Sessions with a Focus on California PDF-NOTE: Internet Explorer Users, right click the PDF Icon and choose [save target as] if you are experiencing problems with clicking. Print

Swedenborgian Church Tour

Friday, 12:00 PM–2:00 PM
Offsite–Meet at the Moscone Center West Howard Street Exit*

This on-site tour goes behind the scenes at the Swedenborgian Church, the first and only house of worship in San Francisco presently designated a National Historic Landmark. Built in 1895, the building's distinctive use of natural materials was a crucial forerunner for what became the West Coast "Arts and Crafts" movement. The circle of artists, philosophers, and theologians behind the building's design included the noted architect Bernard Maybeck and the landscape painter William Keith. The tour will discuss these various fine arts contexts, as well as the importance of Swedenborgian theology for the building's nature aesthetics and their vital relation to early San Francisco environmentalism. An on-site reception (coffee, tea, finger sandwiches) will follow the tour in the church's historic Parish House. Sponsored and coordinated by the Swedenborgian House of Studies (Pacific School of Religion) and the Art and Religion Area Group at the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley.

San Francisco City Tour

Friday, 1:00 PM–5:00 PM
Offsite–Meet at the Moscone Center West Howard Street Exit*

The perfect introduction to the city of San Francisco...a fun-filled bus journey through the vibrant neighborhoods, such as North Beach, Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, Union Square, the Embarcadero, and historic areas of the City by the Bay. Some of the famous sights you will see on the tour may include Coit Tower, Grace Cathedral on Nob Hill, the Chinatown Gate, Transamerica Tower, Alamo Square — home to the famed Painted Ladies — the Ferry Building, and the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, where the tour will stop for a photo op. You will travel to Twin Peaks for panoramic views of the City and a chance to take group photos (weather dependent). Finally, if time permits, you will have a chance to explore Ghirardelli Square or Pier 39/Fisherman’s Wharf on your own.

Muir Woods

Saturday, 8:00 AM–11:00 AM
Offsite–Meet at the Moscone Center West Howard Street Exit*

After a short ride from San Francisco over the Golden Gate Bridge, you will be awed by one of the most magnificent Redwood forests in the world — Muir Woods. Early winter is one of the best times to visit Muir Woods — the weather is cool and rainy; and Redwood Creek is full and melodious. You will travel by bus and have an opportunity to walk through the forest and explore this magnificent National Monument. Bring rain gear!

Historic Castro District

Saturday, 9:00 AM–11:30 AM
Offsite–Meet at the Moscone Center West Howard Street Exit*

Explore a diverse neighborhood that you only thought you knew. You will walk through the area taking in the sights and sounds of the lively and ever-changing Castro/Eureka Valley neighborhood. What were once dairy farms and dirt roads is now one of the city’s most vibrant and cohesive communities, saturated with popular and stylish shops, restaurants, and bars. Some of the highlights of the Castro/Eureka Valley tour will include Harvey Milk Plaza, Pink Triangle Memorial Park, and the famous Castro Theatre. Those who wish may also tour the GLBT History Museum for an additional $5 admission fee. You will ride public transportation as a group to the Castro neighborhood.

Ethics, Religion, and Civil Discourse in California Public Education

Saturday, 4:00 PM–6:30 PM
InterContinental–Grand Ballroom B*

Sponsored by the Religion and Politics Section and Religion Education in Public Schools: International Perspectives Group

Andrew Fiala, California State University, Fresno, Presiding

Civil discourse in response to increased religious diversity became a major concern of the National Endowment for the Humanities more than a year before the Ground Zero mosque controversy and shooting of Congresswoman Giffords in Tucscon, Arizona. Nearby at California State University Fresno, a mosque attack and animosity directed towards undocumented college students added to a fearful climate. If part of the mission of public universities and public schools is to create safe places for civil discourse, then California educators need improved classroom tools for encouraging democratic participation and critical thinking about controversial issues. What are the key ethical concerns involved? How has fifty years of religious studies teaching prepared us for the challenges of increased diversity in twenty-first century California? Three California State University professors in philosophy and religious studies invite AAR participants to contribute to a new NEH-sponsored project.

