Asian Spiritualities and Global Affairs
To understand religion, we should go to Asia: Asia boasts the majority of the world's religions and religious people. In this class, we look at what Asian religious traditions are up to today, and how they inform everyday social and political life.
How might religious traditions as diverse as Zen Buddhism and Zoroastrianism inform conflict, coexistence, and cooperation? What is it to be human within worldviews that seem to depart from our own with respect to gender, sexuality, ethnicity, dis/ability, and the natural world? How might society, culture, or economy develop in Sunni Muslim, humanistic Buddhist, or atheist Maoist terms? How might we learn to "scale up" spiritual practices such as shamanism, ancestor worship, radical nonviolence, and mindfulness meditation to solve global problems?
We read historians, anthropologists, and other scholars of religion to explore Asian spiritual routes and roots, from Iraq to Japan and beyond.
American Evangelicals and Global Affairs
Since the end of the Cold War, American Evangelicals’ political influence has increased significantly. For example, Christian Zionist have continued to contribute meaningfully to American political support for the state of Israel. Additionally, to improve human dignity, Evangelicals have established schools and promoted literacy, built clinics and dispensaries, promoted agricultural development and distributed food aid, created orphanages, and propagated values about the inherent worth of all persons. Twenty-five to thirty percent of the US population is neo-evangelical and another five to ten percent adheres to some form of evangelical theology. That means that 100 million Americans are in one way or another tied to evangelical theology and they seem to pray, think, vote, and lobby as a coalition.
This course will examine the rise of American Evangelicalism and explore matters deemed important to Evangelicals: social and political affairs, global engagement, participation in public affairs, international affairs, support of Israel, political and economic development. More generally, this course offers a compelling account of Evangelicals’ influence on America’s role in the world. Students will learn how to engage more thoughtfully and productively with this influential religious group—a group that has been called political kingmakers. Students will also learn about the largest protestant denomination in the world—Southern Baptists—from the professor, who was a former Southern Baptist Minister and church planter.
Islam and Global Affairs
Is Islam a religion or political ideology? Where do Muslims live? What do they look like? Do all Muslims want to live according to the Sharia? Is the Clash of Civilizations real? Can Muslims share the planet with non-Muslims in permanent peace? Do Muslims have anything akin to Catholic Social Teaching? If you are interested in these kinds of questions, you need to take this course.
A journey through the scripture and scholarly traditions of Islam, the course engages multiple overlapping and intersecting themes of relevance to global affairs, including geography and demographics; governance and political thought; international relations and organizations; civil society and social teachings; knowledge and education; ecology and climate change; migration and identity; human rights and dignity; war and peace; and development and progress. We will also look at contemporary debates surrounding Islam and religious freedom.
The course provides a snapshot of the "Muslim world" in the heartlands where Islam originated, where it thrives in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, and in places where Muslims live as influential minorities in Europe and North America, based on the latest available data and representative case studies. Designed as survey course with ample time for discussion, students with no prior exposure to Islam are welcome alongside more advanced students who wish to bring their knowledge of Islamic thought into conversation with the conditions of the contemporary world. Graduate students with an interest in religion may enroll with instructor permission.