Thursday, January 10, 2008

Sacred Tribes Journal Revised and Expanded

A few years ago I was privileged to start an electronic journal, Sacred Tribes Journal, devoted to the academic study of new religions with my co-editors Jon Trott and Philip Johnson. Unfortunately, we were only able to produce a few issues, but they were well received. Over the course of the last several months Sacred Tribes has undergone a major facelift in collaboration with some of the faculty at Trinity International University, and as a result the website has been revised and expanded. The publication now has a logo, and we are also in process of obtaining an ISSN number so that the journal will be retrievable through electronic databases such as ATLA and EBSCO. In addition, Sacred Tribes Journal announces two new senior editors, Dr. Michael T. Cooper and Dr. Sylvie Raquel of Trinity International University. Jon Trott, Philip Johnson and I will continue our roles as senior editors. However, in an effort to focus the journal toward an academic audience as well as to enhance its credibility in the academic study of new religious movements, the journal has deliberately sought reputable scholars in the field of religious studies as editorial advisors. As such, joining Cooper, Morehead, Trott, Johnson and Raquel are Dr. Gerald McDermott (Roanoke College), Dr. Irving Hexham (University of Calgary), Dr. Stephen P. Kennedy (Trinity Graduate School), Dr. Amos Yong (Regent University) and Dr. Terry C. Muck (Asbury Theological Seminary).

Please stop by the website to look at the new format.


Peg said...

I was trying to peruse some articles from the earlier isues but the font is so tiny and hard to read it was very hard to see what the offerings were...

I did look at some of them, however. This may be a premature generalization based on only reading several of the essays, but this does not strike me as a wholly academic journal. Some of the essays used standard academic forms of citation and language and objective arguments. But they seemed to be in the minority. Many of the essays I read use biblical passages as citations and justifications for their methodology and modes of inquiry. That's not academics, it's least, to me it is, and even though I am a practicing pagan I am also an academic who has studied comparative religions.

The concluding paragraph of one such essay "Neo-Paganism: Is Dialogue Possible?" begins like this:

"Neo-Paganism is, by all accounts, a satisfying religion. Christianity, however, is more than a satisfying experience. Christ is the revelation
of divine mysteries, the way to salvation. Christ shows us that the Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, is for us and not against us. Neo-Pagans need Christ, and they need the church."

This is followed by a paragraph which suggests Christians may also have some things to learn from pagans. But it does so in terms of stating that pagans should convert to Christianity:

"The church also needs Pagans to show where it has got it wrong. God may even use Paganism to call the church to new life. Our challenge is to live and speak so that 'the unknown god', whom some Neo-Pagans are genuinely seeking, is shown to be Jesus. 'Then they will find that the...mysterious circles of our lives, and of all Creation, are given a center and a meaning by the self-giving love of God which the cross proclaims' (Wilkinson, part 3)."

It does look like a worthwhile journal for readers interested in the Christian viewpoint on Neo-Paganism (for that is what most of the articles seem to be about)....but I just find the description of it as an "academic" journal to be a bit ill-fitting.

John W. Morehead said...

Peg, thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts about the journal. I appreciate the feedback from a Pagan academic.

I respectfully disagree about Sacred Tribes being appropriately described as an academic journal. While many academic journals do not include arguments for a given religious commitment, or include elements that attempt to persuade others toward adopting a new religious commitment, this is not always the case. For example, in Christian missiology and theology you find academic articles that also address the issue of persuasion toward a religious commitment to Christianity. And of course in these contexts it is natural to find references to aspects of Christianity, including its Scripture, history of theological and missional practices, etc., that are cited as support for the thesis being advanced. This represents a blending of the academic, and persuasion toward a faith commitment. Thus, I would respectfully disagree that this is best described as in some way not in keeping with a description of academic, and while it may include some evangelistic aspect, it is not proselytizing, a term with strongly negative connotations.

In the future the journal will likely involve more of an examination of a variety of new religions from a variety of perspectives, including the missiological component. Perhaps this broadening of perspective and a greater number of issues will be helpful in your feeling more comfortable with this journal as an academic publication.

Finally, perhaps it is not so much the combination of academic treatments of new religions with evangelistic considerations that is so troubling, as the evangelistic consideration is by itself. I am aware of the strong concerns Pagans have about evangelistic religions, particularly Christianity, and this might negatively color your interpretation of the journal as academic.

I appreciate your work in religious studies, particularly Paganism and film, and have tried to highlight that on this blog as well as TheoFantastique. I hope our disagreement here will remain professional, and that we can respectfully disagree over such things while keeping the dialogue between us and our religious communities moving forward.