#AARSBL17: Skin in the Game–Racing the Stakes of Student-Scholarship

This weekend, Dr. Richard Newton will be at the annual meetings of the North American Association for the Study of Religion, the American Academy of Religion, and the Society of Biblical Literature to share some of his work on pedagogy. Whether you’re there physically or keeping up from afar, we’ll bring you updates from the field here at Sowing the Seed. 

Teaching Religion Unit: Teaching about Religion as Anti-Racism Education
Saturday 11/18/17, Sheraton Boston-Liberty B, second level

My paper rejects the idea that racism is a product of ignorance and suggests that it is an effect of great training. Thinking with the likes of James Baldwin, bell hooks, Patricia Hill Collins and Michele Norris, I contend that students need to become more expert in how the teaching of racism works if we would have them dismantle it. And it requires us to remember that we all have “skin in the game” as classroom participants.


For students of religion, I signify this by “racing the stakes,” a challenge to be held accountable for reconstituting the mysterium tremendum et fascinans as the awesome and awful part we play in determining the terms on which people’s lives matter. I am signifying here on Rudolf Otto’s The Idea of the Holy (1917) to suggest that the generative and devastating power of our God-talk might not be a result of the divine so much as it is our discourse. My students and I try to do this in three steps.

  1. Cultivate Cultural Competency in the Classroom


Founded by award-winning journalist Michele Norris, these six-word stories on race and identity are a great way to take the pulse of the social difference before us. Take a look at what people are saying about race and related matters at the The Race Card Wall and learn how my Religion 101 class partnered with The RaceCard Project to reframe my college’s approach to inclusion below.

Discussion Questions for The RaceCard Project:

  • How easy was it to write your story?
  • How easy was it to listen to others stories?
  • What surprised you about the data?
  • What is of value in race?
  • How is race taught?
  • When is race liberating?
  • When is race disempowering?
  • Why is race a still a “thing”?
  • What does it take to write your story and others’ stories equally acknowledged within a shared context?

Let’s create critical race theory from the ground up.

  1. Explore the Politics of Difference: A Classroom Tested Bibliography

Here are some of my go-to pieces I use to discuss race in the classroom.

Christopher Driscoll, “On the Journey Toward White Shame,” Marginalia Review of Books, December 8, 2014.

Richard Newton, “The African American Bible: Bound in a Christian Nation,” Journal of Biblical Literature 136, no. 1 (Winter 2017): : 221-228, DOI: 10.15699/jbl.1361.2017.1366.

_____. “Locating Value in the Study of Religion,” Method & Theory in the Study of Religion (May 2017), DOI: 10.1163/15700682-12341407.

Let’s get curious. Let’s pay attention. Let’s go there.

  1. Race the Discourse in Students’ Public

Sowing the Seed: Fruitful Conversations on Religion, Culture, and Teaching

I also use this website as a site to invite others to show what a difference our difference-making makes. Over the past two years, we’ve seen a number of institutions share podcasts and posts from our contributors. Here’s some of what people are digging.


“Contextualizing Privilege” with sociologist Don Kraybill.

“The Gospel According to the Klan” with writer/historian Kelly J. Baker.

“Anablacktivism” with theologian and cultural critic Drew Hart.

“The Color of Christ” with historian Ed Blum.

“Law and Order” with critical criminologist Rita Shah.

Blog Posts:

The Bible and Race in the USA Series

Reading Race and Criminality

What Privilege?

Let’s be the media we want to see. Find out how you and your students can help us create the public scholarship we need.

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