Josh Carpenter is a comparative ethicist whose research interest lies in the deployment and alteration of theological motifs, arguments, and/or practices among marginalized communities, especially Black, poor, and LGBTQ+ communities. Implicit in this is a lived religions inspired approach in which he examines ethnographic and historical data as a means of understanding how theological proclamations offered by traditional authorities such as scholastic theologians, the Vatican, Ayatullahs, and local ministers are interpreted, transformed, and practiced by adherents with an eye towards practices that might contest oppressive power structures.
HIs publication “Black Lives Matter: A Just War Perspective” is an example of this work. In this chapter published in Uncivil Disobedience: Theological Perspectives (2023, Lexington), he reads the Black Lives Matter movement through Cathleen Kaveny’s conception of just war theory. By rendering BLM as intelligible through this lens, he suggests that BLM is justified in producing social unrest in light of the injustices suffered by Black Americans (and that their interlocutors are not). His forthcoming dissertation entitled Theology in the Wild is an analysis of theological accounts of labor from Kathryn Tanner, Luke Bretherton, and Pope Leo XIII. It can be understood as an attempt to show the failures of traditional theological authorities—both scholastic and institutional—to meet the needs of those they claim to serve. The very theology that is to meet human needs prevents these authorities form meeting those needs, and this justifies a shift in methodology if theology is to be practiced well. He is currently working on a response to Elizabeth Bucar’s latest work in which he asks Bucar for a more nuanced account of religious appropriation by considering the use of the music of Black divas in the construction of white gay identity, an identity that often does not critique white supremacy.
During his tenure at Florida State, he has taught both Religious Ethics and Moral Problems (REL 3170) and Multicultural Film (HUM 3321). He focuses on fostering fundamental skills such as critical reading and writing amongst his students so that they may engage in difficult conversations with clarity and acumen and gain agency over their own moral formation. He has served as associate editor of the Journal of Religious Ethics and has been awarded fellowships and travel grants for conference participation. He has also served in leadership roles amongst his fellow graduate students, serving as an organizer for 2019’s Graduate Student Symposium as well as the representative to the Graduate Student Union and to the Religion Dept. Faculty in 2023.
- Fundamentalism (American Christian and Islamic)
- Ordinary Language Philosophy
- Political Theory
- REL3170: Religious Ethics and Moral Problems
- HUM3321: Multicultural Film