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Contemporary American Religion*
There are over 350 religious denominations in the United States, and yet few of us know who they are or how they all fit together in the fabric of contemporary American religious life. Where did all these groups come from, what do they believe and how do they influence society? This course introduces students to the religious diversity that has arisen in the U.S. over the past 50 years. It also explores the prominent place of religion in ol.Jr seemingly secular nation. Topics will include among others, the reshaping of mainline and evangelical Christianity, new varieties of religious organizations, immigrant, ethnic and interfaith religious diversity, fringe religiosity and internet religion and a deinstitutionalized "spirituality" as well as secularity of many modern Americans.
Wednesdays from 6:30-9:30 p.m. starting September 5
Aims of the Course:
1. To learn the basic facets of and players in contemporary American religious life.
2. To understand the role religion plays in helping to shape our country.
3. To explore the relationship between diverse cultures and the shape of religious life as well as to identify the changes that are taking place in modern society generally and in the expression of religion in relation to these changes.
4. To examine in depth one religious phenomenon and its relationship to contemporary society.
5. To employ this knowledge of the contemporary American religious trends to speculate on the future role of religion in the world.
All the required readings are Xeroxed chapters and articles. Copies of all the readings are available on SonisWeb and in the library reserve shelf.
Class participation, 30% of grade
Attendance at and active participation in every class session is expected of all students. Exceptions are only allowed if advance permission has been granted by the instructor, and only for unavoidable absences: In all cases, failure to be in attendance at more than two class sessions automatically diminishes the course by one letter grade. The participation grade includes active familiarity with all readings, active in-class participation and regular attendance.
Class Presentation, 15% of grade
Each student will choose a contemporary religious phenomenon or group to research and present on in this course. During the appropriate week of class each student will gather information about this religious phenomenon or group for presentation to the class. The purpose of this presentation is twofold: 1) to uncover primary sources related to this phenomenon/group, and 2) to introduce more information about the phenomenon or group to the rest of the class. The primary source might include a group's confessional statements, published materials from the organization, sermons, videos, news reports, web material and other items that furnish information about the phenomenon. Please be prepared to sign up for a presentation topic by the third week of class. This presentation should not last longer than 10 minutes. It must be concise and to the point. It can include PPT or handout but if the presentation goes longer than 10 minutes the student's grade will be diminished.
Weekly Website Journal Submission, 15% of grade
Each week (#5 through #14) the student is responsible for finding an example of a contemporary religious expression ofthat week's topic on the web, exploring the group's website, reflecting on their appeal for contemporary Americans and writing a 300-500 word journal entry which will be turned in at the end of the course.
Research project, 40% of grade
Students will use the course material, their in-class presentation, plus other scholarly sources to write a 15+ page research paper on a topic related to this phenomenon or tradition and the place of this tradition in the contemporary American religious context. This paper must explore information about the phenomenon in relation to larger patterns of culture and societal changes that have taken place nationally in the past few decades. It must show use of course readings, outside academic material, and primary source material from contemporary religious groups. Please be prepared to provide the professor with a preliminary idea and short bibliography of your final paper topic by week 11.
Past experience has shown that timely completion of all assignments and the entire course is essential to successful completion of the overall academic program. As a result, late writing assignments and incomplete course extensions are strongly discouraged.
Writing Style and Assistance:
All academic papers are to conform to conventional technical, grammatical, and stylistic standards referred to in the General Guidelines for a Research Paper which can be found in the online forms center of the Seminary website. The Hartford Seminary Grading Guidelines will be the standard of evaluation for the course. If you need writing assistance to produce an acceptably written MA quality paper, the seminary offers free writing tutors. Please make use of them.
Plagiarism, the failure to give proper credit for the words and ideas of another person, whether published or unpublished, is strictly prohibited. Credit will not be given for written work containing plagiarism, and plagiarism can lead to failure of a course. All written material submitted by students must be their own original work; where the words and ideas of others are used they must be acknowledged. Additionally, if students receive editorial help with their writing they should also acknowledge it appropriately.
