Devin Singh

Social theorist / religion scholar / leadership strategist / critical visionary

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God and the Human Future

I was recently invited to join the Westar Institute's annual gathering in Santa Rosa, CA, as part of a new discussion in their God Seminar on decolonizing theology. Mary Keller (Wyoming), An Yountae (Northridge) and myself were asked to share reflections about theism and post-theisms in light of post- and decolonial thought. I spoke on the question of the secular in light of decolonial reflection, arguing that some notion of the secular as a space to protect difference should be preserved, and perhaps can be theologically legitimated and defended from a variety of religious and humanist traditions, suggesting that the decolonial turn may open up new perspectives on the question.

It was a lovely gathering of scholars, including Jeff Robbins, Clayton Crockett, Karen Bray, Noelle Vahanian, John Caputo, Wilson Dickinson, Jordan Miller, Michael Zbaraschuk, Sarah Morice Brubaker, and Mike Grimshaw. This was a chance for me to learn about the interesting work of the institute and seminar, and consider some of the contemporary challenges being tackled.

Since we were in prime wine country, some of us were able to sneak off to sample the local varietals.

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Harvard Divinity School panel: Christianity and Mass Incarceration

I recently participated on a panel as part of a broader conference on Christianity, Race, and Mass Incarceration at Harvard Divinity School:

"Christianity, Race, and Mass Incarceration will gather scholars of various disciplines in conversation alongside activists, organizers, and formerly incarcerated persons. We hope to advance through this workshop a critical study of carceral punishment, especially as it relates to questions of Christian thought and practice, and to provoke awareness and activism around incarceration in America."

After a first, brilliant panel on "Religion and the Historical Roots of US Incarceration" followed by a second, equally brilliant and hard-hitting panel on "Race and Religion in Modern Mass Incarceration," the third panel was a "Theology and Humanities Roundtable" where scholars shared their perspectives on how their work relates to this pressing social and conceptual problem.

On the panel, I was accompanied by Michelle Sanchez, Todne Thomas, Cornel West, and Andre Willis:

Pictured: Cornel West, Devin Singh, Todne Thomas, Andre Willis, Michelle Sanchez

Pictured: Cornel West, Devin Singh, Todne Thomas, Andre Willis, Michelle Sanchez

My brief remarks, titled "Guilty Debt? The Economy of Carcerality" emphasized the role of debt in supporting imaginaries that deem pain and punishment an appropriate "repayment" for crimes committed and that construe indebtedness as moral culpability and guilt.

 

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I also asked whether Christian theories of salvation that make repayment of the "debt" of sin a central piece might not be reinforcing this broader social imaginary that sacralizes and centers on debt. Can we rethink salvation outside of the terms of redemption, recompense or repayment?

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Watch the full video of this particular panel: