Undergraduate Course Archive

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The New Testament and Christian Origins (HA)

How did Jesus' earliest followers interpret his life and death? What were secret initiation rites and love feast gatherings about? How did women participate in leadership? How did the Roman government react to this movement and why did Jesus' followers suffer martyrdom? How did early Christians think about the end of the world, and what did they do when it did not happen? This course is an introduction to the Jesus movement in the context of the Roman Empire and early Judaism. We examine texts in the New Testament (the Christian Bible) and other relevant sources, such as lost gospels, Dead Sea scrolls, and aspects of material culture.

Instructors
Jonathan Henry
Christianity in the Roman Empire: Secret Rituals, Mystery Cults, and Apocalyptic Prophets (HA)

How did Jesus' earliest followers interpret his life and death? What were secret initiation rites and love feast gatherings about? How did women participate in leadership? How did the Roman government react to this movement and why did Jesus' followers suffer martyrdom? How did early Christians think about the end of the world, and what did they do when it did not happen? This course is an introduction to the Jesus movement in the context of the Roman Empire and early Judaism. We examine texts in the New Testament (the Christian Bible) and other relevant sources, such as lost gospels, Dead Sea scrolls, and aspects of material culture.

Instructors
Matthew Larsen
AnneMarie Luijendijk
Christianity in the Roman Empire: Secret Rituals, Mystery Cults, and Apocalyptic Prophets (HA)

How did Jesus' earliest followers interpret his life and death? What were secret initiation rites and love feast gatherings about? How did women participate in leadership? How did the Roman government react to this movement and why did Jesus' followers suffer martyrdom? How did early Christians think about the end of the world, and what did they do when it did not happen? This course is an introduction to the Jesus movement in the context of the Roman Empire and early Judaism. We examine texts in the New Testament (the Christian Bible) and other relevant sources, such as lost gospels, Dead Sea scrolls, and aspects of material culture.

Instructors
Matthew Larsen
Jesus: How Christianity Began (EC)

Who was Jesus of Nazareth, and how do we know about him? Why did some interpretations of truth -- and his message -- win out over others? How have these particular ways of thinking influenced western culture, shaping our views of politics, race and ethnicity, sexuality and gender, civil and human rights even now? To answer questions like these, we'll investigate the earliest gospels, letters, Jewish and Roman sources, prison diaries and martyr accounts -- as well as how artists, filmmakers, musicians and theologians interpret them. Regardless of religious background, or none, you will learn a lot, and be able to contribute.

Instructors
Elaine H. Pagels
Jesus: How Christianity Began (EC)

Who was Jesus of Nazareth, and how do we know about him? Why did some interpretations of truth -- and his message -- win out over others? How have these particular ways of thinking influenced western culture, shaping our views of politics, race and ethnicity, sexuality and gender, civil and human rights even now? To answer questions like these, we'll investigate the earliest gospels, letters, Jewish and Roman sources, prison diaries and martyr accounts -- as well as how artists, filmmakers, musicians and theologians interpret them. Regardless of religious background, or none, you will learn a lot, and be able to contribute.

Instructors
Elaine H. Pagels
Jesus: How Christianity Began (EC)

Who was Jesus of Nazareth? What do we know and how do we know it? This course takes up these questions and surveys the diverse history of interpretation of the life and teachings of Jesus and how this history shaped and continues to shape contemporary views of and debates about politics, race and ethnicity, sexuality and gender, and civil rights. Throughout the course, we will consider both historical material such as early gospels, letters, and Jewish and Roman sources as well as modern contexts of interpretation in theology, film, art, and music. This course is designed and open to all regardless of (or no) religious background.

Instructors
Lydia C. Bremer-McCollum
Modern Evangelicalism in the United States (HA)

This course will trace the history of American Evangelicalism from its roots in the early nineteenth century to rise of the Religious Right in the 1980s and birth of "right wing politics" of the twenty-first century. We will note key figures, events, and institutional expressions of evangelicalism, as well as its large impact on American politics and popular culture.

Instructors
Wallace D. Best
Spirits on Fire: Mysticism in The Spanish Empire (HA)

This course will explore the phenomenon of mysticism in Spanish America and early modern Spain. Visions, trances, witchcraft, ecstatic religiosity, miracles, religious authority, and ecclesiastical discipline all play important roles in this history. Issues of gender, race, ideas about the body, nature, and the supernatural are important themes in the scholarship and primary sources we will read together.

Instructors
Jessica Delgado
Eliminating Suffering: Netflix, Drugs, and Spiritual Practice (EM)

We suffer. Sometimes more, sometimes less - but we all suffer, and often profoundly. What is it about the human condition that seems to make suffering inevitable? What can we do to deal with it? One approach is to try to change the external conditions causing the trouble. A very different approach sees the most important change as being within ourselves. Can we eliminate - or at least assuage - our suffering by changing the way we direct our attention (Netflix...), by changing the way we experience (drugs...), or by changing our manner of desiring (spiritual practices...)? We will approach these questions practically and theoretically.

Instructors
Gabriel M. Citron
Eliminating Suffering: Suicide, Utopia, and Spiritual Practice (EC)

Suffering is a fundamental feature of the human condition. But it has been a central aim of many religious and philosophical thinkers to eliminate it altogether. We will examine the grounds of suffering and investigate the three basic ways in which various thinkers have sought to eradicate it: (1) by avoiding life's problems (from Netflix to suicide); (2) by fixing life's problems (from personal saintliness to political utopianism); or (3) by ceasing to judge anything to be problematic in the first place (from Buddhist spiritual practices to Stoic ones). Finally, we will look at those who insist that suffering should not be eliminated at all.

