Tet Offensive in January, and some peaceful, such as Thomas Merton’s participation in interreligious dialogue with the Dalai Lama in the month he died, were causing seismic shifts in the political, cultural and religious landscape of human life.  Technology also changed the cultural landscape, bringing the world closer together, while also introducing unfamiliar ways of life and diverse religious beliefs in America’s living rooms.  The photo of Earthrise taken by Apollo 8 on December 24, the first of its kind, ended the year with a new visual perspective on a world we are meant to protect—a world in crisis as Rachel Carson had warned us six years earlier.

1968 might be called the year when the universal longing for inclusion and recognition, for mutual sharing of resources, for equality and respect, clashed with deeply entrenched power structures that resorted to all forms of violence, both physical and psychological, to remain in power.  Some events of 1968 are listed below (please see the CTS website for the CFP with a more complete timeline).  Although this is only a partial list, it becomes evident that those oppressed throughout the world, in some cases for centuries, acted courageously on behalf of human rights; that people of color struggled to open white eyes to their full humanity; that the differently abled sought to be appreciated; that women sought equality, that the LGBTQ community sought full inclusion in the human community (Stonewall would come in 1969), and that the world’s standard bearers did not give up societal, cultural and religious advantages easily.  Within the Roman Catholic Church, changes to liturgy were underway, Catholic colleges and universities began to deal with the implications of the Land O’Lakes Statement, and seismic shifts were taking place in religious life and how members of religious orders engaged with the world and their superiors.

However, although 2018 marks fifty years since the events of 1968, we do not wish this convention’s theme to be that of merely revisiting these events as nostalgia or as historical trivia.  Rather, we invite papers that analyze how a year of such tumult, such loss of life, and yet such promise, began the work that might lead to radical inclusion, in terms of culture, society and religion.  What does it mean theologically to frame, or be in the midst of, enormous cultural change? Can theology shape societal directions?  Or does it merely respond to them?  Has the revolutionary spirit of 1968 been crushed by entrenched attitudes, wealth and power such that we might never witness the fulfillment of what the activists sought?  Revolution by definition is a shifting of attitudes, structures, values and norms—some subtle, some immediate, some cataclysmic—but what has been the result of these shifts?  Does the world need another 1968?  Are we in fact living in a similar period of major social change? How can Christians continue the protest of oppressive power begun on the cross of Jesus Christ?  What is the theological meaning of protest?  What are the limits of Christian identification with political and social movements?  How can we maintain solidarity through the gospel with other persons, cultures, and our planet until the work of inclusion and equality is complete?  How can we continue to read “the signs of the times” in theological reflection and teaching?  How might contemplative practices and liturgical celebrations be correlated with the lessons of the past to articulate for today the interruption of privilege and coercive power in a way true to Christian discipleship? 

The three plenaries will address revolutions in race, women and families, and interreligious and intercultural encounter. Willie James Jennings, Julie Hanlon Rubio and Christopher Pramuk are confirmed as plenary speakers. More information on their topics will be posted by September, when conveners post specific calls for papers in their various sections.

A Timeline of Events of 1968:

January 5: Dr. Benjamin Spock, William Sloan Coffin (chaplain of Yale University), Mitchell Goodman (novelist), Michael Ferber, (Harvard graduate student) and Marcus Raskin (peace activist) are indicted on charges of conspiracy to encourage violations of draft laws by a grand jury in Boston, the result of actions at a protest rally the previous October at the Lincoln Memorial. The first four will be convicted and Raskin acquitted on June 14th.  In Czechoslovakia, the Stalinist regime splits apart, and students, intellectuals and workers organized to protest the authoritarian government.  In Poland, students occupied the universities and endured police attacks in the streets. Student-led resistance to authoritarian regimes was called the “Prague Spring” and inspired music and literature, such as that of Václav Havel, Karel Husa, Karel Kryl, and Milan Kundera’s novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

January 31: At 2:45am, the US embassy in Saigon is invaded and held until 9:15am. The North Vietnamese launch the Tet offensive at Nha Trang. Nearly 70,000 North Vietnamese troops move the conflict from the jungles to the cities. The offensive will carry on for weeks and is seen as a major turning point in the American attitude toward the war. Television broadcasted a US general admitting that of one town, “We had to destroy it in order to retake it.”  LBJ announced that he would not seek re-election.  Eugene McCarthy, a Democrat against the war, would gain unexpected success at the New Hampshire primary in March.

