The Seattle School community gathers annually along with friends and families of the graduating MDiv and MATC students for the Integrative Project Symposium. This year, in the midst of ongoing restrictions to public gatherings, students pre-recorded their presentations and participated in our first virtual Integrative Project Symposium on June 17.
The Integrative Project serves as a capstone for students in our MDiv and MATC degree programs as they both look back on their training and discern what it will look like for them to serve God and neighbor in their post-graduate contexts. Students work with a faculty advisor to form a project that integrates the student’s passions and calling, drawing from the fullness of their experience at The Seattle School and a robust research methodology to create a major project or paper.
The 11 presentations below synthesize each project’s thesis along with the student’s experience in creating it and are organized into three framing categories. Although we’re unable to celebrate all together in the Red Brick Building, we hope you’ll enjoy the ways in which these presenters have taken full advantage of the creative opportunities made possible by working virtually. In the coming months, final drafts of each Integrative Project will be available in The Seattle School’s library after the candidate’s graduation.
Virtual Integrative Project Q&A
Seeking Justice; Challenging Empire
Interrogating U.S. Public Monument: A Study of National Memorialized Identity in a ‘Racially Two-Faced’ Society
Mercedes C. Robinson, MATC
America declared success as a “post-racial” society following the election of the nation’s first Black President just 11 short years ago. Since then, America has witnessed a rise in active racial hate and apathy which is perceived as a violent backlash to our alleged racial progress. The simple truth is this: America’s race problem persists simply because we, as a collective society, are unable to tell the truth about our racially violent past and continually oppressive present. Our rush to declare success as a post-racial society negates the very persistent, systemic, and violent terror inflicted upon African Americans since the founding of this nation. From the reign of slavery, the era of Jim Crow, and now the continued fight for civil rights in the age of mass incarceration and #BlackLivesMatter, America’s foundational DNA is clear: white supremacy is the vehement backbone of this supposed Christian nation and thus remains the ruling order of our sociopolitical infrastructure.
The American sociopolitical landscape of the last century suggest that we are indeed a “racially two-faced” society – craving one utopian racial fantasy all the while refuting the established hyper-racialized reality that we are in. Ultimately, our allegiance to a white supremist ruling order has led to the moral descent of our collective integrity, existence, and legacy as a democratically industrialized nation pioneered upon the ideals of equality, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Through an analysis of U.S. history through the lens of racial protest, cultural trauma studies, womanist ethics, and Black liberation theology, this project will demonstrate one solution toward the necessary collective awakening, acknowledgement, and renewal of this racially two-faced societal stalemate that we find ourselves in: a revisioning of U.S. public monuments, wherein corporate lament provides the opportunity for the advancement of racial healing, restorative justice, and collective hope.
Power Poured Out: Letting Go of Control and Entering into Relationship
Jon Dankworth, MATC
Throughout much of Church history Christian theologies of omnipotence and sovereignty have been discussed and understood primarily in terms of power and control. Simply put, God is all-powerful and in control of all things. This understanding, however, poses significant challenges when considered along with the reality of evil, sin, suffering, and death in the world. Thus, the question of theodicy: how could this be so in light of an all-powerful and all-loving God? This paper seeks to explore the connection between imperial ideology and the aforementioned understanding of God’s omnipotence and sovereignty, primarily in the context of fear and uncertainty. These theologies will then be revisited in consideration with the Exodus narrative, the prophetic tradition, and ultimately the example of Jesus Christ. In the Christ Hymn found in Philippians 2:5-11, Paul articulates a radically different understanding of omnipotence and sovereignty, in which Jesus reveals that true power is actualized when poured out in dynamic, liberative, creative, and restorative action. Furthermore, looking to the example of God’s relationality demonstrated throughout the biblical text, we find that God’s sovereignty is primarily revealed through faithfulness and restoration, rather than dominance and control; for while faithfulness fosters relationship, predicated on trust, freedom, call and response, control negates it by denying the agency and personhood of the other. Finally, this paper will argue that humanity is called to imitate this example by pouring out power for the sake of another and letting go of control in pursuit of relationship.
