What Does Your Jesus Look Like?

RNS-HOMELESS-JESUS

By Wesley Davidson
Wesley Davidson is a senior Religious Studies major and Judaic Studies minor from Dothan, Alabama. He plans to continue his study of religion in culture at the graduate level and is currently playing the waiting game after finishing the application process.

A recent story on CNN depicts the controversy over a statue in Davidson, North Carolina. The statue is located outside of Saint Alban’s Episcopal Church, and it renders Jesus Christ as a homeless man lying on a park bench and includes room to sit down beside it. The statue itself has sparked much discussion and debate, and it has caused many to address their own thoughts about who Jesus is. Who is the real Jesus, and what is the best way to represent him?

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New Faculty Member to Join REL

altmanWe’re very pleased to announce that Dr. Michael Altman, who graduated last year from Emory University and who has worked with us for the past year as an Instructor, will be joining the department in the Fall of 2014 as a newly hired tenure-track Assistant Professor. Continue reading

Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.

RNS-STEVE-GREEN fAre you following the case in the U.S. that’s now being argued before the Supreme Court, on whether a corporation has religious freedom protections? It involves a chain of over 600 craft supply stores, in 47 states, and whether, under the new health care law (commonly known as “Obamacare”), it is required by the federal government to pay for certain forms of birth control that the owners of the corporation claim their religious beliefs lead them to understand as abortion. Continue reading

It’s Not About the Whale

Picture 2There’s a news report making its way around social media on an upcoming re-enactment of the biblical story of Jonah, including a fifty foot model of a whale, that has been judged by local officials in the U.K. as “too religious.” Continue reading

“It Doesn’t Matter What I Say”

On p. 3, near the opening of the late Frits Staal’s classic essay, “The Meaningless of Ritual” (Numen [1979] 26: 2-22), he wrote:

Picture 2Contrary to how most of us see it, for Staal, ritual was not referential, i.e., it’s not that one does this because it means this or represents that. While the meaning surely comes later, in hindsight, often taught to us by others, when one is doing ritual one is instead obsessed with sheer form, not content; one simply works to follow the rules because, well…, they are the rules. Continue reading

“I Shouldn’t Have to Say It!”

Picture 1Over the years I’ve found that the best way to illustrate what seems to be either complex or nuanced notions is to start with an easy example, maybe something students can identify with, perhaps a seemingly mundane or common instance, and then to build from there. The bonus of this method is that you also make evident that no item of culture is ever as simple as it may seem. Continue reading

Probing the Problematic Polls

Picture 6A few days ago I posted on Facebook and asked when someone was going to tackle a dissertation on the Pew Charitable Trust or its research wing, and the way in which their seemingly objective polling is actually constituting a very particular sort of social world into which it is trying to fit the entire population of the globe.

And voila, here’s a piece of data for that hypothetical dissertation: an article from the New York Review of Books on how the survey gets it wrong when it comes to the role of religion in China. Continue reading

Commonwealth Day 2014, London

queen commonwealth day

Thanks to tickets provided to us by the English-Speaking Union, Catherine Roach and I were in Westminster Abbey on March 10th to join Her Majesty the Queen and an assembly of loyal subjects in a ceremony to commemorate Commonwealth Day. The Commonwealth is a consortium of 53 states, most of which were part of the British Empire at one time or another: Canada, India, Pakistan, South Africa (not a member during the apartheid era), for example, alongside smaller nations such as Namibia, Malta, Kenya, Singapore, and Grenada. Continue reading

Everybody’s Learnin’ How…

beachFor the few — surely, extremely few — REL students who won’t be in the library all of next week, knee-deep in books, catching up on readings, and getting ahead on final assignments, we hope that you have a nice spring break.

And don’t forget to cover up. You can never be too safe against the sun’s harmful UV rays.

 

Patience is a Professional Virtue

chickenpatienceSome years ago I met a grad student at the U.S.’s main national scholarly conference in our field — “the big show” is what we’d call it if we were baseball players — who knew some of my friends in the profession and who bumped into me while walking through the book display. Being new to the conference-scene, he asked me a question:

So how do I present a paper here next year?

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