The End and Beginning of Hope: A Theological Reflection on Ta-Nehisi Coates

Hope is a dangerous word.  We all hope, in some form or fashion, in a vision of reality we wish were true.  These visions diverge, sometimes wildly, person to person, culture to culture, faith to faith.  One person’s hope can be another’s despair; one person’s dream, another’s nightmare.  It is precisely for this reason, you might argue, that the liberative message of Christianity should bring us clarity: we hope for equality, freedom, healing, justice, peace (Luke 4:16-21)!

But still a tension remains: do we hope in this life or in the next?  Theologians have debated this point for millennia, and while I will not end the debate here, I stand firmly on the side of both/and.  Hope in a changed world today and hope in a life to come.  I am trying, daily, not to lose hope and faith even in the midst of the exemplification of despicable personal morals, the destabilization of international peace deals, the open acceptance of racial demagoguery, and the rise of natural disasters that are directly caused by Global Warming.

But as a theologian, I am deeply troubled by the version of Christianity that now runs the White House.  If one were to construct a Christian message that is the opposite of the one I follow, the message of this administration would be pretty close.  White nationalism, a disregard for the truthflippant misogynyexplicit racism, and personal vengeance take priority, all under the guise of an ideology of positivity without the moral values of self-sacrifice, justice, and peace.  A version of Christianity, for example, that uses the phrase “Merry Christmas” to connote not peace but vengeance against a perceived threat of religious persecution.

Herein lay the modern struggle of Christianity: with such vile strains of Christianity in the public eye, what becomes of the insistence on a Christian vision of hope?  How can anyone, save the already-faithful, believe that the Jesus I Preach is not the Jesus They Preach?

With this conflicted Christian message in mind, it should surprise no one that one of the most influential critics of the sitting President is a black atheist named Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Read the rest of the post in its original form at Daily Theology.

Seven Ways to Not Be a Complicit Academic

Three years and six days ago, an unarmed young black man named Michael Brown was shot and killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.  In the aftermath of the unrest that followed the criminal act of injustice on the part of the police department, the United States has seen the largest groundswell of anti-racist sentiment in the last few decades under the guise of #BlackLivesMatter and similar movements.

Nine months ago, as if in response to the groundswell, this nation of immigrants, descendents of slaves, descendents of those that owned slaves, and descendents of the aboriginal tribes voted a man into office with clear ties to neo-Nazi and other racist groups.   Catholics and Protestants together voted him into office.  Mostly white people.  Mostly men.

Combine this with the fact that the United States already exists as the most violent and heavily incarcerated wealthy country in the world, and then add to it a small but fiery movement to rid the US of statues and monuments that celebrate the Confederacy…and you get #Charlottesville.

….Read the rest of my post at www.DailyTheology.org!

A Fix for the Problem of Re-Dating Syllabi Every Semester

Every semester, thousands of academics around the world struggle with a single, annoying problem.  Ok actually we struggle with lots of problems, but this one is especially frustrating: having to re-type and re-order dates in a new syllabus for the same class you taught last semester.

I don’t claim to have solved this perfectly, but I found a way to do this a bit more easily using Excel’s built-in date-ordering functions, and then importing part of the Excel spreadsheet into word.

The main idea here is that the “class breakdown” section of your syllabus is transformed from an ordered list in MS Word to a smooth and editable Excel sheet.  When you want to update the class list, you can either update the spreadsheet and copy-and-paste anew into the file, or simply edit within the word file.  (Note: you could actually link the files and have one automatically update the other, and you could actually embed a fully functioning Excel Sheet in Word, but I’m keeping things relatively simple because the other two choices over-complicate matters.)


So, first thing to do is create a separate Excel File called “Syllabus Spreadsheet” or something.   I’m attaching a sample Syllabus Spreadsheet that I use for my own courses.

I’m going to use the sample spreadsheet to explain the procedure.  First, I created a “formatted table” in excel using this tool:


I made some nice headers and ended up with a table, the beginning of which looks like this.


In the above image we’re looking at the text of Cell C2, which is the only date you need to manually enter.  For the purposes of a template, I’ll be using a MW class that starts August 23, 2017.

So, to begin, enter the date of your first class into cell C2.

Make sure the C column is formatted for some sort of date.  I custom-formatted the column too because I like my dates in a specific format.

On the example spreadsheet it’s already done, but if you have your own, just select the C column, click on the dropdown menu in the “Number” menu, and select either a specific date format or click “More Number Formats.”  If you choose the latter, you can type in what I have here, or play around with your own:


Now go back and click on cell C3.  This is the kicker.  Cells C3 through the end of the column need to have the same formula which tells them what day to show the user.  For a MW class, your work is already done.  For other class iterations, I’ve made a second sheet in the Syllabus Spreadsheet Template with each of the formulae.

Here’s what the C3 formula looks like for a MW class.


If you know how to code a little, you can probably figure out the other formulae, but if not, here they are (also included in the second sheet of the attached spreadsheet):


You can either type the formula directly into cell C3 of the first sheet, then copy and past C3 to the rest of the column C4-C40 or whatever.  Or you can do the following:

  • First, click on the cell in the second sheet (B2, B3, etc).  Then, highlight everything after the apostrophe.  Copy the text.
  • Go back to the main sheet and click on C3.  Paste the text.
  • Finally, while on C3, hit copy.  Then highlight C4 until however many classes you might have and paste.

QUICK SUMMARY TO THIS POINT:  Enter a start date into C2, enter the correct formula into C3, copy the exact same formula onto C4:C50 (or however many you need).

With me?  Great!

Last step!  Highlight the cells you want in the syllabus, copy, then go to your word document and paste.  You’ll notice that I use the spreadsheet to organize more things than I want the students to know, so I just copy and paste the first four columns, as you see here.



You’ll probably have to play around with spacing and font size and margins to make it fit perfectly, but it shouldn’t be too hard.  Oh, be sure you “keep source formatting” when you paste, as that’s not always the default option in Word.

Ok, that’s it.  There’s probably a million different ways to do this successfully, but this is my way, and it helps me avoid re-typing dates every semester.

Feel free to ask me questions in the comments!  Otherwise, enjoy!

If you haven’t done so already, click here to download the Syllabus Spreadsheet Template.


Welcome to the online home of John P. Slattery, PhD!  I am a recent doctoral graduate in Systematic TheoloJohn Slattery Headshotgy and the History & Philosophy of Science from the University of Notre Dame.  Here you can find links to my various personas online (ranging from Academia.edu to a Facebook Music Page), as well as download my latest Curriculum Vitae.

My academic and teaching interests lie at the intersection of Catholicism, modern science, ecological theology, critical race theory, and contemporary politics. These interests originate from a strong historical and philosophical bent, wherein I situate my interests in the histories of ecological and evolutionary sciences, 19th and 20th century Christianity, and American race relations.

This historical and philosophical approach to theology allows me to discuss not only the history of the Church, but how this history is intimately connected with the various conceptions of science, power, and culture in the last two centuries, including the desecration of the Earth, the biases against persons of color, and the ongoing political negation of God’s preferential option for the poor.

As a musician, I finds strength in Christian worship music of all eras and genres, and has produced an album of original contemporary Christian music.  His love of music continues to influence not only his active life in the church, but also his ability to find new ways to address old academic problems.

Finally, I am a grateful husband and father of four, constantly kept out of the clouds by the tangible love of his family.