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 2019

REL-207-01: Faith Traditions, Judaism

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

CAP: XB: Faith Traditions and Diversity and Social Justice

Aryeh Ballaban

A 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-208-01 and 02: Faith Traditions, Islam Religious Traditions

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

CAP: XB: Faith Traditions and Diversity and Social Justice

Jusuf Salih

Islam as one of the three Abrahamic Traditions

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-214-01: Disability and the Bible

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

CAP: XB: Faith Traditions and Diversity & 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-227-01: Faith Traditions, Beliefs Dialogue

MWF 12:20-1:10 p.m.

CAP: XB: Faith Traditions and Diversity and Social Justice

Joshua Wopata

Miracles, Mysticism, Madness, and Modernity

Many features of religion do not fit squarely into our modern, secular, and academic context that emphasizes rationality, civility, and clarity. Yet Christianity and many other religious traditions have scriptures, stories, and sects within them that frustrate our modern assumptions. This class will challenge our imagination about what religion is, how it functions, and what it means through encountering persons, events, and understandings of religion that inhabit "alternative worlds." Specifically, we will examine miracles, strange religious phenomena, mystics who saw God, and persons considered holy because of or despite their “madness.” We will investigate rival accounts of how these persons and phenomena are depicted, and ask the question of whether we as "modern people" have the capacity, desire, or need to see God, religion, and ourselves differently.

REL-228-01: Faith Traditions, Historical Encounters

MWF 10:10-11 a.m.

CAP: XB: Faith Traditions and Diversity and Social Justice

Anthony Rosselli

Pope Francis and Contemporary Catholicism

Since his election to the papacy in 2013, Pope Francis has captivated Catholics and non-Catholics alike with his spontaneity, humility, and compassion for the poor. At the same time, within the Church itself he has both initiated waves of renewal and provoked significant controversy. In many ways, Francis’s papacy prompts that anxious question peculiarly dear to the modern Church: what does it mean to be Catholic today? This course will not only introduce students to this enigmatic pope, but will also seek to situate the goals of his papacy within the wider history of the Catholic Church. Thus, students will be introduced to the unique concerns and identity of contemporary Catholicism and begin to discern how Francis has shaped and will continue to shape the Catholic Church.

REL-228-02: Faith Traditions, Historical Encounters

MWF 12:20-1:10 p.m.

CAP: XB: Faith Traditions and Diversity and Social Justice

Laurie Eloe

The Church in the Modern World

This course considers the Catholic Church's engagement with modernity through the biographies of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) and Dorothy Day (1897-1980): one man, one woman; one religious priest, one lay person; one European, one American. Teilhard's biography provides an opportunity to look at the Church's struggle to articulate the catholicity and orthodoxy of its teachings in the midst of its ongoing dialogue with the contemporary world; Day's biography lends itself to a consideration of the Church's social teaching during the modern period. Together, the lives of Teilhard and Day help answer the question “How have the Church and the modern world shaped each other?”

REL-256-01: Faith Traditions, Prayer

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

CAP: XB: Faith Traditions and Diversity and Social Justice

Sandra Yocum


Explores prayer as a fundamental practice for those seeking to enter into a relationship with the divine. This course offer students opportunities to learn about and practice forms of prayer especially from the Christian tradition as well as to explore Jewish practices of prayer. Consideration will be given to the connections between prayer and vocation, the significance of communal prayer, and the fruits of personal and communal prayer which deepen respect and love for "self" and “the neighbor” and sustain commitments to the works of mercy, compassion, and justice.

REL-266-01: Faith Traditions, Moral Reasoning

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

CAP: XB: Faith Traditions and Diversity and Social Justice

Jens Mueller

Social Activism and Catholic Social Teaching

During the past few years we have experienced a rediscovery of social activism not only in the United States, but as a worldwide phenomenon. Movements like Occupy Wall Street, the Arab Spring, or #MeToo exemplify how activists’ emotions and moral sensibilities, as well as their own personal stories, shape people’s moral agency. Yet, only little is known about how one’s own faith tradition contributes to social activism. Or does it at all? What does it mean to live out one’s faith as a Christian, Muslim or Jew in the 21st century? In this course we will examine how social activism is rooted within one’s belief system. On the one hand, we will explore how faith enables moral agency, thus, giving reason for participating in moral protest. Obstacles in contemporary society that complicate faith-based activism will also be discussed.

REL-270-01: Popular Culture, American Religions

TR 2-3:15 p.m.

CAP: XB: Faith Traditions and Diversity and 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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