Credit will not be given for work containing plagiarism, and plagiarism can lead to failure of a course. Faculty will report all instances of plagiarism to the Academic Dean. The Academic Dean will then collect documented details of the case and advance any recommendations for further action to the Academic Policies Committee. Through this process the situation will be reviewed and any additional penalties that may be warranted (up to and including expulsion from the school) will be determined.
WHERE WE ARE HEADED
Week 1) Introduction to the course and the present/near future
WHERE WE HAVE BEEN
Week 2) Patterns of the Recent Past - the last 200+ years
Roger Finke and Rodney Stark. The Churching of America 1776-1990: Winners and Losers in Our Religious Economy, pp 22-108,145-198.
WHERE WE CURRENTLY ARE - THE MAJOR TRENDS AND RELIGIOUS REACTIONS
Week 3) The Global Context
Assaf Moghadam, A Global Resurgence of Religion? Written as part of Harvard's Weatherhead Initiative project, "Religion in Global Politics." Pp1-71
P. Jenkins, The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002, pp. 73-105, 163-190
Week 4) The Current National Context
Robert Wuthnow, The Restructuring of American Religion. pp. 132-172
Robert D. Putnam, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community pp. 15-28, 48-64
David Roozen, Faith Communities Today Decade of Change Report
Ishan Bagby, Mosque 2011 Report
Stephen Cohen, Synagogue 2010 Report-
CHANGING ORGANIZATIONAL LANDSCAPE
Week 5) New practices in old religions and old practices in old/new religion
Diana Bulter Bass, The Practicing Congregation: Imagining a new old church. Pp. 7-33, 69-90 SonisWeb
Don Miller, Reinventing American Protestantism. Chapter 4 Beyond Rationality pp.80 -107 SonisWeb
DeYoung, Emerson, Yancey, and Kim United by Faith. pp. 62-74; 162-180 SonisWeb
Margaret M. Paloma, Reviving Pentecostalism at the Millennium. http://hirr.hartsem.edu/research/RevivingPente.pdf
Week 6) Size - Bigger & Smaller are Better
Mark Chaves "All Creatures Great and Small" Review of Religious Research 2006 47:335 SonisWeb
Scott Thumma "The Shape of Things to Come: Megachurches, Emerging Churches and Other New Religious Structures Supporting an Individualized Spiritual Identity." in Faith in America: Changes, Challenges, New Directions. Charles Lippy Pp. 185-206. http://hirr.hartsem.edu/megachurch/organizationalchangechapter.doc
Surratt, Ligon and Bird. The Multi-Site Church Revolution: Being One Church in Many Locations pp. 9-42 SonisWeb
David Roozen and Adair Lummis, Congregational Splits & Denominational Apostasy http://hirr.hartsem.edu/cong/congregational-splits.pdf
Optional: Scott Thumma & Warren Bird - Megachurch .2011 Report http://hirr.hartsem.edu/megachurch/megachurch-2011-summary-report.htm
Scott Thumma Exploring the Megachurch Phenomena: their characteristics and cultural context. http://hirr.hartsem.edu/bookshelf/thumma_article2.html
Week 7) Denominations versus Networks versus Independents
David Roozen & Kirk Hadaway Denominational Growth and Decline http://hirr.hartsem.edu/bookshelf/Church&Denomgrowth/ch&dngrw-pt.1.pdf
Scott Thumma "What God Makes Free is Free Indeed: Nondenominational Church Identity and its Networks of Support http://hirr.hartsem.edu/bookshelf/thumma_article5.html
US Religion Census 2012 overview http://www.rcms2010.org/press_release/ACP%2020120501.pdf
AN INCREASING DIVERSE POPULATION
Week 8) Diversity and Religious Pluralism
R. Stephen Warner Immigrants and the Faith They Bring http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=2946
Robert Wuthnow, America and the Challenges of Religious Diversity Princeton University Press, 2005. Chapter 7 pp.188-229 Chapter 8 pp.230-258. SonisWeb
