World Religions and How to Study Them
In this course, students will gain religious literacy by learning about eight world religions and experiencing some previously unknown religious people, places, and things. We’ll also learn theories about religions and methods for studying religions at an introductory level. That will involve learning about the relevance of religious literacy and religious studies by investigating how religious people and traditions influence people’s day-to-day lives. Finally, students will have the opportunity to develop their own personal identity in relation to religious others within a shared society.
Work, Ethics, and Society (aka The Meaning of Work)
Isn’t religion something private that ought to stay outside the public arena? What do people’s religious beliefs about the Torah, Jesus, or the Qur’an have to do with their work, and how that work fits into economic frameworks like capitalism or socialism? In this course, you will have the opportunity to better understand the influence of religious traditions on economic life (and vice versa). We will read philosophers, theologians, economists, and ethicists from in the modern to contemporary periods in order to better grasp the interdependence of systems of religion, economics, philosophical theories of justice, anthropologies, ecologies, and politics. At the end of the course, we’ll expand the discussion to include explicit reflection on how your own work choices may be bound up with economics, ethics, and your interpretations of life and society.
The Pentecostal Explosion: Pentecostalism and Charismatic Movements
Did you know that Pentecostalism is one of the fastest growing religious traditions in the world today? In this course, we’ll read about the history of Pentecostalism and Charismatic movements in the 20th century in the U.S. and across the globe. That history is filled with interesting stories of speaking in tongues, divine healing, being “slain in the Spirit,” getting “the jerks,” and “holy laughter.” Here, you’ll begin to think about religious traditions, experiences, and how to evaluate religious claims and practices.
Does Religion Belong in the Hospital?
What might a doctor do if a patient requests genetic counseling or screening before carrying a pregnancy to term? How might a Jehovah’s Witness act when his doctor tells him that a blood transfusion is the only way to save his child’s life, but his religion tells him it is forbidden? What action would an Ethics Committee recommend when a patient requests euthanasia on the basis of their Christian faith? In these ways and more, the study of religious traditions, ethical decision making, and health care is a hotbed of controversy and complexity. Using case studies—including suicide and refusal of life-sustaining treatment, and abortion and maternal-fetal relations—we will examine ethical principles that commonly guide decisions in health care. We will also explore religious perspectives on medical care and ethical decision-making, including Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, and humanistic traditions.
Modern and Contemporary Theology
Isn’t religious belief outdated, superstitious, and a thing of the past? How can people claim to know God and practice religion in an age of space travel, modern medicine, and the iPhone? Moreover, how can people practice Christianity when it has been deeply involved in neo-colonialism, racism, sexism, and heterosexism? In this course, you will have the opportunity to explore the ways that theologians over the past 250 years have responded to dramatic changes in philosophy, science, and society. We will investigate the important roles theology and the Church may still have to play in the contemporary world.
History of Christian Thought
So you think you know what Christianity is all about? Join us in an adventure of surprises in this course on the history of Christian thought. Moving both temporally and topically, we’ll encounter a plethora of diverse Christian views about Scripture, Creation, Grace, Humanity, Jesus and the Christ, Redemption/Reconciliation, the Trinity, Church, and Resurrection. You’ll be introduced to Christianity from the perspective of Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and Protestantism throughout the early, medieval, and modern ages. After taking this course, you’ll be hard pressed to say “Christians believe…” ever again!
The Trinity Then and Now
What is the Trinity? Why has it caused so much controversy throughout Christian history? How is the concept related to early Greek philosophy? And why does it matter? Could the Trinity have any relevance for contemporary Christianity? How does understanding the Trinity help students of religion better understand Christianity as a whole? Or does it? In this course, we explore one of the enduring points of conflict and conversation within Christian history. We’ll read some of its greatest theologians, from the earliest centuries through the present day.
Christian Liberation: Race and Sex
Over the past 50 years, Christians have been engaged in efforts to liberate and establish justice for women, post-Jim Crow era African-Americans, and LGBTQ persons. What’s more, feminist, black and womanist, and queer theologians claim that involvement in such efforts is at the core of what it means to be Christian. But there are many who disagree. In fact, right here in Mississippi, people claim that “liberation theology” is a divergence from the true gospel: God wants women to submit, servants to remain in their stations, and marriage only between a man and a woman. In this course, we will investigate the roots of liberation theology within Christian thought and practice. In conversation with the ground-breaking texts of early feminist, black and womanist, and queer theologians, we will consider what is at stake in discussions of Christian liberation.
Vocational Inquiry in Context
In this course that accompanies your internships, we’ll think deeply about the ethical and societal issues you are facing in the workplace, what it means to be a worker within society, and how to find your own voice as a person and worker in today’s world. Our internship discussions are meant to bring the theoretical reflections conducted in Work, Ethics, and Society and other courses into conversation with concrete experiences and situations in the workplace.
Faith and Doubt
Modern folks the world over have been raising critical questions about God. Does God exist? Why might people think so? Does talk about “God” make any sense in today’s world? Are theistic religions wish-fulfillments and self-aggrandizing projections? Do they lead to immorality? Or could they lead to doing good things? While these questions can be difficult and/or intimidating to discuss with family, friends, or in the wider public sphere, in the safe space of the classroom we’ll investigate scholarly works relating to these questions, try out various trains of thought, and consider diverse viewpoints. In Faith and Doubt, we’ll use these important and controversial questions to explore and develop your critical thinking, writing, and communication skills.
Chaos and Community in Medieval Christianity
Nowadays there are hundreds of Christian denominations! Why are there so many different denominations, and how did they proliferate so plentifully? In this course, we’ll investigate the two major divisions within the Christian Church that led to all this chaos (the East-West split of 1054, and the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century). In the course of our study, we’ll visit an Eastern Orthodox church, a Roman Catholic church, and a Lutheran (ELCA) church, so that you can see the ways that these medieval traditions continue to thrive in the present day.
Feminism in Religious Traditions
Is it an oxymoron to be a Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or Buddhist feminist? Given the ways that religious traditions have been used to denigrate, oppress, and inflict harm on women throughout the centuries, why even attempt such an enterprise? In this course, you will have the opportunity to explore the particular ways that Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, and Christian authors integrate feminist theory with their religious traditions.