We’re doing some rearranging and redecorating at our house, and one of the changes coming is moving my “office” space to the attic room. I’ve been thinking a lot about the vibe of the room. What makes a room conducive to scholarship?
In searching for an answer to this question, I immediately begin thinking about color. I enjoy reading about color theory and feng shui and comparing my own experience of color with what different philosophical systems have to say on the matter. As a kid, purple was my favorite color, although I noticed that, by the time I was in high school, most of my wardrobe was blue. After college, a friend commented that I look really good in red.
That remark had a subtle but noticeable impact on my wardrobe as reds and dark pinks made their way into my closet and dresser. A seminary pal helped me appreciate the power of orange, and living in New York gave me a new appreciation for black. I’ve also become fond of brown, especially when it’s warm and chocolately. Having excised much of the blue from my palette, I’ve been reintroducing it here are there.
While the full spectrum of colors fuels my creativity, I’ve gravitated toward orange, purple, magenta, and black to set the tone for my new workspace.
In feng shui these are fire and water colors so I will need to be sure to balance them with other colors and objects that represent the other elements (wood, metal, and earth). Fire is characterized by activity and enthusiasm, but unchecked it can consume everything around it. Water represents learning, arts, and primordial mystery; it can also be pleasant or violent.
Other color theory systems describe orange as the color of vitality with endurance, purple as the color of good judgment, magenta symbolizes harmony and emotional balance, and black represents what is hidden, secret, and unknown. I like it.
photo | “Nasturtium” by Mayank Sharma | CreativeCommons License: CC BY-SA 2.0
With the dissertation done and publication options being explored, I am also thinking about how I want to build on the basic concepts, expanding them to move more directly into feminist and womanist theology.
The dissertation focuses on theological anthropology with bits of christology here and there, but I am also interested in linking these themes to the following theoethical big ideas:
photo | “Lilac” by Peter Roome | CreativeCommons License: CC BY-NC 2.0
Here is the précis of my dissertation:
“This Mark of a Standing Human Figure Poised to Embrace”:
A Constructive Theology of Social Responsibility, Nonviolence & Nonconformity
by Malinda Elizabeth Berry
This dissertation makes a contribution to Christian political theology (broadly) and Mennonite peace theology (particularly) by arguing for shalom political theology developed using the work of three figures: Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971), Martin Luther King Jr. (1929–1968), and Doris Janzen Longacre (1940–1979). Shalom political theology roots a commitment to peace, justice, and nonviolence and a feminist/womanist reconstruction of nonconformity in a theological anthropology that takes sin and power dynamics seriously. The rationale for such an approach comes as a response to often-employed and overly-simplistic biblical hermeneutics that identify the Christian call to pacifism with Jesus’ words in the Gospels commanding us to love our enemies. Rejecting this simplistic approach to a complex set of theological and ethical questions also involves rejecting the ideological trappings of “pacifism,” opting instead for language that describes the nature of one’s commitment to the path of nonviolence. Such language underscores the inevitability of moral ambiguity in matters of social justice, social responsibility, and social engagement rather than setting those inevitabilities aside.
After outlining the context, primary need, and biblical foundations for a shalom political theology, the discussion turns to the interlocking components of the proposed theological construction: Niebuhr’s theological anthropology in the Christian realist tradition, King’s articulation of Christian nonviolence in the personalist tradition, and Longacre’s nonconformity in the Anabaptist tradition. This three-fold synthesis demonstrates the possibility of and necessity for Christians committed to understanding God’s great shalom as heart of the gospel message to articulate their conviction in a way that takes human nature and human sin seriously, affirms a liberative metaphysics of justice and nonviolence, and anticipates personal and communal transformation through the practice of nonconformity.
In a time when human beings long for meaningful relationships while feasting on polemical soundbites that do not promote self-reflection and communal renewal, the significance of this project comes from (1) the author’s approach to cultivating her own subjectivity and (2) the “community” of thinkers she uses to develop a theoethical schema for assessing the links between power dynamics, resource allocation, and belief about God’s intention for the world. Ultimately, she invites us to consider how God is embracing the world in and through us.
(You can find a copy of my dissertation on Academia.edu.)
photo | “Tulip Era in the Ottoman Empire” by Kıvanç Niş | CreativeCommons License: CC-BY 4.0