Spring 2015 Course Descriptions

RELI 311 Bible and Film in Dialogue (Dr. Rindge)

Jean Epstein's description of film as "profane revelation" invites reflection upon the religious and theological functions of film, and the various ways in which film, relingion, and theology might intersect.  In what ways can flms be understood as religious or theological texts? How can films function as sacred texts? How are films theological or religious? This course explores different ways in which religion (and theology) and film can be placed into mutually critical conversation.  How can bilblical texts provide new lenses for our viewing of films? In what ways can films enrich our understanding and interpretation of biblical texts?  Specific attention will be given to constructing mutually enriching dialogues between recent films (1999 - present) and specific biblical texts. Films to be viewed include The Matrix, Smoke Signals, Run Lola Run, Fight club, American Beauty, About Schmidt, Magnolia, The Last Temptaiton of Christ, Donnie Darko, Dogville, Pan's Labyrinth, Moulin Rouge!, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Tree of Life.


RELI 332 Christian Marriage (Prof. K. Finley)

In Christian Marriage we explore what skills are needed for a successful marriage, includeing a healthy sense of self-esteem, an undertanding of what love and intimacy is and isn't, clarity about what maturity and qualities are needed for marriage, an appreciation of one's family background, the ablility to communicate effectively, an awareness of gender roles, a comfort level with one's own sexuality and communicating about it, the ability to handle money issues well, an appreciation of one's own spirituality, being open to having children, and appreciating marriage as a process and a commitment to grow and change.  We also explore marriage and scripture, the history of the church's attitudes toward marriage and the importance of the family seen as the domestic church, the beginnings of the experience of faith.

Upon completing this course, students should be able to understand the implications of marriage understood as a process rather than as a static reality, reflect on variious areas within the theology and spirituality of marriage, such as intimacy, sexuality and fidelity and to critique current portrayals of these topics in the media, to explain why the Catholic traditions considers marriage a sacrament and to comment on the evolution of the Church's understandig of marriage. They also should be able to explain the idea of the family as the domestic church and some of its implications.


RELI 343 Christian Leadership (Dr. McKenzie)

What does it mean to be a Christian or moral leader in today's world? This course will introduce students to the foundations of Christian leadership through study and reflection on current leadership theory, scripture, and tradition.  Informed by lectures, contemporary literature, media and art, students will participate in a Socratic seminar classroom process - a collaborative intellectual dialogue on the texts and topics. Through exploration of the moral dimensions of leadership and the Christian understanding of leadership, students will develop a personal definition of leadership in a Christian/ moral context.

RELI 350 Interreligious Dialogue (Dr. Dunn)

This course investigates the phenomenon of religious fundamentalism around the globe. We will use materials ranging from autobiography, fiction, speeches and essays, film, and social analysis in order to trace patterns among Christian, Hindu, Jewish, and Muslim communities.  We will examine issues of moral responsibility involveing not only religious violence and conflict, but also some of the ongoing moral problems created by Western imperialism and exploitative capitalism.


RELI 350 Interreligious Dialogue (Dr. Sheveland)

This course begins by studying a variety of theories speculating on the meaning of relitious diversity befor, second, explores concrete "scenes" of interreligious dialogue currently unfolding in the United States between Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Buddhists. Each North American scene also entails vivid global features and voices, reinforcing the truism that religions belief and experience in today's world is globalized.

The scourse stresses the role of students in becoming conscieous of thier own perspective on these matters and developing thier own critically reflective view on the prospects for (and value of) religious encounter today. As a cours in "interreligious" or "comparative" theology, students are invited to cross over into the worldviews of religously different neighbors, to perceive similarities and differences, and to ask whether such exposure empowers fresh thinking about one's home tradition or about common human experience.


RELI 352 Judaism (Dr. Goldstein)

Judaism is as much related to "peoplehood" and cultural expression as it is related to religioun. To fully understand this claim, we will explore both Jewish historical experience and the ways in which Jews live today. By combining the study of the fundamentals of Jewish religion - its concepts, laws, liturgical langualge, and sacred texts, we will explore the multiple expressions of Jewish identity.


