A little over a week ago, I shared my “Course Description” for my fall 2021 class “The Hebrew Scriptures”. Today, I want to share the one I wrote for “Religion in Global Context,” my other fall 2021 class:
“Religion in Global Context is an examination of how religious beliefs and practices function amongst a variety of cultures in different parts of the world. Students are taught methods of inquiry related to history, the philosophy of religion, and the social sciences as they explore not only how the word “religion” refers to a wide-variety of traditions but also how those traditions are internally diverse, dynamic, and embedded in culture. The aim is to develop “religious literacy” so that students can become familiar with and accustomed to the variety of religious expressions found in an international context. Similarly, this course functions to help create awareness of how religion continues to influence how the various peoples of the world understand and interpret their origins, identities, morals, ethics, politics, and other matters related to being a global citizen on an increasingly interconnected planet.”
A couple of days ago, I shared my current “course description” for my fall 2021 class, “The Hebrew Scriptures”. Another addition to the syllabus is the “Key Idea” or what I’ve called “The Enduring Understanding” in past versions. In short, it’s the one thing I hope my students can articulate and upon which they could expound, to some degree, if I ran into them in ten or twenty years. Here’s my current draft.
This matches the three ways I invite my students to read these texts: as historians; a literary critics; as philosophers. I don’t limit them to these approaches though I do hope that they’ll push my students to engage the Bible in a new way—a way that’s different from the liturgical usage with which they’re probably familiar.
If things remain the same, this fall semester I’ll teach two blocks of The Hebrew Scriptures and three of Religion in Global Context. I’ve begun doing a little bit of prep work (don’t worry, I’m taking my summer break seriously by getting lots of rest and working on other writing projects) which includes putting together my syllabi. Each syllabus for each class includes a “course description”. Each year, I rework the description as more experience helps me develop a more precise focus. For those who are interested, here is the current draft for The Hebrew Scriptures:
“The Hebrew Scriptures is an examination of the corpus of ancient literature known as the ‘Tanakh’ to Jews and the ‘Old Testament‘ to Christians. Students are taught methods of reading that are appropriate for an academic setting yet sensitive to the place of these collections within living communities. This means approaching these texts from the perspective taken by historians, literary critics, and philosophers—to name a few disciplines—while asking what these texts have meant and mean. The aim is to develop ‘biblical literacy’ so that students can become familiar with and accustomed to interpreting texts that have been influential on a global scale. Similarly, the course functions to put these ancient texts in dialogue with modern concerns (e.g. metaphysical claims; ethical and moral thinking; ethnic and religious identity; imperialism and empire-building; human sexuality).”