De La Torre, Miguel A. 1958–
De La Torre, Miguel A. 1958–
Born October 6, 1958. Education: Florida International University, B.A., 1983; American University, M.P.A., 1985; Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, M.Div., 1995; Temple University, M.A., 1996, Ph.D., 1999. Religion: Southern Baptist.
Office—Iliff School of Theology, 2201 University Blvd., Denver, CO 80210. E-mail—[email protected]
Hope College, Holland, MI, faculty member, 2000-05; Iliff School of Theology, Denver, CO, director, Justice and Peace Institute and associate professor of social ethics, 2005—. Served as pastor of Goshen Baptist Church, Glenn Dean, KY.
Society of Christian Ethics (board member), American Academy of Religion (cochair of the ethics section), Asociación para la Educación Teológica Hispana, Society of Biblical Literature.
Frederick Douglass summer teaching fellowship, 1999; Hispanic Churches in American Public Life writing grant, 2000; Hispanic Theological Initiative postdoctoral summer writing grant, 2000; Jobe and Julie Morrison family, faculty development fund in combination with the Norman and Ruth Peale fund, summer writing grant, 2001; faculty fund for faith award, 2002; Outstanding Hispanic Educator award, Michigan Hispanic Legislative Caucus, 2002; McGregor Award, 2003; first-place award, educational books, Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada, 2003, for Reading the Bible from the Margins; Hope College summer writing grant, 2004; Book of the Year finalist award, ForeWord, and Choice Outstanding Academic Title award, both 2005, for Santeria: The Beliefs and Rituals of a Growing Religion in America.
(With Edwin David Aponte) Introducing Latino/a Theologies, Orbis Books (Maryknoll, NY), 2001.
Reading the Bible from the Margins, Orbis Books (Maryknoll, NY), 2002.
The Quest for the Cuban Christ: A Historical Search, University Press of Florida (Gainesville, FL), 2002.
La Lucha for Cuba: Religion and Politics on the Streets of Miami, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 2003.
Doing Christian Ethics from the Margins, Orbis Books (Maryknoll, NY), 2004.
Santeria: The Beliefs and Rituals of a Growing Religion in America, William B. Eerdmans Publishing (Grand Rapids, MI), 2004.
(Editor) Handbook of U.S. Theologies of Liberation, Chalice Press (St. Louis, MO), 2004.
(Editor, with Edwin David Aponte) Handbook of Latina/o Theologies, Chalice Press (St. Louis, MO), 2006.
(Editor, with Gaston Espinosa) Rethinking Latino(a) Religion and Identity, Pilgrim Press (Cleveland, OH), 2006.
Liberating Jonah: Forming an Ethics of Reconciliation, Orbis Books (Maryknoll, NY), 2007.
A Lily among the Thorns: Imagining a New Christian Sexuality, Jossey-Bass (San Francisco, CA), 2007.
(Editor) AAR Career Guide for Racial and Ethnic Minorities in the Profession, American Academy of Religion (Atlanta, GA), 2007.
(Editor) The Hope of Liberation in World Religions, Baylor University Press (Waco, TX), 2008.
Series editor of Latino/a Religious Thought for the New Millennium, Baylor University Press. Author of numerous articles, book chapters, and op-ed pieces for newspapers and journals.
Miguel A. De La Torre, who is director of the Iliff School of Theology's Justice and Peace Institute and associate professor of social ethics, researches social and political ethics in contemporary American thought. In particular, he focuses on how religion affects injustices relating to race, class, and gender. According to his faculty profile posted on the Iliff School of Theology Web site, his work applies "a postmodern/postcolonial social theoretical approach to U.S. marginalized spaces to construct a theological and biblical ethics that challenges structures of oppression. This liberationist approach to ethical thought from the periphery provides a unique perspective to the normative discourse."
Though much of De La Torre's writing is informed by his Christian faith and his experience as an ordained Southern Baptist minister, he grew up in a family whose religious life was relatively unorthodox. His immigrant family adhered to Catholic traditions in public—De La Torre attended Catholic school, went to communion, and was confirmed in the Catholic church—but in private practiced the Cuban religion of Santeria, which is often erroneously perceived as an occult and threatening practice based on sorcery. As De La Torre explained in an interview with a writer for Eerdmans.com, this view is prejudicial and distorted. Santeria, which was brought to Cuba by African slaves and remained a vital tradition there, is based on respect for nature, a deep awareness of the spiritual realm, and community. Those who practice Santeria believe in orishas, beings that act as intermediaries between humanity and the deity—much like Catholic saints. Indeed, there are some parallels between Catholicism and Santeria, which developed as Africans in Cuba who were forced to accept Christianity found ways to associate some elements of their original religion, such as orishas, with elements of Catholicism.
In Santeria: The Beliefs and Rituals of a Growing Religion in America, De La Torre examines the history and theology of this misunderstood religion and explains how it differs from Catholicism. Santeria, he makes clear, is not a Christian religion because Jesus is not its central figure. The enduring power of Santeria, he explained on the Eerdmans Publishers Web site interview, is that it offers adherents an alternative to assimilation. "Those of us raised in this spiritual environment," he noted, "survived the alienation of living in a new country because of the shared sacred space created by the tension existing between Christianity and Santeria. For my family and myself, Santeria became a source of comfort, community, and empowerment."
