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.
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).
“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.
“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.
“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.