WATER Follow-Up

WATERtalk Introduction to



 with Mary E. Hunt

Wednesday, March 6, 2024 1–2 pm EST

WATER thanks Dr. Kate Common (she/they)for joining us to talk about her new and important book, UNDOING  CONQUEST: ANCIENT ISRAEL, THE BIBLE, AND THE FUTURE OF CHRISTIANITY (Orbis Books, 2024).

Video of this WATERtalk

WATER’s work brings feminist/womanist spiritual values and intellectual work to efforts at social change. Our hope is that by sharing their work in this setting we are socializing the resources of feminist/womanist work in religion and thus spreading tools and energy for justice.


A warm WATER welcome to Dr. Kate Common. She has an undergraduate degree in Fine Arts from Kent State University, and an MA from Andover Newton Theological Seminary. In 2021, she completed her PhD at Boston University School of Theology.

This would all seem to be a quite typical profile of a feminist, queer theologian. But Kate has an equally impressive background in design, both in design theory and in design itself. She worked for Marshalls, a top Fortune 100 design team. Design and theology come into happy collaboration in her.

I met Kate during her studies when she co-produced a wonderful film entitled “Forging Voices” which came out in 2017. She interviewed womanist and feminist theologians about gender, race, and theology.

Kate Common (she/they) is currently Assistant Professor of Public and Practical Theology at Methodist Theological School in Ohio where she teaches courses on the intersections of feminist and queer theology, ecclesiology, biblical studies, design thinking, and leadership. She is working on her second book, Desiring Utopia: Queering Church, in conjunction with the AAR Academy Series and Oxford University Press.

This is how Kate describes UNDOING CONQUEST:

Undoing Conquest examines problematic Christian theologies and the biblical conquest narrative in the Book of Joshua that undergirds white-settler Christian colonialism and genocide across the globe and specifically in the North American context. The book explores how archeological evidence across Israel and Palestine challenges the violent conquest story in the Bible and can reshape Christian identity and faith practices. The book speaks to this critical moment when the Israel-Gaza War rages on and many churches seek to deal with violent Christian pasts. Undoing Conquest interprets archeological research from a feminist and decolonial perspective and designs a new liturgical season called a Season of Origins that integrates archeological histories and centers justice work at the heart of the church’s annual rhythms. The book gives people a tangible place to start repairing violent Christian histories.”

In my blurb for the book, I wrote in part, “Kate Common’s book arrives at a propitious moment when an intractable conflict with scriptural roots cries out for new thinking…This is feminist practical theology at its best, and God willing, just in the nick of time.”

Kate provided a thorough overview of her book. She has shared the slides she used for her lecture. These are a very good guide to her analysis and proposals for action. For her PowerPoint, click here:  https://drive.google.com/file/d/1PuOFFxL-epczuFpSO9Y1a8KP53-2rj2Q/view?ts=65e9dd0d

This PDF is pp. 132-133 of the book. It is a wonderful articulation of the new narrative that Kate offers for shifting from conquest to communitarian imagery as part of the origin story for at least two major world religions.

Her email is: kcommon@mtso.edu

Dr. Common will be teaching a course in April on the UNDOING CONQUEST material: https://www.theseekerstable.com/undoing-conquest.



UNDOING CONQUEST (Orbis, 2024) is clearly a book that opens new doors for social and ecclesial change. With the Highland Settlement material becoming increasingly well known, there is a new resource in the public arena for leaving aside conquest language and imagery. The exodus to the hills was a positive, creative step toward a new way of living.

The clarity of the text makes it accessible to a wide audience. The various ways in which biblical and archeological scholarship, sermon ideas, images, and texts cohere make for exemplary practical theology.

The richness of Kate Common’s (KC) work was reflected in the extended question and answer period that followed. Here is a sample of the conversation, by no means comprehensive but enough to whet the appetite to listen to the whole discussion.

  1. One scholar asked where the Conquest narrative comes from.KC referenced 2 King 22. She described the move from the 1200-1050 BCE Iron Age peaceful living of the Highland Settlement to the Conquest Story 640-609 BCE.
  1. A colleague spoke about the implications of this shift in story for people on the ground doing climate justice work.
  1. Another colleague commented on how origin stories shape consciousness.KC gave an example from the design world, Coca Cola shaping the Christmas story, to illustrate how basic this is to social consciousness.
  1. One remark in the chat was brought up: “I am struck by how destruction precipitated regeneration that introduced different practices of power and community without conquest.” How does the theology take root with people who are constantly being wiped out?KC: These stories/practices will have to be different depending on starting points. Indigenous scholars’ work is key here so the stories are read through the eyes of those who have been disempowered. So a Black church will live out the Origins practices differently than a white church.
  1. A question arose about signs of liturgical life in the Settlements
    KC: Remnants of Baal worship and Goddesses are found.
  1. How archeology challenges theology, and how literal reading of scripture makes it hard to shift narratives.
    KC: Let the text and archeology converge or diverge.
  1. Are the Highlands Settlements the high places in the Bible, and what are the signs of liturgical life have been found in the Settlements?
    KC: The Bible speaks of the high places, Goddess worship, sacred trees etc. are seen in the Settlement period. There are remnants of Baal worship and Goddesses aplenty.
  1. A healthy “hermeneutics of suspicion” makes this new sense of the origin story feasible. Indigenous stories like Turtle Island are so important. Learning from the original people on the land is key.
    KC underscored the need for new metaphors.
  1. A scientist among us raised the issue of the development of technology through the Iron Age.
    KC mentioned chalk-lined cisterns, terraced agriculture, iron tools, and the development of written language as basic to that time period. Parallels now include AI, social media, and people who live off the grid. Democratizing technologies have pluses and minuses but they are real.
  1. Another issue raised was the danger of linear narratives and how hard it is to pull back bellicose images.
    KC added the need to lift up other stories, and to see conquest to stories as Othering in the most negative sense, for example in South Africa with the Afrikaners.
  1. The question of how to bring this new material into regular preaching remains on the table. Likewise, there are tensions and contradictions in the Bible.
    KC hopes their work will, at a minimum, promote biblical literacy.

WATER thanks Kate Common for bringing this compelling conversation to our circles. We look forward to continuing it with them in the years to come.