Reviewing Santeria in Booklist, Patricia Monaghan praised De La Torre's careful discussion of some of the religion's more controversial practices, such as animal sacrifice, and commended the book as an admirably comprehensive work. "De La Torre argues that the belief system and the ritual activities of Santeria are the community's and the individuals' attempt to live in harmony with what they perceive as the cosmic powers that are able to assist them in dealing with the exigencies of life and with living out their destiny in the world," observed Ennis B. Edmonds in Church History. Noting that the book does not break new ground regarding theoretical interpretations of the religion, Edmonds nevertheless deemed it an admirable introduction to Santeria.
Writing in Theological Studies, Joseph M. Murphy expressed some disappointment that De La Torre approaches Santeria as a "generalized religious system" rather than describing the intimate details of how his family lived it. "The richness of the tradition," wrote Murphy, "is obscured behind [De La Torre's] analytic generalization." Nevertheless, the critic concluded that Santeria provides "useful, accurate, and provocative information for Christian ministers and laypeople who seek to understand and perhaps dialogue with this important non-Christian tradition in Hispanic communities."
In A Lily among the Thorns: Imagining a New Christian Sexuality, De La Torre examines the influence of feminist and liberation theologies on mainstream Christianity. The book ends with a pointed argument against predatory sexual behavior, including pornography, rape, and sexual abuse. In a discussion with Between the Lines Web site writer Dawn Wolfe Gutterman, De La Torre said: "I find [antigay Christian theology] something that is imposed on the text [of the Bible] by the culture, which I find offensive as a biblical scholar." Though he came from a conservative tradition and his own sexual orientation is straight, De La Torre became sensitive to gay-rights issues in the mid- to late 1980s when a close friend confided to him that he was gay. He prayed with the friend and even attempted to cast demons out of him, but nothing changed. As De La Torre told Gutterman, "That led me to the conclusion that if he's gay, it's because God made him gay." So strong is De La Torre's support for gay rights, in fact, that he felt compelled to resign from his position as a professor of theology at Hope College after writing an editorial criticizing antigay remarks made by Dr. James Dobson.
De La Torre explores the spiritual life of Miami's Cuban exile community in La Lucha for Cuba: Religion and Politics on the Streets of Miami. The religious expression la lucha means "the struggle," and refers to exiles' sense that they suffered under Fidel Castro and then as marginalized immigrants in the United States. Cuban Americans, De La Torre writes, use la lucha to justify the relatively high status they have worked to achieve in their adoptive country, and which differentiates them from both other Hispanic communities in the United States and from Cubans still resident in that country. As De La Torre shows, la lucha has developed into a type of spirituality distinct to Miami and rooted in the idea of exile. Thus it conflates right-wing politics with spiritual experience.
De La Torre is series editor of Latino/a Religious Thought for the New Millennium and editor of Encyclopedia on Hispanic American Religious Culture. He is a board member of the Society for Christian Ethics, and is cochair for the Ethics Section of the American Academy of Religion.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Americas: A Quarterly Review of Inter-American Cultural History, October, 2006, Robert S. Pelton, review of La Lucha for Cuba: Religion and Politics on the Streets of Miami, p. 317.
Booklist, September 1, 2004, Patricia Monaghan, review of Santeria: The Beliefs and Rituals of a Growing Religion in America, p. 22.
Bookwatch, February, 2005, review of Santeria.Catholic Biblical Quarterly, April, 2005, Fernando Segovia, review of Reading the Bible from the Margins, p. 338.
Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, May, 2002, review of Introducing Latino/a Theologies, p. 1602; May, 2002, D. Jacobsen, review of Introducing Latino/a Theologies, p. 1602; April, 2003, J.M. Betz, review of The Quest for the Cuban Christ: A Historical Search, p. 1380; May, 2003, D.J. Livingston, review of Reading the Bible from the Margins, p. 1566; June, 2004, M.A. Olshan, review of La Lucha for Cuba, p. 1966; May, 2005, D. Jacobsen, review of Santeria, p. 1605.
Church History, June, 2006, Ennis B. Edmonds, review of Santeria, p. 462.
International Bulletin of Missionary Research, October, 2003, Carmelo E. Alvarez, review of Introducing Latino/a Theologies, p. 183.
Internet Bookwatch, February, 2005, review of Santeria.Journal of American Ethnic History, fall, 2004, Gerald E. Poyo, review of La Lucha for Cuba.Journal of Popular Culture, August, 2005, Rosa E. Carrasquillo, review of Santeria, p. 960.
Journal of the American Academy of Religion, September, 2004, Jualynne E. Dodson, review of The Quest for the Cuban Christ, p. 771.
Library Journal, November 15, 2004, Steve Young, review of Santeria, p. 64; May 1, 2007, Graham Christian, review of A Lily among the Thorns: Imagining a New Christian Sexuality, p. 62.
Publishers Weekly, August 16, 2004, "Religion Notes," p. 61.
Theological Studies, March, 2006, Joseph M. Murphy, review of Santeria, p. 211.
Between the Lines,http://www.pridesource.com/ (April 14, 2008), Dawn Wolfe Gutterman, "Miguel De La Torre: The New Face of Gay-Allied Activism."
Eerdmans Web site,http://www.eerdmans.com/ (April 14, 2008), author interview.
Iliff School of Theology Web site,http://www.iliff.edu/ (April 14, 2008), faculty profile.