Final Exam Details

by admin - December 13th, 2012

The final exam of the semester will be Monday, December 17th at 8:30 am (although you can come as late as 9 if you want) in our classroom, Sullivan 121. You should bring the Diana Eck New Religious America book with you.

Here are the terms and questions you should be prepared to write about:

Terms, People and Concepts to define/ discuss

Responses to diversity: exclusion, assimilation, pluralism
Buddhist: 4 Noble Truths + 3 Refuges, Hsi Lai, Zen, Theravada, Mahayana, Vajrayana, Thich Nhat Hanh
Muslim: 5 Pillars, Night of Power, Qur’an, Nation of Islam, hijab
Hindu: Shiva, Vishnu, Lakshmi, Ganesha, kumbhabhishekha, Bhagavad Gita, T-M, tirtha, Holi, Diwali, Vivekananda, Yogananda
What links the Ganges and the Mississippi for American Hindus?
What accounts for the large numbers of Muslims living in the Midwest?

Essay Questions (choose one)
If you use direct quotations or ideas from Eck’s book, provide the page number in parentheses at the end of the sentence.

1) How has religious pluralism (NOT just “religion”) affected American society and politics? Contrast two different time periods (be specific) or case studies (again, being specific) in your answer.

2) Consider the title of Eck’s book. This nation has had a strong identity as a “Christian Country,” although to a great extent that identity had failed to acknowledge religious pluralism present from the beginning of the country’s history. Nevertheless, that conception of America as a Christian nation has undeniably changed. How, when, and why? Provide at least three specific examples to support your argument.

4) Eck’s book discusses numerous examples of overlapping or richly complicated immigrant identities, and at the ways that newcomers both adopt aspects of “American” culture and persist in expressing their cultural and religious identities. Many of these examples involve ongoing or unresolved conflict over what is permissible, legal, or acceptable. Assess the current legal and/or cultural climate for religiously-observant immigrants, using at least two of her examples to support your essay.

5) Is the bridge-building that Eck discusses in Chapter 7 still needed? Why or why not? That chapter discusses some of the “tasks” before us in American society today. Discuss some of the ones Eck outlines and what else would you add to her list?

6) Diana Eck’s book was first published in 2001 and revised in 2002 (just after the attacks on 9/11). How has the American religious landscape changed since then? Does her textured portrait of diversity hold up after more than a decade; is her book still relevant – why or why not? Who is missing from her “kaleidoscope” and if you were asked to revise the book for 2013 publication, what else would you want to include?

Last Week of Class – Bridge Building

by admin - December 2nd, 2012

For our last week of discussion sessions, please bring the Diana Eck book to class all three days – we will be reading and discussing Chapters 5, 6 and 7 and considering, first, the place of Muslims in America and then, the challenges posed to both civic and political life by religious pluralism, and finally, how to get closer as a society to the stance of “active acceptance” not just “passive toleration” that such diversity demands.

Monday 12/3
– Chapter 5 (American Muslims)

Two videos for today:

Wednesday 12/5 – Chapter 6 (Afraid of Ourselves)

Friday 12/7 – Chapter 7 (Bridge-Building) and final Friday Forum. Due in class: a short paper on Eck’s book (any chapter or section); the topic is open, but please provide analysis and discussion of a meaty/substantive question, rather than a simple “response” based on personal opinion or your own experiences.

The unit exam will be held on Mon 12/17 morning in our classroom. Arriving at 8:30 is not necessary, since the exam will not take the full 3 hours – coming at 9:00 is fine.

Week of Monday 11/26

by admin - November 23rd, 2012

Back into the swing of the last 2 weeks, we’ll be reading Chapters 2-4 of Diana Eck’s book this week and talking about Hinduism and Buddhism in America – past and present – Hinduism on Monday (Ch 3) and Buddhism (Ch 4) on Wednesday.