February 1: General Nguyen Ngoc Loan, a South Vietnamese security official, is captured on film executing a Viet Cong prisoner by American photographer Eddie Adams. The Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph becomes yet another rallying point for anti-war protestors.

February 8: A civil rights protest at a white-only bowling alley in Orangeburg, SC ends when police kill three college students.

March 6: President Johnson signs Executive Order 11399, establishing the National Council on Indian Opportunity (NCIO), stating, “the time has come to focus our efforts on the plight of the American Indian,” that NCIO would “launch an undivided, Government-wide effort in this area.” While knowing little of issues concerning the indigenous peoples, Johnson tried to connect the civil rights movement to the nation’s responsibility to the tribes. 

March 10: Sen. Robert Kennedy visits Cesar Chavez in Delano, CA to help him break his 25-day fast on behalf of the United Farmworkers’ commitment to nonviolence.  Kennedy had initially met Chavez in 1966, having been assigned a seat on the Subcommittee on Migratory Labor; after complaining that there were more pressing matters, his biographer Arthur Schlesinger writes that RFK was so angered by what he saw in the labor conditions, and so impressed with Chavez, that all doubts about getting involved with the farmworkers were erased; his presence buoyed the six-month strike.  Two years later, Chavez, who had lost 35 pounds in 25 days, was too weak to speak at the Mass of Thanksgiving in his honor. But someone read his speech, in which he states: “It is how we use our lives that determines what kind of men we are... I am convinced that the truest act of courage, the strongest act of manliness, is to sacrifice ourselves for others in a totally nonviolent struggle for justice. To be a man is to suffer for others. God help us be men.”

March 16: US ground troops ravaged the village of My Lai, killing more than 500 Vietnamese civilians, from infants to the elderly. The massacre continues for three hours until three American fliers intervene, positioning their helicopter between the troops and the fleeing Vietnamese and eventually carrying a handful of wounded to safety. 

April 4: Martin Luther King Jr., in Memphis, TN in support of the black public works employees, who had been on strike since March 12 for higher wages and better treatment—one incident saw black street repairmen receiving pay for two hours’ work when they were sent home because of bad weather, while white employees were paid for the full day—continues planning the Poor Peoples’ Campaign, so to assemble “a multiracial army of the poor” that would march on Washington to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience at the Capitol until Congress created an Economic Bill of Rights for poor Americans.  On April 3, he cautions, “We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. So I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”  At 6:01pm, he is shot on the balcony of the Lorraine motel.  Robert Kennedy delivers a powerful extemporaneous eulogy in which he pleads with the audience “to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.” King’s assassination sparks rioting across the country; 46 people are killed.

April 11: President Lyndon Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1968, in which equal housing opportunities are extended regardless of race, creed or national origin.  It becomes a federal crime to “by force or threat of force, injure, intimidate, or interfere with anyone…by reason of their race, color, religion or national origin.”

April 22-27: International Student and Faculty Strike to bring the troops home from Vietnam, boycotting classes and marching down Fifth Avenue in New York City.

May 6: In France, “Bloody Monday” names one of the most violent days of the Parisian student revolt. A small group of activists against a police attachment outside the Sorbonne escalated into as many as ten thousand students marching through the Latin Quarter, driving back police.  Trade unionists, growing to nine million workers, strike during the following weeks throughout France, effectively paralyzing the country: radio and television stations were shut down, airports closed, fuel supplies cut. President de Gaulle’s condemnation of the protests were met with derision until he shores up governmental power, authorizing large movements of military troops within the country. These shows of force dissipate the revolutionary furor.

