Reading List

Three tracks of study:

  • UNVEILING: Exposing the Workings of Empire (Sept-Apr). Material History: Geopolitics, Economics and Ideology.
    • Kinship to Kingship: Indigenous Societies and Colonial Settler Civilization
    • The Ancient World & Rise of Agrarian Empires (10,000-750 BC)
    • Ancient Greece: Patriarchy & Platonic Dualism (750 BC-333 BC)
    • The Greco-Roman World: Arcadia, Debt & the Early Church (333 BC-500 AD)
    • The Medieval World: Islam, European Feudalism & the Holy Roman Empire (500-1450)
    • The Early Modern World: Conquest, Reformation & Rationalism (1450-1775)
    • The Modern World: Revolutions, Industrialization & Capitalist Empires (1750-1914)
    • The End of Modernity: World Wars, Decolonization & Global Resistance (1914-1971)
    • People’s History of the US: Settler Colonialism & White Supremacy
    • Economics & the Political Project of Neoliberalism (1971-Present)
  • REIMAGINING: Reading the Bible as a Counter-Imperial Witness (May-Feb). Socio-Political Hermeneutics: Empire, Mythology and the People of God.
    • Intertribal Confederacy: Israel’s Revolutionary Beginnings
    • Monarchy and the Two Kingdoms: Israel’s Counterrevolutionary Establishment
    • The Collapse of Israel, the Prophets & Exile
    • Home Rule Under Great Empires: Israel’s Colonial Recovery
    • The Gospels, the Temple System and Economics
    • Pauline Epistles and the Emperor Cult
    • Revelation’s Counter-Imperial Vision
  • BIRTHING: Healing Roots to Liberate Spirit and Restore Kinship (Mar-Jul). Transforming Embodiment: Identity, Theology and Place.
    • Birthing (Part 1)
      • Ecology of the Americas
      • Watershed Discipleship & Bioregionalism
    • Birthing (Part 2)
      • Systems Ecology & Permaculture
      • Family Systems Theory, Trauma & the Body
      • Genealogy and Family Systems Project
      • Preaching and Public Witness
      • Final Integrative Project
      • Presentations, Final Retreat & Graduation


Track One

UNVEILING: Exposing the Workings of Empire. Material History: Geopolitics, Economics and Ideology

In this track we seek to understand how the world works. It begins with a big picture focus on the colonial dynamics that are a part of the rise of civilization. Rather than viewing history as a linear march of progress, justifying the unfortunate conquest of land and peoples along the way, we look at the “civilizing” impulse as a particular way of being in the world—one that is very recent and unique historically. This is contrasted with indigenous lifeways, which civilization attempts to exterminate every step of the way. Kinship structures are broken and connection to the land is severed in order to bring people into direct relationship with the state—a traumatic process that is forgotten and normalized after enough generations have passed. We unpack the relational, psychological and environmental consequences of the loss of indigeneity as a lens through which to interpret the destructive globalizing march of Western culture today.

The intersection of geography, politics, economics, and ideology is stressed throughout our reading of world history. Given that we live in the ruins of five hundred years of Western colonialism, we focus especially on the rise and spread of the West, along with the patriarchal and dualistic categories (Platonic and Cartesian) embedded at its core. We explore how this has been aided by a series of hierarchal splits – male/female, immaterial/material, civilized/savage, Christian/pagan, mind/body, white/black, self/community etc. We also explore how these categories co-opted Christian theology to justify various European empires through an ideology of Christian supremacy, which eventually morphs into modern white supremacy. We end with an examination of debt as a mechanism of conquest, and the ways it currently functions in the latest colonial configuration of American neoliberal global capitalism. Neoliberalism has turned people, communities, and the earth itself into commodities to be exploited for profit.

Required Readings/Films (in order read/watched)

Richardson, Ronald. Becoming a Healthier Pastor: Family Systems Theory and the Pastor’s Own Family. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004. (pre-seminary retreat reading)

Quinn, Daniel. Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit. New York: Bantam Books, 1992. (pre-seminary retreat reading)

Jensen, Derrick. A Language Older than Words. White River Junction: Chelsea Green Publishing Co., 2004.

