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."

Coming Out as Christian

"You'd be surprised how many conversations I start by wearing a cross and a Pride bracelet," observes Religion major Ethan Falleur '16, in a December 9, 2015, Huffington Post article, "Coming Out as Christian." "In the three years since I came out publicly as a gay man, I've gotten rather used to casually working my sexuality into conversations with people in the first few times I meet them." "What's harder, though," he adds, "is coming out as Christian. I'm not at all ashamed of either piece of my identity, but people's perceptions of Christians at my über-secular, Ivy League college are somewhat more fraught than their perceptions of anyone who falls under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella."

West Africa's Women of God

Professor Robert Baum's new book, West Africa's Women of God: Alinesitoué and the Diola Prophetic Tradition, just published by Indiana University Press, examines the history of direct revelation from Emitai, the Supreme Being, which has been central to the Diola religion from before European colonization to the present day. He charts the evolution of this movement from its origins as an exclusively male tradition to one that is largely female, and traces the response of Diola to the distinct challenges presented by conquest, colonial rule, and the post-colonial era. Looking specifically at the work of the most famous Diola woman prophet, Alinesitoué, Baum addresses the history of prophecy in West Africa and its impact on colonialism, the development of local religious traditions, and the role of women in religious communities.

 

 

 

A Scottish Thanksgiving

Dartmouth Now's recent article, "Far-Flung Thanksgiving: Off-Campus Programs Celebrate," includes a description of how the Religion and Philosophy FSPs - led by Religion Professor Kevin Reinhart and Philosophy Professor Susan Brison and both held at the University of Edinburgh this term - are combining forces to celebrate Thanksgiving this year. Their Thanksgiving dinner, which will include turkey with all the fixings as well as vegetarian haggis, will be hosted in the home of a Dartmouth alum from the Class of 1974 who teaches at the university. One of the students on the Religion FSP comments, "The Dartmouth network never ceases to amaze me."

Religion in the Kitchen

Elizabeth Pérez' new book, Religion in the Kitchen: Cooking, Talking, and the Making of Black Atlantic Traditions, will be published by New York University Press in January, 2016. In the book, which will be the subject of a roundtable discussion at the upcoming annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion, Prof. Pérez takes an intersectional approach to micropractices of cooking and talking in the intimate space of one, predominantly African-American community's kitchen, arguing that they season practitioners into gendered and racialized forms of subjectivity.

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