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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Eugene Webb
Seattle Campus

Religion and Culture

Study of the relations between religion and culture, with attention to the role of religion in defining conceptions of order and grounding socio-political and artistic traditions.

Class description

Culture is often described by social scientists as a dialectic process, a mutually causal interaction between two poles: society and the individual. If the individual is the pole focused on, the disciplinary approach to its study is psychology. The social pole is the focus of sociology. From the point of view of religious thinkers, both these poles are important, but there is a third pole: the pull of transcendence (however this may be imaged or conceived). Our seminar will begin with the ideas of the anthropologist Clifford Geertz and the sociologist Peter Berger about the social dimension of culture. Then we will turn to the developmental psychologist Robert Kegan and the theologian Bernard Lonergan for a consideration of the ways the individual may develop in the direction of various forms of transcendence. After that we will look in depth into the ways the Christian religion has been studied with these issues in mind by the sociologist Rodney Stark and three theologians representing various stages of modern and post-modern religious thought.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Each session, two students will be responsible for beginning the discussion of the assigned writings. At the end of the quarter students will turn in a longer paper (about 15-25 pages) on a topic of their choice that they can relate to the readings and class discussions.

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading

The assignments, by week, will be as follows: Week 1 Clifford Geertz, "Religion as a Cultural System" Week 2 Peter Berger, The Sacred Canopy (part 1) Week 3 Robert Kegan, In Over Our Heads Week 4 Kegan (cont.); Bernard Lonergan, Method in Theology (excerpts) & "The Subject" Week 5 Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity Week 6 H. Richard Niebuhr, Christ and Culture Weeks 7-8 David Tracy, The Analogical Imagination Week 9 Elizabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, Jesus and the Politics of Interpretation Week 10 Concluding discussions and presentation of papers.

Class participation and final paper

The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Eugene Webb
Date: 12/23/2002