Other reminders: don’t forget to peruse the links under the Unit 5 tab above, for examples of contemporary world religious communities online in the US. There’s a Friday forum up for this Friday 11/30 also – it’s posted on Blackboard. And your research paper is due Friday!

New Unit: Religious Pluralism in Contemporary America

by admin - November 14th, 2012

Once we re-enter our flooded campus, we will be starting a unit about religious pluralism in the United States today. How did it happen? What does it mean? How widespread is it, and how important to American society and politics? Our book will be Diana Eck’s A New Religious America, which is now a decade old, so we can assess how well its argument holds up ten years on.

We will keep to the syllabus schedule except for altering the plans for this Friday, when we meet next:

Fri 11/16 – a BRIEF Friday Forum, but mostly a discussion of Eck Ch 2 (bring your book to class) and an overview of what we mean by “religious pluralism” today

Thanks, stay dry!
Prof. Hangen

Exam Prep for Friday, Nov 9th

by admin - November 7th, 2012

At Friday’s exam, you will have all class period to write on the question posted below. You may bring one 3×5 index card with anything on it you please.

Describe an example of religion in the Civil Rights Movement (be specific – a song, a speech quote, a piece of writing) and identify the theology (themes, creed, values, ideas) in it.

Using this example, craft an argument about the role or significance of religion in the movement (with any other evidence you choose to include).

Please refer to/discuss Chappell’s book in some way in your answer!

Some links that may be helpful as you prepare:

People Get Ready: Music and the Civil Rights Movement (Brian Ward/Gilder Lehrman Center)

Classic Gospel Music Collection (NPR review/links including the Hamer “Go Tell It” we heard in class)

Fannie Lou Hamer speaking to the DNC in 1964

Stone of Hope: Liberals and Prophetic Religion

by admin - October 25th, 2012

The first several chapters of David Chappell’s book introduce a broader cast of characters for the civil rights movement, including liberals who supported the movement but did not provide its motivating faith nor ensure its cohesiveness and intellectuals and thinkers who fit into the American “prophetic religion” tradition (which is long and fascinating – think about who might fall into that category today).

Link: Martin Luther King, Jr, “I Have a Dream” 28 August 1963 (full transcript and scriptural references here). By the way, the speech was not broadcast live on television. Only those who were there experienced it in its entirety; clips were broadcast later, but not live. Notice especially King’s rhetorical techniques of repetition, cadence, and emphasis – very preacher-like, of course – and pay attention to when and how the audience responds.

Slides from class on Wed 10/24 – Reading is Intro & Ch 1


View more presentations or Upload your own.

Fri 10/26 – Prophetic Religion: Reading is Ch 3

Mon 10/29 – The Civil Rights Movement as Religious Revival: Reading is Ch 4-5

Update: Hello everyone – a brief response paper is due on Friday, Nov 2nd. This is to have something in hand from which to discuss Chappell’s book so far. Please write 2-3 pages on one of these questions and be prepared to hand in what you write –

  • Assess Chappell’s characterization of any of the three main groups of intellectuals (thinkers, strategists) he identifies during the civil rights movement: white liberals, black prophets and movement activists, and white supremacists. What kinds of sources is he using to craft his argument? Are you persuaded?
  • How does this interpretation or retelling of the movement’s history square with (or not) your previous understanding of the movement?
  • What does a religious perspective on the civil rights movement contribute to your current understanding of the movement?
  • Discuss King’s “I Have a Dream” speech as an example of prophetic religion.
  • Contrast 2 of the thinkers Chappell considers, and discuss how their ideas are important to the movement.