Bruce Grelle, California State University, Chico
Jon R. Stone, California State University, Long Beach
Vincent Biondo, California State University, Fresno

West Coast Pagan Practices and Ideas

Sunday, 1:00 PM–2:30 PM
Marriott Marquis–Yerba Buena 6*

Sponsored by the Contemporary Pagan Studies Group

Graham Harvey, Open University, Presiding

Papers will examine the influence of the "California cosmology" of Alston Chase, Theodore Roszak, Alan Watts, and others — together with feminism and environmentalism — on the growth of contemporary Paganism in the western United States and Canada.

Kerry Noonan, California State University, Northridge
"Wish They All Could Be California Grrrls?": The Influence of California Women on the Goddess Movement and Neo-Paganism
Christopher W. Chase, Iowa State University
Building a California Bildung : Theodore Roszak's and Alan Watts's Contributions to Pagan Hermeneutics
Kristy Coleman, Santa Clara University and San Jose State University
Re-riting Woman: Dianic Wicca

Fritz Muntean, Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies, Responding

Queer Practices in San Francisco

Sunday, 1:00 PM–2:30 PM
Moscone Center West–Room 2005*

Sponsored by the Queer Studies in Religion Group and Religion and Cities Group

L. Benjamin Rolsky, Drew University, Presiding

Sharon Fennema, Graduate Theological Union
Strategies of Theodicy in an Epidemic: Worship, HIV/AIDS, and the Intimacy of God at the Metropolitan Community Church, San Francisco
Anthony Hoshaw, Chicago Theological Seminary
The Apostle Paul's "Queer Politics"?
Jeff Wilson, University of Waterloo
"All Beings are Equally Embraced by Amida Buddha": Jodo Shinshu Buddhism and Same-Sex Marriage in North America

Drew Bourn, Stanford University, Responding

Girls in Trouble and the Contemporary Jewish Museum

Sunday, 1:00 PM–3:30 PM
Offsite–736 Mission Street*

Leave the confines of the conference scene and take a short stroll over to the Contemporary Jewish Museum for an invigorating Sunday afternoon break of music, discussion, and contemporary Jewish culture. A concert by indie-folk-rock band Girls in Trouble blazes the way with their poetic interpretations of the inner worlds of biblical women. Lead singer, songwriter, poet, and fiddler Alicia Jo Rabins gives plangent voice to the stories of Judith, Tamar, Sotah, Chana, Bat Yiftach, and Miriam. Afterwards, SBL members Carol Bakhos, University of California, Los Angeles, and Alan Cooper, Jewish Theological Seminary, engage the artist in a discussion on midrash, biblical women, poetry, and music. Audience questions and comments are encouraged. After the discussion, registrants may tour the museum for free.

Vedanta Society of Northern California

Monday, 8:00 AM–11:00 AM
Offsite–Meet at the Moscone Center West Howard Street Exit*

Sponsored by the North American Hinduism Consultation

The Vedanta Society of Northern California was founded in 1900 by Swami Vivekananda. It is spiritually affiliated with the Ramakrishna Order, which today is considered to be one of the foremost important religious institutions in India. The New Temple, located at the corner of Fillmore and Vallejo Streets in San Francisco, is the Society’s headquarters. Dedicated in 1959, the New Temple houses a variety of activities. The Altar of the New Temple has been designed to represent, as fully as possible, the Vedantic concept of God. On the upper part is the Sanskrit word OM, which is looked upon as the word symbol of Divinity in all its aspects. Beneath OM are enshrined Lord Buddha, Jesus Christ, and Sri Ramakrishna. Also enshrined on the altar are Sri Sarada Devi, Ramakrishna's first disciple, and Swami Vivekananda, Sri Ramakrishna's foremost apostle.

Edible Cityscapes — Religion, Justice, and Sustainable Food Culture

Monday, 9:00 AM–1:00 PM
Offsite–Meet at the Moscone Center West Howard Street Exit*

Sponsored by the Sustainability Task Force

This bus tour features leaders and community organizations working to bring fresh food to urban food deserts, to address global hunger and ecological degradation, and to educate children about gardening, cooking, and health. During site visits in Oakland and Berkeley, we will learn how committed community activists nourish a progressive, sustainable food culture in the East Bay Area, as well as contribute to international NGOs dealing with food security. The tour will include talks from and visits with local religious and secular leaders within these movements, who will share the specific religious and/or spiritual values and ethics that drive their sustainable food and policy activism.


