Associate Professor, Theology and Religious Studies
Affiliated Faculty, Ethnic Studies
Karen Teel, PhD, has been a member of the Department of Theology and Religious Studies since 2007 and an affiliated faculty member with the Department of Ethnic Studies since 2013. Her courses in Christian and, more specifically, Catholic theology invite students to consider biblical, historical, and contemporary - especially liberationist - perspectives on the essential beliefs of Christianity. Dr. Teel’s current research and teaching endeavors emphasize theological engagement with the problems of racism and white supremacy.
Ph.D., Boston College, Theology
M.A., Boston College, Theology
B.A., Gonzaga University, Psychology and Religious Studies
Scholarly and Creative Work
At present, Dr. Teel’s primary research concern is to bring Christian theological anthropology (the study of what it means to be human, in Christian perspective) and Christology (the study of Jesus) into critical, creative engagement with the ongoing problems of racism and white supremacy in the United States and beyond. To this end, she often works with contemporary theologies from traditionally underrepresented groups, particularly black and womanist theologies, as well as with literature from relevant fields such as critical whiteness studies and critical race theory. In her book, Racism and the Image of God (2010), she engaged the works of womanist (African American feminist) thinkers to begin developing a theology of the body that compels Christians to resist injustice, particularly the sin of racism. She is now writing a book entitled The Unbearable Whiteness of Jesus. Some of her recent work appears in two chapters, “What Jesus Wouldn’t Do: A White Theologian Engages Whiteness” (in Christology and Whiteness: What Would Jesus Do?, edited by George Yancy), and “Feeling White, Feeling Good: ‘Antiracist’ White Sensibilities” (forthcoming in a 2014 volume also edited by Yancy).
A secondary, related interest for Dr. Teel is Christianity’s contemporary global situation as one religion among many. She hopes that the Christian beliefs in Jesus and the Trinity can encourage Christians to encounter genuine religious differences with joy and grace, and to honor truth in all religions. This was the subject of her article, “Christianity as Closed Monotheism? A Contemporary Catholic Approach to Interreligious Dialogue,” which appeared in the Annual Volume of the College Theology Society for 2011.
Dr. Teel is an active member of the American Academy of Religion, the Catholic Theological Society of America, and the College Theology Society.
Dr. Teel’s courses immerse students in diverse Catholic and Christian perspectives on essential beliefs of Christianity, such as God as Trinity, Jesus as savior, and the human person as the image of God. Students study foundational articulations of Christian faith, including the Bible, and encounter various contemporary perspectives. In Dr. Teel’s courses, liberation theologies are prominent, especially black, womanist, and feminist theologies, and other critical theological engagements with racism and white supremacy.