Biography

Ronald R. Burke, Editor

Ronald R. Burke is Professor of Religious Studies in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and co-editor of The Journal of Religion and Film. Born in Harlan, Iowa, and schooled at the Jesuit Creighton Prep in Omaha, he did his B.A. in Philosophy and M.A. in theology at the University of Notre Dame (1966, 1968), in the halcyon days of President Theodore Hesburgh, CSC, Coach Ara Parseghian, and Pope John XXIII. He spent his junior year at the National Diocesan Seminary at Catholic University (1964-65), and did a summer of German study at the Goethe Institute in the mountains of Bavaria. He then did an M.Phil. and Ph. D. at Yale University (1970, 1974), assistant teaching for Paul Holmer and writing under George Lindbeck. While working on his dissertation (Rahner and Revelation), he taught part-time at the College of New Rochelle and at the Maryknoll Seminary at Ossning, New York. 

After taking a tenure-track position at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (1971), he founded the Roman Catholic Modernism Group in the American Academy of Religion (1976), and remains on its Board of Directors. He won a National Endowment for the Humanities grant to spend twelve months studying the history of religious studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara, working with Walter Capps and Ninian Smart (1978-79). The time in California led to two changes in Ron's work. First, he saw the importance and popularity of an introductory world religions class at the university and brought this back to UNOmaha. Seven sections of the class now commonly enroll almost 500 students every semester at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Secondly, the studies in California gave him opportunity to write articles on some of the most important participants in the Roman Catholic "modernist crisis." In the Journal of Religion, the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Mary Jo Weaver's (ed.) Newman and the Modernists, and the Religious Studies Review, he investigated especially the work and lives of Alfred Loisy, Friedrich von Huegel, and George Tyrrell. These men were not only theologians attempting to express traditional Catholic faith in the context of a new grammar and perspective for scholarly writings. They were also individuals whose "modernist" efforts were doomed by the tensions of political dismemberment which their Catholic institution was at that time suffering (1890-1910). Dr. Burke's work, closely connected to that of the entire Roman Catholic Modernism Group he had founded, made a significant contribution to a better historical perspective upon the influence of political events in the condemnations of the modernists. A work summarizing the Group's Findings was published as "Catholicism Contending with Modernity" (Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Winning another NEH grant in 1992, Ron spent the summer at the University of California at Berkeley, working under Claude Welch on nineteenth century theology in Europe and the United States. This led to him editing a book on John Henry Newman: Theology and Reform (New York: Garland, 1992). He also contributed an important interdisciplinary work on the personality of John Henry Newman for Gerard Magill's Personality and Belief (New York: Lanham, 1994).

Now with more interest in the wonders of the communications era and in visual learning, Ron has become part of his University's "high-tech" faculty. He has received a combination of grants and released time with which to initiate the new electronic Journal of Religion and Film. This work has both intensified his appreciation for "filmic" learning and widened his sense of religion. He sees the basic and unifying questions which underlie all religions to be those of how to cope with life, human yearnings, and with death. Such questions are addressed not only in traditional religions, but in religions without traditional notions of God and without a "supernatural" dimension. Most pertinently, the questions are involved in a variety of contemporary films.

Married since 1971, Ron and his wife, Mary, have two daughters, Becky and Katie. He comes from a close Catholic family of seven children, raised in a liminal space between rural and urban cultures. With deep roots in the soil, he is a student of farm management, Wall Street, and corporate real estate. He has an avid interest in racquetball, exercise, computers, and golf. He helped to found a corporation called "Voodoo Golf," for the manufacture and sale of golf equipment and apparel. He enjoys winter vacations to warmer climates, bridge, Tom Clancy's novels, special days of perfect climate, and the WEB. He represents the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Omaha at the city's Jewish-Catholic Biblical Discussion Group.