(3) Comparative Pantheons: Building on work in my 2008 book Witness to Dispossession that discussed the theological importance of The Pantheon in Rome for contemporary culture, I am interested in spaces built to contain spiritually/religiously diverse paths and experiences. I am beginning work on a theological study of such "pantheons," houses for "all gods," and am making plans to carry out a comparative study across time and culture of pantheons and their theological significance "then" and "now."
My curriculum vitae can be found here, listing my books, articles, papers, and other academic material.
I am associate professor of theology in the Graduate School of Religion at Fordham University in New York City, and I currently serve as the president-elect of the Association of Practical Theology.
My interests all converge on a simple point: I am compelled by deep experiences of life: how they are known, named, savored. I find that the study of religion, when related critically to other fields, can help to creatively examine and appreciate these deep experiences and the accounts of ultimate reality to which they may be tied.
My research and teaching circulate around the coordinates of theology, culture, and practice, focusing on the constitution of spiritual and religious experience, identity, and practice in comparative perspective in the contemporary world.
In a word, I study "spiritual exercises" appreciatively, critically, and comparatively, across religions, spiritualities, secularities, and cultures.
As a result, I explore where theological material comes from, how it works, and what it does, in "religious" and "secular" cultural situations -- with an eye toward contributing to greater freedom for contemporary persons, refinement of knowledge for academic contexts, and deeper understanding for religious and secular institutions. Much of my work focuses on construing theology as a cultural practice, and on cultural practices as theologically significant. I frequently research and teach in the field of practical theology. One theme throughout my work is the attempt to elaborate a "pantheonic" spirituality, a style of thinking-acting attentive to what is "across all divinity" (pan-theon), by critical exploration of how religious and spiritual subjectivities are put together in contemporary culture, and through critical and reflexive attention to cultural practices: religious, interreligious, and secular.
I presently have the following research projects situated amidst several domains of inquiry:
The research projects include:
(1) Theology and Music: The spiritual significance of "popular" music has been a passion since my first book, Virtual Faith, in 1998. This focus has figured in almost everything I have published since then. Recently, I spent six years coordinating the Rock and Theology Project in conjunction with Liturgical Press. That project involved more than a dozen theologian-musicians and generated the Rock and Theology blog from 2009-2013, and led to the publication of a book in 2013 that I edited, and to which I contributed a chapter, Secular Music and Sacred Theology. My next projects in this vein will be an online course about spirituality and music, and a study of the ways that young people make theological sense of their world through their relationship with music.
(2) Deconversion: With my Fordham colleague Dr. Patrick Hornbeck (Theology Department), I research "deconversion" in contemporary societies, studying especially the theological significance of the widespread turn away from "normative" belief and practice in the United States, the process whereby people detach from the form and content of religious affiliation that used to be secure in their lives. We have already published and presented some of our findings on Catholic deconversion, and have more publications and presentations on the way. Our project, "Varieties of Deconversion in Roman Catholicism" has completed its pilot phase (2011-2013), and its second phase will take place in 2014-2015, and will be located in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn (New York).
The domains of inquiry in which I continue to research, teach, and publish, include: practice as a philosophical and theological concept; practical theology; theology and popular culture; secular and spiritual practice in ancient and contemporary culture; Pantheon studies.
In terms of music, I have been playing electric bass since 1985. I started off playing hard rock and actually played in some Christian rock bands in high school. I then moved to the secular bar-band scene by my college years, and have continued in that vein ever since, having played in the following bands: Household Word (Kansas City, Missouri, 1990-1992); (e)X nihilo (Boston, Massachusetts, 1997-1999); Incizion (Boston, 2002-2004); Childhood Scar (Boston, 2004); One15 (San Francisco, California, 2005-2006); Stent (San Jose, California, 2006-2007); Speedwalker (San Jose, 2007-2008). I currently play bass in two New York City-area bands: The Raina (2011-present) and The Particulars (2011-present).
I am married to Dr. Martina Verba, a psychotherapist, and with our daughter we live near New York City. (My contact information: Graduate School of Religion, Fordham University, 441 East Fordham Road, New York, New York, United States, 10458-9993; firstname.lastname@example.org; telephone: 718.817.5965)