The White Supremacy Consciousness
Danielle S. Rueb-Castillejo, MACP
There is a sort of malaise settled into the bones of Latinxs, beaten in through dominant manifest destiny ideology until it was integrated into thought, emotion, and spirituality. Mainstream thought and media reinforced and still reinforce the need to become white. This underlying requirement to become white, is exemplified by the ideal of manifest destiny. This message of compliance, silence, and erasure was repeated through the differing interpretations in the news media of the racist terror act in El Paso, Texas, on August 3rd, 2019. In the aftermath of this terror, interpretations of Latinx culture were written by white reporters. The news was quickly dominated by other current events and a massacre of Latinxs was quickly erased.
The Latinx culture expressed in textbooks and creative arts is often a cheap caricature of the rich culture and ethnic identity of Latinx people. These mythologies allow racist ideologies and oppressive systems to thrive and become concretized within the American social imagination. The act of terror in El Paso, Texas, on August 3rd, 2019 is an explicit concretization of this implicit form of racist dehumanization. White American norms impose compliance upon outsiders to enter as “guests,” and to remain silent in order to survive. In dominant media, violence within the Latinx community is exaggerated while violence against Latinxs is normalized. Latinxs are looking for justice and voice, but at the heart of the United States is a complex entanglement of Christian faith, racism, and government, which condones this compliance, silence, and erasure.
Engaging Culture: Identity, Location, Connection
Embracing Our Humanity: Human Flourishing in the Wake of Collective Narcissism in the United States of America
Hannah Seppanen, MATC, MACP ‘19
The founders of the United States of America came to these lands in pursuit of opportunity, freedom, and happiness, many of them fleeing hardship and persecution. In the process of establishing a new nation they sought to protect their rights and liberties and seemed to believe that in doing so they served the common good. But in our short history the vision these white, land-owning men established for our nation has excluded and oppressed many. To cope with their participation in an oppressive system and society, members of the dominant culture utilize the dissociative strategies of collective narcissism to avoid pain and mask their privilege generated through our nation’s dehumanizing practices. This collective narcissism contributes to the traumatization, fragmentation, and fracturing of our society where the oppressed, the oppressors, and the bystanders are unable to flourish in their full humanity with dignity and worth. This project will expose and critique the collective narcissism evidenced in the dominant American culture through the lens of psychologies of liberation and Christian ethics generated from the margins of society, in order to imagine a more inclusive, just, and psychologically integrated America.
Home is Where the Heart Is: An Examination of Home Through Theological, Philosophical, and Psychological Lenses
Joshua O’Dowd, MATC
An inherent aspect of being human is the desire for a place to call one’s home. For as long as humanity has existed, there have been stories and myths of quests for home. From a Biblical perspective, the first man and woman were cast out of the Garden of Eden, their original home, and all of humanity has ever sought to restore the essence of being at “home”. This project seeks to explore what it means to be at home, through philosophical, theological, and psychological lenses, and examines how an understanding of place has been shaped throughout history. Following a thorough analysis of place, an alternative understanding of home is put forth by queering place and flipping traditional understandings, providing an opportunity for a reclamation of home by those typically marginalized. Finally, the question of how one finds home is answered, with the proposal that home is created through commitment, community, and choice. Framing the examination of space and subsequent proposals is a personal dimension that provides a vulnerable example of what it means to “come home.” The ultimate goal will be a new understanding of what makes a space into a place, and how a place becomes a home, with the enduring hope and desire for a restoration and sustainability of the world, cities, and each one’s home.
Welcoming the ‘Other’: A Celtic Perspective on Disgust Psychology and Xenophobia in the United States
Jonathan Gabriel Huerta, MACP
Xenophobia is the fear, hatred, and disgust of those who are culturally different (Amodio & Frith 2006; Gutierrez & Giner-Sorolla, 2007; Miller, 2006; Rozin et al., 1999; Tummala-Narra, 2019). Those who are different are defined as “Other” (Gaztambide, 2018). This research looks critically at the consequences of xenophobia through the lens of disgust and neurology alongside certain spiritualities/religions (S/R) in the United States that promote disconnection. A particular focus will look at the ethics around the mental health field, clinician’s world views that affect patients, and history of psychology in the United States. Critical engagement with the United States’ historical memory and current events find that there are certain values adhered in the dominant culture. Such values inform socio-moral disgust and occur deeply within social contexts that negatively impact interpersonal and intrapersonal connection. Celtic spirituality offers a contrasting spiritual perspective on connection and recognizing the divinity and goodness in all people and nature, and brings to light ways to promote reconciliation and reverence to difference in a xenophobic culture. Studies found connection to others offers healing to the self, increased imagination, and a sense of genuine belonging. Love is a form of recognizing the humanness of the other and the self, which requires engaging one’s own implicit disgust to increase tolerance of inner wounds and social reconciliation.
