Thursday, 17 May 2012

Contemporary Religious Issues

I have finally put together a syllabus for my upcoming Fall course on "Contemporary Religious Issues." If you have any suggestions, please let me know what you think.

Contemporary Religious Issues, Fall 2012

Course Description:
This course examines selected issues, such as church-state relations, fundamentalism, and debates over abortion, that are central to contemporary religious life. Primary attention is given to the American scene and some cross-cultural comparisons.

This semester we will be analyzing contemporary religious issues that relate to the Bible, science, race, gender, gay rights, and politics as they are understood by modern evangelicals and the broader American culture.

Required Texts:        

  • Barry Hankins (ed.). Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism: A Documentary Reader. New York University Press, 2008.
Course Requirements:

1.                  Exams (25% of grade for each, 500 total points)
Students will take two examinations—a midterm and a final—that are based on the lectures, required text readings in Hankins’s Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism: A Documentary Reader, and class discussions (including panel discussions and movies). Both exams must be taken—notifying me within 24 hours if you have a legitimate reason why you cannot be present to take the exam—and no tests will be dropped. 

2.                  Book Review (10% or 100 points)
You are required to write one book review that is between 700 and 1,000 words from the list of topics below. The paper should be 12 point font, New Times Roman, double-spaced, with 1 inch margins. In your review, you should briefly articulate the author’s main positions or themes and then interact with them. That is, choose one or two points that you agree with and one or two in which you do not agree, supporting your thoughts with well-reasoned arguments. Book reviews are due on the day that you participate in the group panel discussion.

Evaluation for book reviews will be based upon the following:

Introduction (15%)
-          Is there a clear thesis statement?  What are your intentions in this review?
Structure (15%)
-          Are the transitions between paragraphs and sections clear?
-          Is the review logically oriented?
Content (30%)
-          Are the issues raised in the review properly treated?
-          Are differing viewpoints considered, analyzed and treated?
Conclusion (15%)
-          Does the conclusion offer a good summary of issues treated in the paper?  Did you accomplish what you set out to do?
Style (25%)
-          Is the paper without spelling and grammatical errors?
-          Is the paper without syntax errors?
-          Does the paper reflect a college level of vocabulary?

3.                  Critical Analysis Paper (25% or 250 points)
Students will write a critical analysis paper on one of the following topics: politics, science, end times, or gender. Papers should be 2,500-3,000 words in length, New Times Roman, double-spaced, 12 point font, and use a minimum of 4 books from the list below. The paper should have a title page with the student’s name, course, and professor.

In the paper, students will explain the topic, how and why it is controversial, interact with the various authors’ views (stating what aspects they agree and disagree with each other), and then offer one’s own interpretive position on the subject (but without using first-person—I, me, my).

Evaluation for research papers will be based on the following:

Grammar/Syntax (20%)
-          Does the student show a mastery of grammar and syntax?
Introduction of Topic (20%)
-          Does the student thoroughly explain the topic?
Content (30%)
-          Does the student thoroughly explain how and why the topic is controversial
-          Does the student interact with the various authors’ views?
Interpretation (30%)
-          Is the student’s position clearly stated?
-          Does the student provide ample justification for his or her view on the subject?
-          Is the student’s position convincing?

Topics for Critical Analysis Paper:

Balmer, Randall. Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith
            and Threatens America. Basic Books, 2006. Pp. 242.
Bruce, Steve, The Rise and Fall of the New Christian Right. Oxford University
            Press, 1988. Pp. 210.
Diamond, Sarah. Not by Politics Alone: The Enduring Influence of the Christian
            Right. University of North Carolina Press, 1993. Pp. 280.
Hart, D.G. From Billy Graham to Sarah Palin: Evangelicals and the Betrayal of
            American Conservativism. Eerdmans, 2011. Pp. 237.
Martin, William. With God on Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in
            America. Broadway Books, 1996, pp. 418.
Watson, Justin. The Christian Coalition: Dreams of Restoration, Demands for
            Recognition. St. Martin’s Press, 1997. Pp. 304.
Williams, Daniel K. God’s Own Party: The Making of the Christian Right.
            Oxford University Press, 2010. Pp. 373.

Conklin, Paul K. When All the Gods Trembled: Darwinism, Scopes, and
            American Intellectuals. Rowman & Littlefield, 1998. Pp. 208.
Israel, Charles A. Before Scopes: Evangelicals, Education, and Evolution in
            Tennessee, 1870-1925. University of Georgia Press, 2004. Pp. 252.
Larson, Edward. Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s
            Continuing Debate over Science and Religion. Basic Books, 1997. Pp.
Lindberg, David and Ronald Numbers, eds. God and Nature: Historical Essays
            on the Encounter between Christianity and Science. University of
            California Press, 1986. Pp. 516.
Livingstone, David N. Darwin’s Forgotten Defenders: The Encounter between
            Evangelical Theology and Evolutionary Thought. Eerdmans, 1987. Pp.
Livingstone, David N. and Mark A. Noll, eds. Evangelicals and Science in
            Historical Perspective. Oxford University Press, 1999. Pp. 351.
Numbers, Ronald. The Creationists: The Evolution of Scientific Creationism.
            University of California Press, 1993. Pp. 458.