RELI 370 Chrisian Spirituality (Dr. Milos)

After initial exploration of the concept of "spirituality," we will examine a variety of Christian spiritual traditions as they have been embodied in significant individuals and movements. We will focus on recurring themes, how the cultural context influences a lived Christian spirituality, as well as unique contributions made in living out a gospel commitment. We will also focus on more contemporary approaches to understandig and living a Christian spirituality, with special emphasis on the relationship between spirituality and social justice.


RELI 390.01 Rats: Plague in History and Religion (Dr. J. K. Downey & Dr. R. DeAragon; can also be taken as History 390)

Plague reminds us of the history of human suffering and asks us to reflect on the human condition.  The course will examine human suffering through the lenses of history and theology by looking at concrete historical cases and the world today. Random mass death - that is, a plague death - challenges human dignity and religious belief. What is a plague? How have people dealt with it in the past/ How can we deal with it today?

While we will touch on the tragedy of Ebola, the organizing thread and image will be a study of major pandemic from which we have some distance and perspective; the bubonic plague or Black Death of the middle ages. We will read primary sources from plague earas in order to connect with the world of the Black Death. The nw political theology will provide a contemporary theological resource, while primary and secondary sources, film, and a novel will connect us with the time of the Black Death.


RELI 390.02 Spirituality of Paul (Dr. McCruden)

As the self-designated Apostle to the Gentiles, paul of Tarsus played a critical role in translating for a predominantly non-Jewish audience the early Christian proclamation concerning the death and resurrection of jesus. What motivated Paul to engage in such a mission? And what were the defining characteristics of the message that pauld brought to the communities that he founded in the mafor cities of the ancient Mediterranean world? Possible answers to theses and other questions will be sought through an investigation of the spirituality of Paul. By Paul's spirituality we refer essentially to two things: 1) the root religious sensibilites of Paul that were dramatically shapted both by his Jewish heritage and faith experience in the risen Jesus; and 2) Paul's experience of the cosmic significance of the Christ event and the concrete ways in which he envisioned this experience to be embodied in actual living practice.


RELI 390.03 Religions of China (Dr. Hughes)

tThis course is an introduction to the religious traditions of China in all of their diversity including Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism. The course ranges historically from the ancient and medieval schools of Chinese philosophy to questions raised by the encounter of chinese civilization with modernity and other cultures. The course aims to better understand different notions of both "religion" and "China" (or "Chineseness"). Open to anyone without prerequisites, the course assumes no prior knowledge of the field of religous studies or the study of China.


RELI 390.04 Religion and Violence (Dr. Sheveland)

This course investigates various forms of violence and consults multiple religious traditions and sacred texts as rescources for diagnosing human weaknesses and vulnerabilities as well as for carving out alternative, salutary prescriptions of life with others. The course stresses the role of students' own critical thinking and in coming to their own determination on controversial questions concerning religious militancy, the so-called new atheism, sexual and domestic violence, and the value of a comparative religious and interdisciplinary approach to these questions.


RELI 390.05, 06 Visions of the Buddha (Dr. Hughes)
This course explores the relationship between written descriptions and visual representations within Buddhism from the beginning of the Common Era in India, to cave temples on the Silk Road in China, a medieval pilgrimage site in Japan, and ends with modern-day America. We will look at how material and visual forms of religious expressions have been conceptualized and deployed by Buddhists in these different times and cultures. We will examine how both texts and images construct meaning within Buddhism and if those meanings are always compatible with one another. How does visuality affect the understanding and practice of Buddhism?