David Roozen, American Congregations Reach Out To Other Faith Traditions From Faith Communities Today 2010 http://faithcommunitiestoday.org/sites/faithcommunitiestoday.org/files/American_Congregations_Reach_Out.pdfhttp://faithcommunitiestoday.org/sites/faithcommunitiestoday.org/files/American_Congregations_Reach_Out.pdf
Week 9) Transnational Religious Networks
H.R.Ebaugh and Janet S. Chafetz. Religion Across Borders: Transnational Religious Networks. AltaMira Press, 2002 pp.129-148, pp. 165-191 SonisWeb
Robert Wuthnow and Stephen Offutt. Transnational Religious Connections Sociology of Religion 2008 69:2 pp. 209-232 SonisWeb
Week 10) Immigrant Sects or "Becoming an American 'Church"'
Nestor Rodriguez, Hispanic and Asian Immigration Waves in Houston in Ebaugh & Chafetz Religion and the New Immigrants Pp. 29-42 SonisWeb
Hoda Badr, AI-Noor Mosque: Strength through Unity in Ebaugh & Chafetz Religion and the New Immigrants. Pp.193-227 SonisWeb
Kathleen Sullivan, St. Mary's Catholic Church and Iglesia de Dios in Ebaugh & Chafetz Religion and the New Immigrants. Pp:125-151 SonisWeb
Week 11) A Coming Secular Society? Faith of the next generations
Robert Wuthnow, After the Baby Boomers: How 20 and 30 somethings are shaping the future of American religion. Pp. 1-70, 183-200. SonisWeb
Stephen Warner & Rhys Williams, "The role of families and religious institutions in transmitting faith among Christian, Muslims and Hindus in the US" in Collins-Mayo & Dandelion Religion and Youth pp.159-165 SonisWeb
I'LL DO IT MY WAY
Week 12) Individualism & Consuming Faith
Robert Bellah, et al. Habits of the Heart pp. 219-245 SonisWeb
Marler & Hadaway, "Being Religious" or "Being Spiritual" in America: A Zero-Sum Proposition? Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 41:2 (2002) pp 289-300 SonisWeb
Rodney Stark, "Spirituality" and "The Irreligious" in What Americans Really Believe pp. 87-94,141-146. SonisWeb
Week 13) Others and Nones
Gray and Thumma, "The Gospel Hour: Liminality, Identity, and Religion in a Gay Bar." published in Contemporary American Religion: An Ethnographic Reader, Eiesland and Becker (eds.), Alta Mira Publishers, 1997 SonisWeb
Mary Jo Neitz, "In Goddess We Trust" in In Gods We Trust. Robbins & Anthony Chapter 18 pgs. 353-372. SonisWeb
Rodney Stark, "Credulity" and "New Age Adherents" in What Americans Really Believe pp. 125-140. SonisWeb
Joseph L. Price, An American Apotheosis: Sports as Popular Religion in Popular Culture as Religion Forbes & Mahan pp.201-218 SonisWeb or
Michael Jindra, It's about Faith in our Future in Popular Culture as Religion Forbes & Mahan pp165-179 SonisWeb
Barry A. Kosmin and Ariela Keysar, Secularism & Secularity: Contemporary International Perspectives
Read the Introduction -- other chapters are optional
Introduction: Contemporary Secularity and Secularism Barry A. Kosmin
The Freethinkers in a Free. Market of Religion Ariela Keysar and Barry A. Kosmin
Putting Secularity in Context Bruce A Phillips
Who Are America's Atheists and Agnostics? Ariela Keysar
The "Nonreligious" in the American Northwest Frank L. Pasquale
Week 14) Is it the Internet's fault?
Heidi Campbell Spiritualising the Internet. Uncovering Discourses and Narratives of Religious Internet Usage 2005 http://archiv.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/volltextserver/volltexte/2005/5824/pdf/Campbell4a.pdfhttp://archiv.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/volltextserver/volltexte/2005/5824/pdf/Campbell4a.pdf
Scott Thumma, "Virtually Religious: Technology and Internet Use in American Congregations http://www.hartfordinstitute.org/research/technology-Internet-use.html
WHERE ARE WE HEADED?
Week 15) Into the Future