Academic Research


"Learning How to Read: How Rabbinics Aids in the Study of Contemporary Christian Practices," is a forthcoming publication in Religious Studies and Rabbinics, Eds. Dr. Elizabeth Shanks Alexander and Dr. Beth Berkowitz, Routledge (2018).

"Lady, Give Me A Drink’: Reading Scripture, Shaping Community Development," in Mobilizing for the Common Good: The Lived Theology of John M. Perkins, University Press of Mississippi (2013).

Recent Conference Papers

“Even the Cartel Members Pray: Studying Immigration Through the Lens of Lived Theology,” Transformative Scholarship and Pedagogy Unit, American Academy of Religion (AAR), San Diego, California. November 23-26, 2019. Co-presented with students from REL 231, "Religion at the US-Mexico Border," Maeve Atkinson and Bronwynn Woodsworth.

“‘When you open your heart to patriotism’: Engaging Scripture through a Christian Nationalist Lens,” Political Theology Network Conference, Union Theological Seminary, October 17-19, 2019.

““I Love You and There Is Nothing You Can Do About It”: Pastor Miguel Balderas’s Love Disruption of White Hegemonic Church Culture,” Annual Symposium of the Fellowship for Protestant Ethics, University of Notre Dame, July 25-28, 2019.

Beloved Community in Multicultural Contexts

The Lived Theology of Pastor Miguel Balderas

This study is a hermeneutical ethnography focused on the lived theology of Pastor Miguel Balderas (pictured above with his wife Ruth Wong de Balderas), a Latino Elder in the United Methodist Church, whose previous congregation was endeavoring to become multicultural. This research combines ethnographic methods with a set of hermeneutical tools, traditionally used to analyze ancient scriptural commentary, to examine enacted theological expression, specifically preaching, liturgical choices, and leadership models. The study demonstrates that through particular hermeneutical acts Pastor Miguel is attempting to rewrite cultural habits of the majority-white, English-speaking congregation. He does this by using scripture to develop multicultural habits and potentialities that are not governed by modes of assimilation, a process I term the “entextualization of Beloved Community.” Through this process Pastor Miguel attempts to replace culturally ingrained values with those drawn from concepts of the Kingdom of God. (Libra Repository link)

Hermeneutical Ethnography

The method I term "hermeneutical ethnography" brings tools used to analyze ancient texts to bear on contemporary scriptural commentary, specifically to examine scripture's role in the generation of theology and lived experience. In my research, I employ ethnographic tools in order to represent contemporary practitioners' words and actions as a form of written, redacted scriptural commentary. I closely analyze these texts and narrative accounts by utilizing hermeneutical tools, usually reserved for ancient scriptural commentary. This form of analysis allows an examination of sources and their intertextual interplay that provides insight into how such hermeneutical interactions shape the community that is engaging in them. This type of analysis allows for the possibility that scripture has a role in generating the meaning of the practitioners' enacted hermeneutics and that the interaction between a practitioner and scripture occurs as a contextually grounded process that transcends the "authorial intent" of any particular practitioner. These assumptions render this method distinctly hermeneutical, and not phenomenological. 

In the slides above, the image of the iceberg visually demonstrates the idea that scriptural commentary is a surface, textual expression of a much larger, mostly hidden hermeneutical process that includes reading assumptions and strategies, involving multiple scriptures and other religio-cultural traditions.