Deloria Jr., Vine. The World We Used to Live In: Remembering the Powers of the Medicine Men. Golden, CO: Fulcrum Publishing, 2006.

Diamond, Stanley. “Intro: Civilization and Progress.” In In Search of the Primitive: A Critique of Civilization. New Bruswick, NJ: Transaction Books, 1974. 1-48.

Zinn, Howard. “Columbus, the Indians, and Human Progress.” In A People’s History of the United States: 1492-Present. New York: HarperCollins, 1980. 1-22.

Todorov, Tzvetan. “Discovery.” In The Conquest of America: The Question of the Other. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1999. 1-34.

Walker, Christopher, director. Trinkets and Beads. DVD. Brooklyn: Icarus Films, 1996.

Waziyatawin. What Does Justice Look Like? The Struggle for Liberation in Dakota Homeland. St. Paul: Living Justice Press, 2008.

Wolfchild, Sheldon, director. The Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code. DVD. Morton: 38+2 Productions, 2014.

Selected articles from Unsettling Ourselves: Reflections and Resources for Deconstructing Colonial Mentality. A sourcebook compiled by the Unsettling Minnesota collective, 2009.

Heinrichs, Steve, ed. Buffalo Shout, Salmon Cry: Conversations on Creation, Land Justice, and Life Together. Harrisonberg: Herald Press, 2013.

Kovel, Joel. “Mind and State in Ancient Greece.” In The Radical Spirit: Essays on Psychoanalysis and Society. London: Free Association Books, 1988. 208-225.

Diamond, Stanley. “Plato and the Definition of the Primitive.” In In Search of the Primitive. 176-202.

Plato. Symposium. Translated by Robin Waterfield. Oxford World Classics. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

Plato, “Phaedo,” 93-155. In Five Dialogues: Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Meno, Phaedo. Translated by G.M.A. Grube. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 1981.

Nelson, John. “Introduction: The Theo-politics of Western Dualism.” 1-49. In The Vulnerability of Christ: A Kenotic Socio-Political Ontology for the Church” (MTh thesis, Luther Seminary, 2014).

Griffin, Susan. Woman and Nature: The Roaring Inside Her. Berkeley: Counterpoint Press, 2000.

Diamond, Jared. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. New York: Penguin Books, 2005.

______. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1997.

Becker, Ernest. The Birth and Death of Meaning, 2nd ed. New York: The Free Press, 1971.

O’Brien, Patrick. Atlas of World History, revised edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Gonzalez, Justo L. Church History: An Essential Guide. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996.

Alexander, Michelle. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. New York: The New Press, 2008.

Graeber, David. Debt: the First 5,000 Years. Brooklyn: Melville House, 2011.

Harvey, David. A Brief History of Neoliberalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Chang, Ha-Joon. Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism. New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2008.

Secondary Bibliography

Forbes, Jack. Columbus and Other Cannibals: The Wetiko Disease of Exploitation, Imperialism, and Terrorism, revised edition. New York: Seven Stories Press, 2008.

Newcomb, Steven. Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Christian Doctrine of Discovery, 3rd ed. Golden: Fulcrum Publishing, 2008.

Dunbar-Ortiz, Roxanne. An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States. Boston: Beacon Press, 2014

Bordo, Susan. The Flight to Objectivity: Essays on Cartesianism and Culture. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1987.

Fanon, Frantz. The Wretched of the Earth. Trans. Richard Philcox. New York: Grove Press, 2004.

Becker, Ernest. The Denial of Death. New York: Free Press Paperbacks, 1997.

Janz, Denis R., general ed. A People’s History of Christianity series: The Lived Religion of Christians in the first Two Thousand Years (7 volumes). Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2005-2008.

Gonzalez, Justo. The Story of Christianity, vol. 1: The Early Church to the Reformation. 2nd ed. San Francisco: HarperOne, 2010.

Gonzalez, Justo. The Story of Christianity, vol. 2: The Reformation to the Present Day. 2nd ed. San Francisco: Harper One, 2010.