Going Counter-Cultural Through the Power of Relationships
Christie Kushmerick, MATC
Western culture contains many socio-political constructs built for the sole purpose of maintaining oppressive social systems that are intended to funnel power to the privileged, extract free or cheap labor from the masses, and erect barriers to protect the pure from contamination by the profane. Organized religions, as such a construct, tend to exacerbate areas of perceived inferiority and to enlarge prejudiced blind spots by rewarding normative behaviors and demonizing the marginalized. My research has focused on usurping these socio-political constructs by refocusing our cultural perception on the relationality of the Trinity. In the words of Professor Ron Ruthruff, our shared cultural history “has impacted identity formation and our intrapsychic knowing of ourselves, our ability to relate to each other and make meaning.” Therefore, it is my conclusion that we truly must die to our initially formed sense of identity in order to live life to the fullest with complete surrender, dependence upon the grace of God, and mutual reciprocity.
Interpretation, Meaning, and Healing
Complementarianism and Abuse: How Biblical Interpretations Can Lead to Violence Against Women
Megan Doner, MDiv
This project explores the correlation between abuse and complementarian marriages by looking first at the Biblical narrative in Genesis 3, then by examining the relationship structures of Complementarian marriages, and finally by unpacking the dehumanization process of women which allows for violence. The understood mandate for masculine authority places women in vulnerable situations as they are subjected to a lower status and unable to have full autonomy over their own bodies and lives. This act by conservative evangelical churches and the theology they prescribe- unconsciously or not- creates an atmosphere where violence becomes more likely. The goal of this project is to identify potential places where harm is happening, for churches to be able to identify their potential roles in perpetuating unsafe environments, and to ultimately find ways for the Christian community to build safer environments for everyone.
Burden or Blessing, Pressure or Promise: Toward an Ontology of Name
Emmanuel Kuphal, MATC
Names are not inconsequential. The names we carry impact us and our being in the world. Why is this? How much impact does the name we carry have on our lives and the lives of those around us? By way of navigating my own narrative around the name I was given at birth, I will look at “what’s in a name” through a progression of lenses: quantum physics, developmental psychology, the name of God, and Derridean Deconstructionism all in pursuit of building an Ontology of Name.
Boy, Sheep, Demon: Reimagining Theological Hope Through a Trauma Study of Shame
Lucas McGee, MATC
For a survivor of trauma, the hope of the Gospel message of Jesus can get complicated. Ruptured security from developmental stages can posture one’s psyche within psychological shame. If harm is unaddressed, a felt sense of unworthiness is carried into adulthood and permeates a relation to self, others, and God. When the Gospel message is situated within a shamed identity, this fragmentation of self affects a person’s interpretation of wholeness. By gathering psychological research and theological discourse around the topic of shame, I offer that re-imagining Jesus’s call to become like little children can expand our understanding of theological hope for those marked with shame. When trauma is revisited, the hope of Jesus is reconciled with a full story and a whole person. Congruently, I’ll mirror a personal wandering through the implications of desire within a body that actively carries harm. In addition to an academic conversation, I’ve facilitated an imagination towards hope and protest through my own songwriting and storytelling. My goal is to expand the theological category of hope within a deeper understanding of shame and discover a Gospel invitation towards wholeness that lies dormant beneath the suffering of formative years.
Many Voices: The Imago Dei Reflected in the Biblical Texts
Alex Bodman, MDiv
The Bible is seen by many as being the authoritative word of God, divinely inspired and inerrant. Those beliefs often go hand in hand with the understanding that the Bible is a cohesive book written for the modern reader. The problem with such readings is that they often miss the fact that the texts are historically and culturally located. Not only that, but the original intent of the texts is often skipped over because it does not apply to us today. This essay highlights the variety of voices within the Biblical texts and argues that their differences should be embraced. The differences between the Biblical texts are often swept aside because they undermine claims of inerrancy and divine inspiration, however, this paper argues that it is through the humanity of the texts that we encounter the divine. That is based upon the understanding that the imago dei shows up in relationship.