Exploration of cultural and social dynamics that cause individuals and groups to change, redefine, or reject their religious identities and commitments. Students will analyze ethnographic materials from different parts of the world to identify patterns and idiosyncrasies. Students will evaluate factors that intensify or decelerate religious change in contemporary cultures and examine methods to study religious change cross-culturally.
The Bachelor’s level course is intended to acquaint students with some of the patterns of religious change and relative equilibrium through various ethnographic works. Students at this level will learn to read ethnographic material in order to identify general patterns of causes contributing to religious change and factors that slow down this change. The Master’s level course will go beyond the study of general patterns, focusing on particular cases and teaching students to analyze a particular cultural group, where various factors and forces can be at play simultaneously. It will also have a methodological component that will allow students to assess and analyze their own mission field.
Missionary work assumes that people can change. But how does change happen? People are social beings operating in social groups that follow patterns of behavior. The unexpected and miraculous are possible, but students need to understand the practical ways in which people’s behavior and ideas are shaped. This course provides a foundation for change based on ordinary human social and cultural principles.
The Biblical text will serve in this course as a “spring board” for thinking about the issues of religious change. The Bible is full of examples that can be related to contemporary circumstances, forces, and patterns of change in religious thought and behavior.
The value of this course in terms of missio dei will be twofold. It will help students to understand why people’s religious identity may change as well as it will allow them to analyze their own process of change and formation in relation to a cultural context in which they live.
This course is intended as a form of dialogue in which students look at religious change from a perspective of broad social and historical processes as well as their own transformation, both grounded in particular ethnographic examples.
As a course offered in the field of Anthropology, this class by definition relies on materials (visual and written) that enhance understanding of other cultures.
Assignments in this class require students to work with real case scenarios that teach them to identify and analyze sources of religious change or stability, and to apply this knowledge in their work with particular communities and individuals. This course also develops the skills of self-reflection and examination of students’ own cultural backgrounds in order to recognize how those backgrounds may affect their spiritual growth and openness to change.
By combining a broader understanding of change in different cultures with the person’s own experiences, this course will have at its core the experiential outcome of the project.