African American Religion, Introduction – Mon 10/22

by admin - October 22nd, 2012

Reading: Charles H. Long, “African American Religion in the United States of America: An Interpretive Essay” (found on Blackboard PDF)

Relevant Links to Use in Class (not part of the pre-class readings):

The Ringshout and the Birth of African American Religion, PBS (6:51)
Georgia Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters, Part II (10:13)
African American Spirituals, PBS Religion and Ethics Newsweekly 5/4/2012 (8:35)
A Closer Look at Black Liberation Theology, NPR/ Barbara Bradley Hagerty 3/18/2008 (3:45)
Anthony Bradley, Black Liberation Theology, the One-Minute Apologist (1:44)
Mary, Did You Know? Black Nativity (Langston Hughes) (2:58)
Doing Black Liberation Theology in the Age of Obama, academic panel at the Schomburg Center with Howard Dodson, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Jr., Dr. Obery Hendricks, and Dr. Anthea Butler

The Site Visit Digital Project

by admin - October 14th, 2012

This week we’re working on the Site Visit digital project. Everyone’s site visit should be done and you should be working on the write-up and the congregational profile. We will spend class time doing this on Monday and Wednesday; I would advise bringing laptops both days.

Also – for Monday 10/15, please glance through/read this report from the Association of Religion Data Archives (ARDA) by J. Gordon Melton, “American Religion’s Mega-Trends” over the last 40 years. How many of these mega-trends do you think are at work in Worcester? Do you see evidence of them in your field research with a local congregation? How has the religious landscape changed in Worcester in the last several decades and how can our collective documentation efforts help not only our own understanding but that of other scholars who are interested in Worcester’s history and culture?

There’s a new Friday Forum open for 10/19 on Blackboard – please be checking your news feeds for interesting recent religion news and contributing to the forums, either online or in class by bringing something ready to discuss.

Unit 3: Worcester’s Religious Landscape – Then and Now

by admin - October 10th, 2012

In this unit, we’re starting with a look at two cities where religious pluralism gains a toehold in the era of massive European immigration. On Wed 10/10 we glanced at Chicago in the 1890s, site of the Columbian Exposition of 1893 and the World Parliament of Religions. On Fri 10/12 we will look at Worcester around the same time period and consider the essential debates that such immigration caused in American cities like Worcester – and the effect of those arrivals on the religious landscape of our city.

Throughout this unit, you’ll be writing and preparing to post your analysis of a local religious organization or congregation on the Digital Worcester archive, and that will hopefully give us a better sense of the religious landscape of the early 21st century in our locality.

For Fri 10/12 – please READ and BRING Diana Eck’s article “In the Name of Religions” (posted to Blackboard in Unit 3) as well as adding to, or prepping for, our 4th Friday Forum.

Re-examining Religious Freedom

by admin - October 2nd, 2012

As we finish up The Myth of American Religious Freedom, think about these questions –

Sehat paints the “moral establishment” as implicitly state-sanctioned, coercive, and relatively monolithic in the 19th century. Are all of those characteristics also true for the 20th century? What are the key features of the religious landscape today? Is there still a “moral establishment” in our time, and in what arenas might it be powerful or weak?

Sehat tells much of the story of the last 50 years through the lens of Supreme Court cases. Could you discuss his argument for the fragmentation of a Protestant moral establishment and the mis-use of history by both sides in the culture wars using some other lens?

After having read the book, do you agree (based on what evidence) that American religious freedom is a myth? Remember, myths can have powerful functions in culture – labeling something a myth may not make it “wrong” or worth dismissing, but might instead help us explain its staying power and coherence. Myths reflect and even shape reality and give narrative structure to history.

To what extent do you, personally, experience degrees of religious freedom and unfreedom? Which of the people, events, court cases, or themes in this book connected with your own identity as an American?

Important Reminders:

The Unit 2 exam on Friday will be a take-home test. You will receive it by email on Thursday 10/4 by 9pm and it will also be posted to Blackboard. It will be due by 10 am on Monday 10/8 (Columbus Day, no class). The next time we meet will be Wed 10/10 and the reading is Diana Eck, “In the Name of Religions,” which is posted to Blackboard. Please make sure to complete your site visit by Mon 10/8.