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).

Conference Papers

“Do Scripture-Reading Practices Matter?: A Case for Reading Lived Theology, ”Huskey Research Exhibition, University of Virginia. March 23, 2016.

“Proclaiming the Victory of God in Christ by the Power of the Holy Spirit: Entextualizing Beloved Community through the Preaching of Pentecost,” Southeastern Commission for the Study of Religion (SECSOR) in Atlanta, GA. March 4-6, 2016.

"'One Bread, One Body': Singing Reconciliation into Reality," The Ways of Knowing: Graduate Conference on Religion at Harvard Divinity School, Panel: Religion & Crisis 2: Race, Racism, and Religious Anti-Racist Activism in Contemporary Contexts, October 2015.

“Twisted Scriptural Tokens: The Bible According to Jerry Falwell, ” Southeastern Commission for the Study of Religion (SECSOR) conference in Atlanta, GA, March 2012.

“Beyond Anarchy: Implicit Patterns and Interdisciplinary Methodology,” presented at 10th International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities, Montreal, Canada, June 2012.

“African-American Hermeneutics as a Case Study for Community-Situated Postliberal Theology.” Confessional Commitments in Pluralistic Publics: Virginia Graduate Colloquium in Theology, Ethics & Culture, University of Virginia. April 15-16, 2011.

“Subverting the Status Quo Through Celebration: The Feast of the Fatted Calf in Luke 15,” paper presentation at the South-Central Conference on Christianity and Literature in New Orleans, Louisiana, February 2011.

Comprehensive Exams

Modern Theological and Religious Thought (Christianity)

Hebrew Bible and Rabbinics

Patristic Scriptural Interpretation

Practice (Paper): "Pitfalls and Possibilities in the Study of Scripture-Reading in Contemporary Christian Settings: A Christian Ethnographic approach to Biblicism"

Special Topics in Scripture, Interpretation and Practice (Paper): "Learning How to Read: How Rabbinics Aids in the Study of Contemporary Christian Practices"

Scriptural Languages: Biblical Hebrew and Koine Greek

Modern Languages: French and Spanish

Coursework Selections

African-Americans and the Bible, taught by Valerie Cooper

Charles Peirce and Paul Ricoeur on Script, Text and Scripture, taught by Peter Ochs and Larry Bouchard

Ethics and Theology of the Rabbis, taught by Elizabeth Shanks Alexander

Ethnographic Methods in American Religions, taught by Matthew Hedstrom

Feasting, Fasting and Faith, taught by Vanessa Ochs

Independent Studies in Classical and Modern Islam, taught by Ahmed H. al-Rahim

Independent Study in Scriptural Logics: Diagramming Performances of Scripture, taught by Scott Yakimow and Peter Ochs

Pentecostalism, taught by Valerie Cooper

Religion and Culture of the Rabbis, taught by Elizabeth Shanks Alexander

Digital Media & Online Publishing, taught by Jane Friedman

Cambridge Inter-faith Summer Programme, Summer 2011

The Cambridge Inter-faith Programme Summer School gathers emerging religious leaders from around the world to study, discover, and live alongside one another in a stunning University of Cambridge location.For more information about the CIP Summer Programme at Cambridge University, click here.

Beloved Community in Multicultural Contexts

The Lived Theology of Pastor Miguel Balderas

Pastor Miguel Balderas with his wife Ruth Wong de Balderas

This study is a hermeneutical ethnography focused on the lived theology of Pastor Miguel Balderas, a Latino Elder in the United Methodist Church, whose Maryland congregation is 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 the author terms 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.

This study also offers an intimate glimpse into the culture of a mainline church, the membership of which is declining. The author provides a theological, hermeneutical, and ethnographic analysis of the types of logics, habits, and practices that impede multicultural community development, and which continue to reify the “narrative of decline.” The narrative of decline is a term used within mainline Protestant discourse to indicate how leaders have described and responded to the sharp and continuous decrease in church membership on both the national and local level. This study demonstrates how this narrative shapes national church policy and in turn generates a form of multiculturalism that acts as a strategy to stave off or reverse the decline. This form of multiculturalism engenders an assimilationist approach to outreach—an approach whose telos is church growth through an increase in minority membership without a concomitant change in church culture—found in the field site and is what Pastor Miguel attempts to transform through his scripture-shaped multicultural training program.

This research contributes to the growing body of literature on multiracial congregations by offering a unique ethnographic perspective missing from the scholarship—an in-depth examination of a non-multicultural congregation’s approach to developing multicultural ministries. Hermeneutical ethnography as it is applied in this study also offers a new method for Christian ethnographers, anthropologists, and other scholars interested in how scripture and Christian tradition function in contemporary religious communities, a method that takes seriously the role of texts within the process of lived theological expression. (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.

Interreligious Scholarship & Leadership

Scripture, Interpretation and Practice (SIP) Program in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia

UVA's Graduate Program in Scripture, Interpretation, and Practice (SIP) prepares students for advanced research and teaching about the phenomena of scriptural study, textual interpretation, and religious practice in all three of the Abrahamic traditions, as well as in Asian and other scripturally centered traditions. The first goal of the Program is to examine the Bible, the Qur'an, and other scriptures as literatures that generate communities of religious practice: practices of study, of interpretation and reflection, of ritual, and of social life. The PhD in SIP is designed to prepare students for teaching positions in departments of Religious Studies, where they will be able to offer advanced courses in their primary tradition of study (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, or Asian and other traditions) and more general courses in Abrahamic and other traditions.

For more information about the SIP Program at U.Va., please click here.

Chair and Head Conference Coordinator, 2nd Annual Graduate Student Conference in SIP

The 2nd Annual Graduate Student Conference in SIP, entitled "Weaponizing Scripture?,"​ explored cases, both historical and contemporary, in which scripture serves as a resource for/against the communities that are formed by it, as well as how it is instrumentalized for formational, popular, political, and/or polemical agendas. The purpose was to uncover ways that scripture transforms the character of the debates and purposes for which it is deployed.

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Student Director of the SIP Administrative Board

May 2013-May 2014: Student Director of the SIP Administrative Board
Aug 2011-May 2015: Student Member of SIP Board

The Scripture, Interpretation and Practice (SIP) Board is the organization in charge of administrating and advancing the SIP Graduate Program within the University of Virginia’s Religious Studies department. For four years I was one of three student members of the board, tasked with the various duties involved in administering the SIP program and carrying out various graduate student events .

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