World Religions and How to Study Them
In this course, students gain religious literacy by learning about eight world religions and experiencing some previously unknown religious people, places, and things. They 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. This is a Community Engaged Learning (CEL) course.
Work, Ethics, and Society (aka The Meaning of Work)
In this course, students have the opportunity to better understand the influence of religious traditions on political, economic, and cultural life (and vice versa). They read philosophers, theologians, economists, and ethicists from the modern to contemporary periods in order to better grasp the interdependence of systems of religion, politics, and society. At the end of the course, students reflect on how their own work choices may be bound up with economic systems, political and social action, ethics, and their own interpretations of life and society.
Schleiermacher and Ramanuja: Christianity in Dialogue
In this upper-level religious studies seminar, students discuss the thought of Friedrich Schleiermacher and Ramanuja, putting them in dialogue with one another. Schleiermacher (1768-1834, Prussia) is the founder of modern Christian theology, and has influenced the whole stream of Christian thought since the Enlightenment. Ramanuja (1017-1137, S. India) is one of the great Hindu philosophers in the Vedanta school. His influence is so vast that many acclaim his work as the basis of popular Hindu philosophy. Although Schleiermacher and Ramanuja come from dramatically different contexts, both have tendencies toward pan(en)theism, which holds that the world and humanity constitute the divine embodiment, and emphasize divine grace. In addition to delving into the thought of each of these figures, students discuss methodological features of religious studies, like whether and/or how comparisons between traditions may be legitimately made.
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, students 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, students begin to think about religious traditions, experiences, and how to evaluate religious claims and practices.
Does Religion Belong in the Hospital?
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 her Christian faith? In case studies like these, the intersection 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), students examine ethical principles that commonly guide decisions in health care, and religious perspectives on medical care and ethical decision-making (including Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, and humanistic traditions).
Vocation in Today’s World
What do you want to do with your life? What do you want to be after you graduate? Is there money in that? You’ve likely been barraged by these sorts of questions already, as you graduated from high school and chose a college. Now that you’re here, you might be especially concerned about choosing the right path, figuring out exactly how to gain the skills you’ll need in the workforce, and having some fun along the way. In this course, students reflect together on their life trajectories, and learn some skills that will be indispensable in their careers and college itself: thinking well, speaking in an engaging way, and writing professionally. Within this religious studies course, students explore vocation as it has been interpreted by eight different religious and secular perspectives: Judaism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism and Daoism, and Secularism. By taking this course, students gain some insight into their own way of approaching the world, their talents, and their career goals, while developing some building blocks for reasoning and communicating that will help them for the rest of their lives, no matter where life takes them after college.
Modern and Contemporary Theology
Over the past 250 years, the world has seen dramatic changes in philosophy, science, and society. These changes have led some to wonder how Christians can claim to know God and practice religion in an age of space travel, modern medicine, and the iPhone? Others wonder what they are to say about Christianity after the Holocaust/Shoah, neo-colonialism, and other ways Christianity has been used for oppressive functions. In this course, students have the opportunity to explore the ways that theologians since the Englightenment have responded to these challenges in scientific advancement, philosophical developments, and social change.
Christian Thought through Time
Because of the prevalence of Christianity in the U.S., many people believe they’ve got a good grasp on the Christian tradition. In fact, Christianity is a global set of sub-traditions that have vibrant lives about which most people aren’t aware. In this course, students encounter diverse views about important topics in Christian thought: Scripture, Creation, Grace, Humanity, Jesus, Atonement/Redemption, the Trinity, the Church, and Resurrection. Students encounter Christianity from the pens of Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant authors throughout the early, medieval, and modern ages.
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, students explore one of the enduring points of conflict and conversation within Christianity: the doctrine of the Trinity.
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, students 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, students consider what is at stake in discussions of Christian liberation.
Vocational Inquiry in Context
In this course that accompanies Vocation, Ethics, and Society internships, students think deeply about the ethical and societal issues they are facing in the workplace, what it means to be a worker within society, and how to find their own voice as a person and worker in today’s world. Internship discussions are meant to bring the theoretical reflections begun in Work, Ethics, and Society and other multi-disciplinary 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 students investigate scholarly works relating to these questions, try out various trains of thought, and consider diverse viewpoints. In Faith and Doubt, students use these important and controversial questions to explore and develop their 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, students investigate the three major divisions within the Christian Church that led to all this chaos (the Oriental Orthodox split in 451, the East-West Schism of 1054, and the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century). In this course, students visit an Eastern Orthodox church, a Roman Catholic church, and a Lutheran (ELCA) church, so that they can see the ways that these early and late 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, students have the opportunity to explore the ways that some religous authors integrate feminist theory with their religious traditions.