Anthony Chvala-Smith, PhD
Associate Professor of Religion, Paul E. Morden Seminary Chair of Religion
Independence office phone number 816-833-1000 x2344
At Graceland since 2000
“Let justice roll down like waters and integrity like an ever-flowing stream!” (Amos 5:24). Can writings as diverse as the Book of Amos (8th century BCE), the socially-charged Letter of James (late 1st century), the visions of Julian of Norwich (15th), or the sermons of Salvadoran martyr Oscar Romero (20th century) advance the quest for social, gender, and ecological justice? Can classic Western religious texts creatively fund the postmodern moral imagination? Can theologians’ attempts —ancient, medieval, and modern— to voice the Good over against the rhetoric of empire influence today’s political struggles?
I believe that when read critically, creatively, and responsively, many classic religious writings give glimpses of what biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann calls a “counter-world.” A counter-world is a way understanding reality based on equity, peace, mercy, and love: alternatives to violence, domination, exploitation, and greed. Few things could be more important for 21st century students to learn about than how to imagine living in pursuit of justice and integrity.
Because of my training as a biblical scholar and a historical theologian, two passions move me. My first passion is to help students learn to think about the art of interpretation. My second is guiding students into informed, open-ended encounters with texts from prophets, theologians, and mystics. I love seeing Graceland students discover that paying attention to context, rhetorical goals, and our own location can bridge the horizon between us and the strange worlds of timeworn texts.
Traveling internationally and teaching with my wife, colleague, and partner in all things Charmaine, nurtures and motivates me. We enjoy cooking cuisines from different cultures including Czech, Thai, and Middle Eastern, and reading books aloud to each other. I also like gardening, cats, the Great Lakes, and the Detroit Tigers (when they do well).