Theology from Undergraduate Life Stories

At Fordham, I have the challenge and distinct joy of working with many different kinds of theology students, from undergraduate to master's to doctoral students, often in the space of a single day. This term, I teach an undergraduate course that is an introduction to practical theology. We are a small group that meet around a seminar table twice a week to delve into some basic approaches to thinking about how theology comes from and is oriented to practice, action, performance, understood quite variously in the theological tradition.

One of the approaches we studied looks at the ways theologians have appreciated the power of constructing one's own life narrative as a generator of compelling theology (and often serving as part of a silenced substructure on which academic theologies are built).

Advertisement

I asked my students to think about theologically significant learnings from their own life stories. With their permission, I share them with you here, perhaps as a way of occasioning your own thinking about whether and in what ways your own theology comes from the story you tell about yourself. Here is how we summarized the theology coming from their lives:

"Don't limit love"

"We don't have secrets"

"I have a different kind of care"

"Be open to letting people in"

"Remember that I'm all right"

Their resonance as potential mantras speaks to the power of the ways these young adults are able to live from the complexity of the lives they have already undergone. I find myself returning to these student apophthegmata and wondering how they are true for my own theological life.

Perhaps you have other theologically significant learnings that are the overtones of your narrative. Our class is trying to look critically and carefully at the ways such practices as telling a life story frame the theology that people can have.

Tom Beaudoin

Hastings-on-Hudson, New York

 

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
david power
8 years 7 months ago
Great idea but I think you should have developed each mantra or filled in the details a little.They are left hanging in the air as it is and maybe we could all be enlightened if you gave even a paragraph to each one. I am convinced that each believer has a similar childhood theology and it is good that you have people getting it down on paper   
Margaret Riordan
8 years 7 months ago
Thinking about this, I don't think my mantra would be like any of these. I have wonderful memories of early family life:- as the eldest daughter I know I was the 'apple of my father's eye.' But my father died when I was eight, and my mother died when I was 15, and we were left orphans.
I was listening to tomorrow's reading on the 'pray as you go' site this evening, and there was the line "In you the orphan finds mercy." Maybe so. But suddenly my mantra became sort of clear, and it was "My God, why have you abandoned me?'
Margaret
 

Advertisement

The latest from america

For years, the Polish church has been torn between supporting the government’s anti-migrant stance and adopting Pope Francis’ commitment to foreigners.
Melissa VidaOctober 15, 2018
The cast of “Girl From the North Country” (photo: Joan Marcus)
How did an old war horse manage to outrun a rolling stone?
Rob Weinert-KendtOctober 15, 2018
El Salvador celebrates the canonization of their patron saint—but should the ceremony have taken place in San Salvador?
James T. KeaneOctober 15, 2018
The Gospel of Luke is often called The Gospel of Prayer, because of all the many times it portrays Jesus at prayer. Take that as your text, and inspiration, for this week. 
James Martin, S.J.October 15, 2018