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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 Fall 2020

REL-250-01: Topics in Religious Studies

MWF 10:10-11 a.m.

CAP: XB: Faith Traditions and Advanced Religious Studies

Huili Stout

Zen, Tao, and Confucianism: A Textual and Artistic Experience with the Chinese Tradition

This course explores the basic teachings and aesthetics of Zen Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism as found in their classic Chinese forms and expressed in creative artistic venues. Students will learn the basic philosophical and religious elements of the Chinese tradition and make connections between these elements and Chinese art forms such as painting, poetry, architecture, martial arts, and movies. We will also reflect on the interreligious dialogue between the Chinese tradition and Catholicism by studying the conversations between several prominent scholars of the twentieth century. Students will write a movie review and a creative essay on the meaning of either Zen, Tao, or Confucianism.

REL-250-02: Topics in Religious Studies

MW 3:35-4:50 p.m.

CAP: XB: Faith Traditions and Advanced Religious Studies

Ann Huey

Devotional Living: The Materializing of Belief

Partaking in a faith tradition is a sensuous experience. It involves an engagement with sights, tastes, smells and sounds-- in short, an engagement with “stuff.” This course explores the “stuff” of the Roman Catholic tradition, in all its diversity. We will begin with an introduction on “religion and material culture” followed by a brief history of the diverging Christian interpretations of the material world and the devotional practices that engage with this world. The bulk of our time will be spent studying specific Roman Catholic devotional practices and materials from around the world. The students will be introduced to these devotions through in class speakers, videos and individual engagement in the practices themselves.

REL-250-03: Topics in Religious Studies

TR 9:30-10:45 a.m.

CAP: XB: Faith Traditions and Advanced Religious Studies

Jusuf Salih

Islam in the Modern World

This course will enable students to engage more thoroughly and critically with a tradition the understanding of which is highly significant, both historically and for the contemporary situation. It will study Muslim societies in the modern period by examining the successes and failures in their efforts to redefine their political, societal and religious values in order to be incorporated into the global order of modernity. The course will investigate what has been happening to the Muslim communities in the technical age and what were the Muslim intellectuals’ responses to challenges posed by the Westernization of their societies.

In order to overcome the oversimplified image of Islam often presented in the media, the course will examine the diversity of Muslim thought in dealing with the wide range of issues within the tradition, including such crucial questions such as nationalism, governance, gender, justice, colonialism, democracy, reform and human rights.

REL-250-04: Topics in Religious Studies

TR 11 a.m.-12:15 p.m.

CAP: XB: Faith Traditions and Advanced Religious Studies

Timothy Gabrielli

Does God Exist?

The course’s title-question has enthralled Western culture. Recent debaters on either side have gained acclaim for “heroic” engagement with the other side in events immortalized on YouTube. This course examines some classical atheistic critiques of Christianity and, more generally, God in the West, as well as some theologies developed in light of these critiques. To do this well, we will need to ask several historical-theological questions: What do we mean by “God”? What are some of the ways that Jews, Christians, and Muslims have thought about God? In what contexts did various theologies of God arise? Wrestling with such questions will help us to clarify the question of the course title so that we might have an informed, intelligent approach to it.

REL-250-05 and 250-06: Topics in Religious Studies

TR 11 a.m.-12:15 p.m. and TR 2-3:15 p.m.

CAP: XB: Faith Traditions and Advanced Religious Studies

Jusuf Salih

Islam as one of the three Abrahamic Tradition

This is a historical and topical survey of the origins and development of Islam. Special attention will be given to the life of the Prophet Muhammad and his Prophetic tradition, the main themes of the Qur'an, the development of the Muslim community and its principal institutions, theological and legal perceptions, differences of the major divisions within Islam, philosophical and mystical thoughts of Muslim community.

REL-261-01: Human Rights

TR 2-3:15 p.m.

CAP: XB: Faith Traditions and Diversity and Social Justice

Kelly Johnson

Human Rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was built on a finding that many people around the world could agree on certain basic ethical commitments, although they did not agree on why one would hold those commitments or how they would be practiced. The UDHR represents a consensus that is broad but very thin. In what respects is that an advantage and in what respects a limitation? What is the place of faith communities in human rights work? This course will examine the human right to food as it functions in international human rights agreements, in neoliberal economics, and in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. What do keeping kosher, celebrating eucharist, and keeping Ramadan fasts, for example, add to our understanding of food and our practice of justice? We’ll meet with local faith partners to learn about their food practices, their encounters with God, and their relationship to secular activism.


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