Religious Studies

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Religious studies at Guilford explores the mystery and meaning of our existence as selves in the many aspects of the social and natural world. We seek to nurture wonder, insight, clear and creative thinking, to understand humanity’s destructive ways with others and the environment and to imagine ways of mending the world. We want to open heart and mind to the sacred and the problematic in our world today and historically. The burning issues we address are forms of social oppression and environmental destruction, the nature of the divine and the human condition, the development and practice of religious traditions and the meaning of the religious.

We aim to draw forth leadership potential in all students to enable them throughout their lives to be change agents wherever they find themselves, overcoming injustice and engendering the fullness of life. The Quaker context of Guilford is fundamental to our ways of teaching. All classes expect and enable students to discover the resources within to engage truth and to take responsibility for their learning and living in this world in ways that foster peace, simplicity, integrity, equality and community.

Education in religious studies begins from where each student is, descends to the radical center and draws forth each student’s energies of creative, critical and ethical responses in personal engagement with the multifarious issues of religious studies. Our teaching intends both to challenge and support the process of learning as mind-expanding and transforming. We work intensely on developing capacities of thinking orally and in writing, of listening and of working together as well as in solitude. We do this not only for self-development and to know truth, but for the good of the community of being.

Religious studies employs many methodologies, such as the theological, philosophical, historical, ethical, literary, psychological, socioeconomic and anthropological. Exploring religion is inherently interdisciplinary; we consider the interconnections in all our courses and require one explicitly interdisciplinary course for the major. We emphasize careful interpretation of significant works from a variety of religious and ethical traditions. Our faculty offer courses in diverse areas of study including Biblical Studies, Christianity/theology, Islamic Studies, Tibetan and Himalayan Religions, Ethics and Comparative Religion. Our global context includes the West, the Middle East, the Far East, Latin America and indigenous peoples. The formats for learning emphasize seminar discussions, supplemented with individual reading and writing and student collaboration, lectures, role-playing, film analysis and internships for social service and social action.

The careers our majors enter upon after graduation, often after circuitous journeys, are quite diverse — teaching, law, service and social work, the ministry, counseling, religious education, art, business, government and non-governmental organizations.

Courses are offered at different levels, each of which has specific expectations and goals. The 100-level courses are introductory, designed for first-year and sophomore non-majors. They are accessible to entering first-year students.

The 200-level courses are advanced introductory courses that function as core courses for the major. They are designed to serve as initial courses in the department for sophomores, juniors, seniors and for beginning majors. Majors normally take several courses at this level.

The 300-level courses are designed for majors and for upper-level students with a strong interest in the subject matter and a background in the humanities. 300 level courses are designed primarily for majors and assume at least one course in religious studies. Courses are usually offered in a seminar format that requires active participation by all class members. Majors should have several 300-level courses.

The 400-level courses are small seminars that usually examine one or a few thinkers or issues in depth. They are designed for advanced majors or, by permission, exceptionally interested and qualified non-majors.

Degree Offered

The Bachelor of Arts degree is offered in religious studies.

Religious Studies Major

Bachelor of Arts

The major requires a minimum of 33 credit hours (nine courses).

Five REL courses at any level - 20 credits
Three REL courses from any 300 or 400 level; IDS 405, IDS 477 or IDS 482 - 12 credits
REL 395 Religious Studies Colloquium - 1 credit
 Total credit hours required for A.B. degree in religious studies – 33 credits

Religious Studies Minor

Quaker Studies

The Quaker studies minor explores Quaker spirituality in relation to the world. Through study of Quaker history and “social testimonies” (social ethics), it uses the perspective of this world-mending spirituality to reflect on justice issues. As an interdisciplinary exploration it seeks to understand forms of systemic oppression in our time (such as sexism, racism, classism, militarism, religious imperialism and environmentalism) and how to transform them.

This study will develop several kinds of thinking in speaking, listening and writing: analysis, criticism, imagination, textual interpretation, social problem-identification and problem-solving and self-reflective exploration. It will investigate the interrelated subtle aspects of individual selves, characteristics of a religious movement, large but obscured social systems and the student’s own religious and ethical commitments.

The minor requires a minimum of 16 credit hours (four courses).

GST 105 Quaker Social Testimonies and Spiritual Roots - 2 credits
GST 405 Quaker Faith & Practice - 2 credits
REL 110 Quakerism - 4 credits

CHOOSE TWO COURSES (8 credits)
BIOL 212 Environmental Science - 4 credits
ECON 344 Environmental and Resource Economics - 4 credits
ENGL 215 Play Analysis - 4 credits
ENGL 224 Self Image in Women Writers - 4 credits
ENGL 230 African American Literature - 4 credits
ENGL 331 Black Women Writers - 4 credits
GEOL 121 Environmental Geology - 4 credits
HIST 223 Gender & Power in US History
HIST 225 African American History - 4 credits
HIST 308 The Underground Railroad - 4 credits
HIST 315 The Civil Rights Movement - 4 credits
IDS 423 Ethical Issues in Biology and Medicine - 4 credits
JPS 244 Conflict Resolution - 4 credits
JPS 313 Law and Society - 4 credits
JPS 425 Family Violence - 4 credits
PECS 103 Voices of Liberation - 4 credits
PECS 330 Nonviolence Theories and Practice - 4 credits
PHIL 111 Ethics - 4 credits
PHIL 247 Philosophy of Law - 4 credits
ENGL 228 American Nature Writing - 4 credits
REL 222 Feminist Theology - 4 credits
SOAN 313 Sociology of Sex and Gender - 4 credits

Or other courses addressing the normative Quaker testimonies of spirituality, simplicity, integrity, peace, equality and community by permission of the coordinator, or evidence of an internship (credit or non-credit) that provided direct experience with Quaker faith and practice.

