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  • Editor’s Note

A recurring emphasis within these editorial notes has been the unsettling of two binaries: past/present and academy/society. The AJTP excels at confounding these binaries, which is consistent with the commitments of its core traditions and its affiliate organization of IARPT, not to mention a virtue unto itself. In setting up the present issue, however, it occurs to me that there is also a third binary that is deeper and subtler, and which, if not a basis for those other two, at least serves to make them worse. This is the distinction between thinking about something and thinking about the “about-ness” itself. If one writes about the epistemology of religious faith, for instance, it may seem as though all that can be written about are the arguments or warrants for the faith rather than the faith’s object. Or if one writes about Dewey’s insights on democracy or education, the lessons can only reside in Dewey himself, rather than in his commitments. Such a binary between “about-ness” and object, obviously false, is thankfully not one that often haunts these pages, though one does encounter it in academic settings with some disappointing regularity. In any case, I mention it now because the present issue illustrates with unusual power how valuable it can be when this binary is confounded, that is, how rich are the yields when the “about-ness” of something and the something itself are considered together in a self-conscious way.

The topics themselves are wonderfully diffuse: art, religious experience, politics, and race, to name just a few. The “about-ness” that grants access to these things, however, is unusually coherent. It’s about people. William James, W. E. B. Du Bois, Shailer Mathews, Henry Nelson Wieman, Bernard Meland, Georgia Harkness, and Martin Luther King, Jr.: these are the names that define the present issue, and each of the issue’s three articles explores relationships between these individuals that are at once entry points into relationships of ideas, practices, social contexts, and contemporary applications. In his sweeping-yet-granular history of the Chicago School, Gary Dorrien highlights Mathews, Wieman, and Meland, among dozens of other names. In telling their stories, Dorrien has produced what is arguably the finest article-length treatment of the Chicago School ever written—a singular achievement. In her crisp, elegant exposition of the mutual influence of personalism on Georgia Harkness and Martin Luther King, Natalya Cherry does more than shed light on the mutual respect and sympathy that characterized the relationship between these two historically important people; she also sheds light on personalism itself, demonstrating what it looks like when personalism informs the social and theological [End Page 1] convictions of specific lives and becomes more, well, personal. In his attentive and integrative treatment of the relationship between W. E. B. Du Bois and his teacher William James, Kolby Knight uncovers affinities between figures from different generations, temperaments, and, of course, social and racial identities. He also uncovers aesthetic, social, and political dimensions to Du Bois’s account of “double consciousness,” and the result is a convincing vision of the study of religion as “creative art.”

Taken individually, each of these essays is a rich nexus of biography, religious commentary, philosophical insight, and social relevance. Taken together, the essays create a combination that could appear in no other journal, at once historical and contemporary, academically rigorous, and socially engaged. Happy reading! [End Page 2]