If you’re paying attention to US news then you may have been seeing the recent stories leading up to the Senate vote that failed to pass the necessary financial deals to finance the federal government — which resulted in the shutdown that we’re now in. While some parts of the federal government are still open, other parts aren’t.
Students in REL 490 are currently reading a couple of essays by Joseph Kitagawa (d. 1992), longtime (and influential) faculty member at the University of Chicago’s Divinity School (from his 1987 collection), to help set the stage for our eventual reading of some of the works by the late Jonathan Z. Smith.
[O]ne must remember the admonition of Tor Andrae that the origin of religion is not a historical question; ultimately it is a metaphysical one.
It’s an interesting line, I think; given that the classic History of Religions approach was rather concerned with using the comparative method to identify the universal essence of religion, Kitagawa’s repetition of this warning has an ambivalent status in both his essay and in the field — not to mention how it could also serve to retain certain sorts of key inquiries for theology alone.
But without elaborating in detail here, I admit to being curious how people today read that advise… While for me discourses on origins are an effective rhetorical technique, employed in disputes among social actors in the present, I know plenty of people who still aim to figure out the origin of this or that religion (let alone a myth or a ritual) or who are set on explaining the pre-historic origins of religiosity in general.
So it seems that the admonition didn’t have much effect, unless there are more in our field than I realize who instead think of skin care products when they hear the word.
Mid-afternoon today, the last day of 2017, I received word that Professor Jonathan Z. Smith, of the University of Chicago, had passed away the day before (due to complications from lung cancer). You can read the obituary his family has written, which is posted on Prof. James Tabor’s blog.
In the coming days and months there’s sure to be a number of stories circulating about Jonathan — in fact, I’ve already seen many kind remembrances posted on social media. And, like others, I too have a few of my own. But one in particular stood out to me as I sat here, thinking about the sad news that I received earlier today. Continue reading →
Each semester, REL 360 students write a blog post on one of the films that they watched throughout the semester. The first in this semester’s posts hit earlier today and the others will be posted throughout the winter break.
REL 360 is a one credit hour course offered each semester which looks at religion and pop culture.
Like some of you, I woke today to an email soliciting submissions for a special issue of the open access online journal Open Theology. The email opened as follows:
A person who reads texts from other religious traditions sometimes encounters what the reader understands to be a transcendent encounter with ultimacy. Encounters with the ultimate – not only with texts but also with practices and persons – need to be taken into account theologically….
Now, I’m not going to harp on why a scholar of religion received this email but, instead, say that theologians of course have every right to pursue such lines of inquiry. That many who identify as scholars of religion yet use that old Tillichian nugget “ultimacy” is indeed a problem, I’d argue, but even that’s not what occurred to me as I first read that message. Instead, two other things dawned on me: (1) how nicely the call makes evident the second order work going on when people study other people — or the things those people produce or leave behind, such as texts, and (2) how quickly we often forget that our analysis is not simply innocent description of so-called facts on the ground. Continue reading →
As you finish up writing essays for the Fall semester (well, since it’s only Monday of exam week, maybe we should instead say: as you consider starting to write essays to finish up the Fall semester…), keep in mind that Prof. Bagger is once again organizing REL’s 5th annual Honors Research Symposium in the Spring. You’ll need to talk to an REL prof, perhaps the person for whom you’re writing that essay, and ensure that they’re game to help you with some revisions so as to get it ready for presentation — and they’ll let Prof. Bagger know that you’re interested in participating.
We don’t have a date yet but we try to hold our event prior to the campus-wide event, so our students get in a little practice before the big show.
The last week of classes for the Fall semester is here, and my REL 100 students have some group projects to present in class, on Tuesday and Thursday.
The assignment: dramatize one of the questions/answers in Religion in 5 Minutes. It has to be a video that can be shown in class and on which every worked in some way, it can have only two speaking parts, must be less than 3 minutes long, have credits and a narrative arc of some sort, and filmed somewhere on campus — oh, and everyone in the group must appear on film in some way.
My hope is that a few will be worth posting in public (will anyone don togas for a Platonic dialogue?), so we’ll see how this all turns out. If nothing else, it should be fun and, if we’re lucky, informative too.
By the way, I had the impression others were using the book this semester,
so I’m curious what you’ve done with it…?
Well, it’s that time of year again — when many of the REL faculty head off to attend annual scholarly meetings, to read papers or respond at panels where new work in the field is being presented or reviewed. They’ll also be meeting with publishers, hatching plans with collaborators and co-editors, getting lost in the surprisingly large book display, and generally trying to figure out a good place to meet someone for dinner, just as several thousand other people also head off to eat.
You can get the mobile app if you want to see the program (and see who, among the REL faculty, are presenting) or follow #aarsbl2017 or #naasr2017 on Twitter. The conference runs from this Friday to Monday.
Recently, a friend brought to my attention a 2015 article, by Amy Hollywood, published in Revista de Estudios Sociales, that takes issue with my work. The essay turns out to be an excerpt from what was then her forthcoming collection of essays (published in 2016).