Philip Barclift, PhD
Associate Professor, Interdisciplinary Liberal Studies
Associate Appointment, Theology and Religious Studies
Building/Room: Casey 430-08
Even though Historical Theology has been the love of my academic life (focusing on the development of Catholic/Christian doctrines over the first sixteen centuries of the church), my professional life has come to revolve instead around questions of social, sexual and economic justice. Since the days when I was shocked out of my complacency during a dig at Tel Laish (now Tel Dan) when I witnessed terrible things happening to the indigenous Palestinians just south of us, I couldn’t keep my focus on the ancient and medieval church. For the past two decades, I have focused my work in two areas: justice (and understandings of justice) for competing parties in the Middle East and, more recently, questions of sexual and gender justice within the church. Both interests have begun to coalesce at the theoretical level as my interdisciplinary study of the issues continue to point to common roots of problems I once considered unrelated. I am currently constructing the theoretical framework that links them and many other questions of injustice in our age.
My work on justice in the Middle East has not been merely academic. Back in 2005, I brought together a loose coalition of partners from the Christian Peacemaker Teams, Operation Dove, Rabbis for Human Rights in Palestine, Birzeit University and Bethlehem University to conduct workshops on the principles of nonviolence, nonviolent resistance, and community organization. Initially, we tried to conduct our workshops in the north as well as the south, but we quickly found that we were spread too thin, so we focused our energies in the south in Hebron and its environs – towns like Rafah and Yatta and villages on the southern border of the West Bank like At-Tuwani, Qhor-Tuba, and Um-Faqara, where the violence against the Palestinians outside Gaza has been most severe. That work has temporarily hijacked my efforts to maintain an active writing regimen. In many ways, it has shattered me. But nothing has felt more important to me than helping the salt of the earth find ways to survive their circumstances.