Amjad-Ali, Charles. “Prejudice and its Historical Application: A Radical Hermeneutic of Luther’s Treatment of the Turks (Muslims) and the Jews.” In Befreiung von Gewalt zum Leben in Frieden. Liberation from Violence for Life in Peace. Edited by Ulrich Duchrow and Craig Nessan, 105-141. Radicalizing Reformation, Vol. 4. Berlin: Lit Verlag, 2015.

Rieger, Joerg. Christ and Empire: From Paul to Postcolonial Times. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007.

Tinker, George E. Missionary Conquest: The Gospel and Native American Cultural Genocide. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993.

Feagin, Joe R. Racist America: Roots, Current Realities, and Future Reparations. New York: Routledge, 2001.

Duchrow, Ulrich and Franz J. Hinkelammert. Property for People, Not for Profit: Alternatives to the Global Tyranny of Capital. London: Zed Books, 2004.

Eisenberg, Evan. The Ecology of Eden: An Inquiry into the Dream of Paradise and a New Vision of Our Role in Nature. New York: Vintage, 1999.


Track Two

REIMAGINING: Reading the Bible as a Counter-Imperial Witness. Socio-Political Hermeneutics: Empire, Mythology and the People of God.

In this track we learn to read the Bible as a collection of diverse testimonies from a people struggling with the reality of empire. We begin by exploring how Western hermeneutics has tended to fall into idealist or docetic readings of the text, and instead learn to read the text through a socio-political hermeneutic. Beginning with Genesis, we encounter a collection of stories, testimonies, and counter-mythologies of a people struggling to keep (or restore) their humanity in Palestine, the middle of the “cradle of civilization” between Egypt (the Nile) and Babylon (the Tigris and Euphrates). From Egypt to their own experiments with monarchy to Assyria to Babylon to Persia to Greece to Rome, the Hebrew Bible is read as a struggle to come out of the imperial idolatry of the “Canaanites,” and follow Yahweh, the god of the ancestors, in a faithful communal life of sharing, cooperation and care for the earth.

Jesus calls for a return to this “little tradition” in the midst of Roman imperial occupation by casting out imperial demons and renewing village life amongst traumatized peasants in Galilee, while simultaneously calling out the cooptation of the Second Temple by the Jewish religious aristocracy. Calling his disciples to the “way of the cross,” he is ultimately executed by the Roman state only to be vindicated by Yahweh through resurrection from the dead. The Apostle Paul, rooted in the tradition of apocalyptic Judaism, recognizes in Jesus’s example the shape of the “new creation,” and so travels the Roman world to give birth to counter-imperial assemblies that are the “first fruits” of this resurrected way of life. As persecution and suffering increase for the early Christian community, the authors of Hebrew and Revelation struggle to persuade these early communities to faithfully endure in this more humane and life-giving way.

Required Readings (in order read)

Bible. New Revised Standard Version with Apocrypha. (read in its entirety, with other texts read alongside to provide context)

Brueggemann, Walter. “Funding Postmodern Interpretation.” In Texts Under Negotiation: The Bible and Postmodern Imagination. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993. 1-25

Ceresko, Anthony. Introduction to the Old Testament: A Liberation Perspective, revised and expanded edition. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 2001.

Gottwald, Norman K. The Hebrew Bible: A Brief Socio-Literary Introduction. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2009.

Aharonni, Yohanan, et al. The Carta Bible Atlas, 5th ed. Jerusalem: Carts, 2002.

Howard-Brook, Wes. “Come Out, My People!” God’s Call out of Empire in the Bible and Beyond. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 2010

Hanson, K.C. and Douglas E. Oakman, Palestine in the Time of Jesus: Social Structures and Social Conflicts, 2nd ed. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1998.

Myers, Ched. “Part One: Text and Context.” In Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark’s Story of Jesus. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 2006. 3-87.

Horsley, Richard. Jesus and the Politics of Roman Palestine. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2014.

Myers, Ched, Marie Dennis, Joseph Nangle OFM, Cynthia Moe-Lobeda, and Stuart Taylor. “Say to this Mountain”: Mark’s Story of Discipleship. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1996.

Segovia, Fernando F. and R.S. Sugirtharajah, eds. A Postcolonial Commentary on the New Testament Writings. New York: T&T Press, 2009.