Total credit hours required for Quaker studies minor – 16 credits

Religious Studies

Religious studies at Guilford explores the mystery and meaning of our existence as selves in the many aspects of the social and natural world. We seek to nurture wonder, insight, clear and creative thinking, to understand humanity’s destructive ways with others and the environment and to imagine ways of mending the world. We want to open heart and mind to the sacred and the problematic in our world today and historically. The burning issues we address are forms of social oppression and environmental destruction, the nature of the divine and the human condition, the development and practice of religious traditions and the meaning of the religious. We aim to draw forth leadership potential in all students to enable them throughout their lives to be agents of change where they find themselves, overcoming injustice and engendering the fullness of life.

Students work with the department chair or minor advisor to determine a specific focus.

The minor in religious studies is not available to religious studies majors.

The minor requires a minimum of 16 credit hours (four courses).

Two REL courses at any level - 8 credits
One REL course at the 200 level or above - 4 credits
One REL course at the 300 level or above - 4 credits

Total credit hours required for religious studies minor – 16 credits

Religious Studies at Guilford

Why Religious Studies at Guilford?

Religious studies at Guilford explores the mystery and meaning of our existence as selves in the many aspects of the social and natural world. We seek to nurture wonder, insight, clear and creative thinking, to understand humanity’s destructive ways with others and the environment and to imagine ways of mending the world. We want to open heart and mind to the sacred and the problematic in our world today and historically. The burning issues we address are forms of social oppression and environmental destruction, the nature of the divine and the human condition, the development and practice of religious traditions and the meaning of the religious.

We aim to draw forth leadership potential in all students to enable them throughout their lives to be change agents wherever they find themselves, overcoming injustice and engendering the fullness of life. The Quaker context of Guilford is fundamental to our ways of teaching. All classes expect and enable students to discover the resources within to engage truth and to take responsibility for their learning and living in this world in ways that foster peace, simplicity, integrity, equality and community.

Education in religious studies begins from where each student is, descends to the radical center and draws forth each student’s energies of creative, critical and ethical responses in personal engagement with the multifarious issues of religious studies. Our teaching intends both to challenge and support the process of learning as mind-expanding and transforming. We work intensely on developing capacities of thinking orally and in writing, of listening and of working together as well as in solitude. We do this not only for self-development and to know truth, but for the good of the community of being.

Religious studies employs many methodologies, such as the theological, philosophical, historical, ethical, literary, psychological, socioeconomic and anthropological. Exploring religion is inherently interdisciplinary; we consider the interconnections in all our courses and require one explicitly interdisciplinary course for the major. We emphasize careful interpretation of significant works from a variety of religious and ethical traditions. Our global context includes the West, the Middle East, the Far East, Latin America and indigenous peoples. The formats for learning emphasize seminar discussions, supplemented with individual reading and writing and student collaboration, lectures, role-playing, film analysis and internships for social service and social action.

The careers our graduates pursue after graduation, often after circuitous journeys, are quite diverse— teaching, law, service and social work, the ministry, counseling, religious education, art, business, government and non-governmental organizations.

Experiential Learning Opportunities

Research

Religious studies majors are encouraged to engage in individual and group research projects. Students have the opportunity to present their work at Guilford’s Undergraduate Symposium (GUS).

Patrick Hyland
“Faces and Faith: Muslim American Portraits” - Poster

Our project delves into college students’ experiences learning about the Islamic faith through classes at Guilford College. The images themselves would be a glimpse into that student’s identity as a student, while a short selected quote from the student reveals more about their experience learning about Islam and what they took away from it, or how it’s changed their perspectives on the Islamic faith, or perhaps the world as a whole.

Melissa McCourt
“Sabbath and the Architecture of Time” - Short talk

Has time poverty in America lead to a degradation of the Sabbath? Throughout my paper I will explore religious constructions of “eternal time” through the academic lens of Abraham Joshua Heschel (a Jewish scholar) and Thomas Kelly (a Quaker scholar). I will ask the question: How does one live when present to “eternal time” (in a Jewish context as well as in a Quaker context)? Do communities and individuals suffer when deprived of rest on the seventh day? The 8 hour work day has been replaced with the 12+ hour day, and texts from the Voluntary Simplicity Movement, such as Take Back Your Time: Fighting Overwork and Time Poverty in America explore the issues of time poverty through a secular lens. My paper is a work of intention, a query about experiencing time rather than spending it.

Scott Weiss
“Approaching the Unapproachable: Success and Failure in Abraham Abulafia” - Short Talk

This semester, I am engaging in a thesis on the thirteenth century Kabbalistic mysticism of Abraham ben Samuel Abulafia. I am looking at a period of his life in which Abulafia’s meditation and mystical experience led him to compose a number of prophetic works as well as engage on a mission to meet with Pope Nicholas III. This mission, which he single-handedly undertook on behalf of the entire Jewish faith, was seemingly unsuccessful. The study will be exploring the implications of the seeming failure of this mission on Abulafia’s discourse by looking at translations of his writings, discourses directly on Abulafia by Moshe Idel, and on Jewish mysticism and philosophy in Abualfia’s time.

Religious Studies Faculty