RELI 110 Hebrew Bible (Dr. Goldstein)

This course offers an introduction to the literature, religion, and social practices of the people of ancient Israel as it is reflected in the Hebrew Bible. The Hebrew Bible, known also as the Old Testament, is named for its language of origin, Hebrew. This section will have the special opportunity tto learn to read Hebrew. Written over the course of roughly 1000 years, the Hebrew Bible is one of the most referenced works of all times. Three of the world's religions (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism) attribute sacred status to it. Although it is known as "The Book," the Hebrew Bible is actually a compendium of many books. We will pay attention to the ways in which these ancient writings developed. How did these texts come ot look like they do today? Where were they written and when? What are the chief concerns of the writers and to whom are these writings addressed? We will attempt to answer all of these questions by utilizing tools from the academic fields of history, cultural anthropology, archaeology, and literature.


RELI 110 Hebrew Bible (Dr. Starbuck)

A study of the key theological claims of the Hebrew Bible, especially as they intersect and infom relational, ethical, psychological, and theological issues of modern life. Students inelligently read the texts of the Hebrew Bible with a view to the wider comparative cultural context of the ancient Near East in which they were composed and critically engage the texts as interpretive partners searching out the deeper issues of human existence, power, hope, and purpose.

RELI 120 New Testament (Prof. V. Thompson)

In order to occasion fruitful engagement with the text and discourse among readers, this course is designed to uncover the religious power of the New Testament as the Word of God. The aim of the course is served by cultivationg an understanding of, as well as the facility to navigate, the literary, rhetorical, theological, and historical dimensions of the New Testament materials.

From the standpoint of the Various critical perspectives the course will examine selected readings, representative of the various materials that comprise the collection. Our purpose is twofold: 1) Methodologically our aim is (a) to familiarize students with the various materials which comprise the New Testament and (b) to cultivate more knowledgeable and sophisticated readers and discourse partners. 2) Substantively our aim is to expand student understandign and engageent with the New Testament treatment of two crucial theological questions: (a) What does it mean to be human? (b) Who is God and how does God interact with creation, and to what end?


RELI 120 New Testament (Prof. V. Mudd)

This course is an introduction to the Gospels and selected epistles of the New Testament through exploration of the authors, thier religious and philosophical traditions as well as thier socio-political contexts. Our investigation will be guided by the following questions: Where/when did these writings come from? Who wrote them and why? What messages are conveyed? How do the writings mutually inform each other?

Upon completion of the course, the student will be able to: (1) demonstrate a basic knowledge of the discrete contents of the New Testament; (2) employ biblical critical skills thorugh exegetical essay writing; (3) participate in a respectful and informed dialogue about Christian sacred texts and the origins of Christianity in Judaism.


RELI 120 New Testament (Dr. McCruden)

The canonical New Testament comprises an anthology of early Christian literature composed over roughly a seventy-year time period (50-120 CE). this stage in formative Christianity witnessed the transformation of the early Jesus groups from a Jewish reform movement centered in ancient Palestine to a predominately Gentile movement spread throughout the ancient Mediterranean world. Our goal in this course will be to examine and interpret a representative selectoin of texts from the New Testament in a manner that does justice both to the world behind the text (the social/ historical dimension) and the world in front of the text (the theological dimension).


RELI 124 Life and Teachings of Jesus: Synoptic Gospels (Dr. Bartholomew)

Images of Jesus have played a significant role in American culture over the course of our short history. A stream of books by scholars reflects the search for a meaningful Jesus. How do we read the New Testament Gospels themselves for the images of Jesus that emerge there? What is the nature and character of those narratives? What must we know about the cultural context of the Evangelists to hear them as their original audiences may have? How can academic study of the Gospels equip us to be participants in the ongoing question for a meaningful Jesus in our own culture?


RELI 124 Life and Teachings of Jesus: Synoptic Gospels (Dr. Rindge)

Who was/ is Jesus? The myriad answers to this question are diverse and wide ranging. Was he a religious reformer? Political revolutionary? Mystic? Prophet? Messiah? Wise sage? Miracle worker? God's son? Like a Rorschach test, such answers often reveal as much (or more) about the person giving them as they do about Jesus. The quest to understand Jesus has persisted for 2,000 years, and has found expression in faith communities, academic circles, and art (painting, music, literature, and film). Who was/ is Jesus? What are the implications of Jesus' life teachings for our contemporary world? This course explores these questions by examining, in an academic context, the life, activity, and teachings of Jesus as presented in the three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) in the New Testament.


