A Conversation with Center Scholar Dr. Sathianathan Clarke

February 28, 2018

On February 23rd, the Center for Religious Wisdom & World Affairs was pleased to welcome Center scholar Dr. Sathianathan – “Sathi” – Clarke for a lunch conversation at Seattle University, with Graduate Student Affiliates, Puget Sound Network members, community partners and the Center team.

Dr. Clarke, who is Professor of Theology, Culture and Mission at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C., was in town to participate in this year’s Search for Meaning Festival, and discussed with Center collaborators his latest book, Competing Fundamentalisms: Violent Extremism in Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism (2017).  The book probes the sources of violent fundamentalism in these three traditions; examines the emergence of this global phenomenon as a response to the failures of secular modernity; and identifies ways of leveraging religious wisdom to transform violence into human flourishing.

STM_Sathianathan_wo_02_23_2018_001During the lunch gathering, Professor Clarke reflected on the relationship between the subject of his latest book, his previous work on subaltern religions in India, and his current project for the Center on Homelessness. The conversation circled in particular around strategies for countering religious extremism at the local level.  Participants considered the challenges of “detoxifying” sacred texts.  They also explored how we might reimagine the role of faith in public in ways that take us beyond mere toleration, and even mutual respect, toward an ethics and politics of hospitality.

Master of Transformational Leadership student Ms. Amber Larkin commented on the discussion, “Dr. Clarke presents a convincing argument for religious leaders to take responsibility for their interpretation of violence in scripture. Ultimately, we were presented with a mandate to bridge the gap that exists between us and our brothers and sisters from other religious traditions, as the very expression of our individual faith.”

Director of The Bridge Care Center, and participant in the Center’s professional development series, Mr. Josh Perme shared, “I think this book, especially in our current cultural climate, is a must-read for understanding how we have found ourselves in this place and provides hope for how we might get out of it. I look forward to Professor Clarke’s upcoming visit in April, and can't wait to hear his ideas regarding religion and homelessness.”

STM_Sathianathan_wo_02_23_2018_013Professor Clarke’s current research for the Center mines wisdom from his experience of reading biblical texts with homeless individuals in Washington, DC.  He reflects on the nature and function of biblical authority across social location and explores the “offensive wisdom” generated by marginalized communities like those experiencing homelessness in the nation’s capital.

He and other Center scholars will return to Seattle University on April 25-27 to present their research at the Center’s second symposium on homelessness. The research by Center scholars will appear in a collected volume that will be edited by Center Director Dr. Manuel Mejido and published by Fordham University Press.