The past couple of weeks I’ve been preparing my students for our engagement with the Gospels by discussing topics such as the geography of Judea, Samaria, and Galilee; the theology of first-century Jews; the role of the Temple, the priesthood, and the cult; the importance of the Hebrew Scriptures; the emergence of apocalyptic thought; the the diversity of Judaisms in the first-century (e.g., Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes). I’m in the midst of teaching about the relationship between the Jews and Greeks (Hellenization) and the Jews and the Romans (Latinization) then late next week I’ll introduce them to Messianism.

As a way of bringing together the complexities of Jewish religion, culture, and politics in the first-century, I derived a role play game for my students. Those who survive to the end win bonus points (and who doesn’t like that?), so that gets them immediately invested, but as the game moves along the mysteriousness of it makes it fun. I don’t tell my students what it is about or why I had them play the game until it’s finished.

The following pictures are of the Google Slides that I use to instruct them along with my commentary:

This first slide introduces the game. I tell them that this is a post-United States future. The nation has fallen and former states have arisen to create new, smaller nations. Two of the greats are California and Texas but since California controlled the main technology (and since I as their teacher am Californian) they must play the role of Texans who lost a battle with the Californians and are now oppressed. The point here is to begin a simulation where they can imagine being like the Jews under the rule of the Romans.
Next, students get out a piece of paper and answer the following questions. Here I’m mixing some modern concerns with Josephus’ generalized descriptions of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes. This allows students to form groups based on ideologies.
These questions causes further divisions sometimes or force people to compromise their character’s personal beliefs in order to remain ‘in’ the group. Some students end up alone as individuals without an ideological home. Some groups are small. Sometimes groups grow large. This shows how even ideological groups aren’t monoliths because they have internal divisions and disputes. For the sake of the game, some of these questions have practical outcomes. The ritual must be performed (if possible…at least acted) in order to move from one group to another. Proselytizing groups are given time to go make converts. Private groups can choose to allow people who come to them to enter or be completely restrictive.
This last series of ‘Wild Card’ rounds forces students to choose to align groups (if they do, they need to make compromises to form new groups). Sometimes students convert from one to the other by themselves. Then major social political events impact them. Violent oppression. Drought. Finally, I end with a form of Messianism…and those who join this Messiah—Javy Crockett—die. Why? Because as Josephus shows us, messiahs always failed to overthrown Rome! And this Californian teacher isn’t about the alter things.

2 Replies to “Texanism!”

  1. I love it! Keep updating.

    I believe religious “literacy” (broadly, especially some grasp of personal and social/societal dynamics) must be developed by people, the younger the better. Christian (or other) faith built upon that will be healthier, more compassionate. Let’s keep in touch about using your class plans and experiences toward a various-ages curriculum and how to roll it out for broader use in different settings. I believe it is DOABLE.


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