Last year we explored the theme of “Civil Rights, Religion and Responsibility: What is the Role Religion Plays in Civil Rights Discourses in 2022 and Beyond” as was our conference theme. And here we are in “the beyond”—in 2023, preparing for our 2024 conference. What role does religion play in political action, the discourses and activities of social change, and the “beyond” which is our now and the future of our children and planet?
The present does not know the future. We will only know the future when it becomes the present and where we are now becomes the past. We can always look back and say, “Ahh, I wish I had known.” And also, “That was such a great choice.” And like Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life, realize that making the best choices each day results in the best life for us and those around us. We, as religious thinkers, ideally create and sometimes struggle to make a wonderful life for ourselves and those around us.
Today we are struggling, as I write this, with a deep erasure of civil rights. Where are we headed in the United States with the rights of women, the LGBTQ+ population, voting rights, and the rights of the very planet we spin on, so constantly threatened and curtailed? We come together to look at these issues. To create a wonderful life. As President, I welcome you to Las Vegas spring of 2024 and encourage you to not have everything that happens there stay there 😊- but to have conversations and community building that you take back to your respective bright spots on the planet and continue to bear fruit.
The issues that keep us committed to studying religion in the American Academy of Religion’s Western Region (AARWR), the largest and most diverse regional body of the larger AAR, are concerned with religions’ religious and theological phenomena, but also with the very real praxis of religiosity, “faith by works.” We come together to put into practice what we believe—diversity, inclusion and social change. For example, we are the only region with a Queer Caucus, which I founded as the Lesbian and Gay Advocate in 2000. We are truly “west coast best coast.”
At this critical time, we invite a wide-range of participants to contribute, including practitioners, clergy, laypeople, scholars—independent and within institutions, graduate students, and also artists and activists to be in community together. The AARWR produces a peer-reviewed academic conference that encourages submissions of paper proposals and other organized panels in response to our various units’ emphases and interests, and in light of the 2024 conference theme.
Whatever role you may play in the formation and creation of our gathering—the most diverse in the United States in terms of regional meetings of the AAR- please plan to join us in March in Las Vegas, where we will be graciously hosted by the University of Nevada at Las Vegas.
Viva Las Vegas!
Very best and yours in the struggle, Marie Cartier, Ph.D. AARWR President (2023-24)