Instructors
Gabriel M. Citron
Eliminating Suffering: Netflix, Drugs, and Spiritual Practice (EM)

We suffer. Sometimes more, sometimes less - but we all suffer, and often profoundly. What is it about the human condition that seems to make suffering inevitable? What can we do to deal with it? One approach is to try to change the external conditions causing the trouble. A very different approach sees the most important change as being within ourselves. Can we eliminate - or at least assuage - our suffering by changing the way we direct our attention (Netflix...), by changing the way we experience (drugs...), or by changing our manner of desiring (spiritual practices...)? We will approach these questions practically and theoretically.

Instructors
Gabriel M. Citron
Christian Ethics and Modern Society (CD or EM)

With a focus on contemporary controversies in public life, this course surveys philosophical and theological perspectives on the ethos of liberal democracy oriented toward rights, equality, and freedom. For example, what do Christian beliefs and practices imply about issues related to feminism, racism, nationalism, and pluralism? What is the relationship between religious conviction, morality and law? Special emphasis on selected political and economic problems, bioethics, criminal justice, sexuality, the environment, war, immigration, and the role of religion in American culture.

Instructors
Eric S. Gregory
Christian Ethics and Modern Society (EM)

An introduction to ethical controversies in public life in light of modern disputes over the interpretation of Christian thought and practice. Is Christianity fundamentally at odds with the ethos of liberal democracy oriented toward rights, equality, and freedom? What do Christian beliefs and moral concepts imply about issues related to feminism, racism, and pluralism? What is the relationship between religious convictions, morality, and law? Special emphasis on selected political and economic problems, sexuality and marriage, bioethics, capital punishment, the environment, war, immigration, and the role of religion in American culture.

Instructors
Eric S. Gregory
Christian Ethics and Modern Society (EM)

An introduction to ethical controversies in public life in light of modern disputes over the interpretation of Christian thought and practice. Is Christianity fundamentally at odds with the ethos of liberal democracy oriented toward rights, equality, and freedom? What do Christian beliefs and moral concepts imply about issues related to feminism, racism, and pluralism? What is the relationship between religious convictions, morality, and law? Special emphasis on selected political and economic problems, sexuality and marriage, bioethics, capital punishment, the environment, war, immigration, and the role of religion in American culture.

Instructors
Eric S. Gregory
Religion and its Modern Critics (EC)

The most penetrating critiques of religion have the power to challenge our whole way of being and are often just as unsettling to atheists as to believers. After all, religions are more than just sets of beliefs - they are complex weaves of values, practices, narratives, social structures, and more - which tend to leave their stamp long after people have deserted their explicit creeds. This course explores some of the key critiques of Christianity - and Christian-moulded culture - to emerge in post-Enlightenment Europe, and will involve opening ourselves up to the painfully sharp critical scalpels of Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Kafka, and others.

Instructors
Gabriel M. Citron
Religion and its Modern Critics (EC)

The most penetrating critiques of Christianity have the power to unsettle our sense of self and disrupt our most natural ways of being - for Christians and non-Christians alike. For these critiques don't focus on attacking religious beliefs alone; rather, they target many of the deepest values, attitudes, and tendencies at the core of Christianity and Christian-molded cultures, and perhaps even at the core of our humanity. This course explores some of the key 19th and 20th century critiques of Christianity. It will involve opening ourselves up to the self-reckoning demanded by the likes of Kierkegaard, Emerson, Nietzsche, Baldwin, and Butler.

Instructors
Gabriel M. Citron
Religion and Reason (EC)

An examination of the most influential theoretical, pragmatic, and moral arguments regarding the existence and nature of God (or gods). Along the way, we consider debates about whether and how we can talk or think about such a being, and about whether mystical experience, miracles, and the afterlife are intelligible notions. Finally, we consider whether religious commitment might be rationally acceptable without any proof or evidence, and whether the real-world fact of religious diversity has philosophical implications. Course readings will be taken from both historical and contemporary sources.

Instructors
Andrew Chignell
Daniel K. Rubio
Religion and Reason (EC)

An examination of the most influential theoretical, pragmatic, and moral arguments regarding the existence and nature of God (or gods). Along the way, we consider debates about whether and how we can talk or think about such a being, and about whether mystical experience, miracles, and the afterlife are intelligible notions. Finally, we consider whether religious commitment might be rationally acceptable without any proof or evidence, and whether the real-world fact of religious diversity has philosophical implications. Course readings will be taken from both historical and contemporary sources.

Instructors
Denys A. Turner
Religion and Reason (EC)

An examination of the most influential theoretical, pragmatic, and moral arguments regarding the existence and nature of God (or gods). Along the way, we consider debates about whether and how we can talk or think about such a being, and about whether mystical experience, miracles, and the afterlife are intelligible notions. Finally, we consider whether religious commitment might be rationally acceptable without any proof or evidence, and whether the real-world fact of religious diversity has philosophical implications. Course readings will be taken from both historical and contemporary sources.

Instructors
Elizabeth X. Li
'Cult' Controversies in America (HA)

In this course we examine a variety of new religious movements that tested the boundaries of acceptable religion at various moments in American history. We pay particular attention to government and media constructions of the religious mainstream and margin, to the politics of labels such as "cult" and "sect," to race, gender, and sexuality within new religions, and to the role of American law in constructing categories and shaping religious expressions. We also consider what draws people to new religions and examine the distinctive beliefs, practices, and social organizations of groups labeled by outsiders as "cults."

Instructors
Judith Weisenfeld