Vincentian Chair of Social Justice 2022–23

Visions of Freedom: A Political Theology for Our Time

From the perspective of political theology, this lecture series explores competing and changing visions that have shaped our national life--visions of freedom, social life, and civic belonging, of religious and personal identity. Each lecture will be followed by discussion.

M. Shawn Copeland, Ph.D.

M. Shawn Copeland, Ph.D.

M. Shawn Copeland is Professor Emerita of Systematic Theology, the Department of Theology and the Program in African and African Diaspora Studies (AADS) at Boston College. Professor Copeland is recognized as one of the most important influences in North America in drawing attention to issues surrounding African American Catholics. An award-winning writer and renowned lecturer, Dr. Copeland will join us as the Vincentian Chair of Social Justice during the 2022-2023 academic year in which she will present four topics concerned with competing and changing visions in today’s society from both political and theological lenses.

For more information on Dr. Copeland, please read her full biography.

Lecture Information

Date: Thursday, October 13
Time: 7-8:30 p.m.


After an introduction to political theology and a brief overview of the series, the first lecture probes the encounters between the Indigenous peoples and Settler Colonists, between the planter class and the enslaved peoples. Critical reflection on these encounters uncovers the basic competing visions of freedom and of social life that contribute to the making of our nation.

Watch Lecture 1 Recording

Date: November 21, 2022
Time: 1:50–3:30 p.m.
Location: D’Angelo Center, room 416


Dr. Copeland’s second lecture is entitled: “Competing and Changing Visions of Civic Belonging.” She will consider the questions of what it means to belong to a nation, a country? What is citizenship and what does it entail? Beginning with the Naturalization Act of 1790 that once restricted U.S. citizenship to “an alien, being a free white person, “ she will consider that Acts evolution through legal immigration acts and she will consider the emergence of the notion of ‘Americanization’ as a test and process of inclusion and exclusion, of granting advantage and disadvantage.

Watch Lecture 2 Recording

Watch Lecture 2 Q&A

Date: Thursday, February 9, 2023
Time: 1:50–3:30 p.m.
Location: D’Angelo Center, Room 416
Note: This is an in-person event; it will not be live streamed


Given the ambiguities of U.S. history and taking account of the basic religious and humanistic ‘truths’ of our common human creatureliness and integral human equality, political theology challenges all people of good will to act in responsible and collaborative solidarity to protest and confront all assaults on the bodies, persons, lives, and dignity of human others–of the neighbor.

Watch Lecture 3 Recording

Recommended Resources

New York City Exhibitions

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

*New Rotation

Governors Island, New York

Readings Related to Lecture Three: Who Is My Neighbor?”

            Derrick Bell, Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism. New York:
Basic Books, 1992.

            Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial
Inequality in the United States
6th ed. (Lanham: Rowan and Littlefield Publishers, 2022).

            Kelly Brown Douglas, Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2015.
           --------. Resurrection Hope: A Future Where Black Lives Matter. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books,

            George M. Frederickson. Racism, A Short History. Princeton: Princeton University Press,

            Charles W. Mills, The Racial Contract. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1997.

            Michael Omi and Howard Winant, Racial Formation in the United States, From the1960s to the
3rd ed. New York: Routledge, 2014.

            Iris Marion Young, Justice and Politics of Difference. Princeton: Princeton University, 1990.
            --------. Responsibility for Justice. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Date: Thursday, March 30
Time: 7–8:30 p.m.
Location: D'Angelo Center Room 416


The representative democracy that is the United States has exterminated, removed, displaced, or relocated; eliminated and excluded; and interred; segregated, detained, and contained non-White populations within its expanding borders in pursuit of life and liberty, happiness and security, wealth and land, and sources of energy and favorable environmental conditions. Each time, religion, legal doctrine, and myth were used to rationalize and justify the decision and the resulting actions. The final lecture considers the role and function of religion in the US social matrix and specifically reminds Catholic Christianity of its prophetic responsibility to repudiate enmeshment in any form of socially constructed idolatry and to work intelligently, responsibly, vigorously, and lovingly with all people of good will for the common human good.

Watch Lecture 4 Recording

Readings Related to Lecture Four: Prophetic Faith and Social Freedom

            Edward K. Braxton, The Church and the Racial Divide: Reflections of an AfricanAmerican
Catholic Bishop
. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2021.

            James Hal Cone, The Cross and the Lynching Tree. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2011.

            Cyprian Davis, The History of Black Catholics in the United States. New York: Crossroad,

            Katie Walker Grimes, Christ Divided: Antiblackness as Corporate Vice. Minneapolis: Fortress
Press, 2017.

            Vincent Lloyd and Andrew L. Prevot, ed. Anti-Blackness and Christian Ethics. Maryknoll,
NY: Orbis Books, 2017.

            Bryan N. Massingale, Racial Justice and the Catholic Church. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books

            Peter C. Phan and Diana Hayes, ed., Many Faces, One Church: Cultural Diversity and the
American Catholic Experience.
Oxford and Lanham, MD:Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.,

            George E. Tinker, Missionary Conquest:  The Gospel and Native American CulturalGenocide.
Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993.