End Times
Boyer, Paul. When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American
            Culture. Harvard University Press, 1992. Pp. 468.
Forbes, Bruce David and Jeanne Halgren Kilde, eds. Rapture, Revelation, and the
            End Times: Exploring the Left Behind Series. Palgrave, 2004. Pp. 219.
Frykholm, Amy Johnson. Rapture Culture: Left Behind in Evangelical America.
            Oxford University Press, 2004. Pp. 224.
Morgan, David T. The New Brothers Grimm and Their Left Behind Fairy Tales.
            Mercer University Press, 2006. Pp. 222.
Shuck, Glenn W. Marks of the Beast: The Left Behind Novels and the Struggle
            for Evangelical Identity. New York University Press, 2005. Pp. 273.
Weber, Timothy P. Living in the Shadow of the Second Coming: American
            Premillennialism, 1875-1982. Oxford University press, 1979. Pp. 232.
Weber, Timothy P. On the Road to Armageddon: How Evangelicals Became
            Israel’s Best Friend. Baker Academic, 2004. Pp. 336.

Ault, James, Jr. Spirit and Flesh: Life in a Fundamentalist Baptist Church.
            Vintage Books, 2004. Pp. 435.
Bendroth, Margaret Lamberts. Fundamentalism and Gender, 1875 to the Present.
            Yale University Press, 1993. Pp. 192.
Brasher, Brenda. Godly Women: Fundamentalism and Female Power. Rutgers
            University Press, 1998. Pp. 216.
Chaves, Mark. Ordaining Women: Culture and Conflict in Religious
            Organizations. Harvard University Press, 1997. Pp. 237.
Gallagher, Sally K. Evangelical Identity and Gendered Family Life. Rutgers
            University Press, 2003. Pp. 244.
Griffith, R. Marie. God’s Daughters: Evangelical Women and the Power of
            Submission. University of California Press, 1997. Pp. 286.
Griffith, R. Marie. Born Again Bodies: Flesh and Spirit in American Christianity.
            University of California Press, 2004. Pp. 323.
Hassey, Janette. No Time for Silence: Evangelical Women in Public Ministry
            around the Turn of the Century. Academie, 1986. Pp. 254.
Pohl, Christine and Nicola Hoggard Creegan. Living on the Boundaries:
            Evangelical Women, Feminism, and the Theological Academy.
            InterVarsity Press, 2005. Pp. 203.

Panel Discussion (5% or 50 points)
Students will participate in a group panel discussion on a particular topic (see signup sheet). Students will be graded individually on their knowledge of the topic and how well they respond to questions from the professor and class.

4.                  Attendance and Participation (10% or 100 points)
It is essential that you attend classes regularly and come prepared to take notes on the lectures and participate in class discussion. Since this is a three-hour course, you are allowed three skips without penalty. I will take attendance until five minutes after the hour. Students arriving after that time will be counted absent. For every absence in excess of three, your attendance and participation grade will be reduced by 20 points. 

5.      Grading Scale
900-1,000         A
800-899           B
700-799           C
600-699           D
Below 600       F

6.                  Course Assignments and Values
Exams                                                             50%
Book Review                                                 10%
Critical Analysis Paper                                    25%
Panel Discussion                                               5%
Attendance and Participation____________ 10%

Tentative Schedule

8/20     Introduction
8/22     The Beginnings of Modern American Evangelicalism
8/24     The Beginnings of Modern American Evangelicalism
8/27     The Beginnings of Modern American Evangelicalism
8/29     The Beginnings of Modern American Evangelicalism
8/31     The Beginnings of Modern American Evangelicalism
9/3                   Labor Day Holiday                          
9/5       The Struggle with Modernity
9/7       The Struggle with Modernity
9/10     The Struggle with Modernity
9/12     The Struggle with Modernity
9/14     The Struggle with Modernity
9/17     Issues: Science
9/19     Issues: Science
9/21     Issues: Science
9/24     Panel Discussion on Science
9/26     Movie Showing: Inherit the Wind
9/28     Movie Showing: Inherit the Wind
10/1                 Midterm Exam
10/3     Issues: End Times
10/5     No Class
10/8     Issues: End Times                  
10/10   Issues: End Times
10/12   Panel Discussion on End Times
10/15   Movie Showing: A Thief in the Night
10/17   Movie Showing: A Thief in the Night
10/19   Issues: Race, Gender, and Gay Rights                    
10/22               Fall Break
10/24   Issues: Race, Gender, and Gay Rights
10/26   Issues: Race, Gender, and Gay Rights
10/29   Panel Discussion on Gender
10/31   Movie Showing: Frisbee
11/2     Movie Showing: Frisbee
11/5     Issues: Politics
11/7     Issues: Politics
11/9     Issues: Politics
11/12   Issues: Politics
11/14   (Note: Possibly No Class)
11/16   (Note: Possibly No Class)
11/16   Panel Discussion on Politics 
11/19   The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind
11/21   Thanksgiving Break
11/23   Thanksgiving Break
11/26   The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind
            Critical Analysis Paper Due            
11/28   The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind
11/30   Review for Final
Final ExamWednesday, December 3: 11am – 1pm

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