Religious Ritual as Reconstructive Education
This chapter returns to the book’s earlier discussion (in Chapter Two) of the Good Friday liturgies at the San Fernando Cathedral. The author explores significant convergences between the pedagogies that inform ritual practice at San Fernando (in particular, Virgilio Elizondo’s and James Empereur’s pedagogical contributions), on the one hand, and Dewey’s philosophy of education, on the other. The chapter then reconstructs a Deweyan approach to religious ritual by pulling together Dewey’s scattered ruminations on the topic. As the author shows, there is some compelling evidence within Dewey’s writings to support a sympathetic reading of religious ritual. That said, the author deals with lingering methodological challenges in advancing such a reconstruction. If one reads Dewey as an enforcer of a kind of “strict pragmatism,” then such a sympathetic reconstruction may indeed seem implausible. Drawing inspiration from Dewey’s philosophy of education, however, the author argues for a broader, more generous, and more “developmentalist” reading of Dewey that welcomes, rather than repudiates, religious practices and the institutions that house them.
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