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Saint Mary’s offers new religion course titled Queer Theology

During the 2021-22 academic year, professors Jessica Coblentz and Daniel Horan O.F.M proposed a new course to the Saint Mary’s College curriculum committee, entitled Queer Theology. The course Queer Theology, co-taught by Professors Coblentz and Horan, started its first half, Queer Theology I, this semester at Saint Mary’s, and will continue next semester with Queer Theology II. Coblentz and Horan spoke on the circumstances of its creation, emphasizing its intentionality to address a call for discussion within the Saint Mary’s community. 

“The unique thing about how this course came to be is that we were very intentional about being in conversation with students because the class was inspired by students’ desires to learn more about this,” Coblenz explained. “We were really intentional about asking them, ‘What do you want to study?’ ‘What are the questions that you have that aren’t being answered in other classes that you’re taking or in some of the extracurricular opportunities here at the College?”

To the same accord, Horan recalled his moment of recognition of a need for a course such as this.

“We had a campus event, and in the Q&A session, it became clear that students were very interested in perspectives of Christian theology that aligned with and arose from the experiences of those who identify as LGBTQ+,” Horan said. 

Horan further spoke on the attitude of the student body.

“There was a hunger, there was an interest, there was a desire to learn more about the work that’s being done around this topic,” Horan said. 

Coblentz, having taught a “Queer theology” course previous to her time at Saint Mary’s, expressed interest and determination toward the formation of the curriculum.

“We did our best, as experts in Christian theology, to sort of find opportunities to introduce students to ideas in academic theology that connect with their own organic interest,” Coblentz said.

She described some of what the course aims to cover as a whole.

“We’re exploring in the class how insights from Queer theory, sort of challenge and expand certain ideas in traditional Christian theology and also we’re looking at how ideas in Christian theology can challenge, expand and help reimagine different issues in Queer theory,” Coblenz explained.

As well as the content of the course, Horan shared another main element considered in the brainstorming phase, the importance of accessibility to the course. “A course like this had not been offered at Saint Mary’s or in the tri-campus community, at least to our knowledge, so we really had a chance to think from scratch, what would a course like this look like?” Horan continued. 

 “How could we make it a course that was accessible and available to the greatest sort of number of students who are interested in taking it, recognizing that students have very full plates,” he said. 

The structure of the course is unique in the aspect that each semester is worth one and a half credits. Aimed to accommodate those who have an interest in taking this class but may have a full schedule or minimal room, the course is offered on Wednesday evenings. It is a year-long course available to students to take one semester or the other or both in combination to get the equivalent of a regular course in credits.

“We wanted to do something a bit innovative even in the offering of the course, and that’s where the one and a half credit per semester kind of, part one part two structure came in,” Horan said. 

Horan discussed the importance this course plays within the Saint Mary’s and tri-campus communities.

“I think it is important because there is, first of all, an important area of this field of study that doesn’t or hasn’t traditionally, in the tri-campus area, received much attention in a formal academic sense. I think the second reason is that it’s important because these are pressing questions of our time, right?” Horan said. 

Horan continued and addressed the specific relevance the course plays within the setting of a Catholic college.

“So, at a Catholic college, our mission, our vision for education is rooted in that quest for deeper knowledge about the human person, about the world, about God, about what we see and what’s more than what we see. And so, in that regard, something like Queer theology fits in very comfortably and ideally.” Horan said. “The intersection of dialogue is a big part of what this course is about.”

Coblentz also dived into the conversations within the class that have been sparked since its start this semester.

“But I think what we’re exploring and Queer theology are some ways of bringing Christianity to bear on our lives that are often overlooked, that often aren’t introduced to students, and I think that weather students end up agreeing or disagreeing with the authors we read in class I think it’s often really productive and fruitful and exciting to reconsider whether faith has something to offer in this regard. Something to offer that maybe we haven’t thought about before,” Coblentz said. 

Her overall passion for this course and its contents stems from the meaning she hopes others will find in it.

“This dialogue where we’re challenging ourselves to grow in understanding to expand our horizons to rethink things that some of us have taken for granted, that’s what all theology classes on our campus aim to do,” Coblentz said. 

Contact Cora Haddad at chaddad01@saintmarys.edu.

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