How can religious studies and, more broadly, the environmental humanities inform the meaning we make and the action we take in response to industrial pollution, climate destabilization, and ecological degradation -- especially concerning their unjust and harmful social impacts -- matters central to our present and future? This question drives Vic's academic work.
He is currently writing a book titled Thich Nhat Hanh's Critical Environmental Humanism, based on the Zen Master's journals, writings, and poetry during the Vietnam War. Vic's earlier work on Rwandan community organizing and grassroots democracy involved research conducted in Rwanda in collaboration with former Rwandan refugees and survivors of genocide.
He is the chair of the Religion Department, an affiliated faculty member in CLU's Environmental Studies Program, and founder and executive director of Runners for Public Lands (RPL), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that organizes runners for environmental justice, advocacy, and stewardship. Based in Ventura, CA, RPL focuses on equitable access, protecting and restoring public lands, climate change, and sustainability.
What is the study of religion?
What we study when we study religion is one mode of constructing worlds of meaning, worlds within which [people] find themselves and in which they choose to dwell. What we study is the passion and drama of [people] discovering the truth of what it is to be human. History is the framework within whose perimeter those human expressions, activities and intentionalities that we call "religious" occur. Religion is the quest, within the bounds of the human, historical condition, for the power to manipulate and negotiate one's "situation" so as to have "space" in which to meaningfully dwell. It is the power to relate one's domain to the plurality of environmental and social spheres in such a way as to guarantee the conviction that one's existence "matters." Religion is a distinctive mode of human creativity, a creativity which both discovers limits and creates limits for humane existence. What we study when we study religion is the variety of attempts to map, construct and inhabit such positions of power through the use of myths, rituals and experiences of transformation. (Jonathan Z. Smith)
Certified California Naturalist
Ph.D., University of Oxford
Selected Course Topics
Buddhism and Mindfulness
Religion and Social Change
Religion and Political Thought
Violence, Religion, and Politics
Global Environmental Activism
Religion, Identity, and Vocation
Book titled Thich Nhat Hanh's Critical Environmental Humanism
"Religion, Forestry, and Democracy in Rwanda after Genocide," in Eco-Reformation: Grace and Hope for a Planet in Peril, eds. Lisa E. Dahill and Jim Martin-Schramm (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 2017). Review.
"The Right to Freedom of Association: Organizing in Rwanda after Genocide," in On Secular Governance: Lutheran Perspectives on Contemporary Legal Issues, eds. Marie A. Failinger and Ronald W. Duty (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2016).
"Reconfiguring Rwandan Church-State Relations," in Lutheran Identity and Political Theology, eds. Carl Henric-Grenholm and Goran Gunner (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 2014).
"Critically Engaging Public Officials in Rwanda," Studies in World Christianity 23:3 (2017), 257-280.
"On Inter-religious Friendships," Journal of Lutheran Ethics 11:3 (May/June 2011).
"Voluntary Poverty," Journal of Lutheran Ethics 10:6 (June 2010).
"Trustworthiness: Infrastructuring a Better Chicago," AREA (Art, Research, Education, Activism) 10 (October 2010).
"Trail Running and Climate Action" (keynote), 2020 U.S. Trail Running Conference, Fayetteville, Arkansas, October 21, 2020.
"Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh on Decolonizing Your Mind," American Academy of Religion, Denver, Colorado, November 19, 2018.
"When Cunning Is Prudence: Rwandan Organizing, Thomistic Virtue," Religion and Power: New Directions in Social Ethics Conference, Princeton University, March 12, 2015. Invited presentation.
"'Things Are Not Okay in Rwanda If You Shut Up': Community Organizing Practices and Human Rights Advocacy after Genocide," Society of Christian Ethics, Chicago, January 11, 2015.
"Countering Complicity: Rwandan Political Theology after Genocide," American Academy of Religion, San Diego, California, November 23, 2014.
"The Right to Freedom of Association: Organizing in Rwanda after Genocide," Lutheran Perspectives on Contemporary Legal Issues, Valparaiso University Law School, Chicago, March 27, 2014.
"Toward a Rwandan Lutheran Political Theology," Remembering the Past, Living the Future: Lutheran Tradition in Transition Conference, University of Uppsala, Sweden, October 9, 2013.
"On Religious Anarchism," Third International Conference on Religion and Spirituality in Society, March 9, 2013.
"Second Realities: Karl Barth's Ethics and Socially-Engaged Art," Society of Christian Ethics (Pacific Meeting), February 10, 2012.
"Comprehensive Immigration Reform," Society of Christian Ethics Annual Meeting, January 8, 2010.
"Faith and Immigration Reform," Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service Briefing, Washington, D.C., October 14, 2009.
- Grant Funding
2020 AllWeDoIsRun Conservation Partner (Runners for Public Lands)
2020 Spartan Trail Nonprofit Conservation Partner (Runners for Public Lands)
$1,000 HOKA Nonprofit Grant, January, 2020.
$4,500 Nonprofit Grant, Ventura Turkey Trot, December, 2019.
$2,000 Nonprofit Grant, Ventura Marathon, November, 2019.
$1,800 HOKA Nonprofit Grant, October, 2019.
$40,000 Sabbatical Research Grant, Louisville Institute, 2017-2018
$5,000 CLU Faculty Research Grant, 2014
$5,000 Wabash Summer Research Grant, 2013