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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

The Challenge of "Us" in Ecological Times

18th annual prophetic voices lecture

landscape, trees, water

18th Annual Prophetic Voices Lecture

Elizabeth A. Johnson, C.S.J., Fordham University

Date: Thursday, February 28, 2019
Time: 5:30 - 7pm
Location: Fulton Hall 511

RSVP requested.

Abstract: Human beings already find it difficult to expand the boundary of what we mean by “us” so that people who differ by race, religion, sexual orientation, political opinion, and myriad other markers can be included. The problem intensifies when kinship with other species is called for.

Yet nothing less will undermine the overweening assumption of human privilege which is rapidly damaging our planet as a habitat for life. Placing the earth in a religious framework, this lecture explores the basis for kinship in the community of creation. It delineates the ecological conversion needed for us to “feel the desertification of the soil almost as a physical ailment, and the extinction of a species as a painful disfigurement” (Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, 89). Once nature becomes a neighbor, then prayer, preaching, and policy green up. Psalm 67's prayer “may God bless us” expands to include all of us creatures from the Arctic to the Antarctic ends of the earth.

headshot of johson

Elizabeth A. Johnson, C.S.J., Distinguished Professor Emerita of Theology at Fordham University in New York City, has authored numerous books and articles, including She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse, and most recently Creation and the Cross: The Mercy of God for a Planet in Peril. A past president of the Catholic Theological Society of America and also of the American Theological Society, she has served on the editorial boards of major journals and seen her work translated into thirteen languages. Johnson loves to teach and was awarded the Fordham Teaching Award in 1998 and Professor of the Year Award in 2011. She has mentored dozens of doctoral students who are now themselves professors. The recipient of fifteen honorary doctorates and numerous other accolades, she has been deeply involved in the life of the church, including serving on the national U.S. Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue and the Vatican-sponsored dialogue between science and religion.

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On January 23, 2019, the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting hosted photographer George Steinmetz for a forum at Georgetown University. Joined by American University professor Evan Berry, Steinmetz presented some of his original aerial photography for the project, "Losing Earth," a 2018 report from New York Times Magazine. In it he highlights existing evidence of ecological damage, while also calling for community action. Among the targets of his exhortation were communities of faith, some of which have mobilized in response to global environmental challenges. On February 28, Elizabeth Johnson will deliver the Boisi Center's 18th Annual Prophetic Voices Lecture, exploring such a basis for kinship in the community of creation on an ailing planet.