May 17: To protest the Vietnam War, nine Catholic activists—Fr. Daniel Berrigan, SJ, Philip Berrigan, a former Josephite priest, Br. David Darst, a La Salle Christian Brother, John Hogan, Tom Lewis, an artist, Marjorie Bradford Melville, Thomas Melville, a former Maryknoll priest, George Mische, and Mary Moylan—went to the draft board in Catonsville, Maryland, took 378 draft files, brought them to the parking lot in wire baskets, dumped them out, poured home-made napalm over them, and set them on fire.  Daniel Berrigan wrote a play in free verse, The Trial of the Catonsville Nine, about the subsequent trial, in which he proclaims, “Our apologies, good friends, for the fracture of good order, the burning of paper instead of children.”  As one of the main organizers, Berrigan was convicted to serve three years in prison beginning April 1970; he disappeared a day before his sentence was to begin but continued to make public appearances and was found by the FBI in August 1970.  He was released two years later and a film version of his play was produced by actor Gregory Peck. 

June 5: Having won primary victories in California and South Dakota, Robert Kennedy addresses a large crowd of supporters at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. As he leaves the stage, at 12:13am, Kennedy is shot by Sirhan B. Sirhan, a Jordanian apparently upset at several pro-Israeli speeches Kennedy had made during the campaign. The Six-Day War between Israel and Egypt, Jordan and Syria had begun a year earlier, on June 5, 1967.

July: The American Indian Movement (AIM) is formally organized in Minneapolis by Dennis Banks, Clyde Bellecourt, Eddie Benton Banai, and George Mitchell.  They initially intend to address ongoing and extensive police brutality against native peoples, discriminatory practices in the welfare system, and unemployment.  In admiration of the Black Panther movement, they adopted their tactics, such as monitoring routine police interrogations or arrests, and articulated objectives such as the sovereignty of Native American lands and peoples; preservation of their culture and traditions; and enforcement of all treaties with the United States. 

July 7: Abbie Hoffman's “The Yippies are Going to Chicago” is published in The Realist. The Yippie movement, formed by Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and Paul Krassner, all committed activists and demonstrators, is characterized by public displays of disorder, from disrupting the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange to the destruction of clocks at Grand Central Terminal. The Yippies will take center stage six weeks later at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, claiming a “Festival of Life” in contrast to what they term the convention's “Festival of Death.”

July 18: The semiconductor company Intel is founded in Santa Clara, CA.

July 20: The first International Special Olympics Summer Games are held at Soldier Field in Chicago. A thousand people with intellectual disabilities from 26 U.S. states and Canada compete in track and field, swimming and floor hockey.  Eunice Kennedy Shriver was inspired to found the games by her sister, Rosemary, who was differently abled and shared the family’s love of sports.  With her husband, Sargent Shriver, they developed the athletic camps begun in the early 60s into the international games.

July 25: Pope Paul VI issues the encyclical Humanae Vitae, which expands and reaffirms the teaching of the Catholic Church on married love and birth control.  “Love is total,” notes #8, “that very special form of personal friendship in which husband and wife generously share everything… not thinking solely of their own convenience. Whoever really loves his partner loves not only for what he receives, but loves that partner for the partner's own sake, content to be able to enrich the other with the gift of himself.”  On July 27, Rev. Charles Curran, then of The Catholic University of America, issued a statement, “spouses may responsibly decide according to their conscience that artificial contraception in some circumstances is permissible and indeed necessary to preserve and foster the value and sacredness of marriage.”  The statement was signed by over 600 theologians and other academics, including Bernard Haring, David Tracy, Richard McBrien, Walter Burghardt, Raymond Collins, Roland Murphy and Bernard McGinn.  Paul VI, in a letter to the Congress of German Catholics on August 30, stated: “May the lively debate aroused by our encyclical lead to a better knowledge of God’s will.”  On September 19, European theologians met to issue their own statement, signed by A. Auer, J. Groot, P. Huizing, L. Janssens, F. Klostermann, E. McDonagh, and P. Schoonenberg, among others. On November 15, the pastoral letter Human Life in Our Day was issued by the American bishops, which recommended norms of legitimate dissent, which may be in order “only if the reasons are serious and well founded, if the manner of the dissent does not question or impugn the teaching authority of the Church and is such as not to give scandal.” 

