Tracing the Roots of Africa's Many Indigenous Religions

Tracing the Roots of Africa’s Many Indigenous Religions

 from Dartmouth Now, February 27, 2017,  by Charlotte Albright

 

For over 40 years, Associate Professor Robert Baum has shuttled between the U.S. and West Africa, learning and writing about religious prophets in rural southern Senegal. Now, with a senior faculty grant and a Wilson Faculty Research Fellowship, he will embark on a huge undertaking: writing the first continent-wide history of African religion, with a focus on indigenous religions.

Religion Department opposes U.S. Executive Order

We, the members of the Dartmouth College Religion Department, voice our strong opposition to the US Executive Order, “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States,” issued on January 27, 2017. This Executive Order, among other things, suspends the entry of permanent residents, refugees, immigrants, students, visitors, researchers and nonimmigrant citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen into the United States for the next ninety days, and possibly for a longer period still. The Executive Order also indicates that additional countries may be recommended for similar treatment, and that members of a particular religion may be banned.

Randall Balmer on Politics and the Pulpit

In an opinion piece in the Sunday, October 30, Valley News, Professor Randall Balmer observes that "leaders of the Religious Right in recent years...have been pushing for a repeal of the Johnson Amendment [a provision in the tax code that prohibits tax-exempt organizations from openly supporting political candidates, passed by Congress in 1954 and named for Lyndon Johnson, then a U.S. senator]." The Religious Right argues that "pastors should be able to make political endorsements from the pulpit without jeopardinzing their churches' tax exemptions [and]the fact that they cannot now do so...represents an infringement on their religious freedom." Balmer argues, however, that "the Johnson Amendment is a good idea and should not be repealed.

Susannah Heschel presented with prestigious Moses Mendelssohn Award

Susannah Heschel, the Eli Black Professor of Jewish Studies, has just been presented with the Leo Baeck Institute's prestigious Moses Mendelssohn Award for her "outstanding scholarly contributions" to the study of German-Jewish culture. "It's a great honor to receive an award for my scholarship from colleagues in my field," she says. "It's wonderful." At the September 25 award ceremony in New York, she gave the 59th Leo Baeck Memorial Lecture, "The Other in the Mirror: Jewish Interpretations of Christian and Islamic Origins," focussing on the work of pioneering 19th-century scholars Abraham Geiger and Heinrich Graetz. Read more in the Dartmouth News.

I Read, Therefore I Think

"What place do theological and confessionally religious texts have in a secular, private liberal arts curriculum?" asks Religion Professor Devin Singh in his feature article, "I Read, Therefore I Think," in the September-October, 2016, issue of the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine. Singh believes that including theology in the liberal arts curriculum can help foster generous and empathetic reading, helps disrupt the myth of academic objectivity, provides unique insights into Western culture and society, projects alternative possible worlds, and invites critical analysis. "Even as theology helped shape humanistic perspectives in the Western university and provided a framework for the liberal arts," he concludes, "its presence continues to help prepare students to analyze and respond to the full scope of human experience in the world today."

Is Donald Trump a Tyrant?

To the ancient Greeks, "from whom we derive the political concepts that undergird our democracy," a tyrant (tyrannos) is "a figure who, usually through great personal wealth, circumvents established political processes to attain power. Often an outsider or one of the wealthy elite, the tyrant flouts conventions of discourse and forums for debate. The tyrant ignores traditions of deliberation and steamrolls opposition. Ultimately, a tyrant rises to power in ways that undermine democratic structures, leaving the ruler unaccountable to those ruled or to the checks and balances of the system." In his OpEd piece for Time, "This is What Ancient Greeks Would Have Called Donald Trump," Professor Devin Singh goes back to this definition and explores whether or not Donald Trump is a tyrant, fitting this definition, and if he poses a "fundamental threat to American democracy."

Evangelicals' Support of Trump Shouldn't Come as a Surprise

In an op-ed column in today's Los Angeles Times, Professor Randall Balmer observes that over the past several decades, evangelicals have become increasingly secular, more interested in the pursuit of wealth and political influence than fidelity to the teachings of Jesus, and that "it should come as little surprise that the candidate of choice for evangelicals so far in this 2016 election season is a twice-divorced, thrice-married billionaire famous for firing people on TV, who belittles the disabled and advocates policies - on immigration, for example, or the environment - utterly at odds with the 'biblical values' evangelicals purport to uphold."

Market Faith in Anxious Times

Coverage of market behavior, as shown in the articles on the recent stock market tumble in China, are "deeply tied to religion - and particularly the language of faith," observes Religion Professor Devin Singh in his OpEd article in the Huffington Post. "Both the religious background to equilibrium theory and the posture of faith that is expected of market actors raise questions about the ideal response to market panics. Just as various natural disasters...put theories of divine providence into question, so repeated financial crises are bringing equilibrium theory under greater scrutiny. It's not at all apparent that markets will self-regulate and should thus be left to themselves -- whatever that may mean.Does authentic market faith mean remaining calm in the face of collapse, trusting predictive models that tell of eventual return and restabilization? Shall we rationalize collateral economic damage as blips on a graph of the ordained 'greater good'?

"Speak Out Against Islamophobia"

Professor Susannah Heschel and two other prominent academics spoke out his week at Boston University, urging students to counter anti-Islam bigotry in the wake of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's controversial call to bar Muslims from entering the country, reports The Boston Globe. Professor Heschel told the crowd that gathered on the university campus that "it's not Islam that makes somebody decide, 'I want to kill someone.' It doesn't work that way."

Pages