Jan 10, 2009

Happy Belated Birthday to a Theological Rock Star

Happy Birthday a few days late to Dr. Rachel Bundang, the theological rock star who is professoring this year at St Cate's in the Twin Cities. We will observe the Bundangian feast day tonight despite the snowy weather here in NYC.

She's the coolest person I know and have learned much by simply being her friend. Does that make me cool by association?

I know, I know...fat chance. But here's a bit about what makes her cool!

Rachel Bundang rocks.

She sings, plays jazz and gospel piano, and listens to hip-hop, classical and Brazilian music. On her laptop are musical selections from Los Amigos Invisibles, a Venezuelan funk group. She speaks English, French, Spanish and Tagalog, a language used in the Philippines. She moves from stage to pulpit to Manhattan street with aplomb. She talks politics, art, culture and religion, peppering her sentences with language taken from urban neighborhoods and the halls of academe. She studied tap and ballet as a child and took up modern dance in college, and then there's salsa dancing, of course, at parties.

Bundang is also a leading Asian/Pacific-American Catholic theological ethicist. A "1.5 generation" Filipina-American (born in the Philippines but raised in the United States), she is a leader and former conference chair of Pacific/Asian and North American-Asian Women in Theology and Ministry (PANAAWTM, pronounced "pan-autumn"), served for three years as co-convener of the American Academy of Religion Women's Caucus/Religious Studies, and has since 1997 been a delegate to the U.S. Minorities Section of the Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians. She is active in the four-year-old Asian Pacific American Religions Research Initiative.

Behind these involvements is the constant negotiation of complex identities--American, immigrant, New York resident and frequent California visitor, raised in the deep South, heir to her mother's popular religion and forger of new religious paths, daughter of a Navy man, Catholic high school alumna, feminist of faith, working-class and "double Ivy" (Princeton and Harvard), Pinay (Filipina-American), intellectual, artist, minister, scholar.

Working her way through a Ph.D. in ethics at Union Theological Seminary in New York, Rachel Ann Rodriguez Bundang has spoken around the country on such varied topics as young adult ministry, home and exile, devotions to Mary and Jesus in Filipino-American Catholic life, the ethics of cyberspace, Asian/Pacific-American women's theologies, and New York City memorials in the wake of Sept. 11. Besides a vast collection of music, her laptop also holds speeches, homilies, papers-in-process, and a voluminous correspondence with friends around the United States.

Here's some more on the rock star which is well worth reading. Thanks Dr. Rachel for inviting me to sit with the cool kids at the cool lunch table.

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