August 20: The Soviet Union invades Czechoslovakia with over 200,000 Warsaw pact troops, putting an end to the “Prague Spring,” and beginning a period of enforced and oppressive “normalization.”

August 21: The Medal of Honor is posthumously awarded to James Anderson, Jr, the first black Marine to receive the Medal.

August 23:  In the first visit of a Pope to Latin America, Pope Paul VI addresses the peasants of Mosquera, Colombia, in anticipation of his opening of the Second General Conference of the Latin American Bishops (CELAM) in Medellin. After Paul VI left, the bishops engaged in two weeks of intense work on the final draft of the document, issued on September 6.  In this document, the “preferential option for the poor” was institutionalized, the role of the laity was expanded and the bishops declared their opposition to the military governments that were taking over almost all of Latin America.  “Because all liberation is an anticipation of the complete redemption of Christ, the Church in Latin America is particularly in favor of all educational efforts which tend to free our people . . . A deafening cry pours from the throats of millions, asking their pastors for a liberation that reaches them from nowhere else” (#11).  The Vatican approved the document, despite the possibility of loss of the support of the wealthy elite.  Paul VI confided to Eduardo Pironio, then secretary general of CELAM: “The Latin American Church arrived at a degree of maturity and an extraordinary equilibrium that made it capable of assuming fully its own responsibility,” Boletín CELAM, nos. 15 and 16 (1968). 

August 28: Chicago police take action against crowds of demonstrators without apparent provocation. The police beat some marchers unconscious and send at least 100 to emergency rooms, arresting 175. At a press conference the next day, Mayor Richard J. Daley justified the police action: “The policeman isn't there to create disorder, the policeman is there to preserve disorder.”

September 7: Women’s Liberation groups, joined by members of New York NOW, target the Miss America Beauty Contest in Atlantic City. The protest includes theatrical demonstrations, including ritual disposal of traditional female roles into the “freedom ashcan.” While nothing is actually set on fire, one organizer’s comment, quoted in the New York Times the next day, that the protesters “wouldn't do anything dangerous, just a symbolic bra-burning,” lives on in the derogatory term “bra-burning feminist.”

September 30: Boeing introduces the 747 jumbo jet.  More than six stories tall, it seated 374 passengers and weighed 300 tons.

October 2: Police and military troops in Mexico City react violently to a student-led protest in Tlatelolco Square, opening fire from surrounding buildings, killing hundreds and injuring more.  The Mexican government forbade the press from reporting what had happened in anticipation of the upcoming Olympic Games in Mexico City.

October 3: Peru’s elected government of President Fernando Belaunde was deposed by military coup and succeeded by General Juan Velasco Alvardo, a dictator who attempted but ultimately failed to institute social reform.

October 12: The Summer Olympic Games open in Mexico City. The games have been boycotted by 32 African nations in protest of South Africa’s participation.

October 18: Tommie Smith and John Carlos, US gold and bronze medalists in the 200-meter dash, perform the black power salute during the “Star-Spangled Banner” at their medal ceremony. They wore black socks with no shoes to symbolize black poverty and badges of the Olympic Project for Human Rights, a group dedicated against racial segregation and racism in sports. The silver medalist, Australian Peter Norman, also wore the patch in solidarity with Smith and Carlos. Norman would return home to Australia a pariah.  He was ridiculed and never selected to run in the Olympics again, despite being recognized today as Australia’s greatest-ever sprinter.  Australia at the time was facing severe racial tensions and protests during the “White Australia” policy, which put heavy restrictions on non-white immigration and a series of laws against its indigenous aboriginal population, including the removal of Aboriginal children from their birth parents for adoption by white couples, a practice that continued until the 1970s.  The three medalists were booed by spectators as they left the ceremony.  Smith and Carlos were condemned by the International Olympic Committee, sent home in disgrace and banned from the Olympics for life.  But Smith, Carlos and Norman remained friends for the rest of their lives; Smith and Carlos gave the eulogy at Norman’s 2006 funeral.

