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Academic Initiatives

Faith Traditions

The following courses address the theme of Faith Traditions, one of the seven institutional learning goals articulated in the Habits of Inquiry and Reflection (HIR). These courses are offered by the Department of Religious Studies.

Faith Traditions Course Sections for Spring 2020


REL-207-01: Faith Traditions, Judaism

MW 3:35-4:50 p.m. 

CAP: XB: Faith Traditions and Diversity and Social Justice

Steven Donnally

General Introduction to Judaism

This class will provide a general introduction to Judaism. We will explore religious, philosophical, and mystical texts, and the ways they have been interpreted. Through close reading and interpretation, we will reconstruct some ways that Judaism has transformed throughout time, studying its relationships with other religions (especially Christianity and Islam) and historical movements (Hellenism, Enlightenment, and Secularism). This course will focus on interpretation: how do different groups read texts? How we can develop our own ways of interpreting? What can we learn from Jewish methods of reading and interpretation?

Rel-214-01 and 02: Disability & Bible

TR 12:30-1:45 p.m. and TR 2:00-3:15 p.m.

CAP: XB: Faith Traditions and Diversity and Social Justice

Meghan Henning

Magic, Medicine, or Miracles?: Disability, Healing, and Healthcare in the Ancient World, the Bible, and Today

Doctors today still recite the “Hippocratic Oath,” but do our modern medical practices have anything else in common with the attitudes of ancient practitioners like Hippocrates?  We will examine ancient incantations and spells, the writings of ancient doctors like Galen and Hippocrates, and the archeological evidence of healing shrines.   We will compare these ancient attitudes towards sickness and healing to the practices we observe in the Bible and in other ancient Jewish and Early Christian texts.  How were healing and healthcare conceived in antiquity?  Can we uncover attitudes towards sickness and disability in these same pieces of evidence?  How does the ancient epistemology of medicine compare with our own attitudes toward healing and healthcare?  Have we inherited more than the Hippocratic Oath?

Rel-228-01: Faith Traditions, Historical Encounters

MWF 11:15-12:05 p.m.

CAP: XB: Faith Traditions and Diversity & Social Justice

Michael Romero

Cultures in Collision: Catholic Missionaries in the Americas

What drove the people who came to the Americas? What did the people who were already here think of them? What did the Catholic Church have to say or do about it? This course explores the missionary experience of the Spanish Catholic friars who came to the unexplored Americas to Christianize the native persons whom they encountered from the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries. This period is analyzed from the perspective of the pre-colonial worldviews of the Spanish and the Natives. The main guiding question for the course is two parts: what did the missionaries hand-on to the people they were trying to Christianize, and what did the Native Peoples actually receive. The course focuses on the religious-cultural exchange between the two groups—not merely the traditional conquistador-centered narrative—relying on some primary sources from the missionaries, explorers, and native records.

REl-228-02: Faith Traditions, Historical Encounters

TR 12:30-1:45 p.m.

CAP: XB: Faith Traditions and Diversity & Social Justice

Josh Wopata

American Lay Causes for Sainthood as Models for Vocation

Many young lay Catholics wonder about what it looks like to be holy in the modern world. The course will explore this concern by examining biographical accounts of recent causes of American lay people for the sainthood. Additionally, by studying their historical context, this very diverse group of a dozen witnesses will be used to facilitate a conversation about the nature of lay "vocation" in our own contemporary and secular world. For example, we will analyze both the Native American Saint Kateri Tekakwitha (1656-1680) and the former slave Venerable Pierre Toussaint (1766-1853), as well as more recent causes that include a stigmatic mother (Rhoda Wise 1888-1955) from Youngstown, Ohio, and the controversial case of the incapacitated “Little Audrey” Santo (1983-2007) as American models of lay holiness.

REl-261-01: Faith Traditions, Human Rights

MWF 1:25-2:15 p.m.



Human RIghts

Faith communities seem to be sometimes allies and sometimes opponents of the work to establish international human rights. Do all faiths say the same thing, or do they disagree? Does religion promote peace and justice or violence and intolerance? And why, in the face of human rights atrocities, do people continue to believe that there is a good God?  More than half of the world’s population identify as either Christian or Muslim. This course will particularly explore the ways those communities understand and advocate for human rights.

REL-270-01: Popular Culture, American Religions

TR 2-3:15 p.m.

CAP: XB: Faith Traditions and Diversity & Social Justice

Anthony Smith

Popular Culture, American Religions

Explores the multiple, complex intersections of popular culture and religion in American cultural history. Religion in popular culture, popular culture in religion, popular culture as religion are among the subjects examined in this course. This course studies popular culture as a significant institution in American history and contemporary life where society is imagined, represented, signified, symbolized and contested. It explores the multiple roles of religion within this work of popular culture in terms of both fostering social injustice and contributing to constructive alternatives. This includes examination of the numerous ways that religious identities and values have been deployed through popular narratives, representations and imagery that have contributed to social injustice. It also entails exploration of the constructive role that religious perspectives, peoples, and values have played within popular culture that offer alternatives and challenges to social injustice.



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