of the course:
To introduce students to some of the main issues
surrounding religion in the 21st century;
To encourage students to think about these questions in
an interdisciplinary way and from different vantage points;
To enable students to cultivate critical thinking and the
skill to present material to others.
At the end of the course students will have an
understanding of a sample of issues surrounding religion in the
At the end of the course students will have appreciated the
range of perspectives from which these questions can be
At the end of the course students will have cultivated their
evaluative skills sufficiently to make an informed presentation
on these questions.
one page summaries of the reading that is set for each week
A presentation to be
made in the last session which will be based on an eight-page
research paper on a topic to be agreed with Professor Hadsell
by Sallie McFague (2001)
24 - Introduction and the Church in Society Today – Heidi
Hadsell, Professor of Social Ethics
of course -- religion and society, public theology, interfaith
understanding. We will examine the role of religion, the nature of
modernity, stewardship, sorting out the labels – secularism,
pluralism, liberalism, fundamentalism. What the future may hold.
- Sallie McFague
January 31 -
Concepts of God – Ian Markham, Professor of Theology and Ethics
of the most fundamental concepts in religion is our understanding
of God. In this session we look at the classical idea of God, which
is found in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and compare it with
more modern accounts of God.
We look at the question: how do we decide which account is
Peter Vardy, The Puzzle of God (Fount Collins).
Chapters 1 to 5
7 - Social Ministry – Carl Dudley, Professor Emeritus of
Church and Community
will explore the theology of faith-based social ministry:
In this interactive session we will explore how faith-based
social ministries can express congregational identity in
particular social locations.
We will take special note of role of leadership in conflict
during the mobilization of ministry, especially in changing
Be familiar with one book on reserve in the Hartford Seminary
library or available at the Hartford Seminary bookstore:
IN TRANSITION: A GUIDE FOR ANALYZING, ASSESSING AND ADAPTING IN
CHANGING COMMUNITIES, by Carl S. Dudley and Nancy T. Ammerman,
As background for the discussion of this book, read on line: http://www.religion-online.org/
for Faith’s Social Reality,” by
Lewis S. Mudge
14 - Theology and Popular Culture – Kelton Cobb, Professor
of Theology and Ethics
session will consider some key theological concepts that are
useful in interpreting popular culture.
We will look at artifacts that are not ordinarily
considered religious--from art, movies, and fiction--and
investigate what kinds of religious insights, longings, or
dead-ends they may be expressing.
Thomas Hibbs, Shows about Nothing: Nihilism in Popular
Culture from The Exorcist to Seinfeld (Spence Publishing,
1999). Read pp.3-53,
28 - Theology of Engagement – Ian Markham, Professor of
Theology and Ethics
this session, we look at the Christian tradition of engagement
with the ‘other’. How
and on what basis does the tradition assimilate an insight from
another tradition? Examples
of engagement include feminist theology, Islam, and secularism.
Ian Markham, Theology of Engagement (Oxford: Blackwell 2003)
Introduction, Chapter one, and Chapter two
7 - Islam in America – Professor Jane Smith, Professor of
Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations
are our Muslim neighbors? As the number of Muslims who now live in
America continues to grow, and as Islam remains highly visible on
the international scene, many Americans are wondering who these
people are and what they have to contribute to our society. We
will look at immigrant and African Muslims, their beliefs and
practices, and their growing visibility as active participants in
the social, political and cultural life of America.
Asma Gull Hasan, Why I Am a Muslim. An American Odyssey, chapters
1-2, 5-6. Available in the Hartford Seminary bookstore and
library, and in the library of First Church of Christ in
- Judaism – Professor Yehezkel Landau, Faculty Associate in
presentation will address how Jews, as a covenanted people, are
called to consecrate both time and space. The session will focus on the Sabbath and annual festivals,
as well as on how the land of Israel and the city of Jerusalem are
integral to Jewish identity.
Basic Judaism by Milton Steinberg and The Sabbath by Abraham
21 – U.S. Congregations – Cynthia Woolever, Professor of
the Sociology of Religious Organizations
do 300,000 worshipers have to say about the American religious
landscape? A lot of things you might not expect. Find out what
people in the pew think about their faith and their local
congregation. Learn how churches who aspire to improve, identify
the unique islands of strength on which to build a positive
future. Dr. Woolever relates surprising answers from a landmark
survey of 2,000 congregations.
A Field Guide to U.S. Congregations.
4 - Challenges Facing the Church Today – Scott Thumma,
Professor of the Sociology of Religion
week will be a brief introduction to four major challenges facing
religious life in the modern world: the Internet, homosexuality,
global Pentecostalism, and individualism.
readings for this week include:
& Religion -
Religion and the Internet, Scott Thumma http://hirr.hartsem.edu/bookshelf/thumma_article6.html
Globally – The Spirit Bade Me Go: Pentecostalism and Global
Religion, Margaret Poloma http://hirr.hartsem.edu/research/research_pentecostalism_palomaart1.html
in the Denominations - "It's Not About Civil Rights, It's
About Holiness" Contradictory Institutional Logics in the
United Methodist Church's Homosexuality Struggle, Amanda Udis-Kessler
Individualism and the Crisis of Civic Membership, Robert Bellah,
et al. http://www.religion-online.org/cgi-bin/relsearchd.dll/showarticle?item_id=224
11 - Student presentations, final reflections – Heidi
Hadsell, at Hartford Seminary
from students. What we have learned from the religious experience
so far. And where do
we go from here?