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“Which Common Good? Rethinking Religion, Self-Interest and Agency,” a Norman and Louis Miller Lecture in Public Understanding

Joerg Rieger, Ph.D.
Cal Turner Chancellor’s Chair of Wesleyan Studies
Distinguished Professor of Theology
Divinity School and Graduate Department of Religion
Vanderbilt University

Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017
7 p.m.
Ft. Howard Theater
St. Norbert College

View the lecture recording.

It is quite common to hear accusations of selfishness and greed when people talk about what is wrong with the world. Nevertheless, the economic system in which we find ourselves – capitalism – is built on the assumption that when people pursue their own interests, they automatically pursue the common good. Religious arguments can be found on both sides of this divide. In order to negotiate beyond this impasse, this lecture will consider alternative visions of the common good, self-interest and agency. What is really common about the common good? Whose selves determine self-interest? And who are the people best positioned to make a difference? The response to these questions will draw on a broadened notion of religion, deepening our engagement with the Abrahamic traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

About Joerg Rieger
Joerg Rieger is Cal Turner Chancellor’s Chair in Wesleyan Studies and Distinguished Professor of Theology at the Divinity School and the Graduate Program of Religion at Vanderbilt University. Previously he was the Wendland-Cook Endowed Professor of Constructive Theology at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University. He received an M.Div. from the Theologische Hochschule Reutlingen, Germany, a Th.M. from Duke Divinity School and a Ph.D. in religion and ethics from Duke University. 

For more than two decades he has worked to bring together theology and the struggles for justice and liberation that mark our age. His work addresses the relation of theology and public life, reflecting on the misuse of power in religion, politics and economics. His main interest is in developments and movements that bring about change and in the positive contributions of religion and theology. His constructive work in theology draws on a wide range of historical and contemporary traditions, with a concern for manifestations of the divine in the pressures of everyday life. 

Author and editor of more than 20 books and over 135 academic articles, his books include Unified We are a Force: How Faith and Labor Can Overcome America’s Inequalities (with Rosemarie Henkel-Rieger, 2016), Faith on the Road: A Short Theology of Travel and Justice (2015), Occupy Religion: Theology of the Multitude (with Kwok Pui-lan, 2012), Grace under Pressure: Negotiating the Heart of the Methodist Traditions (2011), Globalization and Theology (2010), No Rising Tide: Theology, Economics, and the Future (2009), Christ and Empire: From Paul to Postcolonial Times (2007), and God and the Excluded: Visions and Blindspots in Contemporary Theology (2001). His books have been translated into Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, German, Korean and Chinese. 

Rieger is editor of the academic book series New Approaches to Religion and Power with Palgrave Macmillan Publishers and, together with Professor Kwok Pui-lan, he edits the academic book series Religion in the Modern World (Rowman and Littlefield).

Rieger has lectured throughout the United States as well as internationally, including presentations in Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Canada, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Slovakia, The Netherlands, Belgium, England, Russia, Thailand and China.
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