Kahl, Brigitte. “Introduction: The Critical Re-Imagination of Paul and of Justification by Faith.” In Galatians Re-Imagined: Reading with the Eyes of the Vanquished. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2010.

Nelson, John. “Romans: The Vulnerability of Christ Amidst Empire.” 134-182. In The Vulnerability of Christ: A Kenotic Socio-Political Ontology for the Church.

Secondary Bibliography

Gottwald, Norman K. Richard A. Horsley. The Bible and Liberation: Political and Social Hermeneutics. Rev. Ed. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1993.

Horsley, Richard, ed. In the Shadow of Empire: Reclaiming the Bible as a History of Faithful Resistance. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008.

Fiorenza, Elisabeth Schüssler. The Power of the Word: Scripture and the Rhetoric of Empire. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007. New York: The Crossroad Publishing Co., 1994.

Gottwald, Norman K. The Politics of Ancient Israel. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001.

______. The Hebrew Bible: A Socio-Literary Introduction. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1985.

______. The Tribes of Yahweh: A Sociology of the Religion of Liberated Israel, 1250-1050 BCE. New York: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 1999.

Dykstra, Laurel. Set Them Free: The Other Side of Exodus. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 2002.

Heschel, Abraham J. The Prophets. New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2001.

Brueggemann, Walter. The Prophetic Imagination. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1978.

Horsley, Richard. Jesus and Empire: The Kingdom of God and the New World Disorder. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003.

Herzog, William R. II. Parables as Subversive Speech: Jesus as Pedagogue of the Oppressed. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1994.

Carter, Warren. Matthew and the Margins: A Sociopolitical and Religious Reading. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 2000.

Howard-Brook, Wes. Becoming Children of God: John’s Gospel and Radical Discipleship. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 2003.

Elliott, Neil. Liberating Paul: The Justice of God and the Politics of the Apostle. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1994.

______. The Arrogance of Nations: Reading Romans in the Shadow of Empire. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2008.

Horsley, Richard. Paul and Empire: Religion and Power in Roman Imperial Society. Harrisburg: Trinity Press International, 1997.

______. Paul and Politics: Ekklesia, Israel, Imperium, Interpretation. Harrisburg: Trinity Press International, 2000.

______. Paul and the Roman Imperial Order. Harrisburg: Trinity Press International, 2004.

Jewett, Robert. Romans: A Commentary. Hermenia Commentary Series. Edited by Eldon Jay Epp. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007.

Jennings, Thodore W. J. Outlaw Justice: The Messianic Politics of Paul. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2013.

______. Transforming Atonement: A Political Theology of the Cross. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2009.

Lopez, Davina. The Apostle to the Conquered: Reimagining Paul’s Mission. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2010.

Howard-Brook, Wes and Anthony Gwyther. Unveiling Empire; Reading Revelation Then and Now. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1999.

Maier, Harry O. Apocalypse Recalled: The Book of Revelation after Christendom. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007.

Fiorenza, Elisabeth Schüssler. In Memory of Her: A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins.

Perkinson, Jim. Messianism Against Christology: Resistance Movements, Folk Arts and Christology. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2013.


Track Three

BIRTHING: Healing Roots to Liberate Spirit and Restore Kinship. Transforming Embodiment: Identity, Theology & Place.

This track focuses on the healing of the self from the uprootedness and disease caused by empire. Western dualism splits the modern individualized person from a sense of connection to the past ancestors or responsibility to future generations. It disconnects from kinship relations with the earth and human community. And it separates the so-called rational mind from one’s own body and emotions. This loss of the past and future, and the elimination of Spirit from creation, frees neoliberal capitalism to turn everything into a commodity to be exploited for profit without remorse or consequence. The result is the alienated and production-oriented/consumption-addicted self of whiteness—what Jack Forbes has labeled the wetiko (cannibal psychosis) disease, or what Buddhism calls a “hungry ghost.” This way of being is spreading across the globe. We aim to stop the damage by rooting students in the real—in ancestry, the earth, community, and the body—in order to give birth to liberating Spirit and intimate kinship in the world.

