Emory Report

March 6, 2000

 Volume 52, No. 24

Chopp to deliver Currie lecture

By Elaine Justice

Provost Rebecca Chopp, a widely published scholar in Christian theology, women's studies and the role of religion in American public life, will address "The Poetics of Testimony" at the annual Currie Lecture in Law and Religion, to be held March 7 at 6 p.m. in the law school's Tull Auditorium.

Chopp, Candler Professor of Theology, said her subject refers to "those discourses-poetry, novels, theory, theology-that speak of the unspeakable and tell of the suffering and hope of particular communities who have not been authorized to speak." These discourses or practices, she added, "seek to describe or name that which rational discourse won't or can't reveal."

Those who traditionally have not had a voice in theological discourse owe much to liberation theologians such as James Cone, said Chopp, who served as a respondent in Cone's Feb. 3 Law and Religion Program lecture on "Calling the Oppressive to Account: Justice, Hope and Love in Black Religion."

In contrast to theologians of the late 1960s who wrestled with the angst of unbelief and the secularization of society, said Chopp, Cone challenged theological discourse to deal with the real by asserting that: theology is always contextual; and theology is not about convincing the believer to believe, but about liberation and freedom of all who are oppressed.

"I cannot tell you how revolutionary that was," Chopp said. Now Cone's work is read in theological schools across the country. In many ways, she said, his revolutionary ideas are still just starting.

For his part, Cone said he didn't find his theological voice until several years after graduating from seminary, when he became involved with the black civil rights movement and published Black Theology and Black Power (1969).

"I had to do it," Cone said of writing the book. "It was like being in the middle of the ocean and needing a life raft. It was a form of how to keep sane in the world."

Fittingly, Chopp's research, teaching and writing has focused on liberation, feminist and political theologies. She is the author of The Praxis of Suffering: An Interpretation of Liberation and Political Theologies (1986), The Power to Speak: Feminism, Language, God (1989), Reconstructing Christian Theology and Saving Work: Feminist Practices of Theological Education (1995).

The Currie Lecture, an annual event of the law school's Law and Religion Program, has featured internationally prominent scholars whose expertise has encompassed a broad range of religious and legal issues.

The lecture will be preceded by a reception at 5 p.m. For more information call 404-727-0699 or send e-mail to eelliso@law.emory.edu.

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