posted September 7, 2004

Books Explore Topics in Religion

Dr. Miguel De La Torre of the Hope College religion faculty is author or editor of three recently published books that explore topics in religion.

Published in recent weeks have been "Santeria: The Beliefs and Rituals of a Growing Religion in America," by the William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company of Grand Rapids; "Doing Christian Ethics from the Marings," by Orbis Books of Maryknoll, N.Y.; and "Handbook of U.S. Theologies of Liberation," by Chalice Press of St. Louis, Mo.

In "Santeria: The Beliefs and Rituals of a Growing Religion in America," De La Torre describes Santeria as a little-known and often underground religious tradition with close to a million adherents in the United States. It is, he explains, an Afro-Cuban religion that arose out of the cultural clash of Christianity and African Yoruba beliefs that occurred when slaves were brought to the Americas.

In the book, De La Torre, who grew up in the religion, seeks to provide a basic understanding of Santeria's inner workings. He explains the worldview, myths, rituals and practices of Santeria, and sheds light on what role the religion typically plays in the life of its practitioners as well as the cultural influence it continues to exert in Hispanic communities. He also provides insight into how Christianity and Santeria can enter into dialogue.

He will present a talk based on the book, and available to sign copies, during a presentation through the Tulipanes Latino Art & Film Festival on Thursday, Sept. 30, at 3:30 p.m. in the Maas Center auditorium. Admission is free.

"Doing Christian Ethics from the Margins" introduces readers from a broad range of ethical issues from the perspective of marginalized peoples. It explores marginalized views of global issues like poverty, war and the environment, as well as business issues such as corporate accountability and affirmative action.In addition to a section focused on ethical theory, the book includes case studies on global relationships, national relationships and business relationships.

"Handbook of U.S. Theologies of Liberation," which De La Torre edited, explores Christian concepts and the interrelationship between religion, community and culture from the perspective of U.S. marginalized communities. The book also distinguishes the differences and similarities between the U.S. theologies and their Latin American counterparts.

In addition to editing the volume, De La Torre authored a chapter on scripture. Also among the book's two dozen contributors is Dr. Steve Bouma-Prediger of the Hope religion faculty, who wrote a chapter on environmental racism.An assistant professor of religion, De La Torre has been a member of the Hope faculty since 1999. He was named the 2002 recipient of the "Outstanding Hispanic Educator" award by the Michigan Hispanic Legislative Caucus. He also received a first-place award in the "Educational Books" category from the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada for his 2002 book "Reading the Bible from the Margins" (Orbis Books).

His other books since joining the faculty have included "La Lucha for Cuba: Religion and Politics on the Streets of Miami" (University of California Press), "The Quest for the Cuban Christ: A Historical Search" (University Press of Florida) and "Introducing Latino/a Theologies" (Orbis Books). He has also written six book chapters and eight articles published in professional journals since coming to Hope, and has two other books enroute to publication. He has delivered several invited addresses locally as well as throughout the U.S. and in Mexico, and has also presented numerous papers at professional conferences.

De La Torre is visiting co-editor for "Perspectivas: Occasional Papers," published by the Hispanic Theological Initiative. His current community involvement includes serving on the board of directors for Lakeshore Habitat for Humanity and on the executive board of Tulipanes Latino Art and Film Festival.