This track is necessarily more experiential and project oriented. We begin by studying family systems theory to understand the deep relational construction of the self, and we offer coaching to each student on healthy differentiation in their family systems. We then do genealogy research, both through online tools and interviews with family members, to bring our ancestors to greater consciousness. This includes unpacking the trauma of immigration resident in our past (for the non-indigenous), along with the rootlessness of the abstract American self. We then shift to studying bioregionalism, systems ecology, and permaculture to begin a move toward inhabiting a place—learning to live restoratively within, rather than destructively on top of, the land. This includes a number of field trips and hands-on learning projects. We end by learning to preach testimonially out of the deeper sense of embodiment and rootedness that is emerging. Critical to this track is travel to places that both instruct us on the trauma of colonization and/or perils of Westernization, while also still pointing to a more ancient, communal and rooted way of being human.

Required Readings/Films (in order read/watched)

Edwin H Friedman. A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix. New York: Church Publishing, Inc. 1999.

______. Generation to Generation: Family Process in Church and Synagogue. New York: The Guilford Press, 1985.

Sale, Kirkpatrick. Dwellers in the Land: A Bioregional Vision. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2000.

Myers, Ched. “From ‘Creation Care’ to ‘Watershed Discipleship’: Re-Placing Ecological Theology and Practice.” The Conrad Grebel Review 32, no.3 (Fall 2014). 250-275.

Tester, John R. Minnesota’s Natural Heritage: An Ecological Perspective. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1997.

“Natural Vegetation of Minnesota: At the Time of Public Land Survey 1847-1907.” Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Last accessed June 13, 2016. http://files.dnr.state. vegetation_of_mn.pdf

“Minnesota Biomes.” Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Last accessed June 13, 2016.

“List of Ecoregions in Minnesota.” Last accessed June 13, 2016. List_of_ecoregions_in_Minnesota

“Minnesota Ecological Classification System.” Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Last accessed June 13, 2016.

“Minnesota Eastern Broadleaf Forest Province.” Minnesota Department of natural Resources. Last Accessed June 13, 2016.

“Minnesota and Northeast Iowa Morainal Section.” Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Last Accessed June 13, 2016. .

“St. Paul Baldwin Plains and Moraines Subsection.” Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Last Accessed June 13, 2016.

“Watersheds.” Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Last Accessed June 14, 2016. https://www.

Falk, Ben. “Creating a Positive Legacy while Adapting to Rapid Change.” In The Resilient Farm and Homestead: An Innovative Permaculture and Whole Systems Design Approach. White River Junction: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2013. 1-23.

Holmgren, David. “Essence of Permaculture.” Last accessed June 13, 2016. https://permaculture

Boutsikaris, Costa, director. Inhabit: A Permaculture Perspective. DVD. Inhabit Film LLC, 2015.

Florence, Anna Carter. Preaching as Testimony. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2007.

Secondary Bibliography

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Ethics. Trans. by R. Krauss. DBW, vol. 6. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2005.

Copeland, Shawn. Enfleshing Freedom: Body, Race, and Being. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2009.

Miller, Alice. The Drama of the Gifted Child: Searching for the True Self, revised edition. New York: Basic Books, 2007.

______. The Body Never Lies: The Lingering Effects of Hurtful Parenting. Translator Andrew Jenkins. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2006.

Thayer, Robert Jr. LifePlace: Bioregional Thought and Practice. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2003.

Fukuoka, Masanobu. The One-Straw Revolution: An Introduction to Natural Farming. Translated by Larry Korn, et al. New York: New York Review of Books Classic, 2009.

Mollison, Bill. Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual. Tasmania: Tagari Publications, 1988.

Brueggemann, Walter. The Word Militant: Preaching a Decentering Word. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2010.

Myers, Ched. Who Will Roll Away the Stone? Discipleship Queries for First World Christians. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1994.

Perkinson, James W. Political Spirituality in an Age of Eco-Apocalypse: Communication and Struggle Across Species, Cultures, and Religions. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2015.

Eyers, Pegi. Ancient Spirit Rising: Reclaiming Your Roots & Restoring Earth Community. Ontario: Stone Circle Press, 2015.