RELI 200 Religion and Human Experience (Dr. J. K. Downey)

We will explore some of the basic experiences, concepts, and challenges involved in being religious. But the course is not a catalogue of answers or a list of musty generalizations. It is an hones intellectual inquiry into the possibility of being intelligent and religious. This course is an introduction to the limits, rules, and standards of evidence particular to the community of academic inquirers. THe course proceeds by taking seriously some of the various intellectual and experiential crises confronting the religious person. Many of the examples will come from the Christian religion, but issues are selected so as to be applicable ot several of the world's religions. Areas examined include the interplay of religion and culture, religion and the intellectual life, the conflict of literary-historical criticism and biblical authority, religion and science, human suffering, gender, and the new political theology. The point of this course is not to agree with each of the theologians we study but by entering their scholarly discussions to develop an intellectual pattern for judging religious claims ourselves. Students are encouraged to become comfortable thinking about religion.


RELI 205 History and Teachings of Christianity (Dr. Bell)

This course is designed to give students of all religious backgrounds (or none) an introductory knowledge of how Christianity has grown from its beginnings to the present day. Two-thousand years of the history of an extroverted movement that has penetrated every inhabited continent and claims billions of adherents is a tough thing to cover in a bare sixteen weeks, so our survey will be focused. We will accomplish that focus by exploring a working definition for Christianity: that is a movement for translating the claims of the Church about Jesus across cultural lines, looking especially at its "Western" cultural trajectory as a case study.

RELI 215 Christian Diversity (Dr. Milos)

This course introduces students to the diversity of beliefs, spiritualities, practices and histories of selected Christian traditions. We explore the following branches of Christianity: Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Reformation, Evangelical and Free churches. After an initial introduction to some foundational concepts and background, we will approach the traditions from the following perspectives: history and development; significant doctrinal emphases; key elements of their spirituality and worship. We will then examine two major cultural expressions of Christianity in the United States: the Black Church and the Hispanic Christianity in the U.S. The final segment of the course will examine the development and impact of the ecumenical movement as it has affected relations among Christian churches during the past century.

RELI 221 African Catholicism (Dr. Baraza)

Africa is a diverse and large continent with different regions, mottled histories and cultures. The African Catholicism course will provide an introduction to the history and ethnography of pre-colonial, colonial, and postcolonial African societies. The course will then highlight the varied nature of the Catholic tradition as it takes shape within particular cultural and historical context. "Ubuntu," and African philosophy which holds that a person is a person because of other persons will be highlighted. The course will then conclude by reflecting upon whether Catholicism can be understood cross-culturally as a tradition of religous practice and inquiry by various cultures.

RELI 240 Religions in America (Dr. Clark)

This course provides a historical examination of religions in America with particular attention to the social and cultural contexts that have shaped the history of religions in America. The course focuses on the encounters and exchanges of diverse communities and the recurrent themes of utopianism and revivalism, and conflict. Throughout the course, we will investigate the powerful social, cultural, political, and intellectual role religion has played throughout our nation's past. You also will learn how to "hear" and understand the voices of people from the past embeddedin historical artifacts.

RELI 240 African American Religions (Dr. Clark)

This course introduces you to the variety of African American religions that developed in the Americas during and since the Atlantic slave trade. We will look at the religious experiences of African Americans in what is now the United States and in places around the Caribbean world. The historical contexts surroundign the development of African American religions and the lived experiences of African Americans are the main topics of our course. The class includes discussion of West African religions, the impact of the Atlantic slave trade, the role of politics, the construction of racial identities, and most importantly, the diverse of African American religions.