Reading the Hindu and Christian Classics (Book Review)

Reading the Hindu and Christian Classics: Why and How Deep Learning Still Matters

by Francis X. Clooney | Review by Stephanie Corigliano

Reading the Hindu and Christian Classics: Why and How Deep Learning Still Matters by Francis X. Clooney, SJ, is the product of a lifetime of scholarship, reflection, and teaching. Clooney is the Parkman Professor of Divinity and Professor of Comparative Theology at Harvard Divinity. As a 50 year member of the Society of Jesus, he is also a Catholic priest who has developed a contemporary approach to interreligious learning that emphasizes “deep learning.” This includes a slow and careful process of learning to read sacred texts in context beginning with history, philology, attention to classic commentaries, and, most importantly, attentive reading of the text itself. “Comparative Theology” (CT) is not a new discipline within the study of religion, but Clooney’s approach is distinct in that it proposes that deeply learning about another tradition can strengthen and add insight to an individual’s original faith. Thus, the basic premise of CT is that a person begins with a position of faith (in Clooney’s case, Catholic) and particular questions or ideas that arise from that faith. These questions or ideas are then set alongside a similar circumstance from another, carefully engaged tradition. For example, in an earlier publication, Divine Mother, Blessed Mother: Hindu Goddesses and the Virgin Mary (2005), Clooney compared select texts that address the Virgin Mary with various texts that celebrate select Hindu Goddesses. As such, Clooney advocates for interreligious learning as a means to deepen faith and appreciation of the other.  

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