9:00 AM–9:25 AM — Drive from San Francisco to Oakland. Presentation from Renna Khuner-Haber, Bay Area Programs Associate of Hazon.

9:30 AM–10:15 AM — Meet with Marilyn Borchardt, Development Director of Food First.

10:30 AM–11:15 AM — Meet with Nikki Henderson, Executive Director of People's Grocery.

11:30 AM–12:30 PM — Meet with HuNia Bradley, Program Manager for Farm Fresh Choice, a program of the Ecology Center, and Wendy Johnson, Zen Buddhist teacher and master gardener involved with the College of Marin, Green Gulch Farm, and the Edible Schoolyard.

12:30 PM-1:00 PM — Return to San Francisco to be dropped off at the Moscone Center or at the San Francisco Ferry Building for a sustainable lunch. Participants who elect to have lunch will be responsible for their own transportation after lunch.

Mother India Meets the Golden State: California Gurus and West Coast Yoga

Monday, 1:00 PM–3:30 PM
Marriott Marquis–Yerba Buena 5*

Sponsored by the North American Hinduism Group and Yoga in Theory and Practice Group

Jeffery D. Long, Elizabethtown College, Presiding

From the 1905 opening of "the first Hindu Temple in the Whole Western World" in San Francisco to the contemporary Hollywood yoga craze, California has been a privileged site for the creative fusion of Asian and Western religious and cultural horizons. This panel has two aims: first, to illuminate some of the key moments in the history of California that have shaped the assimilation of yoga and Hinduism in America, and second, to analyze some of the specific ways that yoga and the guru-disciple model have been transformed through a Californian lens. Exploring the translation of yoga into psychology, music, text, performing arts, and the counter-culture, each paper will examine a particular intersection of place, time, religion, and culture that has given birth to a new hybrid form of East-West spirituality with a distinctively Californian flavor.

F. X. Charet, Goddard College
Philip Goldberg, Spiritual Wellness and Healing Associates
Donnalee Dox, Texas A & M University
Ann Gleig, Millsaps College
Lola L. Williamson, Millsaps College

Stefanie Syman, Brooklyn, NY, Responding

Sacred and Religious Sites of San Francisco

Monday, 1:00 PM–5:00 PM
Offsite–Meet at the Moscone Center West Howard Street Exit*

David Bains, Samford University, Jeanne Halgren Kilde, University of Minnesota, Jonathan H. X. Lee, San Francisco State University, and Quincy Newell, University of Wyoming, Presiding

The tour will visit a number of sites that reflect the religious diversity of San Francisco. We will travel by bus to First Chinese Baptist Church — organized in 1880 — a multigenerational bilingual bicultural church. We will then walk through Chinatown, stopping at two temples dedicated to the Empress of Heaven, Goddess of the Sea: 1) Tin Hou Temple, established in 1852, which is popular among Buddho-Daoist Chinese/Chinese Americans; and 2) Ma-tsu Temple, founded in 1986, which is based on a Taiwanese/Taiwanese American representation of the goddess that informs different ritual traditions. We will then reboard the bus for Misión San Francisco de Asís (better known as Mission Dolores), constructed in 1791 as a Franciscan mission intended to convert the native communities in the Bay Area. Today this Roman Catholic parish complex also includes a cemetery and basilica — completed in 1918. If time permits, we may explore one or two more sites in the Mission Dolores area.

Film: La Mission

Monday, 8:00 PM–10:00 PM
Marriott Marquis–Nob Hill C*

Sponsored by the Latina/o Religion, Culture, and Society Group

Néstor Medina, Emmanuel College, University of Toronto, Presiding

Growing up in the Mission district of San Francisco, Che Rivera (Benjamin Bratt) has always had to be tough to survive. He's a powerful man respected throughout the Mission barrio for his masculinity and his strength, as well as for his hobby building beautiful lowrider cars. A reformed inmate and recovering alcoholic, Che has worked hard to redeem his life and do right by his pride and joy: his only son, Jes, whom he has raised on his own after the death of his wife. Che's path to redemption is tested, however, when he discovers Jes is gay. To survive his neighborhood, Che has always lived with his fists. To survive as a complete man, he'll have to embrace a side of himself he's never shown.

