Announcing the 2021 American Examples Participants

American Examples Logo
The Department of Religious Studies is so happy to announce the participants in the 2021 American Examples program. This will be the third year of the program’s history and the second year the program has been funded by a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation. This year’s program will be hosted virtually, due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Because of the virtual format, a record number of applications, and a strong applicant pool, we have expanded the program from 9 to 12 participants. We are so excited to see American Examples continue to mentor early-career scholars in research, teaching, and public humanities. Learn more about each of our 2021 participants below:

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Have You Read the Latest Bulletin for the Study of Religion?

Bulletin for the Study of Religion

Prof. Richard Newton introduces us to the latest iteration of the Bulletin for the Study of Religion, now a joint collaboration between Equinox Publishing and the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Alabama.

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You’re a Historian; Get the Memo?

A stack old books with the one on the top opened up.

Lin Kristensen, “Timeless Books,” CC-BY-SA 2.0

Prof. Newton shares how a little bit about his approach to helping students consider historiography. His memo assignment reminds students that they have a substantial role in writing the history they are studying. It’s a simple assignment that is useful for the novice and professional historian alike.  

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Faculty News

Emily award

Emily Crews (pictured above, at our 2019 Honors Day), who has been REL’s full-time Instructor for the past two years, has decided to return north to complete her dissertation at the University of Chicago, and so she will not be rejoining us in the Fall semester.

Emily has specialized in teaching our intro Honors course, REL 105, along with our regular evening course on film, REL Goes to the Movies. She also participated in our American Examples grant, organized our annual undergraduate research symposium, joined in on some REL publishing projects, and supervised some of our M.A. students as teaching assistants — who learned much from her in the classroom.

For to say that she consistently receives wonderful reviews from her students each semester would be a terrible understatement. Apart from regularly stating that she is among the best and most caring faculty members that a student has had at UA, we recently received this statement from a student:

She is a wonderful human being and an absolutely invaluable instructor. If aliens came to this planet to see the best humans we had to offer, she should be the rep for education.

Humor, rigor, and learning things at unexpected moments and applying them in novel places is what student came to expect from her classes — all things that helped to secure REL’s reputation as a pretty good place to be. So yes, we’ll all miss her a great deal. But we wish her luck and look forward to hearing of her progress on finishing up that dissertation.

Interested in some of her work? Listen to a new podcast
(ep. 158) with Emily and follow her on Twitter.

The Science of Religion–A Work in Progress

Students working on a whiteboard, diagramming the parts of an essay.

Prof. Richard Newton reports on a discussion topic from his graduate seminar on the history of religious studies. His students have been talking about the backstory of debates on definition as it pertains to religious studies. This week, students read a little bit from the nineteenth century Dutch scholars, Cornelis P. Tiele.

In my History of the Study of Religion seminar, our Religion in Culture graduate students have been discussing the very enterprise in which we are engaged. The course is built around the following question:

What does it mean to discuss the academic study of religion as a history, a field, and a discipline?

There are many places to start with such an endeavor. And if interest warrants, I’ll share how we’ve done this in a future post. For now I’ll go in media res and just share an interesting passage that we came across in our study. Continue reading

True or False or a Mix of Both? The Dissonance of the Gospels presented in Galatia

Rebekah Pearson ’22 is a Religious Studies-Dance Performance double major. In Prof. Newton’s Introduction to the New Testament course, she examined Paul’s Letter to the Galatians as an artifact of competing social definitions. This essay was part of her group’s Bible in Culture zine. Learn more in the firstsecond, third, and fourth posts of the series. 

Imagine this: You have been running for over an hour and you finally make it to what you think is the finish line of your first 10K. But wait! There is no finish line and no crowd cheering you on. All of a sudden you realize that at some point along the way you have made a wrong turn. Now not only are you lost, but you also have to turn around and backtrack to the starting line, only to re-run the entire race. In the biblical Epistle to the Church at Galatia, commonly known as “Galatians,” the recipients of Paul’s letter must have felt similarly. As the people of Galatia are being told many versions of what being a part of the new Christian collective means, Paul, in his epistle to the church at Galatia, rebukes the false teachings that are being spread and reminds his churches of the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He establishes not only his authority, but also the authority of the message of faith he preaches so that the Galatians can be certain that they are not living their lives in vain.

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Studying The Bible in Culture: Is it Syncretism or Redaction?

A Picture of Will Watson holding James S. Bielo's book, The Social Life of Scriptures.

In our series on studying the Bible in Culture. Religion major Will Watson ’21 shares how he studied the Bible in Culture as part of an independent study with Prof. Newton. Be sure to also check out the first and second installments of this series. 

During the course of my independent study with Dr. Newton, we covered a wide range of topics that ultimately coalesced in an essay that outlined the process for understanding religion in culture that we had extrapolated throughout our semester of meetings. Initially interested in how different communities conceptualize the Bible and subsequently apply it doctrinally, we moved on to synthesize this idea of Biblicism with my fascination with the use of entheogens in a ritual setting.

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Playing Favorites

Students meditating in classA couple weeks ago I was at a session of the American Academy of Religion’s annual conference where the topic of experiential learning came up, mentioned in the context of classes that do such things as invite students to meditate so that they can experience for themselves a taste of the mindfulness that they’re reading about in the course. Continue reading

An Introduction to Studying the Bible in Culture


Students reading the Bible and eating pizza in a seminar room.

Prof. Newton reflects on his approach to teaching the Bible in a public university. Study religion and find out about the Bible in Culture here on the blog over the next few days.

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