October 31: President Johnson announces a total halt to US bombing in North Vietnam.

November: Albert Cleage’s book The Black Messiah is published by Sheed & Ward, outlining the relationship between Black Power and Christianity.  It was so controversial, his daughter Pearl recalls that reading it in public for persons of color meant covering the book with brown paper.

November 5: Election Day. The results of the popular vote are: Nixon, 43.4%; Humphrey, 42.7%; Wallace, who ran as an Independent, 13.5%.  Until the years 2000 and 2016, it is the thinnest margin of victory in US history.

November 14: Yale University announces it will admit women.  National “Turn in Your Draft Card Day” is observed with rallies and protests on college campuses throughout the country. 

November 20: The Farmington Mine explodes in Farmington, West Virginia, killing 78 men.

November 22: Star Trek airs the first-ever interracial kiss: Enterprise Capt. James Kirk, played by William Shatner, kisses Nichelle Nichols, as Lt. Nyota Uhura.  Shatner is reported to have purposefully ruined all the alternative takes so the network would be forced to air the kiss.  In the episode, Kirk says, “Where I come from, size, shape or color makes no difference.”

December 10: Thomas Merton ends a tour of Asia that included a profound spiritual experience before a statue of the Buddha, wondering how the East and West could be reconciled, and said that even if it couldn’t be done in practice, he could try to reconcile them within himself as best he could. In Samutprakarn, Thailand, at an interfaith conference between Catholic and non-Christian monks, he presents a paper in the morning, “Marxism and Monastic Perspective,” which dealt with the role of the monk in a world of revolution: “to experience the ground of his own being in such a way that he knows the secret of liberation and can somehow or other communicate it to others.”  That afternoon, while stepping out of the bath, he was accidentally electrocuted by a standing electric fan. Fr. Rembert Weakland, who had also been attending the conference, anointed Merton.

December 16: Tommy James and the Shondells record “Crystal Blue Persuasion.” James states in an interview, “I took the title from the Book of Revelation in the Bible, reading about the New Jerusalem. The words jumped out at me…spread out over three or four verses.  It’s my favorite of all my songs and one of our most requested.”  He said he was also inspired by readings from the Book of Ezekiel, which he interprets as speaking of a “blue Shekhinah light” that represented the presence of God, as well as the Book of Isaiah’s description of a future harmonious age of the “brotherhood” of humankind.

December 24: Apollo 8 is the first manned spacecraft to orbit the moon.  The mission takes the first photos of Earth from deep space by humans, including the now iconic “Earthrise.”

Some of the information on this timeline was taken from http://cds.library.brown.edu/projects/1968/reference/timeline.html


The section-specific Call for Papers is available here.  Proposals should be 250-500 words in length and include one’s current institutional affiliation and position.  Proposals should be submitted to the appropriate conveners no later than Friday, December 15, 2017.  Scholars will be notified of the status of their proposals by Tuesday, January 16, 2018.

Scholars who are invited to present their work at a national convention of the College Theology Society must be current members of the CTS no later than April 1, 2018 in order to appear in the program.  No person may submit more than one proposal for consideration and nor will submissions to multiple sections be considered.  Failure to observe these policies may result in the scholar's disqualification to present a paper at the Annual Convention.

The first draft of the Convention Program will be available on or about March 15, 2018, and online registration will also open at that time.

The National Association of Baptist Professors of Religion will once again be joining us this year.

Further questions about our 2018 Annual Convention at St. Catherine University can be directed to Father Dave Gentry-Akin, Executive Director of National Conventions, at dgentry@stmarys-ca.edu.

The College Theology Society is a registered, non-profit professional society and a Related Scholarly Organization of the American Academy of Religion.

Email: secretary@collegetheology.org

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