Film: We Were Here: Voices from the AIDS Years in San Francisco

Monday, 8:00 PM–10:00 PM
Marriott Marquis–Nob Hill A*

Sponsored by the Status of LGBTIQ Persons in the Profession Committee

Melissa M. Wilcox, Whitman College, Presiding

We Were Here documents the coming of what was called the "Gay Plague" in the early 1980s. It illuminates the profound personal and community issues raised by the AIDS epidemic as well as the broad political and social upheavals it unleashed. It offers a cathartic validation for the generation that suffered through, and responded to, the onset of AIDS. It opens a window of understanding to those who have only the vaguest notions of what transpired in those years. It provides insight into what society could, and should, offer its citizens in the way of medical care, social services, and community support. Early in the epidemic, San Francisco's compassionate, multifaceted, and creative response to AIDS became known as "The San Francisco Model." The city's activist and progressive infrastructure that evolved out of the 1960s, combined with San Francisco’s highly politicized gay community centered around the Castro Street neighborhood, helped overcome the obstacles of a nation both homophobic and lacking in universal healthcare. In its suffering, San Francisco mirrors the experience of so many American cities during those years. In its response, The San Francisco Model remains a standard to aspire to in seeking a healthier, more just, more humane society. 2011 marks thirty years since AIDS descended. Like an unrelenting hurricane, the epidemic roiled San Francisco for two decades and only began granting some reprieve with medical advancements in the late 1990s. The death years of AIDS left the City ravaged and exhausted, yet, as in most of the developed world, the worst seems past. Though thousands are still living with HIV, and new infections continue at an alarming rate, the relentless suffering of the 1980s and 1990s has given way to a kind of calm, and, understandably, a degree of willful forgetfulness. We Were Here utilizes San Francisco's experience with AIDS to open up an overdue conversation both about the history of the epidemic, and the lessons to be learned from it.

California Dreaming: South Asian Religions Encounter the Counterculture

Tuesday, 9:00 AM–11:30 AM
InterContinental–InterContinental Ballroom C*

Sponsored by the North American Hinduism Group

Vijaya Nagarajan, University of San Francisco, Presiding

The three papers in this panel seek deeper understanding of the transmission of South Asian religions to the United States in the twentieth century, especially as these religions were refracted through the prism of California's unique religious culture. Here at the edge of the continent, continual waves of migration over three centuries have prevented the consolidation of any one religion's hegemony in the region. Sited at the intersection of the religious history of California and the study of South Asian religions in diaspora, our papers examine how the transmission and appropriation of Hinduism and Sikhism in California has been influenced by this legacy of religious pluralism and eclecticism. The papers examine how dialogic exchanges between South Asian Hindu and Sikh religious leaders and lay communities and Euro-American seeker-converts from the 1930s to the 1990s gave rise to exciting, and sometimes controversial, new conceptions of sacred space, community, and health.

Smriti Srinivas, University of California, Davis
Utopian Settlements, Californian Vedanta, Huxley, Isherwood, and Friends
Michael Stoeber, University of Toronto
The Reception of Kundalini Yoga in California and Its Relation to Sikh Dharma/3H0
Eliza Kent, Colgate University
California Hinduism: The Shiva Lingam of Golden Gate Park, 1989–1994

Jeffrey J. Kripal, Rice University, and Shana Sippy, Carleton College, Responding

*Room locations are subject to change. Please check your Program Book onsite to confirm the location when you arrive at the Annual Meeting.


This website contains archived issues of Religious Studies News published online from March 2010 to May 2013, and PDF versions of print editions published from Winter 2001 to October 2009.

This site also contains archived issues of Spotlight on Teaching (May 1999 to May 2013) and Spotlight on Theological Education (March 2007 to March 2013).

For current issues of RSN, beginning with the October 2013 issue, please see here.