For those who are looking for another podcast, “Biblical Time Machine” features Prof. Helen Bond (Edinburgh University) & journalist David Roos. So far, they’ve discussed the “historical” Jesus; authorship of the New Testament; and Jesus’ female disciples.
In the New Testament, Jesus says it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. In the United States today, many Christians believe in something radically different. In what’s known as the prosperity gospel, wealth is a sign of virtue and God’s favor. The effects of this belief can be seen throughout American life from business to politics to social policy.
My experience as a Religious Studies Instructor who teaches high schoolers, and conversations I’ve had with friends who are rethinking how they may or may not teach the Bible to their own children, led me to ponder whether some parts of the Bible are more appropriate for others depending on the age of a child. See “Rating the Bible”. Now I see Jared Byas of “The Bible for Normal People” fame has released a podcast episode titled “Parenting in a Faith Transition” with his wife, Sarah Byas, where they discuss this topic, so I thought I’d share but also document so that I remember it as I continue to think on this topic.
I’m not vehemently against the label ‘World Religion’ but I was uncomfortable enough with it to petition our school to change the name of our comparative religions course from ‘World Religion’ to ‘Religion in Global Context’. For many, this may seem like petty semantics. I get that. But when you’re obsessed with your area of study, sometimes being petty is necessary for precision, and precision is necessary for educating. Also, I’m convinced I don’t want to just teach ‘World Religion’, as it has been traditionally understood, but religion—that sloppy ‘term created by scholars for their intellectual purposes’ which is not natural but instead a ‘a second-order generic concept that plays the same role in establishing a disciplinary horizon that a concept such as “language” plays in linguistics or “culture” plays in anthropology’ (see Jonathan Z. Smith, ‘Religion, Religions, Religious’, pp. 281-282 in Critical Terms for Religious Studies).
In other words, I want my students to wrestle with how we define ‘religion’, what makes something a ‘religion’, and why we care so much about differentiating ‘religion’ from say ‘culture’, ‘worldview’, ‘philosophy’, etc. Sure, there are pragmatic reasons for this separation, but there’s also been a long history of political reasons for doing so. I know my students don’t know those reasons, but I sensed that the structure of the class—a class that focused mostly on surveying the ‘Great Traditions’ of Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Confucianism, and Daoism—lended itself toward being an information dump that undermined other important religions like Sikhism and Shinto while overgeneralizing the unity of say ‘Hinduism’ or ‘Christianity’ as if these are monolithic realities.
I could ramble on about this but the ‘Keeping It 101’ podcast has two episodes that are way more entertaining and insightful than what I can write here, so if you’re wondering about the problems with the label ‘World Religion’, let me invite you to listen to one or both of these episodes:
Next time, I’ll start sharing how I hope to morph my class away from just a survey of the ‘Great Traditions’ and more toward a foundational class for Religious Studies and philosophy of religion that will equip my students to think not only about the ‘Great Traditions’ but all the other traditions as well. And it won’t be as hurried because honestly, teaching a survey of Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (and then some years Confucianism and Daoism) is almost impossible to do in a single semester if you want to avoid just providing an ‘info dump’.
Several days ago I shared lists of my favorite philosophy-related and Bible-related podcasts, but I haven’t gotten around to a list of religion-related podcasts. I’ll do that, eventually. In the meantime, I want to point out a new podcast that I think you’ll enjoy if (1) you’re interested in Religious Studies and (2) you like the podcast Ologies by Alie Ward. If that’s you, try Keeping It 101 by Megan Goodwin and Ilyse Morgenstein Fuerst.
Last November our librarian, Lynn Lada, forwarded us teachers a link to the ‘NPR Student Podcast Challenge’. While I wasn’t quite ready to jump into this challenge, I did like the idea of having my students create a podcast. Additionally, the creation of a podcast had the potential to solve two problems I was facing. First, since the ‘World Religion’ course I teach is only a semester long, I was pressed to find time to cover Confucianism and Daoism adequately. Second, I needed something toward the end of the semester to break up our approach a bit. We had done some lectures, some videos, some short readings, some group discussions, but at that point I lacked good projects. So, inspired by the NPR contest, I created the Chinese Religions Podcast Project. How does it work? Below I’ll share the instructions that I’ll be giving to my students tomorrow and if you have any questions leave a comment!
Step 1 – In your cohorts, choose one person who will play the role of the podcast host/radio show interviewer. This person’s job is to compile the script, working with the others in their cohort to create the outline of their podcast episode.
Step 2 – The remaining members of the cohort should be divided into (1) experts on Confucian though and (2) experts on Daoist thought.
Step 3 – Using the Patheos Library of World Religions, as well as the chapters on Confucianism and Daoism found in Prothero’s God Is Not One, create questions for the interviewer to ask and answers to be given by the interviewees.
Step 4 – Together, work on and finalize your script. The order should look something like this:
Example Outline of Script:
You can go off-script. You can add commercials. Have fun!
Step 5 – Do a sample run. Make sure you get a feel for how you’ll perform the interview. Try to keep the podcast at 8-10 minutes. You can do up to 2 minutes of commercials but must have no less than 6 minutes of actual content.
Step 6 – Record your podcast!
Step 7 – Email/share the file with me. We’ll listen to them in class.