A Catholic of Caribbean Descent Reflects on the Election of Pope Francis
Dwayne David Paul
As a progressive, Jesuit-educated and -employed Catholic with roots in the global south, I find myself conflicted over the election of Pope Francis. I am hesitant to rejoice over some of the novelties ushered in by his election. He is the first Latin American elected to the office, as well as the first Jesuit. I cannot help but suspect that the European hierarchy of the Church is using Francis as a creole bridge to the global south; as if having an ethnic and national southerner would be too much too soon. After all, Argentina is by far the most self-professedly European nation in the region, and he is a first-generation South American born to Italian immigrants. Moreover, his rise to power was extraordinary in that fully formed Jesuits take a vow not to pursue higher office within the order or the Church. Yet he rose to prominence during a military dictatorship. Under similar circumstances, many of his Latin American Jesuit counterparts were either run out of town or assassinated. Whether or not one was persecuted during times of rampant violence and injustice is an admittedly imperfect, but nevertheless helpful, indicator of the profundity of one’s allegiances to the poor and oppressed in Cold War Latin America.
Dwayne David Paul is a Brooklyn native and the son of immigrants from Trinidad and Tobago. He earned his Master of Arts in Religion at Yale Divinity School. At Saint Peter’s University, where he serves as Assistant Director of Campus Ministry for Community Service, his work focuses largely, but not exclusively, on organizing sociopolitical/cultural activities and volunteer opportunities for the student body that engage the Church’s work for justice. This includes leading the Global Outreach domestic and international service and solidarity trips.
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Jason Craige Harris is a third-year master's candidate in Black Religion in the African Diaspora and a Marquand merit scholar at Yale Divinity School, where he was recently awarded the Mary Cady Tew Prize for exceptional ability in history and ethics. He earned a bachelor’s in religion and African-American studies from Wesleyan University and received the Giffin Prize for excellence in the Study of Religion, Spurrier Award for ethics, and an official citation for academic excellence issued by the 2009 Connecticut General Assembly. As a fellow at Wesleyan’s Center for the Humanities and a recipient of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship, Harris wrote a senior honors thesis analyzing theological anthropologies along political and racial fault lines in U.S. Evangelical history. His research and writing are principally concerned with black life, Christianity, (post)colonialism, violence, feminisms, critical social theory, and ultimately planetary flourishing. Concerns arising from the academic study of Africana religion, philosophy, and ethics particularly inform his inquiries. Through an interdisciplinary framework, he probes the systems of values that undergird dominant epistemological, rhetorical, cultural, and religious forms to determine to what extent, if at all, they conduce to robust conceptions of justice. With an eye toward contemporary social problems, he considers the religious strategies and visions that historically marginalized peoples have created to respond to conditions of living and being delimited by restrictive understandings of race, gender, religion, and nation. He is a general editor at the Journal of Postcolonial Networks, where, among other things, he helps to facilitate conversations on race and postcolonial/liberation theologies. As a Christian minister and budding public intellectual, Harris seeks and invites others into more holistic and attuned, less violent and constrained, ways of narrating the self and the divine.
Areas of Interest and Research:
African American Religious Studies
African American Moral, Social, and Political Thought
African American Intellectual History
Liberation and Postcolonial (Christian) Thought
Philosophies of Liberation
Contemporary Religious Thought
Race, Gender, and American Christianities
Evangelicalisms and Pentecostalisms
Histories of Race Discourse in the Americas
(Christian) Social Ethics
Critical Social Theory/Social Philosophy
Theories of Race, Gender, and Power
Method and Theory in the Study of Religion
He is deeply committed to a praxis in which dualities of mind/heart, mind/body, and emotions/thought are consistently challenged and replaced with integrated models of selfhood that cherish self-multiplicity - the point at which the postcolonial becomes self-consciously embodied. He also enjoy taking walks in the coolness of the day, singing, laughing, and writing poetically and theoretically on his lived experience, whatever helps to bring more beauty and justice into the world.