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Changing Perceptions: Earth, Self, God

April 21–22,2017
Birmingham, Alabama

Jesus’ vision of a divine domain subverted and transformed everyday life in the first century, but the church imprisoned the iconoclast in an iconic creed. Centuries later, creedal Christianity died in the arms of Copernicus, Newton, Darwin, and Einstein. A new scientific story about life now demands a new religion.

  • What are the elements of science-conscious religion?
  • How have ideas about the Earth changed over time?
  • How do people’s relationships with Earth, God, and society change as their self-perceptions change?
Clayton Crockett

Clayton Crockett (Ph.D., Syracuse University) is Professor and Director of Religious Studies at the University of Central Arkansas. He is the author of a number of books, including Radical Political Theology: Religion and Politics after Liberalism (2011) and Religion, Politics, and the Earth: The New Materialism (with Jeffrey W. Robbins, 2012).

Photo of Susan M Elli Elliott

Susan (Elli) Elliott (Ph.D., Loyola University Chicago) is a writer, workshop leader, and environmental activist based in Red Lodge, Montana. She is the author of Cutting Too Close for Comfort: Paul’s Letter to the Galatians in its Anatolian Cultic Context (2003/2008) and Family Empires: The Roman Family Empire and Early Christian Responses (forthcoming, Polebridge).

Program Details

Changing Perceptions of Earth

Features of the natural world—like the sun—were once seen as deities or emanations of a deity. With the birth of a mathematical universe in the 17th century, this supernatural world collapsed. Nevertheless, religion, philosophy, and a natural relationship to the earth continue to have meaning. How do these shifting spiritual and secular outlooks affect human relationships to the earth today, particularly in light of environmental crises, resource depletion, and climate change? (Elliott and Crockett)
Friday evening, 7:30–9 pm

Ancient and Modern Self

Christianity was born at a pivot-point in history when social relationships were being profoundly reordered to make the Roman Empire one household under one Father, the divine emperor. In this context, as Christians and others struggled to redefine their concept of self, some of their strategies preserved an imperial structure of relationships. What does this mean for Christian ideas of the self in our time? (Elliott)
Saturday, 9:30–10:30 am

A Postmodern Self

The postmodern understanding of the self is a response to new facts about the human brain, new connections to other animals, and profound relations to machines. Postmodernism reveals, on the one hand, our interconnectedness to machines and other species, and on the other, the uncertain and potentially negative impact of human activity on the planet. What kind of self does this imply, and what sorts of responsibilities result? (Crockett)
Saturday, 11 am – noon

The God Question

What is God’s value for humanity and its future? Crockett suggests conceiving of God not as a being but as being itself, that is, as energy that possesses spiritual as well as material implications. Elliott suggests setting the basic Christian narrative aside in favor of place-based thinking to open new possibilities for human connectivity to the web of life and even the divine.
Saturday, 1:30–2:30 pm

Open Forum

Elliott and Crockett will facilitate group questions and discussion.
Saturday, 3–4 pm


Southern Progressive Alliance for Exploring Religion (SPAFER)
Edgewood Presbyterian Church

Local Contact and Information

All events at:

Edgewood Presbyterian Church
850 Oxmoor Road
Homewood, AL 35209

For local information, contact:

Jim High
[email protected]


All Sessions

  • Individual Rate $75
  • Pre-registration Rate (by April 14th) $60
  • Additional Family Members $50

Single Sessions

  • Friday Evening Lecture $20
  • Saturday Morning Workshop $30
  • Saturday Afternoon Workshop $30

Refunds are available until two weeks before the event if requested in writing, minus a $10 administrative fee. No refunds will be given after that date.