The Religious is the Political

President Donad Trump posing with a Bible after protestors were cleared from the park

Savannah H. Finver is a recent graduate of U.A.’s Master of Arts in Religion in Culture program. Beginning in the Fall of 2020, she will be pursuing her Ph.D. at Ohio State University in Comparative Studies. Her interests lie in discourses on religion as they appear in U.S. law and politics, especially as they pertain to the assignment of civil rights and legal privileges.

Regardless of what platform you use to get your news, you likely saw a photo circulating in the early days of June like the one above of President Donald Trump holding up a bible in what many have decried as an irreverent fashion in front of St. John’s Church in Washington, D.C. The President’s photo op unleashed a whirlwind of controversy for several reasons, including that he reportedly used police and National Guard troops to clear the area of demonstrators peacefully protesting police brutality and the death (though some would prefer the term murder—after all, the two terms place the onus of responsibility on different subjects, with important legal implications) of George Floyd. Likely due to the civil unrest that has been so prominent throughout the U.S. in the past few months, the photo also prompted backlash from religious practitioners, clergy, and institutions who insisted that Trump was using the bible and St. John’s Church—objects traditionally associated with religion—for a political stunt. Continue reading

Symposium Recap

Last week, the Department of Religious Studies hosted its annual Undergraduate Research Symposium at Gorgas Library. Students from Religious Studies courses collaborated with advisors on written projects before presenting their work at the event. The unique topics, challenging question-answer portion, and free coffee made for a refreshing Friday morning. Professors, alumni, MA students, and undergraduates used social media to keep up with the event.

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Scholars of Religion are a Creative Lot

Recently, Prof. McCutcheon posted the following on Twitter:

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It May Be Simpler Than You Think

I saw the above tweet yesterday, which prompted me to mull over why we generally think that the role of religion is such a complicated thing to study. It occurred to me that it is complicated (i) if you fail to recognize that there’s been trained scholars of religion out there for well over 100 years who have lots to say on these matters but also (ii) if we buy local accounts of it being some ethereal thing that mysteriously informs the practical aspects of people’s lives.

But if we instead assume it’s no less practical than any other sphere — and, what’s more, if we assume that privileging some features of life by calling them religious is also mundane and highly practical — well, we’d likely approach these topics rather differently.

So a series of tweets resulted. Continue reading

We Are RELephant!

rel490twitterAlumni from our department emphasize how various skills that they developed in Religious Studies have been useful in a range of careers (e.g., on the Graduate page of this blog here, here, here, and here and through our Grad Tales events). Creative problem solving helps when planning language lessons or legal arguments. Recognizing the range of perspectives and dangers of stereotypes can aid in developing marketing strategies. Clear communication can assist in preparing a persuasive business plan or grant application. Current students similarly have discussed ways that they use skills from Religious Studies classes in courses outside our department. Continue reading

Start 2016 Off Right With #LoungeTweets

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The Spring semester begins this week and we want to start the new semester and the new year off with a bang! So, we’re brining back Live Tweets from the Lounge, that wonderful event where a faculty member sits in our student lounge and sends out tweets to you, our students and friends.

This time, Prof. Nathan Loewen will be the one behind the keyboard bringing you hot takes from the lounge at 2pm on Thursday January 14th. Don’t miss it.

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A “Hipster’s” Introduction to the Study of Religion

I’m writing this post during the office hours of my first REL100 course, “Introduction to the Study of Religion.” During the term, my 150 students were introduced to something they clearly did not expect: the study of religion. What did they expect? Something about this… Continue reading

3 Things You Should Do During #RELWeek

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The College of Arts and Sciences is all about REL this week. That’s right, it’s #RELWeek. What does that mean? It means that A&S will be featuring REL on its social media accounts all week as part of its All About A&S campaign. So, here are three things you can do to celebrate #RELWeek

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1. Follow us on Instagram.

Just think about it. #RELWeek #AllAboutAS

A photo posted by UA Dept. of Religious Studies (@studyreligion) on Oct 6, 2015 at 7:20am PDT

2. Tweet about why you love your REL class or what’s great about being an REL major with the hashtag #RELWeek. //

 

3. Follow the College of Arts and Sciences on Instagram and Facebook so you can win free stuff!

We could also add that you should find us on Facebook and Twitter but you already knew that, right?

Happy #RELweek!

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#LoungeTweets with Dr. McCutcheon on Wednesday

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Our next #LoungeTweets event is coming up, and this time Dr. Russell McCutcheon has answered the call of duty! He’ll be hanging out in the REL lounge on Wednesday, April 22nd from 2:30-3:30 to respond to your questions, give us a play-by-play of lounge activities, and more. Follow him at @McCutcheonSays.


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Keep up with the live tweets by searching #LoungeTweets.


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Scholars or Colleagues?

craftI had the good fortune the other day to go up to the University of Chicago to lead a workshop in their Divinity School’s The Craft of Teaching series. While there I met with some old friends, schemed on a project tor two, and presented a paper and participated in a discussion with about 25 people on teaching the introductory course (almost all of whom were current MA or PhD students). Of course I had to eat too and so I went out to some nice dinners with a couple different groups of people and it was there that some of the really interesting conversations took place.

Among the questions that I was asked one evening was one concerning whether early career scholars, who are about the go onto the job market, should have an active social media presence, whether that means being on Twitter or blogging…?

I’ve been a Department chair for 10 years now and have been in on the hiring of many people, so I’ve seen lots of C.V.s over the years, and — like a lot of topics — I’ve got an opinion on that one. Continue reading