Anthony Cruz Pantojas, (they/he/elle/él), the humanist chaplain at Tufts University, will be coming to Elon to give the keynote address for the annual student-led Ripple Conference, now in its eighth year.
Pantojas will give their keynote address, “Living in the Interstices: Spiritual Reflections from a Queer Afro-Caribbean Humanist” on Feb. 17 at 6:30 p.m. Registration is open on the Ripple Conference website.
According to Pantojas, this talk explores the significance of personal history as a site of knowledge production and worldmaking, and will challenge the audience to see beyond their own experiences.
“In particular, I will contextualize the questions that have guided my spiritual, philosophical, and ethical journey,” explained Pantojas. “I want to talk about things that might make the audience a little uncomfortable, invite them to sit with that discomfort and to think about potential. Leaning into and exploring otherness will free us to think about relating and understanding, and ultimately how we can work towards liberatory futures for all.”
The Ripple Conference takes place at Elon from Feb. 17-19, 2023, and this year will focus on the theme of “Stretching the Limits of Religious Identities.” This theme centers on the idea that no religion, spirituality, faith tradition, philosophy or worldview is a monolith. During this year’s conference, participants will be encouraged to think outside the box, celebrate their own overlapping intersectional identities and make space to learn, grow, and engage.
“The Ripple Conference provides a space for Elon students to learn and challenge their ideas of religious, spiritual, ethical, and philosophical constructs alongside students from other campuses regionally and nationally,” said Elon University Chaplain and Dean of Multifaith Engagement Rev. Kirstin Boswell.
“Each year’s theme is different, and I think that as we look at the national discourse around religion that is ofttimes so divisive, it is of the highest importance this year to invite our students — the world’s future leaders — to examine, grapple with, and stretch the boundaries of religious identity,” Boswell added.
For Pantojas, this theme is part of their own lived experience. “I hope to share my identities and experiences that revitalize how we might think about being, becoming, and belonging. This keynote is a reflective treatise and invitation to think ‘otherwise,’” Pantojas said.
Pantojas is a bilingual doctoral candidate in cultural studies, and is also the inaugural graduate student of the Anti-Racist Curatorial Practice Program. Pantojas has been recognized with numerous awards, including an Interfaith Innovation Fellowship sponsored by Interfaith America and spearheads an initiative for BIPOC first-generation emerging spiritual and ethical leaders. Pantojas earned master’s degrees in theological studies and leadership studies from Andover Newton Theological School and Meadville Lombard Theological School, respectively.
Additionally, they hold a certificate in humanist studies from the American Humanist Association Center for Education where they are the first graduate of the program. Currently, they serve as an advisory committee member for Spiritual Care by & for the Unaffiliated with the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab, sponsored by Fetzer Institute. Additionally, they serve as Board Member of the Association of Chaplaincy and Spiritual Life in Higher Education, the Secular Coalition for America, Mystic Soul Project, among other non-profit organizations.
According to the American Humanist Association, humanism is an approach to life based on reason and our common humanity, recognizing that moral values are properly founded on human nature and experience alone. For Pantojas, humanism is also about the complexities, challenges, and possibilities of culture, power and spirituality. Humanists might identify in different ways, whether agnostic, atheist, non-theist or freethinker.
Pantojas will bring this worldview to Elon, as they engage with the students at the Ripple Conference, and encourage them to stretch the limits of how they both view religion and spirituality, and the ways they engage with and foster understanding of one another. In his keynote, Pantojas will also center minoritized identities that have not been prioritized in traditional interreligious engagement.
“In this time of great polarization and precarity, the need to understand the diverse narratives and lived experiences of others is great. Historically, the discourses surrounding religion and interreligious engagement have centered Western modernity, theist, and notably Christian paradigm. Interreligious work means talking about difference, ethics, and hospitality in our ever-changing world,” explained Pantojas.
Reverend Bowell concurs. “Whether we are talking about the intersections of religion and politics, religion and health care access, religion and social justice, or religion and care for our planet, or a host of other intersectional themes, these are areas that are highly fraught and laden with baggage and emotion. Spaces like the Ripple Conference allow students—and all of our community members—to think about these issues in a real way in a space that will challenge and push them to determine how they will interact with these issues in the real world.”
More about the Ripple Conference:
Early Bird Registration for the Ripple Conference is now open and will run through Jan. 30.
Registration information can be found at rippleconference.org. Elon students, faculty, and staff are invited to reach out to Ivy Breivogel or Hillary Zaken, or DM @truittcenter on Instagram for codes for discounted participation. On the website, you can register for the conference, apply for leadership, and view our schedule and other conference details as they become available. Opportunities include leading Breakout Sessions, Community Groups, Affinity Groups, or performing in the Sacred Sounds Coffee House.
For more information and updates about the Ripple Interfaith Conference, please follow Elon University’s Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life on Instagram and visit the Truitt Center website or the Ripple Conference website.
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